"To err is human; to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope
PicturePhotography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu

   The phone kept ringing, like it had every morning and evening for the past 13 days, until it finally went to voicemail. "Hello my love! It's Giovanni...again. Today's Sunday, the beginning of a new week, and my feelings for you haven't changed. I'm sorry for hurting you. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I love you.", confessed a depressed-looking Giovanni after the beep from Antonella's voicemail had toned. Before he could hang up, he heard a voice speaking inaudibly on the phone. Frantically, he put the phone back to his ear and half-shouted, "Hello?! Antonella?! Are you there?!. "Antonella isn't her!", a stern, feminine voice replied from the phone. "Who is this?", Giovanni responded. "It doesn't matter who I am.", the woman replied. "Well, it does to me! I'm her fiancé! Who are you?", an infuriated Giovanni retorted. "Why do you want to know? Do you want to bed me too?!, was the sharp response of the mysterious woman on the other end of this telephone conversation. Giovanni could feel an indignant rage, pushing him to respond to his latest critic but alas, he was dumbfounded. Giovanni broke the momentary, awkward silence between him and the mystery woman with a sigh. "How can you possibly refer to yourself as her fiancé, after cheating on her with somebimbo you swore meant nothing to you?", queried the mystery woman. Giovanni remained silent. "I'm Antonella's friend, I'm house-sitting for her. I know everything - all the lies you told her. I even read the nasty text messages and emails you sent that slut. I bet you thought you could keep it a secret forever. You men think women become idiots when we fall in love, don't you? You guys...". "Where is Antonella?!", Giovanni interrupted. "You said you're house-sitting for her. Why would she need a house-sitter? Where did she go?". To this, the mystery woman said, "She's been admitted at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito. Antonella had an anxiety attack last night." There was silence again. "Hello? Hello?", the mystery woman called out but her calls were all in vain - Giovanni had already bolted out the house, en route to the hospital in question.
    Somehow, Giovanni managed to beat the Mass-inspired traffic jam of Sunday morning Rome, while driving absent-mindedly. Upon arrival at the hospital, Giovanni was informed that Antonella had not eaten for more than 10 days! A duration of time in which she had soaked herself with only alcohol and tears. Her body was bound to crash. When Giovanni revealed himself as Antonella's fiancé, the nurse on duty finally agreed to let him see her. As Giovanni approached the weakened but awake Antonella, he cringed and stopped in his tracks as their eyes met. Antonella looked away to the table beside her bed. She tried to reach for the cup of water on the table but she was too weak to do it. Giovanni rushed to her aid and placed the cup of water in her hands. At this, Antonella summonsed every joule of energy in her and poured the water on Giovanni's face. The nurse quickly rushed to Giovanni and began to escort him out of the room. As he walked away, Giovanni looked into Antonella's eyes. Her eyes were like the eyes of a dragon - ablaze with a fiery rage that couldn't be quenched. Outside the room, the nurse offered Giovanni a towel to dry himself and some words of wisdom. This is what the nurse said, "Look, Mr. Insua. I don't know why you did it. All I know is that you're not the first to do it and neither are you the last. The truth is, more than 50% of the men in Italy have cheated, are cheating or are about on the women in their lives. Whenever these women find out what their men are doing behind their backs, they usually react to it in insane ways. We see it all the time here in this hospital. The women think that by doing this, their men will feel sorry for hurting them, and consequently, change for them. Unfortunately for both the hurt women and their cheating men, this never works out. You know why?". Giovanni looked at the nurse and shook his head in ignorance. The nurse continued, "Because all the tears of all the women in the world cannot wash away the filthy nature of a man who cannot control his libido. Only that man can decide to change himself." Giovanni pondered on the nurse's words as he walked to his car. He knew that he would never see Antonella again. Only this time, he had decided it for himself.               


