Thursday 17 February 2011

Thought Picnic: Where circumcision beats choosing lipstick colours

Where expression is unsafe

I have observed over time that the Nigerian chat and comment space is fraught with imponderables and probably worse.

In fact, the safest place to offer an opinion is probably my blog and the comment advisory that probably creates a high entry level to those who have opinions that are best left unspoken and unwritten.

Twitter is also a good place to offer views, the compelling need to be concise and precise whilst offering a view is a great challenge for many even if they have to use applications that break the Twitter default of 140 characters for succinct expression.

Facebook however brings you in contact with another different crowd, the people that I have chosen to befriend appear to be quite reasonable having learnt well the purpose of comprehension exercises we took in English classes.

The problem is usually with those other friends of friends who you end up engaging with when you express a view on a friend’s status.

The gulf between reading and comprehension

Strangely, much as many of them can read, very few understand what they are reading, much less have comprehension and fewer still can be objective or proffer any logical analysis on the status under review.

Sadly, in the process of trying to contribute, clarify and raise the standard of discourse you get drawn into some exchanges that leave you utterly flustered if not flabbergasted and outraged. Much as one’s English reserve kicks in, the need for a public putdown becomes necessary one of which ended with the praise of a contributor’s talent with hands rather than with his brains.

The beauty of many procedures

In the last week, one instance was with the news story about a young and upcoming female artiste who felt that a butt augmentation procedure would improve her career; she ended up in a hotel in America where the injection of industrial silicone cost her life.

The exchanges went well until someone suggested male circumcision was cosmetic surgery for the purposes of looking good as a manicure, the application of make-up and the shaving of beards. At which point we enquired as to how that line of thought was plausible and as the person went off on a diatribe and a tangent with the licentious use of inclusive plural pronouns we were stumped.

Now, to refer the origin of circumcision to Abrahamic traditions of religious covenant keeping or its recent presumed usefulness in the prevention of the transmission of HIV especially in Africa became an insurmountable task of the attempt to share knowledge – there was nothing else to say.

Attitudes to homosexuality lead to jail

Then there was the case which included the presumed attempt to force a 17-year old Nigerian resident into marriage which on examination of the issues and the reported detail linked punishments, exorcisms and lifestyle to the desperate actions of a mother to convert her seemingly gay son back to heterosexuality.

Under the presumed notion that sending her son back to Nigeria from the UK would separate him Western influences and restore his supposed heterosexuality in an environment hostile to homosexual expression she risked jail.

That was because her son had sought the advice of a gay charity and taken out a protection order against his parents; within 6 days of receiving the order, he was carted off to Nigeria and the parents felt they had escaped the ambit of the Forced Marriages Act that their son had sought the protection of.

The law and sentiment disagree

Now, there are many strands to this situation; those for strict and overarching parental rights over their wards who must be fully obedient and acquiescent to every diktat of their parents because good intentions and possible bad judgement are always in the best interest of the child – one can sympathise.

There is also the fact that the basic letter of the law had been broken; a direct order from the court to produce the child in the UK was ignored and the mother having held the court in contempt was sent to jail for 8 months.

The cross-border influences between Nigeria and the UK on the matter of a Nigerian child who was wise after the possible protections the law provides against his parents’ untrammelled control in the UK as opposed to in Nigeria can excite strong emotions.

The labour of hands and heads

There might be many wrongs but the facts are what they are; a young gay Nigerian resident in the UK against his Nigerian parents caught between Western protections and Nigerian indifference to the rights of minors when pitched against their guardians but could there ever be a balanced view of these stack realities – hardly.

By the time we broke off, each side had been insulted as one who laboured with calloused hands and the other with ideas.

How hard it is to resist the need to help with comprehension first and then the appreciation of basic logic when our schools school too many in rote learning and regurgitation rather than the ability to research and convey ideas in coherent and engaging ways – the refuge of a blog can suddenly offer the best security from the absurd as one admires the beauty of circumcision with confusion of colours for lipstick.

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