Thursday, 20 April 2017

I Am Not Your Negro

Finding meaning in the dark
At the Easter weekend, my friend of 33 years visited and for the three nights that he stayed over we had a social event of sorts which included watching films and having dinner.
Of the films that we watched, I was seeing Moonlight for the second time and I Am Not Your Negro for the first time. On Moonlight, which was a coming of age story dealing with drugs, addiction, relationships and sexuality, there was another element of bullying that I thought I should write about, but that piece has not been conceived yet.
When I did first watch Moonlight, I wrote a blog which not so much a review of the film itself but a reflection of how addiction regardless of the substance or activity does have the same destructive effects on all directly and remotely attached to the said addict. The blog is referenced below:
A fake quote with sentiments
Now, almost four years ago, I wrote another blog that has garnered over 20,000 page views, I was surprised when just a few days ago, there was a sudden surge in readership that added another 2.700 page views to the blog in a week.
Apparently, the subject of the blog is making the rounds again, a case of Internet Apocrypha, a quote contrived by someone and attributed to a historical figure which then cast as genuine.
With this new activity came a new comment, there have been many comments, many objective, some subjective and others just downright nasty.
I bit my tongue
This new comment that came from Fausto who is probably French going from his other comments on other forums failed to address the topic I blogged about. He started by damning with praise by calling me a ‘Smart Man’, before belittling the context of the blog and then suggesting that I should embark on another scholarly activity which I excerpt and quote below. All grammatical errors left in the text.
I suggest you spend even more time and your wisdom sir to find out what atrocities were caused to the African continent by the British You owe that to your own kind sir. as black man regardless of your motive you cannot be the devil advocate of the devil.” [Link]
Now, I do have stringent commenting rules on my blog, that might be the reason why I rarely receive that many comments on the blog itself, but I do find engagement on Twitter and Facebook though links to my blogs posted therein.
The audacity of a cretin
Much as I can be quite tolerant of people, there are times when odium and the purveyors of it need to be put in their place. For a stranger to come to my blog, my own personal space to dictate what I opine about is disrespectful, abusive and smacks of the audacity of a cretin.
Then to use the phrase, “You owe that to your own kind, sir, as black man.” Should have me spitting tacks before I descend into acrimonious verbiage eviscerating every notion of his being until it shrinks into completely forgettable ignominy, but I was kind.
In context of sorts
To digress, the second film, I Am Not Your Negro was a construct of the unfinished work of James Baldwin who died 30 years ago and it was a documentation of the history of the African-American Civil Rights Movement through the lives and assassinations of three friends,  Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.
All of them died in their late 30s leaving young families, James Baldwin compared and contrasted the men, talking about his relationship with each of them and articulating the causes of the Negro as African Americans were called in then in his [published writings and debates around Europe.
I left the showing of the film with a sense that James Baldwin had a compelling mastery of words and communication that people wanted to hear what he had to say whilst the FBI sought to denigrate him for his homosexuality.
Why it matters
Yet, I cannot properly review the film here, only suggest that any opportunity to view the film would provide a teachable moment on the civil rights movement.
As we left the cinema, we discussed the issues of identity, of privilege, of demonstrations and causes and how that affects who we are today.
As the thoughts about the film percolated in my mind for days, the comment left by Fausto seemed to crystallise into what I wrote below, to inform my interlocutor that my wiliness to engage does not confer the right to dictate how I should think, what I should write about, where I should express opinions, what my identity is and how I should express my own thoughts.
To encroach is to invade my territory, disrespect my person and arrogate upon himself an entitlement he could never earn which much be contemned completely, and so my response.
I Am Not Your Negro
The purpose of this blog was to debunk false material being circulated as fact which came within my social media space almost 4 years ago.
Now, I have no idea what the purpose of your comment is apart from attempting to serve as a distraction from that primary aim.
If you had bothered to check other details about me, you would realise that I am both an Englishman by birth and a Nigerian by heritage. If anyone had posted an inversion of the truth about slavery into my social media space, I would have performed the same activity of taking the time to address it as I addressed this matter.
Now, if you have an opinion about what I have written, I would expect you to state those views rather than attempt to project some inferiority complex upon my person.
I am aware of the many atrocities of the British in their colonial fiefdoms and I also have to bear the burden of the fact that I cannot divorce myself from the shared identity of being both British and African.
What I would not do is repudiate one for another to satisfy a victim complex, I am a black man of great privilege and I would not deny who I am.
In the spirit of the recent documentary about civil rights in America, may I clearly state to you without equivocation - "I am not your negro."