    Have you ever heard of the  sayings: "Forgive and forget" and "To err is human; to forgive, divine"? Of course you have! As long as, you are a human being who understands the English language, you already know these sayings. Granted that you might not know them word for word, however, throughout your life, you will be introduced to several variations of these sayings, at least once. Examples: "Let go and let God", "Live and let live", "Nobody's perfect", "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die", "Everyone makes mistakes" etc. These sayings are the bitter pills our concerned physicians(whom we sometimes call friends, family, pastor, counsellor, shrink etc) prescribe for the healing of our deeply-offended souls. The Offended is encouraged to 'forgive and forget' because 'to err is human; to forgive, divine'. While the Offender is simply asked to apologize and atone for the offence committed if possible or necessary. This, to the Offended, always seems like an unfair exchange. An apology, a prison sentence, financial restitution, acts of remorse, the acceptance of responsibility and even the death of the Offender virtually does nothing to appease the hurting Offended. This is because forgiving a deeply, hurtful offence is an alien practice in the human world that takes a lot of time to get used to. Yes, Alexander Pope was right: to forgive really is divine, because humanity is not accustomed to this practice of God, yet. As a result of this, what most Offended people tend NOT to do is looking for an apology or a recompense from the Offender. Their true desire is to see the Offender suffer equally as(or, in most cases, more than) they have suffered, or are suffering. As far as the human soul is concerned, the only way to heal its pain is by expressing pain. This irrational 'expression of pain' takes the form of retribution, venting, the 'silent treatment' or even denial. The most common route an offended person takes is Retribution. This is usually done in two ways: Vengeful Actions or Emotional Manipulation. This essay seeks to address the art of Emotional Manipulation as a passive-aggressive means of retribution.

    Emotional manipulation is the art of getting someone to accept and believe in 'who they are to you', by convincing them to make amends for 'the wrong they've done to you', repeatedly. The emotionally manipulative person employs SHAME as his or her number weapon. Not the manipulator's shame, but the pressure-induced shame of the manipulator's victim. Shame is simply a feeling, belief or predominant thought that there's something wrong with you. The person feeling shame thereby renders himself or herself as unworthy, dishonourable or an embarrassment to themselves and others alike. Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. You can only be guilty or feel guilty for doing something wrong, and not for who you are. No human is ever born a mistake! The things that happen or are done to us, and the things that we do may cause mistakes to us, in us, to others or in others. However, I reiterate, no human is life is a mistake. Therefore it is counterintuitive for any human to believe that their existence is just a fluke in the Universe; because they 'feel', or, they were told that there is something wrong with them. Of course, there will be some who may mistaken this above statement to mean that we should encourage serial killers, rapists and genocidal dictators to continue to 'be themselves'. That is far from the point. My point here is, the killer, rapist or genocidal dictator was never predestined to be so as he or she may feel, think or believe. Who we become is based on the responses we choose for life's questions. Apologizing can remove guilt but apologizing cannot remove shame. You can and must apologize for whatever wrong that is done by you. You cannot and mustn't apologize for who somebody thinks you are; even if they're right. "Why?", you ask.

It's simple, an apology can never change the past, and neither does it have the power to alter a person's identity.

We think we know how other people are, when in reality, we haven't even figured out who we are ourselves. Therefore, it is completely foolish of anybody to close the chapter on another person's life, because of what that person has done or is doing. Yet, this is exactly what an Emotional Manipulator does. The Offended, who has now become the Emotional Manipulator, sees the Offender in a negative light because of the offence in between them. The Offended assumes that he or she is more righteous than the Offender because of this and decides to take advantage of the remorseful Offender. The Emotional Manipulator/Offended tries to convince the Offender that the Offender owes the Manipulator a debt by constantly reminding the Offender of the offence. Sometimes, the Manipulator may use the silent treatment as a way of getting the message across. The objective of this is to blackmail the Offender's emotions into guilt, again and again, for the selfish purposes of the Emotional Manipulator/Offended. If the Offender has already rendered the acceptable atonement for his or her wrongdoing, then there should be no room for guilt anymore. The debt has been paid. If the Offender is still feeling guilt, then that isn't guilt. That's called shame. The shame becomes a dare: a dare to the Offender to prove his or her 'righteousness' to the Offended who is emotionally manipulating him or her. By doing this, the Offended-turned-Emotional Manipulator simultaneously 'punishes' the Offender, while profiting at the Offender's expense. Killing two birds with one stone: retribution and subjugation, dished out in style. This is how most offenders become victimized by the people they have offended through emotional manipulation.

