“If outside is so good, why has mankind spent thousands of years trying to perfect inside?” These are the words of one Sheldon Cooper, a beloved character on one of my favourite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. A show about nerds and their day to day lives.This is the response Raj, another character on the series, gets after pointing out that Sheldon should spend more time outside like ‘normal’ people instead of being cooped up in his apartment. I chuckled as I listened to the genius physicist argue his case out, maybe because I was also indoors , watching my shows , sipping on my hot chocolate and nothing anyone said would get me out in the cold winter weather. In as much as these lines were deliberately arranged to amuse and entertain, they got me really thinking deep about mankind. What is our deal? What do we want? We claim to want or believe in one thing but do the opposite. Aren’t we supposed to be the most intelligent specie on the planet? Then why is it difficult to truly stand up for something without having double standards? I sat there, cuddled up in a blanket, glazing blankly at the TV set as the rest of the episode continued. Oblivious of my surrounding, I let my mind wander…….
I thought of Mary, a young mother of four living in a semi-formally structured one room apartment in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, with barely enough to provide food, shelter and clothing for her family. At dawn, she would be up and about, having to walk for miles in search of any small job she can find. She walks from door to door of the upper middle class, with the hope that someone will let her clean their posh houses, wash their clothes , their cars or even tend to their gardens in exchange for a few pennies in the pocket. If that bears no fruit, she braves the hot tropical sun and sits by the roadside waiting for wealthy passers-by, just in case any of them needs something cleaned or tended to. Her efforts leave her worn out, not enough energy to even take care of herself ; a beautiful face hidden under the effect of the battles she fights every day to survive. Her tear stained eyes betray her beautiful but bitter smile as she tells her story. Astonishingly, from the little she has, Mary would rather deny her children the already little existing opportunity, to have a nice and decent balanced diet every once in a while than risk not taking a large amount of what she has to her church leader. This she does in exchange for ‘special ‘ prayers or anointing that she is made to believe will end her problems. She knows this sacrifice will increase the suffering of her family, but the thought of having that money multiplied, receiving miracles and having a secure ticket to heaven, as promised by her religious leader, clouds her judgement.
Mary is just but one of the hundreds of men and women being exploited by many religious institutions which are led by conmen posing as miracle workers. You hear stories of naive unsuspecting members of certain church congregations getting extorted by the very people who are meant to ‘Shepherd’ them. This makes it difficult for those few genuine churches that are out to do good, to win the trust of the public. While believers like Mary whither in poverty, sloth and despond, their leaders flourish in lavish, extravagant lifestyles, from the extorted money. Ironically, these so called church leaders, will be the first to blame the suffering of the people on failed political systems or any other excuse they can get. They will preach about fairness, love and importance of humanity.In real sense, they do the same thing to their congregations as the politicians to ordinary citizens.
My mind then wandered to the new generation of emancipated women. Women who have fought for gender equality for decades. This has worked!! Every day, more and more societies gradually welcome the idea of dropping the traditional gender roles. This year, the loyalty of these women to their values was put to the test. The world waited anxiously as they watched one of the most powerful countries in the world almost elect a female president for the very first time, this would be a world record!! However, after many years of loud campaigning for equal gender opportunities and more women in power, more than 40% of these so called emancipated female voters, voted against their own. They still preferred to be led by a man, who was less qualified than the woman. It is just like these same modern day emancipated women boast of being independent but still feel uncomfortable when they are expected to share in paying the bills with their men. Or the ones who actually live to this hard acquired status , get ridiculed for emasculating their male counterparts. Others simply admit enjoying playing a passive role once in a while. Clearly this deal has some unknown limits and exceptions not clear to everyone.
Many at times we hear complaints from women about men. How most of the men are not worthy companions, or how they are in desperate need of a nice man. But given a choice, most women will still choose the incompatible anti-hero of the society over the good guy with full knowledge of the bitter consequences. It’s like playing with fire knowing very well the harm it will cause and then crying about it at the end.I personally find the dark knight or Iron Man more intriguing than the classic good super heroes like Superman or Captain America. Yes, I am a fan of movies based on comic books. I ask again, what is our deal?
At this point I desperately needed something strong. My mind was taking me on a wild ride.Reluctantly, I got up from my cosy seat and put away my mug, I had no use for it anymore. As I poured myself a glass of wine, trying hard to think about something else, images of half-baked boys posing as men,who criticised and literally stripped and assaulted women in parts of Africa some time back ,came into my mind. They supported this primitive action by pointing out, that according to their opinion, those women were not dressed appropriately because they were showing more skin than required, or to use the local slang, they were “too sexily dressed.” These men went ahead to even state that the women’s dressing was “not in line with the African culture.” Wait a minute!! The last time I checked, modern clothing was brought to Africa by the colonial power. Before that, it was only essential to cover the private parts. Our people were comfortable walking ‘half naked’. To think of it, it must have been awesome living at that time. Imagine a society of half naked people, very confident about their bodies, regardless of size and shape. Something that is missing in the modern world due to the idealisation of certain body types. The mass media wastes no time in making you feel insecure about some part of your body in an attempt to force you into buying some product that will apparently solve your problem.
These self-appointed moral fashion police who think they have the right to publicly decide what women should and shouldn’t wear, are the same perverted men who in private, drool and ogle over pictures and videos of barely dressed bimbos. And like the women, even when the world presents the men their individual perception of a compatible mate , many would desperately dig for any excuse to justify their dissatisfaction. Some ask for a strong independent woman but get intimidated by what they ask for. Others ask for the passive, submissive mate but will still find a reason to be disloyal to them. Seriously, what is their deal?
I then thought of the many campaigns on social Media about self confidence and loving who you really are. When one reads a status update like “proud to be me” on social media, it paints a picture of a very proud and confident individual. It’s a good thing. However it is really not clear to what extent this declaration holds water. For instance, I thought of those who say black is beauty and they are proud of who they are but still contribute to the rising statistics of skin bleaching in order to acquire a fairer skin colour. And for those who don’t actually have melanin in their skin , take the risk of ruining it by spending countless hours in the Solarium with the aim of getting a darker skin tan. Botox, butt lifts, body implants, name it all, have become fashionable and increasingly desired products. If it is not the physical looks being modified, it is the personal traits. It is not uncommon to see people conditioning their behaviour in order to fit in a particular profile. Just as an example, describing the feeling one gets when watching an individual trying his best to fake a certain accent or lifestyle associated to a particular society of the world is simply excruciating. This of course excludes the legitimately acquired accents and lifestyle as a result of living within a particular society for a long period of time. I am talking about those who deliberately pretend to be of a certain milieu, in a desperate attempt to hide their true identity. Maybe because they are ashamed of who they really are or think that that is the only way to impress the society. A young man named Abayomrunkoje Achebe Surprised his whole town when he came back into his country with a strained American accent, after only spending six months in India! The awe and amusement on his fellow townsmen’s faces would instantly win an Oscar. So what is the deal here, are we supposed to be really proud of who we are and where we come from, or who we think we are and where we think or want to come from?
This was getting too much.A mild headache , maybe from the wine or the wild roller coaster my mind had taken me, told me it was time to turn in.Just before switching off my TV , I managed to catch a glimpse of Sheldon Cooper’s clueless facial expression when his fellow scientists went on and on about their private lives and their different social interactions . He had not a single clue about human social interaction.Suddenly , I felt so much empathy for Sheldon. I felt the same way. Lost.
Author: Philly Yambo Makora