"When you see that your neighbour's beard is on fire, hurry and guard yours with a pail of water." - Ghanaian (Akan) proverb.
Photo by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
Buried deep in the recesses of every single human being's consciousness, is the belief that we're indestructible. This is why children play with fire. Parental warnings never seem to be enough to dissuade children from embracing the tempting beauty of flames. Some of the children who have been burnt by fire before, wise up and accept their physical vulnerability to fire. Others never learn from their blisters. Whatever the case may be, children grow up to become adults with this belief of indestructibility firmly rooted in their minds. This time it's not just fire we want to experiment with. We want to try tax evasion, deception, sexual promiscuity, drugs, murder, and all manner of epicurism. Where did we get this sense of false security? That, somehow we're immune to any type of destruction, whether global or local. That, in the universe's grand scheme of things, we're the untouchables. It amazes me to see the surprise in people's reactions when natural disasters, acts of terror, famine, senseless shootings, etc., occur. I am even more amazed by the reactions of people when they encounter personal loss such as the loss of a spouse through divorce or death, the loss of a job or business, the loss of an investment, the loss of a car or anything of sentimental and materialistic value. The reason why I am amazed is because, I have learned from my own personal experiences and from the news that, I should always prepare for the worst, even while I am expecting the best.
Even if some may disagree that somewhere hidden inside our souls is the belief of indestructibility, all of us agree and believe that we don't deserve to be destroyed. From the way we treat the resources of the earth and our fellow human beings, I doubt if any one on earth should even be thinking that we don't deserve to be destroyed; let alone, believe it. The intensity of this belief(that we don't deserve to be destroyed) varies from person to person, community to community, country to country. Having lived in both a third-world, developing nation(Ghana), and in a first-world, developed nation(USA) for more than 5 years, I have realized that citizens of developed countries have a more intense belief in the indestructibility of their humanity and community than that of developing countries. The simple reason behind this is this:
A person who lacks the necessary resources and the ability to insure himself against starvation, chaos, sickness, corruption and ignorance, feels more vulnerable to destruction than a person who has all or most of the necessary resources and ability to insure himself against the aforementioned ills.
The confidence we have in our so-called immunity against destruction is what leads us to dismiss Biblical records and prophecies of global destruction, even to the point of ridiculing them. We don't fear the Apocalypse, rather, we think it makes a good Hollywood movie. However, with every suicide-bombing, tornado, earthquake, acid rainfall, tsunami, hurricane, oil spillage, genocide, economic down-turn, political upheaval, shooting spree, abortion, laid-off employee, jobless college graduate, divorce, break up, still-born child, cancer diagnosis and death, we momentarily find ourselves doubting how secure we think we really are. You don't need a prophet of doom to tell you that the Earth is imploding itself into complete annihilation. Or that humankind is to blame for all of it. As contradictory as the following statement may sound, it is also true that:
It is when we accept that we are respectively vulnerable and eligible to and for destruction that we open ourselves for salvation.
I believe this is what we call, 'the fear of God'. The Earth, the World and all its inhabitants are the combined responsibility of all humans. What makes us think that the politicians we elected, and the celebrities we idolize are the only ones accountable for this great responsibility. Until we embrace our vulnerability to destruction and start living responsibly, I suggest that we prepare ourselves for the inevitable: a global destruction of cataclysmic proportions.
"To love others more than yourself is foolish altruism. To love others less than yourself is suicidal. Both are the great faux pas in life." - Joseph Osei-Bonsu
Sketch by Prince Boakye-Yiadom
Rhonda Saunders' mother worked almost everyday of her life, cleaning the homes of Britain's elite, in central London. Rhonda spent Friday evenings, the whole of Saturday and Sunday, helping her mother to bear the burdens of this tedious profession, at the Gibsons'. This aristocratic British family had hired the Jamaican-born, British immigrant (Rhonda's mother) as their weekend housekeeper. After their work was done at the Gibsons', Rhonda would watch as her mother walked into the Gibsons' living room to courtesy Gibsons, and thank them for hosting her. And for all the 522 weekends Rhonda's mother did this, Rhonda never saw or heard any member of the Gibson family thanking her mother for her service to them.
They'd simply respond, "Your cheque will be in the mail." Or, they'd simply nod in acknowledgement and say, "See you next week!". One day, Rhonda decided to inquire of her mother why the Gibsons' never showed any appreciation for their hardwork. To this her mother responded, "Child, courtesy is the duty of subjects, not of kings and queens." Even though it was still 1989, 15-year old Rhonda couldn't accept this confession from her mother.
