Easy categorization

You can notice people tense up when a Nigerian introduces themselves. They view you with suspicion and constantly question your motives. If they can, some people will avoid interacting or doing business with you, and with good reason. 

They’ve either had a bad experience with a Nigerian, or know someone who has. Every other week, there are news reports of a Nigerian who was arrested for money laundering. Thus, one can sympathize with people who hesitate to deal with us. 

These instances will inevitably influence how others perceive Nigerians. For some, counterexamples might even fail to convince them otherwise. People usually feel negative information more intensely than positive information. 

Most stereotypes start this way: with a set of beliefs about a group — beliefs that may be true or false. Although they can be positive, stereotypes are mostly negative. They help us simplify the world by sorting things into categories based on what they have in common. Categorization enables us to make decisions by predicting the behavior of things. It would be overwhelming to treat every person, experience, or object as unique.

We rely more on these categories when we are tired or distracted. We also use them when we have insufficient information about people from a particular group. People are complex and often defy easy categorization. The recent surge in protests and riots across the globe reflects that fact. We have to revise or stop using some of our stereotypes. Being more sensitive to differences is a skill we all need to cultivate.

Newsflash…

Unpopular opinion: power is not neutral. If left unchecked, it often tilts toward corruption. 

We grant power to those who will use it to enhance the well-being of others.

We also strip people of power when they abuse it. The old Machiavellian understanding of power (fear and coercion) only gets you ostracised.

Newsflash: Society no longer rewards such behaviour.

With great power comes great responsibility.  Although trite, this is nonetheless true.

One of the reasons there is so much resentment aimed at the powerful is because they often do too little to reduce the suffering of the many. They have failed to assume the responsibilities that come with wealth and power.

It is in the interest of those with power to empower those without it. The pitchforks usually come out when the powerful ignore this.

What do you intend to do with power? 

Right side of history

How do you increase your likelihood of being on the right side of history?

Here are a few rules of thumb I live by:

  • Do not exploit the vulnerable
  • Money is a means and not an end
  • Be on the side of the oppressed – They always win
  • Resist the impulse to abuse power
  • Be kinder and more empathetic

Trauma all the way down

Let’s tag this global stressor accordingly: an ongoing traumatic event.

Symptoms include:

  • Avoidance: Unwillingness to think or speak about it.
  • Shame and guilt: Maybe I am the mentally weak one – other folks are unaffected by it.
  • Disorientation: What do I do exactly? How do I behave? Where do I go from here? Where is here?
  • Hopelessness: Inability to visualise a future.
  • Severe emotional distress: Feeling depressed and disturbed
  • Always being on guard for danger: What next? Armageddon?
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships: Relationships are now a chore.
  • Coping mechanisms: “This? no, this is not a coping mechanism. I am de-stressing.” Even listening to music, running, and meditating don’t seem to work anymore.

If this is you, no need to fret, you’re not alone. I don’t have my ducks in a row either.  

Nothing New by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh, what am I but an engine, shod 
With muscle and flesh, by the hand of God, 
Speeding on through the dense, dark night, 
Guided alone by the soul’s white light. 

Often and often my mad heart tires, 
And hates its way with a bitter hate, 
And longs to follow its own desires, 
And leave the end in the hands of fate. 

O, mighty engine of steel and steam; 
O, human engine of blood and bone, 
Follow the white light’s certain beam— 
There lies safety, and there alone. 

The narrow track of fearless truth, 
Lit by the soul’s great eye of light, 
O passionate heart of restless youth, 
Alone will carry you through the night.

I Cannot understand

Homer, The Iliad. Trans. E. V. Rieu, (New York: Penguin Books, 1950), XI. 622-698:

‘I cannot understand,’ replied Nestor the Gerenian horse-man, ‘why Achilles is so much concerned about a casualty here or there, while ignoring the disaster that the whole army has suffered. Our very best are lying by the ships wounded by arrows or spears. The mighty Diomedes son of Tydeus has been hit; Odysseus the great spearman has been wounded; Eurypylus too has had an arrow in his thigh; and here is another whom I have just brought off the field hit by an arrow from a bow. Yet Achilles, though he is a fighter too, has no concern or pity for the Danaans. Is he waiting till in spite of all we can do our gallant ships go up in flames besides the sea and our army is destroyed piecemeal?