Saturday, 30 September 2017

DEPRESSION: REALITY OR MYTH


On the 20th day of July, 2017, popular American artiste and lead singer of the rock band ‘Linkin Park’ committed suicide by hanging at his home in Palos Verdes Estate, California. This came as a huge shock to most people, questions regarding reasons for the act was asked; eventually, it was discovered that the lead cause for the action was depression. This was a man who few days before the unfortunate event was caught on video, smiling and laughing with family and friends; he seemed like a happy man, a perfect husband and father, and a great musician; what then would have gotten him so depressed to the point of committing suicide? What exactly is depression? Is it a myth or reality? What are the possible causes of depression? And how can it be managed? Before writing this article, I did a survey on a popular social media platform, by asking a simple yet difficult question: What is your take on depression? 90 % of the answers I got bordered on the reality of depression and its impending danger (s), while the remaining 10% argued that it was, and to quote one of the replies, ‘a teenage myth’.
 Depression and sadness are two separate but unavoidably linked emotions. Yes! Depression is an emotion; it isn’t always crying your mascara off in the shower and playing sad songs. Sometimes, it’s not wanting to talk to anyone for days and other times it’s desperately needing to be around people. Sometimes, depression is having no appetite even though you haven’t eaten anything for some time and sometimes, its eating uncontrollably. Sometimes, it’s not achieving set out plans and goals, and sometimes, its family issues and criticisms. Depression is the frustrating feeling of desperately wanting to enjoy something and just be normal, but you can’t seem to snap out of it; its keeping a secret from the people who love you because you don’t want them to look at you like you are broken. No, depression isn’t beautiful black and white images with colored filtrations. Depression is lonely and frustrating and mostly just really exhausting; and is practically deadly, destructive and a very serious psychological issue often underrated. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression affects an estimated one in fifteen adults (6.7%) in any given year; and one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some point in their life; so, technically, almost everybody will experience depression at any given point.
Months back, I was involved in a conversation with a friend who happened to be suffering from depression at that particular time, She had failed to successfully complete her bachelor degree program at the stipulated time, and unavoidably had to stay an extra year in school, what is called ‘spilling over’ in Nigerian Universities, as if that was not depressing enough, She lost her parents in a car accident. Her first year in school was pretty awesome, as she got good grades and never lacked anything; in her second year, she got into a parasitic relationship with a cultist and that was the beginning of her misfortune; it was from one bad grade to another. Then came the heart break, she had given all she had physically, mentally and emotionally towards the growth of the already doomed relationship, then she locked herself up in her room, failed to attend classes and missed multiple examinations. At this point, I’m sure some of you will refer to her as being the architect of her problems, but in reality, it really couldn’t have been any of these things, it could have been the inability to read, understand and interpret; it could have been as mild as failing to answer a simple question in class, hence the loss of ones self-esteem. By the end of the discussion, she was able to develop a positive attitude towards life; this can only mean one thing: depression could be effectively managed and maybe totally eliminated.
The fact that there are various types and stages of depression implies that the answer lies in a variety of solutions, which borders around therapy, soul searching, medications such as anti-depressants, embracing a positive attitude towards life, finding purpose, surrounding yourself with people that are willing to help, and just being badass awesome; sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, just twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come out of it. Look, it might be difficult but you cant beat yourself up over every single thing that might seem to be failure, defeat, setbacks; Life’s too short for regretting or crying over spilled milk. Kick start your life again, Happiness is as real as depression, choose to be happy as everyday is an opportunity to make a happier and positive life. Cry if you must but make sure you make a conscious effort towards living the happy life. Do not let yourself get stuck in a particular situation, because in reality, we all are the architects of our lives; and understand that it is each individuals’ inalienable right to be happy.

