(First published in 2014 in Kakaaki Magazine, Centenary Series Vol. 03, Page 76-77). Read on:
I guess I owe my teeming fans who have followed my random musings via MindField and Lightship columns in Kakaaki Magazine over the years an apology for my sudden deviation from the usual inspirational pieces to political discourses in recent times. The point where I veered off from already defined paths to the murky waters of politics is hard to place really. But I’d rather think it is an accident of history…the nagging need to ventilate once in a while over national issues. It took a friend’s prodding to make me see the futility of such a risky adventure. He gave me enough reason to recant and trace my steps back to my motivational beats. Would I succumb to that cajoling or would I brace the storm and damn the consequences? That’s left to be seen.
It all began with a hapless chat on WhatsApp in the evening of 29th December, 2013. The year 2013 was tethering to an end and I felt duty bound to wish my pool of friends well in the in-coming year, 2014. So I sent a simple goodwill message to my friends on WhatsApp. Faje (not real name) replied almost immediately. A lengthy chat ensued thereafter. I’m not sure he’ll approve of this, but our chat wisened me up about systems and change. I told Faje he has given me cause for a story with his advice, the one I’m about to share with you here, which I’ve titled “Systems and Change.”
Enjoy the thread of the dialogue between Fajeand I, which I’ve rewritten in some instances for ease of understanding:
“I’ll suggest as a friend that you refocus your columns away from politics,” Faje said.
“Really? Why do you say that?” I asked curiously.
“You may not be aware but everything you write is being monitored and it may count against you in the future. Tread carefully.”
That got me stunned for a moment. “I see,” I replied calmly. “But as writers, must we keep silent in the face of tyranny?”
“Politics in Nigeria is murky waters. In Nigerian politics, fish eat fish,” Faje said.
The distance between us was great but I could feel through cyberspace his cautioning hand.
“I know, Faje. It’s just that one cannot help but say it as it is sometimes,” I remonstrated. “How do we change the system if we are afraid to say the truth?”
“You can’t change a system if you don’t know the way the system works,” Faje said.
“So how do we change the system?” I queried out of genuine concern.
“Between revolution and evolution, the latter is a better a choice. Any enduring change is first and foremost a change from within.”
“Isn’t that a contradiction? The change from within that you suggest…evolution you called it…isn’t the outlet of its expression always in the form of some physical action?”
“It maybe so. I’m not one for a revolution though. I believe in the change within. And I might as well add that you can only change a system from within.”
“So tell me, dear friend, how does one get into the system in order to change it?”
A moment’s pause. “They’ll allow or co-opt you into the system if they think you are harmless,” Faje said. “That’s the only way.”
“Well, I may have to write my political stories under a pseudonym then,” I said.
“That’s a better approach, it leaves you with no tracks for anyone to trace at the end. While you keep your columns as focused on motivational content, your political stories may come under a veneer.”
“Thanks for the advice! I’ll certainly do something about it.”
End of WhatsApp chat.
A brief excursion towards understanding systems and their functional paths is in order here. The universe we live in is a complex system. Each atom is distinct in its natural state, and each speck vibrates in consonance with its sustaining energy. But an unarguable unity pervades, and it is in sync with the rules of the universal system to which each speck belongs. Be it the Milky Ways, or the galaxies, the Solar System, even human systems, they are all subject to immutable laws. It may be true, that while other systems conform to the basic tenets of natural laws, human systems tend to defy the logic that governs all systems. Though a part of the whole, humans tend to exert a peculiar pull that is not always in tandem with the laws of the whole.Human systems, thus, may seem the only ones that invariably self-destruct through conscious and unconscious constructs.
By inference, systems in human terms are the creations of mass consciousness, but they are always preceded by the consciousness of the few in the sole direction of protecting the few against the many, and with the ultimate goal of enslaving the many and upholding the liberty of the few.
With this understanding of human systems, the logic of changing a system by first becoming part of it seems tenable. You cannot change what you do not know just as you cannot give what you do not have.I admit the obvious that violent revolutions, though unavoidable at times, are almost always counter-productiveat the long run. The effects are always devastating. When thinking of change and its ramifications, the evolutionary path is plausible and of a profounder value.
Umberto Eco in his classic novel Faucault’s Pendulum takes us on an intellectual adventure at unveiling the conspiracy inherent in human systems. From the scientific to the technological space, from the publishing domain to the financial vaults, from the political to the religious horizons, from the exotic world of advertising to the glamorous film industry, and from the hazy corners of our consciousness too, we are perpetually ensconced in a conspiracy of lies. Like a yarn in a loom, first the lies are kneaded dexterously, and then they are garnished in various colours to delude our senses of whatever claim we still have of rationality.
From Umberto Eco’s point of view, only the initiates of a system can be partakers of its hidden codes of conduct. And from Faje’s perspective, only a member of a system who is privy to its peculiarities can change the system for the common good or break its codes for selfish gains. Whichever way, systems thrive on their own values and weaving. What this aggregates to, is that, no system is entirely inviolate; and no system thrives without its conspiracies, values and weaving.
But an age-long adage has it that the greatest warrior is the conqueror of self. The fiercest battle, therefore, is not the one fought on the outside but one from within. The human body is also an intricate system with a vast array of interconnected networks that work in unison to achieve its goal of a conscionable being. There’s never an overbearing display by any part of the body in the rites of nature’s priming. All parts are always in tune even in their diversefunctional paths. And no human body is greater than the sum of its parts. This is one great lesson that human systems ought to emulate.