The True Meaning of Friendship

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According to scientists, a human being is a highly social animal (specifically belonging to the class of mammals) who sometimes feels like he or she is a god. But we are different from gods or rather dogs in that we sometimes bite our friends and wag at our enemies. For most people, the older we grow the less amusing we become and therefore the less friends we have. But it is important not to lose your sense of humour which prevents realists, like me, from being jaded. Moreover, humour itself doesn’t start adult friendship; it is mutual hatred or mutual love or mutual interest in something that does.

In view of  heightened social media activities and inordinate suspicion which emanates from self-centredness, people are likely to substitute real friendships with online friendships. I am not saying making friends online is not fun. It is a great way of meeting similar minded people and sharing ideas. I have met some amazing people online whom, but for distance, I would have preferred them to be physically available.What is the point of making numerous friends online knowing you will never get to meet any?

I must say that a friend in real life is nothing like a friend online. Facebook does not even notify you when someone “unfriends” you. A substitute is not the same as the real thing. A friend  is someone who is both physically and emotionally available in both good and bad times. A sought of reliable co-pilot, if you like.

When I was younger, I was very sociable and had many friends both at school and at home. With growth came a straight face and infrequent smiles. I guess I may have become aware of some peculiar realities of my life. I still have friends though, but with responsibilities piling up each day, there is just not enough time for hanging out, except on weekends, hence blogging. So what then is the true meaning or value of friendship?

Great friendship unfolds without much awareness. A friend criticizes, sometimes harshly, but in a helpful way, and if you really can’t change something about yourself, he or she still accepts that that’s who you are. This is what I have found to be one thing that runs through all great friendships. True friendship lasts long and is also characterized by people watching eachother’s back. Friends are honest with one another and ensure eachother’s safety or well-being. I mean if they see something wrong, they voice it.

I have seen one thing in internet forums and in news groups, (presumably a western thing) where people actually encourage distorted perspectives without any attempt to correct the person involved. That is sore. That is not ethical. That is not friendship. A real friend drags you to where he knows to be a safe place, against your will, or if out of your rashness you are struggling to jump off the cliff. I think the laws also influence us a lot. Too much personal freedom makes people slaves of themselves.

In spirit of true companionship, we will all be perpetually happy because lasting happiness comes primarily from people not from pets or objects – these are just substitutes and we cling on to them because the world, truly, has become fractured and hostile.

 

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Humanism Is My Religion

I have always said, in reply, (to friends who ask why I no longer take organised religion

seriously) that I did not previously attend church because I wanted to go to heaven or expected a miracle.

Nothing new can happen, the sun will always rise in the east and set in the west.

 

But I went to church because it was a community of people like myself.

People I grew up with; friends, neighbours etc who make up the larger community.

If there is a God, and I believe there are many, then they must be concerned about the welfare of humanity.

 

By promoting the welfare of humanity, we are realising God and therefore advancing our spirituality.

This is why I cannot surrender my intellect or emotions to any organised religion but humanism.

I have never felt as bored anywhere as when I am in church —

 

If not for brief conversations with old friends.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the priests or prophets or the scriptures.

I can tell there is an originator, when I consider the process of human reproduction.

 

But I don’t think any religion can make evil men good

Or good men evil, religions may facilitate it though.

There are men who are inherently good and others inherently evil.

 

When people sing and make chattering noises on the street we label them maniacs.

But in the church, it indicates most profound “piousness.”

I will rather stroll in the forest and listen to birds sing.

 

 

“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.”

 — Francis Bacon

 

Corporate Gains, Human Suffering

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The first Friday of every December is a “special day” in my country. It’s considered special because it celebrates poor farmers all over the country – at least that’s what the politicians say. Out of the thousands, perhaps millions of peasants in the country side, only one is supposedly picked at random and awarded the title of “Best Farmer of the Year.”

Last year, the best peasant got a brand new saloon car. Bear in mind that the definition here, of farming, includes fish farming, animal husbandry and rearing of goats, guinea fowls, chickens, rabbits and so on. Without much ado, let us now examine the life of a typical farmer and see if these awards are actually a mockery or meaningful gifts. In my country, to say someone is a farmer is to create a picture of an uneducated, haggard, poor and a usually toothless aged fellow. This person is worn out by nothing but manual labour. Some farmers do not even own the land on which they work which means they are more of share-croppers.

Every year many farmers retire into their grave because they do not have benefits, pension and or healthcare (healthcare came recently). They are classified, together with traders and other self-employed citizens as being in the informal sector of the economy. And I’m talking about up to 70 % of the total population. Although the national pension scheme welcomes them to contribute on their own, the funds managers do not thoroughly educate them on how the scheme works, so many are uninterested.

