The art of complaining – masterfully crafted by humans over thousands of years – such a beauty it can be; words get intricately woven to bemoan an occurrence or situation, social bonds are strengthened by the content and delivery of the complaint. From the beautifully adorned parlours of intellectuals to the scantily clad sheds of illiterates, complaints serve a cathartic function, a means for human connection, a bonding ritual. The Israelites in the desert, the farmers facing a dry spell, the Nigerian robbed of a good night sleep by interrupted power supply, we all stand united when we gather in groups and whine, we empathise, sympathise, cast blame on forces beyond our control, and we unite in our helplessness and draw strength from our mutual pain. Daily we moan together, complain our only catharsis, solutions seemingly far away and beyond reach. Even for the most intellectual ones of us, the cesspool of deeply entrenched sameness releases a putrid repulsive odour that leaves us standing on the outside too beautifully clad in our regalia of knowledge and versatility to attempt stepping in. Knowledge that should deliver us holds us captive, as we sit in counsel with one another, sharing life changing development inducing ideas in our ritual of cathartic complain. Versatility that should redeem us is now our jailer as we travel far and wide, growing and developing our minds, and returning to our land only to sit in counsel with one another, sharing stories of lands far away in our ritual of cathartic complain. Oh catharsis, how quickly we achieve it when we sit in counsel with one another. We rid ourselves of the deep dissatisfaction that drives change by quickly noting our mutual displeasure and incompetencies. We’re sad, but really what can we do, eh? Our intelligent minds resolve to do little, because after all, it takes a wise man to know how much he does not know. Bravery and courage depart as catharsis is achieved, comfort is reinstated, small solutions to small problems are exchanged, laughter is shared. On this day at this very moment a group of intellectual young Nigerians sitting in counsel achieve catharsis and life goes on.
Dear mysterious man, oh darling how I appreciate you. My heart is aglow with pride even as fear threatens to snuff it out. The beauty of action can very quickly be lost on us as we stand around this cesspool, excited by our small solutions in a state of catharsis-induced contentment. We see you as you step in and recoil in fear, new worry lines form beneath the layers of our beautifully crafted mask of satisfaction in our little achievements. We see you and gape in wonder “What on earth goes on in the mind of mysterious men like this?!” Our minds are unable to decipher whether it is courage or madness. We see you and applaud as the realisation dawns on us that one of us broke away from the psychedelic trip of cathartic comfort. And you wondered what it meant for a man to be mysterious looking. Darling, it’s you, looking just like the rest of us but daring to take action where inaction is applauded and “intelligent” complain is admired. But then there was always that glint in your eyes, that difference in your speech, that seemingly quiet active sense of ideas that breeds courage and births bravery, that laugh that says “by God, this is no cause for merriment, something must be done!” because behind that laugh is the silent curse that reminds you to take action.
Twale! To all the mysterious men that walk amongst us.
I do not chastise you my fellow onlookers, I’m one of you, part and parcel of your tribe… I wonder about this blatant bravery that we seem to lack, I wonder what it says about us. Are we so deeply disillusioned that the fear of failure has transformed to complacency within us? Do we lull ourselves to sleep with the notion that the price of failure is exponentially costlier than the dividends courage can ever pay? Are we so disenchanted that we cling to our need to save ourselves and our mental health from the darkness that might engulf us if we step out in courage and fail? Do we fail to maximise the knowledge we’ve acquired because what really holds us together is not our ability to be effective but hope for a better tomorrow? Is hope all we’ve got now? Is hope enough, if we’re not willing to be it’s hands and feet, diving into this mess, willing to drown just to pull one more out? Are we so embittered that we refuse to make any more sacrifices, we refuse to give of ourselves, because after all the cemeteries are littered with bodies that carried bravery and lived with courage? But we’re still here stuck with stories and stories alone. Are we determined to not be story lines, is that really the choice we’ve made subconsciously? Are we onlookers who act when it’s safe because las las who courage epp eh?
Or maybe this is just what our movement looks like? Maybe we achieve more in conversation than in blatant displays of brave action? Maybe those mysterious men are our cover? Jumping in and causing a ruckus while the rest of us move in, silently but decisively making a difference in our little corners. Maybe our self preservation instincts will actually serve us as well as we take seemingly insignificant but deliberate action to create communities that serve our people. Maybe our discussions are really launching pads, reminding us that we’re not alone and we have resources to support us we move towards the future we imagine. Maybe catharsis serves us, frees us of the weights of repressed pain and sadness, putting a spring in our step, propelling us forward, maybe this is hope on the move. Maybe this is not at all about speed, this somewhat slow pace might be the best way to move, expanding our understanding, sharing our knowledge, transforming from the inside out. Maybe this is how we do it, slowly and steadily moving through the minefields of ineptitude and corruption, charting a new course, one stealth motion at a time.