***Id. Atakpa***

Thursday, 28 September 2017

WARS WITHOUT END, AMEN


In trying to poke fun at women, a comedian came out to say that if all nations were ruled by women that there would be no wars, just a bunch of nations not talking to each other. I found nothing funny in that statement, what could be funny in making fun of women and their being given to malice and envy? Nothing. Then again I thought to myself about what could be better, rather what could be less terrible: a world without wars or a world fraught with isolation? If 'war' defines terrorism too then when there are no wars there will be no chemical weapons being dumped on Syrian kids, there will be no sleeper cells on our streets sniffing for soft targets, there will be no Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIL, SEALS, FULANI herdsmen, Al Shabaab, NATO Intervention, Crimean war, First and Second World Wars and several other wars. We would have been saved of the loss of lives and properties, we would have been saved of the trauma and the intervals of rebuilding. But being that this utopia is at the cost of isolation, perhaps one needs think again. What would isolationism mean? It has to mean more than just a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations (thank you Merriam Webster). Isolationism would mean lack of technology and policy transfer, and that what we do not lose in lives at war, we lose in lives in events of epidemics, pandemics and the ugly sides of crude nationalism (apologies Hussein Obama). In this Isolationism, the US of A cannot say nor do anything if Pyongyang bombs its citizens, and nobody will give a damn if any African tyrant eats his subjects for breakfast, there will be no UN, no AU, and no ICC to summon to the Hague any Amin, or whoever you have in mind. Now that both pictures are clearer, we are left in a dilemma, do we have hugs and wars, and share roses, buds and thorns or do we mind our damn business (or idleness) and wine, dine, piss, shit and die alone just so we don't have wars and thorns from those who bring hugs and roses. How would you want a world without wars, just that nations would not interact at all, where you can't go to the Bahamas on vacation, where you can't go to Mumbai for surgery, or to Leeds for you PhD? Or how would you want our world to continue like this with interaction, with FIFA World Cup, with the Visas and green cards, and endless possibilities in a global village and all the roses and interracial hugs, but with wars and international thorns, the monsters of real politik.
For me, I have always dreamt of living in a tree house somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Amazon forest. I will have a stream just beside the tree, with bananas and monkeys living across. I will also have a small radio playing Don Williams' 'Harry and Joe'. And while the sun sets at Belo Horizonte, I will miss Macau, the Vegas of China, and I will think about the Everly brothers who went to Timbuktu searching for gold. At dawn, I will wish to have a Turkish bath in a big tub of Ottoman steam, and after that a cup of tea from the tea shops of Turin, a loaf of bread from Jerusalem and sardines from Sardinia. And while at these fantasies I will get back to the frustrations of my isolation and though I do not wish for it, I will pray the good Lord for wars, wars without guns, wars without bombs, wars without deaths, wars with roses and hugs, that is if 'wars' can define interaction, I will ask God for wars without end, Amen.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: A GENERATION'S BURDEN


I saw an inscription somewhere about strong men, hard times, good times, and weak men. It said that hard times create strong men,  strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times. Quite an interesting but vicious cycle. At the same time I wonder which time it is and which men there are, is it strong men transforming the hard times or weak men wasting the good times? Perhaps there might be all of everything at the same time, strong men making good out of hard times only to watch weak men mess things up. Whatever the case, every generation is blessed (or cursed) with strong and weak men, and that being the case there is a contest between the two groups to dominate and define the time. Also every generation has a task and the disposition of its occupants towards that task is what they will be remembered for. This is a burden, every generation's burden. This burden requires the investment of tears, sweat and blood, and by blood we mean the ultimate price even. Look around you, look at the gadget on your hands, at the electricity, at the pet bottle juice,  at everything around you, some men at some time defined not just their lives but their generation. The liberty you enjoy, the freedom of speech,  freedom to dream,  to aspire to heights, freedom to fail even,  are not gifts of nature like air, and water and fart, at some point in our common ancestry some persons put their lives on the line to safeguard a future they would not partake of. Some generations succeed at keeping true to their burden, others fail at every point, that is the generation of people who will rather live as slaves than die as heroes, that was not the 300 Spartans. Edison would have enjoyed endless days of drinking and revelling rather than 1000 times of attempting to create a light bulb. Mahatma Gandhi could have easily slotted into the service of the British Empire, made a decent living and died at old age a jolly good fellow, but you know his story. Nelson Mandela would have just slotted into the regular life of the average Black man in apartheid South Africa, continued with his law practice, try not to heat up the polity,  not to offend the minority White rulers, and perhaps history would have taken a different route. Imagine Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Christopher Okigbo, Ken Saro Wiwa,  and several others who would have taken the 'wise' comfort of safety first and life first. But, no, these men were ready to pay any price for ideals and values they believed in,  even when they knew they may not live to enjoy the things they were fighting for. Lastly, I give the example of a generation of Jews. Remember Moses and the Israelites journey, there was this generation of them who were told they wouldn't enter the promised land. What gain was there for them to continue the journey, wouldn't it have been better to turn back to the relative comforts of Egypt and live out their days? But this men continued with Moses and even fought wars in the journey for the enjoyment and safety of a tomorrow they wouldn't enjoy.
My dear, reader, the emphasis on life and death over the course of this piece has been much, and that is because most of the time our love for life, safety, and comfort prevents us from carrying a personal or generational burden. Sometimes 'life first' doesn't mean protect your life first, sometimes it means 'give your life first'. The questions are simple, can you die for something? Are you so much enamored with life and its fleeting comfort that you will lie low and join weak men to sow the seeds of hard times? Will you be willing to sacrifice a thing for something you will never gain from? We all came to be born to die. If you fight, you will die, if you do not fight, you will die, therefore fight and die. Do not go down without a fight.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