    Most of the time, we think that by apologizing and doing acts of remorse to appease the people we've hurt, we can somehow change. All we are actually doing is trying desperately to make ourselves feel better from our own guilt or shame. The one in wrong must engage in a tete-a-tete with his or her own soul before reaching out to whoever may have suffered from his or her actions. If not, he or she is more likely than not, to become a victim of emotional manipulation. If what you did wrong is a reflection of who you are, it is not up to the person whom you've wronged to change you. Every doctor will tell you that treating a symptom will never cure its underlying disease, even if you do it with all the love and care in the world. Who you are, what you've done, and the changes you need to make is between you and your God. It doesn't matter whether the people you've offended are right or wrong, punishing yourself by agreeing with them doesn't solve YOUR problem. Instead of seeking self-absolution for your 'transgressions' at the hands of another error-prone human, here's what you should do first: buy yourself some flowers, write yourself an apology letter and WALK AWAY from your old ways. Then buy some flowers for the one you've hurt, write an apology letter to them, and whether they accept and believe that you have changed or not, KEEP WALKING AWAY from your old ways. There's no point in proving yourself to, arguing against or negotiating with an Emotional Manipulator - they will always feel that they're right, and that there's something wrong with you.

*The story you're about to read is completely fictional and has no bias intentions to spite or appraise any of the characters described in it*
PicturePhotography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
How is it possible that he could be here? There are over 200 million, other Muslim Arabs like him, fighting against a mere, 6 million Jews. What were the odds that he would one day become a captive of  this small enemy, Israel? What is really incomprehensible, is that all the combination of the Arab-Islamic armies that dwarfed Israel’s were defeated time after time - humiliating to the Arab-Islamic world. Reality couldn't have hit him any harder when he thought about what he was planning to do the next morning. Faisal was born during the intifada, the same intifada that made him fatherless. Since then, his uncle Tass, a prominent and influential leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, became his guardian. Faisal was sworn into the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 12. And all his life growing up in Cairo, he trained to fight for the Brotherhood's cause; even to the point of death. Now, alone in this Israeli cell, he could only wonder what Tass would do to him if Tass knew the thoughts of betrayal that were tormenting his sleep that night. Tass was a sworn enemy of Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president whom the Muslim Brotherhood considered as a lackey to the Americans. Every evening, Faisal would overhear the drunken ravings of Tass, in which the latter described all the torture techniques he would subject President Mubarak to, should he ever lay hands on him. He cringed at the thought of returning home and informing Tass that, in exchange for his life, he had revealed top-secret intelligence concerning the Brotherhood to the Israeli army. As if it would be consolation enough, he started whispering curses to himself for agreeing to betray the Brotherhood. Unfortunately, the disgust he felt for being a traitor to his Muslim Brotherhood family, was not enough for him die a hero's death for the sake of loyalty. 26 years of being trained and prepared for this awesome cause, and now that the opportunity was presenting itself for Faisal to prove his faith, he chose rather to become an apostate. "We are more than they, and we have more than they have. Yet, our enemy prevails against us. Is it possible, that we have been fighting against God Himself, all this while? If so, then I must join the winning team.", Faisal thought to himself. With a heavy sigh of defeat, Faisal sealed his own fate. He would return to Egypt, to his uncle, and to the Brotherhood with a well-thought out lie about what he was going to do. And for the rest of his life, only he and his captors will know that he was really returning to his people as a traitor. It'd be the return of the bete noire. 