The youth of my country avoid farming like the plaque. They have been conditioned by the (mis)educational system to devalue manual work and seek white colour jobs. Every one of them pictures him of herself sitting behind a Macbook air or an hp Elitebook, pressing keys. They sit behind the laptops all day and expect the poor farmer, who lives in the country side to produce enough to feed city folks. The result if this? Well, there is always a deficit in local food production and the government ends up spending millions of cash to import food crops as a supplement.

The major crops of these local farmers are vegetables such as tomatoes, garden eggs etc; tubers such as yams, plantains and fruits such as banana etc. Many of these are easily perishable and the plight of the farmers, since time immemorial, has been to obtain government loans to expand their farm with agricultural machinery and transport smoothly. The reparation of bad roads leading to the cities by government will ensure that easily perishable crops get to the consumer on time. All this fell on deaf ears.

world-food

At the height of frustration, the peasants have had to turn to private banks, whose loans, if a farmer is lucky to be granted, has an average interest rate between 30 and 40% p.a. Anyway, since many of these farmers can’t really afford the high interest rates, they settle for subsistence farming. I had a friend who owned a pineapple farm, about 16 acres but who had had to eventually sell it because no matter how much he tried, no bank was interested to offering him a loan. Instead, the banks offer loans for beauty pageants and music festivals and sometimes importation.

With regards to fishermen, the story is not much different – the high cost of premix fuel for their fishing boats. The response they get is usually a pat on the back that seeks to say,” Don’t worry guys. We are not really interested in that, at least not now. We go where there are kickbacks.”

There is something called guilt and many people hate that feeling of self-criticism and judgement-but it is healthy feeling in that it compels one to get back on the horse. A couple of years ago there was a news article that said that the leading telecommunications company in the country at the time had total assets which when valued, is higher than the total amount of money in the government coffers –both consolidated and contingency funds combined. What this means is that although the government and its people make up the market, the company which operates in that tiny market is richer than the country. The corporations continue to make huge profits whereas the people, the masses continue to suffer. The same inequity prevails in the mining sector and now, I hear, the mining giant is laying off about 1500 of its employees. The least said about unemployment, the better. Did I hear someone speak of unemployment cheques or allowances? Well, as far as know, no West African country offers such support. If you lose your job, you either find another or die.

Now this is where it gets really interesting. In spite of these conglomerate’s so called corporate social responsibly campaigns which occur once in a blue moon and which also does not benefit farmers in any way, they suddenly become extremely kind and sympathetic on farmers day and shower congratulatory messages on the unlettered farmers. I know that they feel guilty, anytime they eat banana, anytime they bite into roasted plantain, anytime they prepare chicken soup or eat fish, they feel guilty because they know it was brought about by the hard work of someone called the farmer, whom they disdained and refused loans.

The publication of these congratulatory messages in the Daily Graphic are usually full page and in full colour. Read this:

 

“THE MANAGEMENT AND STAFF OF THE AFRICAN CAPITALIST BANK

WISH TO EXTEND OUR (IN)SINCERE GRATITUDE AND

CONGRATULATORY MESSAGE TO ALL FARMERS ON THIS

AUGUST OCCASION OF NATIONAL FARMERS DAY.

AYEKOO!”

 

Note: Ayekoo means congratulations in the local dialect. Read another in the Daily Spectator:

 

“AYEKOO TO ALL FARMERS FOR THEIR HARDWORK,

DEDICATION AND PERSEVERANCE ON THIS OCCASION OF

THE NATIONAL FARMERS DAY

SIGD: BY MANAGEMENT OF BANK OF PRESTIGE”

 

And now a message from the government:

 “THE PRESIDENT, ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE

OF THIS NOBLE AFRICAN REPUBLIC

WISHES ALL FARMERS AN (UN)HAPPY FARMERS DAY.”

 

I think that’s enough. Since they weren’t offered significant financial assistance, they certainly won’t be happy and I wonder how many of them can read and understand these messages. Anyway, the reader can now see clearly that these messages are published out of a certain feeling of guilt. What they forget is that awarding a brand new saloon car and gifts of soft drinks to a single farmer will not maximize production. Farmers need loans, farmers need skilled labour force and heavy-duty agricultural machinery that can help them produce enough to feed the entire nation and possibly export to other parts of the world. These are the highest forms of motivation, which makes our development possible.

maize farmer

Give Thanks To Mother Nature

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O, Mother Nature,

Thank you for your

Guidance and protection.

You have fed us throughout

Last year with gifts of fruits

And tubers and cereals and fishes.

 

And sunlight and the rivers.

You have done your best

To preserve our life.

As this year begins,

Make me more patient

And less obstinate.

 

More kind and

Less selective.

More discerning

And less presumptuous.

Help me to improve my arguments

Even when in possession of truth.

 

Take charge of my life.

And lead me to the

Fulfilment of my destiny.

Thank you O, eternal Universe,

For the protection

And guidance you

Give all of us.