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Using The Mirror

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There was an old book with the above title, quite rare to find now, whose author was a Jewish Rabbi, a Hasidic master. The book has nothing to do with fortune telling or séance, but it gave very useful suggestions about self-examination, introspection and how to find meaning and satisfaction in life.
The author wanted to give humanity the secrets of the success story associated with the Jews, which accounted for their persecution, including their sad experiences with the Nazi regime.
After several decades of the publication of that book, another Jewish Rabbi, Levi Brackman , gave another version of Jewish Wisdom with specific reference to business success. There must be some wisdom that Nigerians can learn from the Jews by using the mirror, in a figurative sense. Without being acquainted with the Torah, the Talmud, the Midrash or the Kabbalah, we can use the mirror of the wisdom provided by these sources.
Jewish wisdom tells us that life is a journey and that the whole world that we must pass through is a narrow bridge: we must have no fear but journey forth. Fear usually arises from ignorance and wrong actions whose consequences haunt the conscience. Self-sabotage comes about when our consciousness is clouded by fear, and fighting in such a circumstance is a backward motion. We are reminded of a Law of Reversed Effort by which we work against ourselves if we don’t resolve what we fear.
By using the mirror, we can see where there is a need to mend fences, and we are reminded that nothing stands before the will if the volition is earnest. However, because humans usually have an inner will as well as an outer will, the spirit can be willing while the body can be dull. Jewish wisdom recommends that we use the mirror to identify and come to terms with our authentic self. Success in life demands that the inner will must always be the focus of our attention. It generates passion, goodwill.
The Torah admonishes us to fight against any urge to place ourselves above the others. Some falls arise from unfounded pride but, on the other hand, having an unassuming life-style can be an asset. However, we are warned against making ourselves a door-mat for others to walk over. The Talmud admonishes that he who talks too much commits a sin. Along with unassuming life-style is the need to create loyalty. A man must have some deep personal conviction based on values that one is passionately committed to uphold. Loyalty is created through commitment to principles and values.
Since no man is an island sufficient unto himself, life demands cooperation rather than a do-or-die competition with others. There is a need for a balance between looking out for self and caring for others. Despite ups and downs, we must learn to adapt quickly to new situations and challenges. If you cannot look into the Torah to learn that life is all about negotiations, you can look at the mirror to learn such vital lesson; if you laugh, the mirror laughs back too. You can rarely win negotiations without trying to understand the feelings and needs of the other person(s).
If we can be honest with ourselves, we would agree that morality, zeal and motivation among average Nigerians are on the decline. Failed expectations, among other conditions, account for such stats of langnour. But if we use the mirror it would be obvious that the causes lie within us. We are rarely our own friends, with widespread mutual distrust and acrimony. Zoroaster would tell us that human thought-forms take shapes and contain energy that return their contents to their originators, via their invisible radiations and links.
Failure is not failure, neither is a loss a calamity if we learn lessons from them and mend our footsteps. Jewish cosmogony recommends giving back to society through charity, titles, donations, etc as a means of making the earth a better place by purging ourselves of burdens and excesses. Like former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, did with his disengagement booty, let all Nigerian politicians give 10% of their monthly booties to bring some smiles and ease the agonies of a large number of Nigerians. If they cannot use the mirror, they can go physically to the slums and see things.
Wisdom from the mirror suggests that the strong man is the one who conguers himself – his impulses, vanities, pride and long-throat. In the state that Nigeria is currently, a few people that are permitted to see the unseen plead that those who take on the task of leadership should act fast and with sincerity to reduce tension, frustration, hunger and anger too. We don’t need a mirror to see a picture of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
The example of Venezuela as a developing country demonstrates the kind of problem which Nigeria is facing currently, namely maldistribution of national resources. A situation where 80% of a nation’s resources is in the hands of a small elite cannot fail to breed conflicts and insecurity. Venezuela transited into a democracy in 1958, but without any empowerment at the grassroots level. Corrupt politics, patronage, network and conflict persisted as instruments of sustaining the economic structure. Nigeria goes that way.