Monday, 17 April 2017

Thought Picnic: A note of self-encouragement

In a moment of reviewing personal veracity,
When one encounters the doubts of innate capacity,
Within the resources of varied capability,
Always lies amazing ability.
That even in the throes of vulnerability,
Having weathered the onslaught of imbecility,
There is every probability,
Assurance remains of adequate facility,
In that I find agreeability.
When you stand with integrity,
And consider things in tranquillity,
Whatever the fragility,
It cannot temper your agility.
Introspection hones your acuity,
Reveals many a possibility,
Nothing will end in futility,
For we are born for irrepressibility,
In utility is great formidability.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Opinion: Where addiction and tragedy can confuse issues

It is a sad story
I just read an article posted on LinkedIn titled, Opioids, My Mom's Death, and Why People Trust Science Less and the human side of the story is very sad, however, the additional narrative is opinion, conjecture, suspect and unfortunate.
There is a conflation of issues along with unresolved conflicts that need to be separated before this article tagged as an Editor’s Pick, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical are taken in without questioning or review.
Separate the issues
Walking back the issues, there is grief at a mother’s death, addiction to pain-killers that came as a result of prophylaxis for osteoporosis, estrangement, and then the machinations of the pharmaceutical industrial complex, known as Big-Pharma.
There is no doubt that Big-Pharma, Big-Tobacco, Big-Oil, Big-Manufacturing, Big-Agriculture and Big-Anything have a lot to answer for about their products and the effects of the production and use of those products on people, on the environment, and everything that makes for the wellbeing of our common humanity, but that is addressing the symptom.
The fundamentals would always be down to the individual, their personality and their experiences in how persuadable they are and this is not to castigate the strength of character of anyone, but missing that point would allow for drawing the wrong conclusions.
Scientific advancement has done wonders
For instance, it is thanks to the contributions of scientific research and medicine that I am alive today, having at one time been at death’s door with a prognosis of 5 weeks to live if my physiology could not tolerate and respond to the regimen of therapy I was being prescribed.
At the lowest point, I was in such unbearable pain that if not for the need to monitor my vitals, I would have been anaesthetised to manage the stress of it. Before I was admitted to the hospital, I was on Tramadol, then on the day I was admitted, I was given a morphine skin patch that had to be taken off after two days because I could not keep my food down and from then on, I was put on Oxycontin and Paracetamol with Codeine.
Whilst it appeared to manage the pain, when a deep biopsy was done on the fungating tumours under the sole of my left foot, 7 shots of local anaesthetic did very little to deaden to the pain. I simply bit on a think piece of a folded napkin as they prodded the anger in my foot.
Managing pain alone
On leaving the hospital, I was prescribed a list of pain and nausea management drugs that I was concerned about the cumulative soporific effects of the drugs. In addition to the earlier prescribed drugs, I was given a Fentanyl patch and that dosage was doubled when I reported that I was still in very much pain. That was when the equilibrium for my pain management was reached, I was not as pre-occupied with the pain as I took in 7 sessions of chemotherapy and the cancer lesions healed.
Whilst the lesions had gone and all the necrotised skin had been removed to reveal fresh skin, I was still in pain into the 4th month of my diagnosis, then the pain began to subside. One Sunday, the patch fell off my skin, I did not know until then that a patch retainer film could be worn to keep the patch in place. Until the effects of the new patch kicked in, I was in such pain I began to laugh almost into delirium, but that produced endorphins to ease the pain. My friend thought I was going crazy, but I knew what I was doing.
Coming off pain killers
The pain of cancer is in another realm, it cannot be explained, the therapy for chronic pain has addictive qualities too. When the pain had gone, I could not just take off the patch, I had to wean myself off it, this is where the mind and the will come to play. Addiction has much of its roots in the psyche first than in its palliative effects. The palliative which is in itself a kind of comfort has to be consciously managed.
In my case, it took another 2 months to come completely off the patch and other pain medication. With the patch, I cut it in half and left it on for longer, each patch dosage halved and left on for much longer until my body could do without the drug.
Then, we all have innate tendencies to addiction and some people might be able to avoid addiction. There was another instance where a change in drug regimen meant I could not sleep, the first suggestion was to put me on sleeping medication, however, I thought of working a plan to take my pills at a certain time and avoid completely drug-induced sleep. I could see the dangers of becoming dependent on sleeping pills.
Addiction is first personal
Going back to the purpose of writing this blog, addiction has social, emotional, economic, relationship and physical consequences. In my view, addiction is not just to drugs or the abuse of drugs, alcohol, it could be sex, it could be religion or any other activity. The person and people around that person suffer, and that is very sad.
Regardless of what brought on the addiction, it is always first a personal struggle, what other factors contribute to it does not take away from how the person might have succumbed to addiction. Whether we fail to be better informed of the debilitating side-effects of a drug does not take away from the balance between efficacy and damage.
Apportion rightly
The science would suggest a drug can do something, most drugs have to recoup research and development costs and it unfortunate that some people put the profit motive well and above the welfare of patients and customers – that is commerce, we cannot avoid it.
It is, however, a long stretch to conflate personal tragedy, addiction, the science and the commerce into one clickable title of Opioids, My Mom's Death, and Why People Trust Science Less and draw the conclusions in the piece without properly assuming personal responsibility on the one hand and understanding that every individual has a unique physiology that adapts to medication in different ways which could influence the mind too.
I recall my doctor saying they could treat my condition but it depended on my physiology to tolerate the medical regimen. I lost a friend to a similar condition because his physiology did not have the capacity to tolerate the regimen of chemotherapy.
The responsibility of addiction remains a personal thing, the responsibility for being properly informed lies within the person, their medical support, the pharmaceutical companies and the science that balances efficacy with possible side-effects, with the hope that efficacy outweighs side-effects.
I am sorry, the writer lost his mother to addiction, but if we are to trust science less because of the conflicts of interest between treatment and commerce, we would all die sooner in more misery and pain with respite or comfort. That is why these issues need to be treated completely separately even if they are linked in a personal tragedy.