In the wee hours of the morning of 5th May, 2003, Rhonda was awakened to a loud knock on her front door. There stood an old and wrinkly-looking Mrs. Gibson, her deceased mother's employer, at her door. After the kettle had finishing boiling, Mrs. Gibson revealed to Rhonda that her son, Kyle Gibson, had been falsely accused of defiling their present, housekeeper's 15-year-old, daughter. Simply put, if Rhonda would testify in favour of Kyle before the court, the Gibsons' opponent would lose the case. Rhonda knew that Kyle was innocent, however, she was not going to testify for free. She asked Mrs. Gibson, "And what will you pay me for this service, should I choose to do it?". Mrs. Gibson replied, "You'll have our family's eternal gratitude, coupled with God's blessings!" Rhonda scoffed loudly: she couldn't believe her ears! After failing to show any appreciation of any sort to her late mother for ten years, this old woman had the impudence to request a favour, for free from the dead mother's daughter. Rhonda calmly responded to Mrs. Gibson's offer in this manner, "With all due respect ma'am, I have to decline your offer. For 522 weekends, my mother and I cleaned, washed and ironed for you, Mr. Gibson, and especially, for your son, Kyle. 522 times, she walked into your living room, courtesied, and thanked you for underpaying her. Never did you or any of your family members see it fit to even thank her, let alone, walk her to the door. This is my offer: for every weekend my mother changed your ingrate family's beddings or cleaned your rooms, I want £100. Take it, or leave it!". Mrs. Gibson stared into Rhonda's eyes long and hard, after Rhonda had finished speaking. Mrs. Gibson pulled out her cheque book, depressed her pen, looked up at Rhonda and asked with an annoyed tone, "What's a 100 times 522?".
In a world where commonplace courtesies are gradually turning into sarcastic remarks, clichés or caustic objections; it is almost impossible to notice when a person is really being polite, or being appreciative of others. "How are you?" has no true intention to find out the well being of the person being asked. "Thank you" is optional - the waiter is being PAID to serve us; so why bother? "Excuse me!" is now the main introductory line in a cat fight. A "Good morning!" greeting can be switched on or off (depending on one's pay-cheque). We use "Please..." as we please. And, "I'm sorry" lost its sentimental value the very day the first wrong-doer decided that, it could be rationalized. The neglect of common courtesies is no longer considered such a 'big deal' any more, yet, flatulating in public is still considered rude. As the moral degeneration of the world quickens its pace, one sex-tape at a time; who knows? Maybe, flatulating in public won't be a such big deal tomorrow!
The manner in which the post-modern society courts faux pas is simply a reflection of how low our standards of propriety have fallen. Of course the kids are rude! What did we expect, after we erroneously planted false ideas of a 'free-thinking' society in their sheepish minds? General societal decorum was established as a way to re-introduce, re-teach and reinforce the nature of love; which considers and treats all others as one's own self, because we've simply forgotten how to love! This is, or better still, love was the unwritten law - the boundary - that provided order and peace in our daily lives. Now, since we're all supposedly 'free' to do whatever we want, this ancient stone has been removed from our hearts. The inevitable consequence, as evidenced in the level of crime, corruption, violence and apathetic behaviour in our communities, is the collapse of the social system.
We are not free to do whatever we want; we are only free to take proper responsibility over lives and our worlds.
So, maybe, just maybe, if you say, "Thank you!", to that waiter who just served you with a genuine tip, he might not be driven to steal from his job, because he feels unappreciated. Again, maybe if you bothered to really ask your classmate, "How are you?", your secretly-depressed classmate might decide against killing herself. Who knows if the person standing in your way to this interview you're late for, is your interviewer? A polite, "Excuse me.", could change your unemployment status instantly. Maybe, if you decide to greet your so-called lazy employees with a cheerful, "Good morning!", everyday, they might actually go the extra mile for you, in this recession. "Please..." might please daddy to please you with a trip to Disney World. And clearly, the excuses you're making for what you did wrong isn't saving your marriage. Maybe it's time for a different approach. Maybe it's time to truly say, "I'm sorry." EXCUSE ME, dear reader. I'M SORRY if you feel offended for what I'm about to say: PLEASE, don't be a faux pas. THANK YOU and GOOD DAY!
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
― Nelson Mandela
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
This is not your typical 'grass to grace', 'roaches to riches' or 'prison to palace' reflection. This piece seeks to dispel the myths we have about suffering. Most of the time, when bad things happen to us, or when we fall into one misfortune or the other, our first assumption is that we're being punished for something we did or didn't do. We try to immediately resolve the situation the best way we know or can. Other times, we may blame an external source such as others, circumstances or even God for a bad spell or event. Whether bitter or better, it doesn't matter how your experience with suffering felt like. What matters are these two important things that you must recognize about suffering:
a. Suffering cannot be avoided.
b. Suffering must be chosen.
Life beckons us to choose our own sufferings because we can't avoid it. What do I mean by this? First of all, I must mention that there are two types of suffering:
1. Self-induced suffering
2. Uncontrolled suffering
Self-induced suffering, as it eponymously suggests, is suffering that occurs, directly or indirectly, as a result of an intentional decision or choice made by the sufferer. The suffering could be either foolish, like suffering a divorce because you were unfaithful to your spouse. Or, it could be worthwhile, like the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela which eventually ended the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Uncontrolled suffering is simply what the sufferer endures directly or indirectly as a result of a decision or choice, made by an external party. The suffering could be purely accidental, such as being knocked over by a carelessly, speeding car while crossing the street. Or it could be intentional, such as being falsely accused of a crime you didn't commit.
