I think the biggest threat to our continued peaceful co-existence as human beings is our knack for making arguments from completely ignorant standpoints.
What I have also found quite disturbing is; a lot of people who claim to know about certain world histories, diverse cultures and traditions, the complexities of human kind, race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, individuality etc., may indeed know about these things — but not well enough.
It's all basic, surface, knowledge.
They may know the Where, Who, What, When & How but they hardly know the 'Why.'
This single act of deliberate — or maybe unconscious — oversight is the most damaging of all. Basically because a society filled with individuals across certain generations, with faux ideologies as to what it means to be truly well-learned, only end up moving in circles, with no particular breakthrough point in sight.
I think as human beings, as black people living in an African continent, we have quite the talent for nonchalance. It is a character flaw we seem to wear with so much pride, so much vigor. It comes easy to us — like wearing one’s skin. It’s routine. Always has, probably always will be. When faced with unfamiliar life events, what the average African living in Africa does is seek 'religious' guidance or hide behind the illusion of what has been deemed 'African' or 'not-African.'
Now, I believe Spirituality is a thing. Absolutely. It would make no sense to think otherwise. Human beings are not laboratory experiments — at least, not to another human being, but to a much greater power. This isn't Westworld. I think the mistake we make is assuming that Spirituality and Religion is the same thing.
No. They are not. I think Spirituality is a state of mind, a state of 'being.' They may have occasional points of confluence but they're not the same. Spirituality offers openings for self-reflection, reassurance, rejuvenation. It presents us the 'out with the old, in with the new' moments. It allows us to forgive ourselves and forgive others too. Religion is about Beliefs. And just like beliefs, they're prone to sentiments. As some would argue; How do you think extremists are birthed?
I often ask myself; what kind of a person am I beneath the veil of my religious beliefs? If the teachings of this religion were taken away, exactly what type of life would I lead and how would that life affect others? Without religion, am I hateful and judgmental of other people who also happen to be creations of the Almighty? Would I, for whatever reason want to cause anyone harm, or pain or grief or sorrow? Then I bring religion back into the picture. Do certain teachings in this religion, probably as a result of distorted messaging, do more harm than good?
Some sane questions you should ask yourself.
Sometimes, I sit in solitary, spasming from recurrent episodes of 'shookedness' birthed from the disturbing realization that we do a great job at fighting ourselves, fighting nature for no reason at all. I mean, it beats me. I hear gory stories of racial, religious, gender bigotry in world societies. In developing and under-developed countries, what obtains at the center of public interest is homophobia, a relentless anti-Feminism campaign and some sort of coordinated desperation to protect age privileges.
The last time I checked, and by that I mean asides the glaring facts, coupled with my own research, there are things you don't get to choose. There's no Skin Selection Store where you get to walk in and choose your preferred skin type from a rack of Black, Chocolate, Caramel, Beige, Tan, Red, White, Blue, Grey, Green, Purple (please, go on and insert every possible secondary colour.)
You get my point, don't you?
There is no 'Boss Baby' world where you get to choose if you want to be male or female before teleport-ing yourself into momma's tummy. This is the same with sexual minority groups. It doesn't seem to me as a conscious choice a person makes to determine who they are attracted to.
Though people are 'born' into a certain religion, there is also room for religious freedom. It may be hard for some but it's a possibility — one we have seen countless times already.
Why do people find it comfortable using religion as a pretext for hate and bigotry? When did it all get so bad that a certain religion is now widely perceived as the rebellious, hateful, vengeful, forceful, murderous one, so much that the true believers, who have no room in their hearts for anything else but peace, love, respect, beauty and tolerance are now being discriminated upon?
The answer isn't far fetched. Religion is not necessarily the problem. The people propagating religion are. And I have instances.
I am particularly impressed with my level of openness and curiosity to know more about life and the many things that stay hidden to most of us. Not entirely because they are hidden, we just seem not to care about these things. It would be an understatement to say A LOT is going on in the world that many people do not know about. One door leads to the next and the next and then the next; pyramids of knowledge, of facts about life's complexities, millions, if not trillions of unique cultures and traditions all over the world that we do not know about. Peculiar experiences of people like you and I that in some way shape their immediate community, their society and the world at large.