Thought Picnic: Never let little minds define your big life

We have those ills
We all as primal and uncultured human beings have the capacity for rage and pettiness, but what separates one from another is the ability to appreciate that the fundamentals of good breeding become the world of difference regardless of what status a person attains in this world.
In the scheme of things, there are too many instances where if I were to paraphrase William Shakespeare, the highly fed and lowly taught have risen to manage the highly taught and somewhat lowly fed.
Those with a good sense of self-esteem and self-assurance would always find themselves at the envious end and sadly, the mercy of the unsure and reaching; who by accident of good fortune we must not begrudge, get promoted beyond their capabilities and we are invariably engaged in a proxy class war.
Old-fashioned still matters
I always reference the necessity and importance of old-fashioned values, much of which is disappearing from the workplace, ones of courteous, of respect, of proper address, of refined conversation and of choice of apparel.
We cannot make the choices of co-workers, but we can create the best impressions of who we are by conduct, decorum and comportment, that some of those attributes cannot be ascribed to some is unfortunate, especially if they represent your line management – that is life in the workplace.
Know yourself and live
However, it is important that you understand your own journey and count your own blessings, know your own story and never compromise on your principles. With that in mind, you realise that you might be in a situation which is hardly the top of your past achievements, but the spirit of perspective and contentment has given you a better way of thinking.
It allows you to let go of trying to tackle those who never in their whole lifetime would experience a fraction of your own amazing story of life, livelihood, earnings and blessings.
Do not let those who have the little power they have today become the ones who define your future. They cannot amount to much and your life goes on, as you part ways.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

I dream a little dream of me

I have great capacity to dream,
Engage in the power of life-giving hope,
With all that burning desire,
I must curb my enthusiasm.
Where I’ve had no light to my beam,
Giving me every reason to mope,
I find no urge to retire,
It is not a function of my phantasm.
It is all part of the scheme,
The ways we are deeply taught to cope,
That fuels the things to which we aspire,
We are born to bridge the chasm.
That we never run out of steam,
Or rarely in the dark only to grope,
For we live to learn and acquire,
A lasting happiness full of enthusiasm.