Because suffering can be uncontrolled, none of us are immune to it - we cannot avoid suffering. Because suffering comes with every decision we are to make, we must ultimately choose our own suffering. Though it is viewed as a good decision, choosing a college education also comes with the suffering of years of self-discipline, sacrifices, putting up with people professors, parents; future debts, uncertainty of graduating, unemployment etc. The suffering in marriage is probably the worst, yet, all the brides and grooms feel it's worth it before they say, "I do". The family that moved from New Orleans to New York City after Hurricane Katrina, realized that they couldn't avoid the suffering from Hurricane Sandy. The fatherless daughter knows that she cannot avoid the suffering of the continuous absence of her single-parent, because her mother works two jobs. Suffering, pain, misfortune, calamity, crisis, problems, issues, however you choose to describe it, is a necessary step that all men must take in the journey of life. Since this is so, it is up to you to choose whether this necessary step will be a step forward or a step backward.
The purpose of suffering is to serve as the conduit to the next step in life.
Imagine suffering as a prison with two doors: the entrance and the exit. The entrance is always open, but the exit is opened per time, per time, at random intervals. Each time the exit opens, it either opens into a better prison(relief) or to the outside world(freedom). You will either be shoved through the opened entrance of the 'Prison of Suffering'(uncontrolled suffering) or you'll have to enter the prison yourself (self-induced suffering). Notwithstanding the method by which one gets locked up in the 'Prison of Suffering', what matters is that one must be locked up in it at least once in one's lifetime. And when you have entered the prison, the entrance door is slammed shut, forever. The only way out is through the exit (which opens without warning to either relief or to freedom). The prisoner must stay alert at all times in order to gain access to the exit when it opens. Not just that, depending on where the opened exit leads to, the prisoner must then choose whether he or she will exit the prison into 'relief' or to wait for the 'exit of freedom'. The better prison(relief), though it has more manageable conditions, is still a prison anyhow. One will eventually have to leave the better prison if they want freedom, or perish there.It doesn't matter why you're in the prison of your suffering, the solution is not found in better prisons - anything that provides temporal relief - or, in languishing in your cell - wallowing in self-pity and blame. The exit of Freedom (taking full responsibility for your life again) is the only true way out of the Prison of Suffering. Owing to this stark reality, it is important for us to embrace and utilize this imagery of suffering for our benefit. Since the Prison of Suffering is a necessary conduit for life, it is important for its prisoners to view it as a promotion - a step forward - otherwise, it becomes the worst experience in the prisoner's life. Doing time in the Prison of Suffering, is a time of waiting. This indeterminable period of waiting could become the next step forward or the next step backward, if managed properly or improperly, respectively. I may not know have all the reasons as to why the wait may be protracted or curtailed, but one thing I know is that; the wait depends on how ready you, the prisoner are for freedom, and whether the outside world is ready to receive you back. Hence:
Managing suffering requires that the sufferer be focused, self-disciplined, and vigilant as he or she prepares himself for the opportunity of true freedom.
"The early bird catcheth the worm." - Old English Proverb
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
"The early bird catcheth the worm."; this proverb means that diligence and preparation elicits success, eventually. In other words, those who prepare themselves well enough by working hard enough, forfeiting immediate pleasure for long term goals, ultimately 'make it' in life. The general idea is that, those who don't or aren't able to strike oil in their lifetime, simply didn't look hard enough. This philosophy is nothing but glorified humanism perpetrated by western thinking. Why is the billionaire CEO who wakes up as early as 4am, working 10 or more hours for 6 or 7 days straight, considered to be more 'prepared' and more 'hardworking' than the Angolan widow who does the same thing at the nearby stone quarry? Should you pose the above question to most motivational speakers, so-called successful people and experts, they will deflect from answering it by making variations of this excuse:
"It is not possible to compare each random person's success or failure to the next random person's success or failure. This is because in dealing with human success or failure, there is either too much information or too little data for one to consider as relevant or irrelevant in a person's life. This exponentially increases the error margin in the research or study. Hence, you could spend a whole lifetime studying an error."
From the above explanation, we can deduce that neither generalizing nor specializing, is the best way to analyze human success and failure. And that, a considerable measure of every individual's success or failure can be attributed to sporadic occurrences of good or bad 'fortune' which are beyond that person's complete control. This 'fortune' has been described as many things such as 'luck', 'fate', 'destiny', 'the hand of God' etc. Call it what you want, but this excuse of the so-called success experts, proves that the early bird doth not always catch the worm. Why then are the shelves in our libraries and memories in our iPads filled with books that seek to method-ize success by listing '10', '20', '7', or '100' "keys to success"?
Another school of thought will answer the same question (Why is the billionaire CEO who wakes up as early as 4am, working 10 or more hours for 6 or 7 days straight, considered to be more 'prepared' and more 'hardworking' than the Angolan widow who does the same thing at the nearby stone quarry?), with variations of this response:
"Though hardwork and preparation increases one's chances of 'making it', one's prospects of success in life heavily depends on factors like race, gender, class, birthright, and others.”
The whole idea is that, it is possible to work harder than everybody else, prepare earlier than everybody else, yet:
The colour of your epidermis, the nature of the tongue you speak, the type of sexual organ you carry in your crotch, where you got an education, where you sit at the table of society, who your friends are or are not, what your daddy left you with, the value of the currency in your pocket, the type name you were christened with, could become your own undoing. Even though the interpretation of this as being a good thing or an evil thing is relative to each of us and our situations, the inevitable conclusion about it is simplified in one adjective - tragic! The bird that riseth early knoweth not for sure whether its painstaking endeavours to catch the worm will prove futile or fruitful. What a tragedy!
