“We haven’t seen this before, is just a way to scare the person whom the misfortune has befallen”
– Yoruba proverb
A few weeks ago a striking tweet appeared on my twitter timeline, the tweep that tweeted it didn’t follow me (I doubt if she does now) and I am not sure I’m following her either. she said “somewhere, a girl is wondering if her boyfriend thinks about her as she thinks about him” I replied her “ somewhere, there is a guy thinking the same about his girlfriend” then I tweeted another reply, “I hope it makes you feel better knowing the problem is not peculiar to you”.
I lost track of our conversation after that, but the thought stayed with me. I couldn’t but wonder why we humans have this mentality captured by the popular song “Nobody knows the troubles I have seen…” (I cannot remember the rest of the song now). I wondered why we as people often believe that the problems we are facing are so enormous that no one else could have faced them before. For instance it is common to find people who have just lost loved ones or people (especially women) who just had a breakup to say things like “ you don’t know what it feels like to lose your so and so,” or “you don’t have an idea of been betrayed by the person you love most.” At that point the person who has suffered the misfortune feels that nobody else had ever faced the loss or problem that they are currently facing.
I also see this sentiment whenever I talk to people and they moan about the state of Nigeria, the corruption, the killings, the high crime rate (in short everything wrong with Nigeria), and then they go on about how some things cannot happen in “saner climes.” In times like this I can’t help but remember an experience my dad shared with me about the time he was nearly robbed and stabbed by a knife wielding druggie in Canada. He said as the thug accosted him and threatened him with the knife, all he could think of how his wife and five children in Nigeria would fare if he got killed by a criminal in Canada of all places. Needless to say that that experience left him with a healthy dose of scepticism about travelling abroad which persists to this day. The story left me wondering if there is any such thing as a “sane country”. While I reiterate again that this piece is not oblivious to the fact that as there are certainly enough stuff to moan about in Nigeria, what it is saying is that when we put on that egocentric “me” toga, that is when we see the world, not as a globe which has no beginning and no end. We refuse to see a world where everything (including the seven billion people in it) is inextricably linked, (corruption is global and endemic and there is probably someone in Thailand, or Greece, or Brazil right now moaning about the same living conditions you is moaning about). Instead we see a world as a rectangle with well defined angles (what do those Europeans and Americans know, after all they have a buoyant economy, so they have plenty of spare time to invade other countries and steal their stuff). The problem here is that we have all bought into the “the world has seven billion people, but no one is exactly like you” myth (which is totally true but which could turn you to a worse douchebag than Satan in the bible) and thus the fact that you are unique means nobody else can feel what you are feeling, which is a sure way to cultivating a “the world is against me” mentality that brings nothing but complaints and wallowing in self pity.
Therefore I have something to say to you, whatever issue or misfortune you are going through is not peculiar to you, in the same vein, there is nothing unique about Nigeria’s problem (huge maybe, but not unique) neither is it the biggest thing in the world, and no matter how impossibly high the mountain looks, chances are that somebody somewhere has climbed it before, so there is absolutely no reason to disturb the peace of other people with complaints wallow in self pity. As the Yorubas will say “it is the child who has never been to another person’s father’s farm before, that, argues that there is any other farm in the world, as big as his father’s. Goliath may look so scary, but if you go like David, believing in yourself and your ability (or maybe it’s whatever God you serve). “He” is extremely beatable. Like I said to my unknown tweep “I hope that makes you feel better.”