Chavez was a strong despot whom the masses believed was strong enough to stand up to the established elite of Venezuela . Nations fail when they have extractive institutions, supported by corrupt practices which impede and block economic growth. A picture of Hugo Chavez is a picture of a country held hostage by despotic and extractive institutions which make it difficult for the masses to contrite meaningfully in nation-building. It is a valid view that humans function at their best if they are in a state of happiness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Approaching Death Without Fear

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Panic, anxiety and fear caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic are indicators of human attitude towards death. A university don, embittered because he was turned back from travelling abroad to deliver a lecture, confessed that he had lost an opportunity to earn thousands of dollars for delivering a one-hour lecture. It took the nagging of his wife to make him stop brooding. His 14 year-old daughter added that “life has no duplicate” and that money cannot be more important than “having daddy around”.
Let us admit that many people who take on the task of educating the masses on serious issues concerning life and death, rarely say the whole truth, untarnished. This is so largely because many of them rarely know the whole truth themselves. The sad truth is that those who challenge the status quo and prevailing dogmas become targets of attack by those who benefit from the dominion of mass ignorance and gullibility.
What we call death is a misnomer because the human body neither lives nor dies. The body which has become an object of obsession, is merely an animated conglomerate of atoms which bond together for some period, and then disintegrate again – dust to dust. The soul which animates and uses the body composed to the dust of the earth, dwells therein for about three score and ten years.
The purpose of periodic animation and use of the body of flesh and blood by the soul, is to acquire wide and varied experiences in various climes and zones of the earth. During such rounds of pilgrimages, the soul also strives to drop off encumbrances, propensities and errors attached to it as a result of wrong attitudes, thinking and actions. Some people refer to this all-important process as detachment from the burdens of “karma”. Unfortunately, a number of preachers, hearing the word karma, think of occultism and such balderdash.
Yet, the process of repeated embodiment for the purposes of maturity and cleansing from prevailing guilts, is the greatest grace as well as opportunity provided for everyone to fulfill the missions of staying on the earth. But what do we find? Total distortion and misrepresentation of the issue! Thus are many people led astray from the Truth which is the ultimate basis of human salvation. Truth also includes the basic laws by which life is governed, one of which stipulates that everyone reaps what he sows.
Human salvation does not consist of such easy stuff as many preachers hold enticingly to the public. Catching the crowd is not same thing as catching the soul. Rather, what we find is a process of exploiting human weaknesses, fears and ignorance as a means of spreading old and hackneyed dogmas that hold no water.
The time has come when the masses should be told the untarnished truth, bitter as it may be. One of such truths is that repeated incarnations constitute a grace and the means to correct the errors and guilts which individuals have accumulated and which must be atoned for. Another truth is that the body of flesh and blood is NOT the unit of ultimate value in human life. Serving as temporary garment of earth-life, the body is discarded several times like any garment, and another body taken on in another incarnation.
Serving as an outermost layer or cloak, the body has other inner layers, one of which is the soul which is the unit involved in life’s shuttles. The soul shuttles between the earth as a field of actions and cleansing, and beyond which can be called ethereal zone of the world of matter. Spirit, which is the real essence of man and the ultimate unit that must mature and ascend, constitutes what must return to paradise in the spiritual sphere of creation.
Death of the physical body which is a garment of transit, is not a calamity but a necessity. The body must be discarded several times, while the experiences gained through the instrumentality of the body are extracted and serve for enrichment purposes. Errors, negligences and guilts accumulated during physical pilgrimages form the balance sheet which confronts the soul in the beyond, as determinant of another incarnation.
Many of the senseless errors and excesses which people commit on earth arise from ignorance of the true facts of life, personal weaknesses and propensities which people find hard to drop, as well as misinformation from various quarters. Preachers and teachers who cannot expound and explain the true facts and laws of life as they truly are, should examine themselves before taking on the task of educating others.