Last, and certainly the least number of the so-called experts of 'success' and 'successful' people answer the question (Why is the billionaire CEO who wakes up as early as 4am, working 10 or more hours for 6 or 7 days straight, considered to be more 'prepared' and more 'hardworking' than the Angolan widow who does the same thing at the nearby stone quarry?) with a shrug and with four magic words:
"I don't know."
Their response is not a sign defeatism, rather, it is the acknowledgement of the objective conclusion that most of what we call 'success', is not success at all. Think about it: does the early bird who caught the worm become more of a bird than her fellow compatriots who came later? It obviously makes her a well-fed bird but does it classify her as a 'super' bird over the others who were late? It is true that most people are lazy and as a result, deserve to fail. It cannot be disputed that hardworking people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. But how many times do we see the roles reversed, where the diligent are rewarded with poverty whiles the lazy enjoy the riches of another's labour? This strange vanity warrants an i-don't-know response. In fact, it is the only true response concerning the mysteries of life. We don't know really know what success is. If we cannot know a thing, how can we prove what it is not? What then becomes of failure? I have come to the conclusion and the strongest belief that what the world calls 'success', is literally or metaphorically HAVING A FULL STOMACH. Just like the early bird, having a 'fuller stomach' doesn't make you more of a being than the next person. And likewise, having a hungrier belly doesn't make one less of a human being than the next. Somehow, the modern-day human believes this - even to the point of death. We've misunderstood what success truly is, hence, our vision has become distorted: turning left to right, up to down.
Success is the fulfillment of original intent.
A car is a success if it can perform the original intent for which it was invented: transportation. A pencil is a success if it can perform the original intent for which it was made: making marks on a suitable material. Humanity is a success if it can perform the original intent for which it was created: assuming responsibility over the Earth's resources. This is the original intent of the creation of all men. Everything else outside of this is another man-made pursuit for self-preservation and private ambition. The pursuit of self-preservation and private ambition has replaced mankind's original intent. We can see its full operation in our religions (including atheism and agnosticsm), politics, education, justice/legal systems, social lives, economies and our day-to-day interactions with the Earth. A man or a woman's priority for diligence and preparation should not be to satisfy her needs, cravings or desires, but to understand what role he or she is to play in the responsible management of the earth and its inhabitants. This is a difficult concept for people to assimilate, especially, a person who has been rejected, oppressed, abused and mistreated owing to gender, race, social class, family inheritance etc. The early bird rarely saves any part of the worm it manages to find for those who were late. On the contrary, she gulps down the creeping creature before any other bird arrives to contest with her. By filling her belly, she starves the rest. Even though she doesn't become more of a bird than the others, the later birds follow her in hope of finding the 'success' she has found. This pursuit of a full stomach becomes their driving force each day. Until, the later birds realize that worms aren't the only delicacies in the earth, and that by breaking away from the leadership of the early bird, they will find their own catch; they will continually enslave themselves to the early bird. Not all birds like worms, and those that don't eat them are never found where the early bird caught its worm. Overtaking the early bird requires that one of the birds breaks free from the flock in order find his own catch, at the place of his own choosing. To achieve your own, true success in life, there must be a point in your life where you decide to break free from what you were taught or what you thought was success. Then you must strive to re-discover the original intent for your presence here on Earth, and give it all you've got!
"33-year old carpenter presented with narcissism, delusions of grandeur, hallucinations..." - Dr. Gregory House, on the diagnosis of Jesus' alleged mental illness.
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
"They led Jesus then from Caiaphas to the Roman governor's palace. It was early morning. They themselves didn't enter the palace because they didn't want to be disqualified from eating the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and spoke. "What charge do you bring against this man?" They said, "If he hadn't been doing something evil, do you think we'd be here bothering you?" Pilate said, "You take him. Judge him by your law." The Jews said, "We're not allowed to kill anyone." (This would confirm Jesus' word indicating the way he would die.) Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?" Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?" Pilate said, "Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?" "My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews. But I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king." Then Pilate said, "So, are you a king or not?" Jesus answered, "You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice." Pilate said, "What is truth?"
- (The Gospel of John the Beloved; chapter 18, verses 28-39a, The Message Bible)
When we chance upon someone who is pretending, acting or looking like someone we know they're not, our conclusions about them may vary. We often dismiss them as comedians, victims of mistaken identity, 'wannabes', identity thieves etc. However, when we chance upon someone who believes and behaves in a way that we can't recognize at all as the norm, our conclusion about them is one and simple: that person is crazy! All humans fear the unknown. The unknown cannot be perceived. What cannot be perceived cannot be explained. What cannot be explained is is often considered irrational. Whatever is irrational cannot be controlled. Whatever we cannot control, WE FEAR. Since the unknown personality of the person we think is 'mad' cannot be recognized, controlled or fully explained, we fear that this 'unknown personality' may destroy them; or most importantly, the society. Hence, I believe that 'madness' is the world's most explanation for unrecognised behaviour. As to why this is so, I don't know fully. What I do know is that, 'madness' is never the supposed mad man's opinion of himself. Another has to inform or convince him that he is or he may be 'mad'. Therefore 'madness' is really the public perception of a certain behaviour or individual. The only time we fear 'madness' enough to consider it as a threat is when it has been diagnosed under the auspices medical science. It is in medical science that we find one of the common symptoms of madness: delusions of grandeur.
