Ijeoma Okoli - 2019

COMMUNAL SABOTAGE – Recognizing our hypocrisy and complicity

The only thing else competing with or even supplementing our self-sabotage is our ability to ignore real issues while focusing on the most minute details and our collective need to blame the victim...
COMMUNAL SABOTAGE – Recognizing our hypocrisy and complicity

As a people, it seems we have perfected the fine art of shooting ourselves on the foot so much that we do not even notice our self-inflicted pain. The only thing else competing with, or even supplementing this self-sabotage is our ability to ignore real issues while focusing on the most minute details and our collective need to blame the victim.

Before I go further, please allow me to entertain you a bit with a story from my favourite anime, Samurai X.

A character named Sojiro always wore a smile on his face and suppressed all other emotions which made it impossible for his opponents to read him or notice any vulnerability that they could exploit. How did he become like this?  

Sojiro used to be a kind and patient child who smiled often to avoid abuse from his father’s family. They blamed him for bringing shame to their family as he was a product of an affair between his father and a harlot. He thought that if he smiled more, maybe they will get to like him.

One evening, as he lay down to rest in the family’s rice shed which is where he worked and slept, away from the rest of the family, he had an encounter with a warlord known as Shishio Makoto. Shishio told him that he endures the abuse because he is weak. He told him that he will die if he is weak as only the strong survives.

While Sojiro doubted Shishio’s words, he overheard his brothers planning to kill him for sport. The scene that followed was epic as he slaughtered them all and then sought-after Lord Shishio who would then train him to become an assassin.

At the age of sixteen, Sojiro became the fastest and deadliest member of the Juppongatana, a group of assassins and carried on with his philosophy of “if you are strong, you live; if you are weak, you die” until he met Kenshin Himura in combat.

His combat with the protagonist, Kenshin was one of the most epic battles in an anime filled with epic scenes and he did put up a good fight. But when he starts to express his confusion as to why Kenshin would protect the weak which was in direct contrast to what Lord Shishio had taught him and a philosophy he lives by, Kenshin was able to subdue him.

Sojiro will later go on a 10-year journey to find his own meaning of life.

Phew that was a long one, even for me but you know by now that I love a good story. Plus, I’ll take any opportunity to let people know that Samurai X is still the best anime ever made 😊.

For the past few weeks, topics surrounding sabotage has stayed top of mind which is evident in my recent conversations and posts. Recent happenings have also prompted me to throw in my two cents in what I’ll begin to describe as a culture and/or tradition of sabotage.

Our communal self-sabotage is apparent in so many ways. On our journey to self-awareness and possible healing, certain issues that do not aid our expedition comes to mind. Here are some of them –

Victim Blaming and Shaming – Suicide Edition:

In our culture, suicide is a taboo. It is an abomination and we all have our opinions as to how this sacrilege should not be committed and how we should all collectively speak up to condemn it. The problem is that when we start speaking up, our ignorance is displayed gloriously.

Someone recently lost a close one to suicide by hanging and of course he was angry. He was angry that his relative decided to hang himself which brought shame to his family as everyone will now know that someone in their family committed suicide. Sacrilege. He believes that the late relative could have considered the family name and drank poison quietly instead so that no one will know the truth.

Are you in shock? Well, I’m sure he will circle back much later to feel pity for his brother and the mental sickness he must have suffered to the point of taking his own life.

Rarely do you hear conversations around this topic focusing on mental health and having compassion on the individuals that are afflicted. We can even find it in our heart sometimes to get in a few bad jokes.

However, it is not all bad as some people like you and I have taken it upon ourselves to know better and do better.

Blame the victim – Rape Edition:

Recently, a celebrity spoke up about her encounter with a popular religious leader and how he raped her back in 1999. As you can imagine, this news held the media hostage for more than two days. Some people (men and women included) came up with questions like:

Why did it take you so long to speak up?

Instead of telling you that the answer to this question is that she spoke up now because this is when she feels brave enough to speak up, I’ll refer you to a post by another individual; as this celebrity’s courage to speak up inspired a movement where other people began to speak up about their own experiences.

One that stood out for me was a post made by a twitter user, telling how her sister was raped when she was in junior secondary school by four men. Their father, as opposed to fighting on her sister’s behalf, beat the girl up so badly for letting herself be raped. Imagine enduring rape from 4 strange men and then physical abuse from your father at such close interval and at that age.

Others asked why the celebrity didn’t fight. Well, I can think of so many reasons and answers but I’ll just remind us again that she was a minor at the time. A minor.

On a lighter note, I did read another post that detailed how a father was saying that the alleged rapist had repented and the victim was being vindictive by going public with the issue. While he was making his case, his 14-year-old daughter mentioned that she too was raped by a relative. Now, the Baba wants to be vindictive* on the rapist uncle by seeking justice for his daughter forgetting that it is possible that the uncle has repented as well.

Selective outrage – Focusing on every other thing but the issue: Here’s a funny one.

A woman once posted that “Igbo men are generally insufferable and misogynistic, subtly or not…”. To be honest, she had an intelligent supporting argument and while we don’t like to generalize, most Nigerian tribes have a bucket into which they group people from other tribes so I’ll like to roll my eyes here when it comes to your anger about generalization.

Well this post made rounds on social media and all the arguments were focused on why she generalized and how she sounded like a bitter woman and very little was said about the issue she presented which is endemic misogyny and the need for these men to be self-aware in order to do better.

One other question that stood out during this debate was –

Is she the only one?

After reading her entire argument, one could say that she reacted to unprovoked misogyny with provoked misandry. . . but I won’t say that.

In conclusion, the real issue she presented was never addressed because we prefer to focus on every other detail but the main issue.  

Women against women: The Pick Me woman:

Women’s role in implementing and upholding patriarchy cannot be over emphasized. Starting from raising their sons to be superior and raising their daughters to submit and model themselves to be the perfect wife.

Some women keep finding innovative ways to make sure that they stay second class citizen and they rarely stop at that. They also take it upon themselves to make sure that any other woman who is bold enough to beg to differ becomes an outcast.

These women that vehemently maintain their status as left-over citizens are generally known as the pick-me woman. They need you to see that they are good and submissive so that you can pick them to be wife material. Thankfully, good and worthy men can see through the act.

I’ll stop here but you get the gist. Remember your disgust for Sojiro’s family for treating him poorly for something that wasn’t his doing? I hope you have enough of same feeling to go round your community.

However, now that we know better, we can definitely begin to do better. What other ways do you think we collectively continue to shoot ourselves on the foot?

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One comment

  1. Ehi Iden

    I find this a really interesting piece of writing, congrats Chidinma.

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