My quest for knowledge (and watching fine, intelligent people talk) brought me a YouTube video recorded at a PEN speaking engagement with renowned Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and South-African-born comedian cum TV Host, Trevor Noah. They were talking everything: Race, Religion, America, Nigeria, Gender, Politics, Feminism, Trump, Writing, Comedy, Apartheid & Post-Apartheid South-Africa.
Let me just say here that Trevor Noah is an incredibly intelligent, talented, outspoken and hilarious gentleman with a wealth of experience about life. I also strongly feel many people don't know this. So, Trevor, while taking excerpts from his book; 'Born a Crime,' talked about how his mother encouraged him to ask questions about religious teachings that he found quite ambiguous.
Trevor said it was a challenge his mother deliberately took on, to probe further into these grey areas and then return to him with answers. There was no room for consuming the words of a preacher without appropriate scrutiny to avoid raising a confused young man. Religion is good. She loved her religion but also made conscious efforts to help her household sieve these messages which could sometimes, quite unconsciously — or even deliberately, contain distorted elements from the medium.
This is what we should aspire to do. Not only to religion, but to other areas of our existence that need to be 'handled with care.'
I equally happen to host a Newspaper Review show on radio. One of our regular analysts on the show was discussing with me the other day, right after our show, about how Northern Nigeria will continue to breed elements of insurgency if the appropriate steps are not taken towards 'Restructuring.' I particularly appreciated the fact that he put a WHY to the problem.
He was also quite disturbed when he told his story:
He had been to Kaduna a while back on an official assignment. Following his arrival at the capital city, he settled to treat himself to lunch at a local canteen. After devouring his meal — which also saw him completely peel off the fleshy parts of the meat, he got up and approached the counter to rinse his hands. When he turned to leave, he found a young boy, about 5 years old, struggling to get some meat off the bone he had left off in his plate.
He was moved to tears.
Subsequent visits to different parts of the state and other parts in the North exposed him to a life he never knew existed. There were young men — in groups, across different parts of the state, sleeping on the streets and in dilapidated buildings — hailing passers-by with hopes that they could get some money to buy food to eat. All of them largely uneducated, unkempt, unloved.
His argument; 'Don't you think if these individuals get sponsored by some extremist group or even political figures to wreck havoc on other persons, these ones who have not been shown what love means, what pain is, what loss is, would they hesitate to pick up the arms they've been given — their only source of power, of visibility, of presence? Don't you think it would be easy to 'brainwash' such people who have no understanding of the concept of individuality like many of us have?
My analyst gave a WHY. Some would beg to differ but this conclusion was drawn from his own personal experience which many would easily validate. He says Northern leaders have failed their people, caught up in the web of corruption and nepotism, ignoring the construction of certain sectors like Education, Entrepreneurship, Tourism etc., that are supposed to keep their people engaged and working. And that again stresses my point; many ‘opinionated’ individuals throw themselves at the slightest opportunity of expressing their opinion without adequate 'personal' knowledge or experience about certain events.
That is a huge problem.
Religion should never inspire hate. NEVER. It's a thin line between Religion & Hypocrisy. We have been made a 'higher species' so that we can put our bullshit detector into good use and decipher — well, bullshit. God didn't create y'all to hate, judge or kill each other. Let's be guided, please.
We have for so long used religion as an excuse to hate. No matter how you spin it, nothing about religion should inspire hate, disgust or intolerance.
Be a 'spiritual person.' By being spiritual, you develop a personal relationship with your Creator, the driver of your destiny and the Universe in which you exist. You become self-aware and conscious of the world around you. You also adopt the religion of Literature — as Chimamanda puts it, where you are equally concerned with learning other people's stories, understanding their struggles, their pain, their flaws, their ambition, their wants, their needs, their insecurities, their beauty, their light! Before anything else, you understand that they are human — just like you with imperfections and fears and they simply want to be heard, acknowledged and accepted.
Moreover, does your religion not preach Love, Tolerance & Peace as the crux of its essence?