"Delusions of grandeur are the manifestation of a psycho-pathological condition in which a person has fantasies of power, wealth, and omnipotence. These people often also have an inflated sense of self-esteem, and may hold an obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions. Even when presented with evidence contradicting their delusions, they will still cling to their erroneous beliefs...E.g. A person who thinks he has special powers, for example, might jump off a building because he genuinely believes he can fly." - http://www.wisegeek.com
Delusions of grandeur, like many other medical terms, is often misused. People incorrectly or non-technically use it to refer to someone who is egotistic enough to overstate their importance, wealth, or self-worth. This is the social use of the term. In this essay, we'll be focusing on the social use of 'delusions of grandeur', rather than its medical use. We seldom use this term on another unless their words or actions are really annoying us. As a matter of fact, we never use this term on people we like, even though their exaggerations may be worse than that of those we don't like. It annoys us to see people whom we don't like, amplifying themselves around us. The annoyance usually stems from the fact that, the person who is exaggerating himself or herself, has practically nothing to show for his or her claims. And frankly, what is more annoying than listening to a poor man bragging about his apparent wealth? Or an okay-looking person acting as if she were Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty herself? I have discovered that the main response people give to 'people with delusions of grandeur' is this interrogative sentence: 'Who do you think you are?!'. "Who do you think you are?", has ceased to become a legitimate question of identity in the English language, or, any language for that matter. Instead, it is now a rhetorical retort against any behaviour or speech that suggests 'foolish grandiosity'. The irony about this is that; we can never know whether a person is truly deluded with self-grandiosity, or if they're really who they say they are, without asking the same question: "Who do you think you are?". This time, however, the motive must be an authentic pursuit for an answer, and not a prejudiced reaction to annoyance. With this in mind, let's proceed to the next paragraph where we shall briefly discuss whether Jesus was who he really claimed to be, or whether he was suffering from delusions of grandeur.
A delusion can only be proven with time. In other words, the only way to distinguish whether something is a truth or a delusion is to give it time. The same holds true for Jesus, a man who claimed to be the ONLY way to God - the Truth - which could give life to mankind. During his short-lived ministry on Earth, he made many 'I' statements. From 'the Way' to 'the Door', Jesus claimed to be almost everything in between. And he backed these statements with some wonders and miraculous works that haven't been repeated or reproduced in any way or form. How could a 30-year old carpenter's son become the most hated and the most loved public figure in Israel; within the space of just 3 years? Was it his controversial teachings, in which he claimed parity with God? Or was it his metaphoric threat to destroy the nation's oldest public building - the Temple - and rebuild it in 3 days? Certainly, he was wise beyond his years, and without doubt, the most influential man in the whole country. However, none of his behaviours, actions or statements considered him a threat to the reigning power of the day: the Roman Empire. None, except his obvious proclivity, to act, speak and behave like a king. Though very unusual, it was likely that a carpenter's son could become the wisest Rabbi, the most influential man and the most sought-after miracle-worker in Israel; but how could he possibly become a king over a vassal nation? By behaving and talking like a king, Jesus was assumed' to have challenged the authority of the most powerful monarch in the world, Caesar. Since this was an outrageous thing for any man, let alone an Israeli carpenter to do, Jesus was considered 'mad' with delusions of grandeur. A large section of the leaders and the people thought the fame he had acquired over the years had gone to his head. Others believed that he was who he really said he was. If Jesus is really a king, as well as, the singular way to the Truth about God, the only way to prove this claim is to subject it to the test of time. It's been 2000 years since Jesus last walked on the surface of this planet - enough time to test the validity of his claim. During this time, Jesus' legacy has outlasted everything, including, the Roman Empire that condemned him to death. 2000 years later, Jesus is either a mad man plagued with delusions of grandeur, or, the one true King with access to absolute Truth. I'll leave you to decide for yourself "what is truth?".
"Dead men rule the world." - Anonymous
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
'Ode to the living dead', a poem by Joseph Osei-Bonsu
STROPHE - THE TURNING
Inhale and exhale: these were the basic functions,
And if life will continue in them; these were their compulsions,
Increase and decrease became the source of their fate,
Tomorrow knew no end and today was too late,
Forth and back did they come and go,
The earth was revolving but Rome didn't know,
Life and death was the sigil of these peoples,
We all know them: they are our favourite eagles,
Whether small or tall, they were either thick or thin,
But do you really get where I'm going with this thing?
There was once not a single turning,
The fathers fought against it,
And now there is constant spurning,
The mothers lament because of it,
Until the day when there will be no more yearning.
EPODE - THE PEOPLES' RESPONSE
The rulers of the Earth:
Who were they?
They were the living dead.
ANTISTROPHE - TURNING BACK
The sun goes down as the day turns to dusk,
It is in darkness that lights wears its mask,
The night fears no man whether young or old,
All shall pursue heat as they flee from winter's cold,
The same blood flows in these men for they are no different,
But aimless pursuit will never become their original intent,
They are perpetually trapped between time and eternity;
For each of them, a chance to reveal their true identity,
Whether accepted or rejected, we are either awful or awesome,
Do you now see where I'm coming from?
Behold! Winter's curse has been turned back,
Whose son will make it through?