ET TU, CAESAR?


Criticism speaks German, and theology speaks Latin. Those were the words of a wise man, and to that I will say no wonder latin 'died', and the man who abhors criticism 'dies' with Latin. The above topic is misleading as it turns the actual circumstances of that historical event on it's head. The ides of March 44BC, the Roman Senate: time and place, Caesar was ambushed and killed by a group of Roman Senators among whom was the trusted Junius Brutus. While the men took turns at knifing Caesar, Caesar retained a little strength to utter the actual question, 'Et Tu, Brutus?...'  He was shocked at Brutus's betrayal and used his last words to convey his disappointment. Criticism allows us to experiment with possibilities, so we can direct some questions to Caesar here. Was Caesar the perfect gentleman hero and Brutus the evil conspirator villain that on first read anyone would believe them to be? What could have prompted a group of Roman Senators to conspire against Julius Caesar? Why would Caesar want to continue his climb to tyranny in a republic? Now why would Caesar neglect the warnings of his wife's dream or the warning 'beware the ides of March? When we try answering these questions we would see that Caesar might have been as guilty as any of those conspirators in the general scheme of things. Now, what if Caesar had made room for criticism, for open disagreement? It is almost impossible to have a man whom you make prostrate to you stand in your face and speak truth to power. What is worse? When we feed the sycophancy of associates to our ego truth becomes treason. Caesar certainly might not have understood this.
Criticism takes no prisoners, it is raw, uncut and goes for the nails head. To give it a more human face, we have come up with 'constructive criticism', but I believe criticism is criticism, the criticized is the one to process the criticism into either construction or destruction. Far above whatever gains one can construct from the words of a critic, I suggest a more rewarding exercise: critical self-examination, and it is for it that Caesar has become our distinguished specimen. The creator of Game of thrones George R R Martin in his Al Jazeera interview said that every villain thinks himself the true hero of the story, and I stretch it to say that every man thinks himself right in contentious situations. Remember the heat of the moment, yes, that moment you know you are right and everyone else is wrong. You try to make them understand your point of view, which at that moment is the only thing you consider truth and wisdom but they wouldn't listen. Remember when you finish that project, and you are happy with yourself. Yes, there are a few discontentment here and there from 'haters' and 'enemies of progress' but you wave it off because they won't block your shine, the Lord has shamed your enemies. Your single drops, hommies are celebrating your song, but here comes a guy who says the auto tune wasn't good and that you lacked technicality. Yes, your face turns red and you order the bouncer to work. Two suplexes later and the hater is outside the door writhing in pains. In all of these you could only be right and others either loyal to your rightness or wrong, unwise and plain stupid. Now that is the extent I can tolerate you smug contentment. The truth is you may be wrong, very wrong, that is if there is a gradation of wrongness. And if you are not one to entertain dissenting views and outright straight-out-of-the-oven criticism, you may continue in your arrogant ignorance till the end. When people criticize you in public, it's like having your throat cut open in the public and that huge bloody pride removed, or having people box that 'neck goita' into your belly. It takes some work to swallow your pride. Critical self-examination on the other hand might not take place in the public, it requires Caesar sitting down in the comfort of his home and reviewing his life, views and perspectives. It requires Caesar putting himself in the position of those he considers 'haters', and wondering (in their positions) why he would object to Caesar's views. It requires Caesar saying 'Et tu, Caesar?' to every wrong he finally realizes he has done rather than trying to justify them. At the end of a critical Self-examination, Caesar comes out in the public a better man. It does not mean that one must abandon all or even any of his former views, he might abandon some or all or retain some or all or even refine and redefine them. At the end it is a win-win situation. So, dear Caesar, you want to get started? Just swallow your pride and imagine you are wrong.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