Death of the physical body which has become an obsession to many people, is not a big deal, neither is it a calamity. Physical death becomes a calamity because of the fear arising from the demand for atonement. If those who loot public treasury by various clever means know that in the future they would walk the streets of cities with plates in hands, begging for alms, surely, they would mend their ways now, quickly!
Ignorance or lack of true knowledge is man’s greatest plight and, a part of such ignorance includes the issue about what we call death. In reality death means absence or degeneration of responsibility, alertness, consciousness and inability to strive towards the ultimate purpose of life on earth. What is dead is what becomes useless in creation, arising from lack of personal exertion. Those who are truly living approach death with cheers and confidence, because it means progress.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

X-raying Indecent Dressing

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Dress the way you want to be addressed is a popular saying that buttresses the fact that the way you dress speaks a lot about you.
This saying has, however, been compromised in recent times by our youths. Most of our streets, public places and institutions of higher learning are now adorned with indecent dressing. Ladies are the most culpable.
A dress is simply defined by the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary as “a piece of women’s clothing that is in one piece and covers the body down to the legs, sometimes, reaching below the knees or ankles”.
But for some of our female folks, the reverse is the case. Their own definition of dress is a piece of women’s clothing that is made in many pieces and exposes the body down to the legs and, most times, flying above the knees to the lap.
Some ladies have thrown away their values and our beloved culture as Africans to embrace the Western ways of dressing. They seem to have forgotten that a typical African woman is cultured and is expected to always cover the sensitive parts of her body.
What most of our ladies put on as skirts, especially on school campuses, is just an inch longer than the underwear they put on. Whenever they put on such dresses, they struggle to sit down, let alone bend down or stretch their legs.
Apart from the skimpy and tight nature of these dresses, they are also transparent; revealing certain parts of their bodies to the glare and embarrassment of decent people. It is the equivalent of what my lecturer would call “mobile pornography”.
Some students are so engrossed in this “dress to kill” mentality such that they have thrown decency to the wind, and even outdo the Westerners they try to emulate. The question is, why do we always seek to outdo the West in matters like this and not in science and technology or even any other endeavour?
This indecency was advertised to the embarrassment of some of us during the students’ week of the Rivers State University (RSU), then Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) in 2012.
The week which featured among other things, the Old School Day, witnessed some female students marching within the campus with their low slung knickers (bom shorts), skimpy and body exposing tops, and afro weavons under the guise of mocking the old school style.
In retrospect, in the 1960s and 1970s, one could hardly see young ladies – who are now parents, dressed in such manner. Then there was self-discipline and many students knew why they were in school. They were not distracted. Instead they were properly focused.
Newspaper reports sometime ago showed that some students of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, and Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, who dressed indecently were sent back home. They were prevented from entering the school premises. But can that happen today without fear of reprisals from the students?
Such disciplinary measures have helped the two institutions so much to improve and instill morals in their students. The authorities of higher institutions in the country should emulate this and instill similar discipline in the students.
While undergraduates, especially the female ones, are free to be fashionable, this must be done with some decorum and decency. We should not forget that the primary motive of attending school is to acquire knowledge and be exemplary in learning and character.
There is nothing bad in looking good and smart, but the way we go about it matters and tells a lot about us. Our ladies should, therefore, strive to jealously guard their dignity. Of course, dressing to show one’s nakedness or vital parts is ungainly.
Dressing indecently does not add to one’s beauty nor make one a big girl’ as many ladies wrongly assume. Rather, it takes away one’s dignity and exposes one to ridicule and embarrassment. No amount of modernity can disclaim this fact.
There is no doubt that a lot of sex related problems such as rape and other forms of sexual abuses will be reduced in various institutions of higher learning and the society at large  if our ladies can strike a balance between modernity and modesty.
Ibigotemiari wrote from Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Africa And Protection Of Children’s Rights

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Africa’s foremost sage and rights activist, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, on 2nd August, 1996 groaningly emphasized, “Africa is renowned for its beauty, its natural heritage and prolific resources – but equally, the image of its suffering children haunts the conscience of our Continent and the world”. Similarly, at the launch of the Blue Train, Worcester Station, South Africa on 27th September, 1997, Mandela ardently expressed, “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children”. Yet again, at a luncheon hosted by the then United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, another pride to the Continent at the Special Session of the UN for Children, New York City on 9th May, 2002, Mandela exploded, “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children”.