Very soon we shall see the real and the quack,
Whose daughter will see it too;
The endless summer that brings with it, good luck?
EPODE - THE PEOPLES' RESPONSE
The rulers of the Earth:
Who are they?
They are the living dead.
A dead man has no fear - the fear of death cannot can unsettle him. The reason why terrorism prevails today is simply because almost everyone is afraid to die. It's not just death itself that we fear, but how we die and what we lose in death are what makes us fear death even more. Somehow, we believe and desire an ability to control how long we will live and how we will die. And in such a volatile world where the value of a human life is equal to that of a stray bullet, it feels as if we're losing control over our own life expectancy, daily. There is so much at stake for one to die in today's world. The terrorists know this, and so, they gladly employ the fear-of-death (on massive scales) to fulfill their purpose. What purpose is that?
The primary purpose of global terrorism is financial dominance - to make more money than everybody else.
Death is used to make the terrorists' 'competitors' or enemies, desperate, so that they can bully them into a negotiation. The only way to really end terrorism of any sort in the world is to lose the fear-of-death. When you have nothing to lose, your enemy has no leverage over you. Your fear only empowers the enemy, the obstacle or the opposition that is standing in your way. It is only when you get rid of this fear, that power shifts from them to you. Hence, the key to a stress-free, healthy and successful life is to consider yourself dead to yourself. Losing your private ambitions, desires, trust and faith in things, money, people, a career, for the sake of a higher purpose will free you from the fear of failure, death, and disease. From time immemorial, dead men have always ruled the world because they lost so much in the pursuit of their dreams that, they had nothing to lose anymore. Their vision was more important than their own self-preservation. Everyday our lives, as we are enjoy the fruit of their labours, we subconsciously singing odes to these heroes and heroines. We remember the living dead.
"The safest way to avoid major tests in your life is to decide not to fulfill your vision. In other words, just decide not to be yourself, and you won't have too much trouble in life. Of course you also will end up being and doing nothing." - Myles Munroe.
Photography by Joseph Osei-bonsu
Once upon a time, there lived a young man called Ajingo. He was a senior at the University of Cape Coast, in Ghana, pursuing Music as his major. He was a natural at playing both the piano and football. He pursued both disciplines passionately, against the desires of the wicked Dean of Music. The Dean was an arrogant and heavy-handed professor, who made the lives of all his students miserable with his somewhat inhumane attitude towards them. As far as the Dean was concerned, every music student in the university was his subordinate, and all the music students were expected to behave as such. Ajingo played football as both a passion and as a necessity. You see, he was from a very poor family. Playing for the university's football team secured scholarships, accommodation and meal plans for him, which drastically reduced his educational expenses. He simply had to keep playing football, but the Dean of Music was not having it. Every effort Ajingo put into winning the affection of the Dean was met with repulsive and condescending responses from the Dean. Ajingo decided enough was enough: he was not going to be subjected to constant humiliation, just because he needed a Music degree! Though he didn't quit pursuing the Music degree, however, he stopped participating in the Dean's compulsory classes and piano sessions. Ajingo instantly became the Dean's number one target for failure, and the Dean shared his diabolical intentions openly with Ajingo's classmates; including Ajingo's best friend. One day, this best friend of Ajingo's tried to convince Ajingo to stop being 'hard-headed', and simply do what the Dean was asking. Ajingo understood that his best friend was concerned for him. After all, what is the point of going through four years of university education, knowing that you're destined to fail anyway? Ajingo however, argued his point strongly against his best friend's counsel: turning the mild conversation into a full-blown fight. He had just lost his best friend, and Ajingo knew it. Was he being stubborn for stubbornness's sake? No, Ajingo had a plan to thwart the Dean's operation against him. He had consulted one of the Music professors about his difficult relationship with the Dean of Music. Knowing exactly what Ajingo was going through, the professor offered to help Ajingo out. And so every evening, Ajingo would borrow notes of the Dean's lectures from his friends and go for private instruction from the professor. He spent the very, early hours of the morning, practicing the pieces he was assigned to play for his final assessment, everyday. On the day of the final assessment, the whole school gathered in the Music Department to witness it. The panel of judges comprised of all the deans of Music in all the major universities in the country, including the Dean of Music for the university. When it was Ajingo's turn to play his main piece, he stated that he was going to play Pachelbel's Canon - a complex chord of progression which was usually attempted by pianists with long and slender fingers. The panel of judges raised their eyebrows in shock because they had noticed that Ajingo had big and short fingers. The Dean of Music shook his head in disbelief as Ajingo took his seat behind the university's grand piano. Ajingo played the piece so well that, by the end of it, the audience in this fully-packed auditorium were already giving him a standing ovation. He answered the quick fire questions of the Dean of Music effortlessly, until the Dean was eventually stopped from querying Ajingo any further. Ajingo's former best friend rallied some of Ajingo's friends from the football team and the music class, and together, they carried Ajingo up high, chanting his name in victory. Ajingo graduated from the University of Cape Coast with an A in Music. It wasn't long before the Vice President of Ghana hired him as a private music tutor for his children. This caused a domino effect of tours after tours, concert after concert all over the country, Europe and America, for the young man whose name was, Ajingo.