    The winning team: everybody loves the winning team! I am convinced that almost the whole world spends all of its human lives fighting to get into, and fighting to stay in the team that's winning the 'game of life'. Whether it's a young entrepreneur struggling to keep a new business afloat in the turbulent waters of the present economy; or, it's a High School 'loser' trying to fit in or out amongst her peers, the motive holds true for all - everyone wants to be part of the 'winning team'! We think that those who are able to make it into life's 'winning teams' are either: those who are naturally born into it, or, those who create their own 'winning team' through hardwork and effort. Betwixt these 'Naturals' and 'Creators' are the 'Tryers'. These are the people who (like the spelling of their name) cannot be naturally accepted, and, find it extremely cumbersome to create success at any level. This is so because 'winning' in the world is based more on quantity, rather than on quality. Be it in finances, sports, entertainment, politics, academics, knowledge, and even in social relationships, the amount of money, points, votes, information, contacts one has, is the ultimate determinant of success or failure. Nobody cares about the quality or the timing of Ben Watson's goal against the megalomaniac Manchester City F.C., in the F.A. cup final of the 2012/2013, English football season. All that matters is that, Mr. Watson's lone goal won the F.A. cup for his minnow-ish team, Wigan Athletic F.C. In this 'game' of life, the results are all that matters - full stop!

    Though so true, the above statement is also tragic. Tragic in the sense that, somewhere in the deep recesses of our beings, ALL humans 'know' that they have a right and a legitimate chance to 'win'. Unfortunately, the systems of our world do more to stifle than to encourage winning. To most people, the world is like a grumpy, old, college professor who deliberately plans to make life miserable for all of his students throughout the semester. The professor then finalizes this diabolical plan by failing nine-tenths of his students, passing only the remaining tenth. It's almost as if most of humanity was born to fail in order to prosper a select few. Hence, those 'doomed-to-lose' tend to adopt supplanting, cut-throat and undermining devices in the pursuits of their next 'win'. They want to be counted amongst the winning few at all cost. If the game of life is won by those with the most numbers; why then are the so-called, privileged few considered as the 'winners', and the rest as 'losers'? What could be more ironic?! As a result of this paradox, anyone who wins anything by fair or foul means, instantaneously becomes the bete noire of the vast, 'loser', population surrounding him or her. 'Jealousy' and 'envy' are some of the words we use to describe this animosity the losing team feels for this 'winning' individual. I believe that the source of all manner of covetousness is found in humanity's inability to accept the unfair nature of being on the losing side. Whether we accept responsibility for our failures or not, we still remain adamant that we don't deserve, ever, to 'lose'.

It is unnatural for the human soul to accept a loss.

    Therefore, when you do 'lose'(and you will at some point in your life), you consequently become your own bete noire. You only hate the 'winner' because you hate your 'loser' self. It is only in the oblivion of a defeat or a loss, that the mind plagues itself with these questions: "Why can't I be a 'Natural' winner?" "Why can't I be a 'Creator' of my own winning team?" "When will stop being a 'Tryer', and just be a winner?". The truth is, there are nothing like a 'Natural'-born winner, a Creative-winner, or a Trying-to-win loser in life. This is so because winning and losing is entirely based on your perception. What you call a 'win', what the whole world calls a 'win', becomes so because YOU THINK SO. What or who is called a winner changes by the day: today's 'loser' may be tomorrow's 'winner'. The interpretations of 'winning' and 'losing' are loosely based on the whims and caprices of numerical quantities, which keep changing everyday! Time and chance/change are the only two absolutes in the world: and both 'winners' and 'losers' are subject to them. Owing to this reason, there's no point in self-hatred caused one's misfortune or another's fortune. Some are not born to be 'winners', and no man can confidently say they single-handedly created their own success. In the absence of fictitious labels such as 'winner' and 'loser', what we have left are a bunch of humans trapped in time, each with at least one chance to display what they brought with them to the planet. This essay is therefore a clarion call for the return of all the bete noires: the 'winner' and 'loser' alike.