From these remarks, Mandela aristocratically, foresightedly fixated his eyes on the future of the society considering children as the leaders of tomorrow. Orchestrating the garbage-in, garbage-out recipe, invariably – whatever investment made in a child today extensively determines the society’s future. Unfortunately, the wellbeing of children particularly in African countries leaves much to be desired. The pertinent question precisely to leaders is; what future is in view vis-à-vis investment in children in the society outside their own?
To lend a hand, the pathetic conditions children in most public schools find themselves cannot be overemphasized. The psychological effects alone are awful. Some pupils even sit on bare floors owing to shortage of chairs. That’s where there are actually classrooms. Above all, children’s hawking defiantly to Article 28 of United Nations Convention on Child’s Rights (CRC) particularly during school sessions poses another question for parents, guardians and governments. Calculably, the Convention hit thirty years this year, 2019.
For emphasis, Article 28 states, “All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free, and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education, schools must be run in an orderly way – without the use of violence. Any form of school discipline should take into account the child’s human dignity”.
Correspondingly, an Italian renowned educationalist, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) remarkably avowed, “Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society”. Could this consequently imply the society is deservedly reaping what it sowed by oversights of some fundamentals in the past? For example, the number of children and teenagers consistently participating in protests in the recent times in Nigeria’s federal capital is worrisomely, a pointer to out-of-school large population. The ugly situation unconsciously presents a clue of high numbers of supposed pupils and secondary school students roving the streets. Concisely, this is abysmal failure on the system.
By Article 1 of the CRC, “Everyone under the age of eighteen has all the rights in the Convention”. Article 2 elaborately provides, “The Convention applies to every child without discrimination, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, whatever their family background”.
The CRC is the first legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities. The provisions and principles of the CRC guide UNICEF in its operations with 54 Articles and three Optional Protocols. Equally, the Convention spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
An Optional Protocol on the other hand, is an accord that complements and adds to an existing human rights treaty. For this reason, only States that have already agreed to be bound by a parent treaty may choose to be parties to optional protocols. However, it is fundamentally pertinent to note that whilst the Convention protects children from harmful and exploitative works, it doesn’t prohibit them from helping out at home in ways that are safe and commensurate to their age. Notwithstanding, under no circumstances would children’s work jeopardize any of their other rights, particularly the right to education.
The Unitarian Universalist – United Nations Office (UU-UNO) through its “Every Child is Our Child” (ECOC) programme has supposedly recorded laudable feats in ensuring that vulnerable children reach their full potential by providing them with opportunities to attend school and receive all necessary medical attention.
Splendidly, UNICEF–Nigeria has been in the lead of avid crusades on the protection of children’s rights in the country especially through public enlightenment programmes. Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Primary School Pupils’ Feeding Programme; a policy for promoting child-education is a booster. From investigations, the feeding-programme has remarkably, strategically increased the population of pupils in schools it is operative. Nonetheless, a lot still needs to be done. Government at all levels should make it a priority to provide standard learning environments alongside competent teachers and teaching materials.
Commendably, the Inner City Mission; an arm of Christ Embassy Church, established and efficiently manages a standard school – The Inner City Schools for indigent children in the society. Other corporate organizations can considerately join forces as a social responsibility. The bad news – any untrained child may turn into a terror later against the entire society including the trained ones, thus, an undesirable convergence point.
Permit me to sum up with Nelson Mandela’s remarks in 2003 at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. The noble said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Conceivably, the Boko-Haram and other deadly sects in Nigeria may not have come into existence if past leaders did the needful by making child-education appealing in the society. Possibly, amongst the sects today could have been scores of eminent medical doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors and other professionals had the governments avidly promoted child-education accordingly.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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