Someone once said that, "The best ways to lose friends and alienate people is to become arrogantly rich or egregiously poor."...or something like that. However, I have discovered from experience that, it doesn't matter how rich you get or how poor you become, some people don't never want to leave you! That's kind of a good thing(if you're thinking about supportive friends or family members), right? Well, not if you're trying to get rid of them. Or better still, not if they're what's standing in between you and your destiny. It seems criminal for me to say this but it needs must be said: SOMETIMES PEOPLE WILL LITERALLY LOVE YOU TO YOUR DEATH! There are some loved ones or concerned fellows in your social circle whose love for you, or your love for them, is literally killing you. These loved ones may include a spouse or lover, best friend, childhood mate, favourite teacher, parents, siblings, a beloved kin, and even, your own self. As counterintuitive as this may sound, it is true that the love you share with such people can sometimes become the greatest stumbling block to the revelation of your identity, the unleashing of your ability, the fulfillment of your vision, and the appropriation of your destiny. It is natural for a person to become attracted to who they think you are. However, it is unnatural for you to entertain their assumed perception of who you are because of your emotional, familial, filial, historical, romantic or platonic relationship with them. People, especially those who claim to care about and love you, are comfortable with you as long as you 'behave' the way they want. They expect you to be nice and condoning, even if it means, bearing responsibilities that aren't yours or haven't become yours yet. Their expectations are like a boulder, rolled over the well of your life. And until you realize who you are, you'll never be able to discern the people who are really stagnating your self-discovery. How would you? Almost all of them claim to love you.
Someone else also said, "The devil you know, is better than the angel you don't know."...or something like that. It insinuates the idea that, it is better to stay in a familiar territory where one has NO CHANCE of security, than to wander off into an unfamiliar territory where there is a SLIGHT CHANCE of security. This is ignorance at its intellectual best. I believe the author of that statement was hiding his or her tail in between his or her legs while penning that statement. Owing to emotionally, romatically or platonically motivated ties, people are encouraged to trudge through the gutters of self-abasement, so that everyone else can be themselves, at the expense of their true selves. This is a tragedy. No, I am not encouraging the homosexual to come out and 'be himself or herself', because I believe homosexuality is a direct violation of natural law. A rectum is a natural exit that no senate or parliament can legislate into an entrance. And no female was born with the physical and natural ability to satisfy her own or another female's vagina. When I talk of 'being' yourself, I am referring to the making of a conscious effort to serve your gift, vision or dream to the world. What some people call 'sacrificing for others' is actually unadvised altruism. They abase and suppress themselves because they feel burdened to be liked or accepted by people. Self-abasement does nothing but to impede, stagnate and eventually, destroy the real you that is trapped inside of you. Ergo, what is the question? "To be or not to be; that is the question". If you will 'be', then you must cut the umbilical cord between you and the so-called 'lovers' who want you to you to 'be' someone or something else.
Someone said that, "Your best friend, can become your worst enemy."...or something like that. The general emotion that this quote elicits is that of betrayal and the loss of an erstwhile, loved one. The death of a relationship: this is the inevitable result when two people who are headed in totally opposite directions, encounter a crossroad, after travelling the same road together for a period of time. People will hate you for it, your family will criticize you about it, you'll lose some or all of your friends by it, your spouse may leave you because of it and you might become alone with it - self-discovery. Discovering who you are is inherently connected with discovering what your purpose is. Well, how does one know what his or her purpose is? Some say God determines it. Some say it isn't God, per se, but it some 'Intelligent Designer' out there who determines our fate or purpose in life. Others also say, no external entity decides what our purpose is or will be: we choose the purpose we want for our own lives. This is what I believe though:
If there's a dream or idea in your head that won't go away, God put it there, period!
Following the God-given ideas in your mind that contribute to the welfare of humanity in a unique way, that is true purpose. Anything else is either an obsession, or a private ambition. Because you are the only one who knows this 'thing' that is gnawing at your soul for release, it is ridiculous for you to expect everybody(or anybody for that matter) to 'get' you, or to agree with you. It is impossible! 'Being' your true self around people who don't like you is not so much of problem. At least, you know that they don't like you for whatever reasons they may have. 'Being' your true self around people who claim to love you is a totally different matter altogether. By virtue of their 'special' relationship with you, they feel the need to rebuke, correct or advise you for being 'arrogant', 'overconfident' and 'proud' when you become your true self. This is where their 'love' becomes cancerous to your soul. This creates an impasse which cannot be resolved by explaining one's self(how can you explain something you're still figuring out?) to the 'concerned' people or by abasing yourself for their comfort. The only solution to this, is to sever ties with such people, mentally i.e. The actual cutting of the umbilical cord between you and the loved ones who have now become your opposition, is 100% your mind's responsibility. However, if you can relocate, separate, resign, or disassociate yourself from such people, do so! Cutting the umbilical cord is not easy. It may require months of sleepless nights, starvation, deprivation of comfort, isolation, tears, pain, homelessness, and even death. But would you rather live someone else's life; or would you rather die as your true self?
