Thursday, 15 July 2004
Enjoying Freedoms; While Preserving Societal Good
Freedom is an absolute necessity for the attainment of individual and collective growth and development, the argument for promoting and advancing the cause and course of freedoms, is really no argument at all, as it is indeed, a non sequitur, because there is no good argument against freedoms, postulations against freedoms must therefore always fail, this is a necessary and desirable failure, for the good of the world.
Freedom must however have some contexts, even rules! As we know, no freedom that is meaningful or worthy is absolute; My freedom to swing my hands vigorously ends, as soon as someone’s nose is nearby, because I am not permitted to break his nose with my free-swinging hands! His arrival on the scene puts a curb on my hitherto "absolute freedom" to have a full-go, at my free-wheeling hands-swinging.
It is in this perspective therefore, that we must pursue the discourse or debate, in connection with the naked truth about our happily under-dressing undergraduates in universities in Nigeria. I am most reluctant to prescribe dressing code for anyone in Nigeria or anywhere for that matter… unless they are members of a uniformed outfit, club or armed services or the military… I suppose, compelling people to wear or appear in particular dress codes, is reminiscent of and was the hallmark of the Taliban extremisms.
This debate about the right to undress in public and or lecture theaters and classrooms, must resist the immeasurable injustice of limiting the issue to the freedom to be naked, we must extend the examination to include the impact of nakedness on the ability to concentrate, the ability of lecturers and fellow students, who are not willing to go naked, but who are compelled, invariably, to consume the nakedness of others. It is not my intent to engage in any moral judgments here, but, we must take into consideration, that Nigeria is not America. Most decent persons in America do not publicly exhibit their intimate body parts.
What may be thought of as proper conduct or behavior in America regarding flaunting body various parts, is clearly not the same in Nigeria; Nigerians must insist that Nigeria is a more conservative society in many ways, in comparison to America. Nigeria should practice what it considers its social mores, Nigeria may receive foreign cultures, but Nigeria must filter such received cultures, leaving out such aspects that are inimical to our good taste, good sense and intrinsic values.
There are certainly parts of this rush to undress, which is not conterminous with our Nigerian cultural values. Too many Nigerians in the rush to Americanize and Westernize, have rushed to jettison or trash our good culture, in preference for anything foreign.
As freedoms for Nigerians multiplies, we must ponder the appropriateness of certain "freedoms" that we seek or ponder the extent and degree to which we would take such rights and freedoms, we must consider that, not all human conducts or behaviors that the law allows, are of necessity, also appropriate. Not all things legal or lawful are appropriate. We Nigerians must ask ourselves, what is worthy and edifying?
It is the case for instance, that all good persons would want persons with disability, that desirous of work, should be able to find employment for which they are suitable, when and if they seek employment. But I am quite certain, that the most righteous of human right campaigners and advocates, and the Babas of freedom and liberty, including Barrister Gani Fawehinmin, would not advocate letting blind persons act as a school bus drivers, hauling children to school!
Nigerians must not in the name of advocating rights and freedoms, be willing to unwittingly trash our culture, our norms and morays; Nigeria possess moral values before colonialism and retained it, even thereafter, despite barrages of attacks, there appears now, to be a new assault and onslaught on our moral values, values that represent and reflect our culture, under attack by those among us, who are quick to assimilate gutter behaviors, so long as, such behaviors are foreign "as if, if it is foreign, it must be good?"
We have heard that a great deal of these undressing is performed with imported open cleavage enhancing t-shirts with profanities and expletives or some other sorrowfully disorienting proclamations, with nothing to do with Nigeria. Whatever happened to adire or dasiki or buba n soro? Cotton and other forms of Nigerian clothes are actually cheaper and more suited for our weather/climate, and will keep our tailors employed!
Nigerians must remember not to slaughter Nigerian values in the name of modernism, we must not decimate our worthy values, on the altar of rights and freedoms, as important as rights and freedoms are, they can also be used to cause mischief and even havoc! Nigerians must learn to pursue rights and freedoms that benefits Nigerians meaningfully. We must not attack the basis and structure of our very worthy value system, in the name of freedom to undress. We must be wary of rights and freedoms without purpose or meaning.
China and India are soon to become world powers, because of their scientists and engineers and American and German are speedingly using the high quality products from Chines and India universities as they invest in high-tech productions with low labor costs, in China/India according the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, High technology is being transferred to the Chinese and Indians, directly and indirectly in these processes, besides, employment is created in China/India through these means, but some Nigerian student are more concerned with cultism and the right to be naked?
Nigerians should revel in our multiplying and ever expanding freedoms, but, we must as a fine society that we are, seek appropriateness of our actions, even while we enjoy the rights and freedoms to engage in those actions. We must strike a balance between our right to wear swimsuits to weddings or funerals. We of course have a right and the freedom to think that swimwear is more dignified and edifying at weddings and funerals, but we must also consider the unexciting appropriateness of wearing more somber attires to a wedding or a funeral, as opposed to the more exceedingly exciting right and freedom to wear swimsuits and strut our stuff, even at a presidential inaugural!
There are surely many things, which people have the right, freedom and liberty to so engage. But wise and refine persons, must learn to refrain from doing such things, regardless of their rights and freedoms to do these things. This then, is the epitome of refinement, and is also the difference between humans and beasts. Only beasts of the animal kingdom, engage in actions without contemplations and deliberations as the consequences on the collective. Only animals do things, just because they can.
Well-meaning Nigerians should be concerned more with how Nigeria can improve our educational institutions, and the quality of graduates produced, I am product of the Nigerian education system, but we now hear comments portraying some of our graduates with advanced degrees in oceanography and marine science, but among whom, there are now, like millions of other, could not tell you, the direction to which the River Niger and River Benue flows! And yet they are oceanographers and marine scientists trained in Nigeria? Busy getting naked and going naked to learn, some are too busy being cultists?
Nigerians must learn to enjoy our multiplying rights and freedoms, we must do so with elevated sense of circumspection; we must consider the appropriateness of our conducts and behaviors, particularly in public space. Nigerians must consume the sweet wines of rights, freedoms and liberties very wisely. Nigerian undergraduates are our national resource, they are Nigeria’s future in research and breakthroughs in science, Nigerian undergraduates and lecturers should be consumed with the passion to discover cure for AIDS, Malaria or Mosquitoes eradication and how to give mangoes and oranges longer shelf-lives, Nigerians undergraduates should roll up their sleeves in search of how to create mechanisms for preserving slaughtered cows in Maiduguri or Kano for consumption in Lagos, Enugu or Ibadan without spoilage, these are among the sort of things Nigerian undergraduates must understand, they also have rights and freedoms to aspire to. Just as our undergraduates have the rights and freedoms to refrain from cults and cultism with their nefariously dangerous activities. They must aspire, instead, to be the best lawyers and doctors, best public policy initiators and implementers or best food technologists etc, the freedom to undress can wait for vacation times at their water front properties or Nigerians ocean shores beaches or the other beaches on God’s earth!
Nigerians must make freedom useful and meaningful, and use it productively and wisely.