We need to talk.
It is my 13th week at home, in isolation. Notably, lock-down has afforded me a closer, constant look into the opinions and activities of others. Oh sometimes it is depressing. However, these weeks have taught me the significance of tolerance and empathy. And how much we lack these things as a generation.
Covid-19 is still spreading. And some are flouting distancing rules. On the unspoken basis that they are not as prone. As if the elderly and people with underlying conditions deserve to die.
We consistently fail rape victims, with how impatient, demanding, suspicious we immediately become. It must feel like being raped all over again. But empathy makes you ask why? Why would Nigerian women come out to falsely accuse anyone of rape? Where is the win?
Well, never say never. But what are the odds? Statistically, 2%—8%.
We see assault everyday in the streets, somebody we know has been raped/assaulted. Yet, we somehow forget the odds once somebody we know has been accused. It suddenly becomes a 50–50? It is wondrous. “Let justice prevail!” Really? Suddenly, Nigerians believe that there is criminal justice… for rape victims? Through the machinery of this Nigerian Police?
“We don’t actually know what happened.” Well, that is true. But however we treat these incidences, we must never discourage victims from speaking up. And importantly, rape apology is perpetually fueled by men who are simply unable to respect and empathize with women. It is why we say to them —“it could be your sister…”. Ordinarily, this is absolutely unnecessary. The basis of empathy should be basic humanity.
We repeatedly have to explain to some white people why #BlackLivesMatter and the truism of #WhitePrivilege. Mostly, they cannot show support because they are unable to consider the pain of another race.
Meanwhile, a lot of black people I know would be horribly racist if they were white. It shows—in what they think about people of another gender, ethnicity, status, sexual orientation and skin tone. Nigerians, especially, have a hard time understanding fundamental, mutual respect.
On a light note, the intolerance I speak of ranges from the defining to things like simple preferences. Men spend hours arguing Ronaldo v. Messi, but think ill of ladies who adore Lee Min-ho. Somebody kicks leather for 90 minutes. Another stars in romantic shows. What is the important difference? Men go on to play fantasy games and/or bet money. On leather-kicking outcomes they have no control over. Come on. People like what they like. We all are irrational about the things we like. Live and let live.
The prejudice, abuse and injustice of this world often seem insurmountable. Because beyond the above, we are unable to have the patient conversations that we (desperately) need to have. Because we are rabidly intolerant of everyone who disagrees with us. We do not appreciate freedom of thought. We only think that we do.
And it is often bemusing, how the most liberal of us are the most intolerant. We want to make change, but we do not want to explain our ideas or communicate with the society we are trying to change.
The things we know now, we did not know at some point in the past. So it makes sense to tolerate the ignorance of others. Not everyone understands rape, consent. Not everyone understands patriarchy. Or feminism. Or race. Or privilege. Some need to be engaged in conversations. Often, people oppose things they do not understand. And it is not “common sense” if you did not realize it a while ago.
These past weeks, I have repeatedly asked myself — “Are we intelligent because we are tolerant? Or are we intolerant because we are intelligent?” And I have come to the eventual conclusion that insecurity regarding knowledge cannot possibly be proof of intelligence. Learning is an endless process. If I cannot be challenged, then my process has prematurely ended.
And it is not possible that all our opinions are right. We are wrong sometimes. We are always wrong. I also wonder if our propensity to cancel others instead of explaining to/engaging them is any proof of mental strength. I am learning to approach arguments (with the right people) as opportunity to learn. An opinion is just an opinion. There is no need to be overly protective of it, especially if it can be exchanged for a better one. One I am not likely to form if I am always the only one talking.
Moral superiority is addictive. We want to say that our causes and reasons are superior. We want to say “oh look at these people, look how wrong they are about this!” We want to “cancel” them. Them, always them. We give them a category name. We give our side of the divide a name too. And everyday, we broaden the space between us. As if it is possible that either of us could be 100% right about everything.
We want to screen-grab their tweets and share with our “supporters”. Damn, I need to mute people who do these on WhatsApp. We expect immediate solidarity. But it is only sad. First, forcing an environment of people who only agree with all of your opinions is incredibly unhealthy. Because how are you going to learn anything new, or realize when you are wrong?
Again, moral superiority is addictive. Also, time-consuming. Then it consistently distracts you from the flawed, occasionally foolish human that you are. And the mess your life may be. You type on Twitter everyday but you and society are no better.
If anyone is (truly) passionate about causing positive change in society, they would need to understand the past and present. Then they would need to patiently understand both sides of the divide (if there is one). Then, explain to others what this change is and why it is necessary. Then, strategically target the institutions that can cause this change. It is the final part of this that requires aggression, not the previous.
Intellectual superiority, empathy, clarity of purpose, strategy and fervency cause change. The greatest movements were fueled by books and speeches. Not by curses and block buttons.
We should not continue like this.
We need to talk.