" For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven...A time for war and a time for peace." - King Solomon
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu. Make up by Bevelyn Osei-Bonsu
"No, you can't say that! That pig did deserve to die for his crime!", argued Maribel. Oliver sharply responded, "So what are you saying? That because this old man defiled an 8-year old girl, he has lost his right to a fair trial?". "I'm simply saying that he deserved the fate he got.", replied a nonchalant Maribel. "And by 'the fate he got', you mean murder?", Oliver questioned sternly. "Look, murder or whatever, you can call it what you want. His death was punitive justice. I laud the girl's brother for taking the initiative.", said Maribel with a grin. Oliver looked at her, shook his head and asked, "Are you really that a hater of peace?". Maribel turned towards Oliver sharply and replied, "Are you really that afraid of war?". The whole history lecture hall became silent as the heated argument between Oliver and Maribel, came to an inconclusive impasse. Slowly, Seigmar raised his hand. The professor turned to Seigmar, "Yes, Seigmar?". "Mrs. Ayitey, what do you think the victim's brother should have done? Should he have settled the matter peacefully or was he right to have killed his uncle for raping his sister?". At this, Mrs. Ayitey turned to look at both Oliver and Maribel. Looking past them, she noticed the time from the wall clock at the back of the lecture room. "Oh dear, look at the time! I'm late for my next class." She turned towards the whole class and said, "Well class, this has been very a interesting discussion, however, I have to leave right now. Consider Seigmar's question to be today's homework!". All the students groaned and complained in grave disappointment as Mrs. Ayitey exited the classroom.
The key to success in life is found in: the ability to recognize the times or seasons, and in the knowledge of how to correctly respond to the chances that the set time or season may present to you. There will always be a season of peace, and a time for war, at least once in every human's lifetime. The former we embrace gladly. And so we should! Who wouldn't want peace in life? However, when it comes to war, we're either thirsting for bloodletting or shirking our responsibility to fight back. Either way, we respond wrongly to the sights of the hoisted banners and the beating of the drums of war. It is easier for one to recognize the winters and the summers of life, than to accurately perceive when peace or war is required. It is imperative for all to know, that how each person interprets and responds to the time of war, and the time of peace, will determine whether that person will live or not. Of course, you're entitled to think that I'm being a bit dramatic but believe you me, not all death is physical. As a matter of fact, there's something more fatal than dying, it's called vanity. Vanity is just a shorter way of explaining the lack of significance of something; in this case, the lack of significance of one's living. This, my dear reader, is the worst fate and the greatest anti-climax the human life could ever suffer. Hence, the preservation or destruction of either your physical life or the significance of your living, depends on how you manage the time of peace, and the time of war. The main problem is that, we don't know when its time to pick up a sword or when its time to put it down.
The time of peace, contrary to popular belief, is not the time when everything is going smoothly enough for you to start building castles in the air. Peace, like all times and their corresponding changes, is a crisis. The crisis comes from the need to restrain one's self from fighting, for the benefit of a more important but time-sensitive purpose. In the time of peace, men may: slap you, spit on you, curse you, fight you, threaten you, and even try to kill you, in the location where you find yourself. In this time, it is your responsibility to objectively weigh the purpose for being in that location, with the opposition that you're facing; to see if the purpose is truly worth all the trouble you're going through. And mind you, your purpose or goal is truly worthy if it has been set to benefit another life or other lives, and not for your own, private ambition. In the time of peace, you'll recognize that the purpose is truly worth all the troubles you're having because of it. It's also important to remember that your purpose is time-sensitive: you won't suffer forever. And thus, the correct response after accurately discerning the time of peace, is to ENDURE or continually AVOID the abuse and mistreatment that you're going through for the sake of your vision, purpose, plan or goals. Beware of confusing your own, foolish passivity for being peaceful in the time of peace. Being passive has very little to do with being peaceful. As a matter of fact, it takes more work, time and effort to fight for peace than to fight a war. Which leads us to my next point: the time of war.
The time of war, contrary to popular belief, is not the time when everything is going south enough for you to mindlessly tear down the walls of your 'enemies'. War, like all times and their corresponding changes, is a crisis. The crisis comes from the need to execute justice, by fighting, for the benefit of the weak or the oppressed, and not for self-enrichment. A time for war requires intensive: planning, strategizing, training, collection of intelligence, management of resources, and even the willingness to die in the location where the war is to be fought. At such a time as this, it is your responsibility to objectively consider who or what the law is favouring - you or your enemy; to see if the war you're about to fight or are fighting, is truly worth all the troubles that you're facing or about to face. Again, the purpose of warfare is to restore law and order to the people/person who are/is being oppressed by the abuse or the neglect of the law. This is called justice. War should never be for private ambition or for any other ulterior motive other than rescuing the perishing, helping the helpless, strengthening the weak and delivering the oppressed from their Oppressor. It's also important to remember that your warfare is time-sensitive: you don't have all the time in the world to help a dying man. And thus, the correct response after accurately discerning the time of war, is to DEFEAT the perpetrator, or, to continually DEFEND the victim of illegal abuse and mistreatment. This makes war a very touchy subject for people because almost all the wars that have been fought throughout history, were fought because the people involved in them thought they were doing what was right. They justified their vengeful and selfish motives by perverting and misinterpreting the law. As a matter of fact, most wars are fought because: "'God' wills it!", or in defence of the honour of the 'law'. Be ye not deceived my dear reader, war is not about rewarding the soldiers or the people with spoils. War is about restoring freedom back to the chained civilians or the oppressed people, so that they can live the right way - by law.
This is how you discern when to hold your peace or when to shout for war.
"To err is human; to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope
Photography 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*
Photography 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.