TEA PARTY AT BABEL



   The Igbo have an interesting custom of inheritance where the man's daughters inherit the oil palm and coconut plants in his land while not inheriting the land. The land goes to the man's sons but so long as a palm tree is left standing on that land, the man's daughter has first claims over it's produce. Why? The magic question. It is hoped that by such establishment, the daughter along with her children will always have cause to come visit her father's house, ostensibly to harvest palm produce, the real intention is to maintain ties and season the bond between both families: the woman's and her father's. On such visits her children get to meet their uncles and cousins and all that is called Nna Ochie And Nne Ochie, they wine and dine, sing songs and tell tales, and then carry the coconuts and palm fruits home. Each time I think about our culture, I think about cultures. Each time I think about our people, I think about peoples. I switch to the world of endless possibilities (my imagination) and begin to travel back to time, I see my brothers and sisters, the blood of my blood. I see my cousins, my second and third cousins. I keep going till I begin to mix up figures, I begin to mistake 18th cousins for 19th cousins, soon I have gone beyond my little town. At 40th cousins, I am seeing some Yoruba names, and at 90th cousin I begin to see Armenians and Nubians. At 120th cousins Chinese and Japanese names are all over the place, Hu ji, Chan Tan, Yoshida Nagamoto, and Kai Nishikori. We aren't half way to Adam and am convinced that the world is full of cousins. You are my cousin, may be first or second, or 2000th, but you are. And isn't there an amazing mystique as to how this large family has been balkanized by language and culture, and what I love to call we versus them? Why don't you follow me on this voyage to where it happened. The Christian preacher would say we go back to Bethel, but I say we go back to Babel, we go back to Mama Culture's father's house, to the father from whose loins primordial cultures were birthed in one strike of confusion.
   I hear Babel is in ruins, there are no palms to harvest, no coconut water to quench our thirst. But not to worry, we will climb those stones and have a wonderful time, a Tea Party, one big family reunion, the biggest ever actually. We are here now at ground zero, the very spot of that fabled tower. Oh, what was Nimrod thinking? A tower to heaven with no deep pile foundation? Well, from the oldest: Sumerians, Aztecs, Chaldeans, the Hellenics, Etruscans, Ethiopians to the middle aged: the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, the Angles and Saxons, the Franks and Moors then to the youngest: slay queens, sissies and drag queens, everyone speaks in his language. The younger take selfies, the older marvel at what softness has become of men, the younger marvel at the older's backwardness and celebrate their own progress and diversity. Tea is served, and things go south from here, the older spew out the liquid and ask for vine, hops and cedars. The younger laugh heartily,  they update their Facebook profiles 'flexing with cave men'. Soon there is a fight, the Italian waiter served the Vikings pizza, and the Norsemen vegetable salad. Both groups can't take the insult. They chase the Italian into the little China town, and come out with roasted chicken. The Americans and British hear that the land has oil and that it rains diamonds in Babel, they are thinking of liberating Babelians and giving them democracy. Someone quickly reminds them that this is all in a writer's imagination. They give a long hiss and begin to withdraw their troops. The Atheist complains of the noise of the morning prayer calls, he is shouted down by the Turks of Suleiman's army. Defiantly, he prepares a pork barbeque and invites some Celtic warriors over for a treat. Both groups are spoiling for war. Confusion is back at Babel and Nigerians are not even here yet.
   Two angels are peeping from the clouds,they are wondering at multiculturalism. One tells the other that it isn't ever going to work. The other nods in agreement and adds that it is with wisdom that cultures were created and that multiculturalism would kill all cultures and leave the world with only one culture: Babel/Confusion. The other agrees and adds that together is not always better especially when one group thinks the other to be primitive, decadent, depraved or generally inferior. They stop as the noise from Babel increases. The words 'infidel' and 'kill' are heard from the melee. The angels shake their heads as they prepare a storm, the East wind to disperse the crowd. One asks the other if he thinks their work would have been easier if each religion had a planet to themselves. The other laughs and replies that in such a situation some would still bomb rival planets. He adds that at present the struggle on God's green planet should not be about ultra right or ultra left, the former isn't so good, the latter is verging on death, that it should be about finding a balance between tradition and modernity, the primordial and progress and right and left.
The storm comes and disperses the assembly and our Babelian tea party is over.