Quiescence: Our Great Undoing

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*Inspired by Tolulope John*

* * *

The answers to these questions are fundamental; they’ll aid the understanding of this post. Please take a moment on them.

(1) Which would make you feel awkward the most: an electric shock from a faulty electric iron or an electric shock from an apple?

(2) What is/are the reason(s) behind your choice?

• • •

There is a category of individuals who will stand on their ground and stay rooted even if another Mount Vesuvius erupts in their immediate environment. I know there’s a verisimilitude of blithering stupidity in that, but these ones would rather die than renege on their words or beliefs, especially when they are nothing short of the truth.

A member of another category would promise to crucify his girlfriend because she wronged him, vent on how he would strike her dead with thunder as soon as she appears; but you’d be surprised to see him melt like ice cream in the microwave when she finally arrives and rubs his head, displays the come-and-do eyes and pouts him endearment. Mumu-button is pressed and the god of thunder loses his wrath. He sleeps off.

Kenneth belonged to the former category; I was unavoidably the largest shareholder in the latter. The other shareholders, Kenneth and I all lived together in the same building (a hostel of many self-contain rooms) as members of a family would. There were no boundaries in the way we co-relate. We’d see movies, play games, cook, discuss — current affairs, women affairs, sports, politics… and the corruption in the society, murder erring rats, and do many other things altogether.

We were like brothers with healthy camaraderie and common interests. But we had a common enemy too.

If you lived in my neighbourhood then and you don’t know Thunder, you seriously need to buy a scratch card and apply for your LASTMA cap online; you have officially jonzed. He is the terror that forces tenor out of you even though you never want to sing. “Unfortunate” is when you walk into him on a day he’s in the mood to “tax” you. “Very unfortunate” is when all the conditions in the “unfortunate” are present when he had just finished some wraps— not one, not two —of indian hemp.

As routine, instead of saying “deliver us from evil” every morning when saying the Lord’s prayer, we’d change that part and ask God to “deliver us from Thunder”. Likely are you to be in trouble if you greet him. You’re definitely in trouble if you don’t. The best remedy is complete avoidance.

The day he stormed our hostel with his protégés after one too many bottles of beer, for a reason that eludes me even till date, was one that should be named a national holiday in our honour. Say “Beating day” or “Thrashing day”. Kenneth was lucky not to be around. He met us all putting up a strong face, a futile attempt at obscurantism; weak joints, tumid cheeks and dark eye rings can’t be hidden.

He was so annoyed. Not that he would’ve turned to a superhero and fight for us, but we knew he would’ve faced Thunder and said his mind, even if the blows that were sure to follow would put him in a coma for months or some three-sixty-something days at least. He opined that we report the very heinous and totally execrable act to the police, but we knew the simple service rule: customers are always right. True, he would be arrested, say by 9pm, then you’d see him knocking on your door by 9:25pm— same day and same time zone —to tell you he’s back.

Will one survive the beating that must follow? That’s a question for the gods.

Unanimously, we debunked the idea and made sure he didn’t pursue it on his own. About a week later, our own Kenneth was “very unfortunate”. He had blatantly refused to give Thunder any tax after his rather rude and unwarranted demand. The consequence was obstreperous, forceful and gory. Thunder punched him heavily on the face, focusing on the nose and mouth until he lost balance; retrieved Kenneth’s wallet from his pocket and left him for his aides to finish off.

We watched as he writhed in pain. We witnessed his suffering and the hard kicks to his sides amidst the torrents of weed-invoked invectives. At a point he stopped fighting it. He lowered his defences and focused on us with glaring bewilderment on his rumpled face. In between his contorted mien were confusion, disappointment. . . and puzzled questions I didn’t entirely understand.

Our friend was being plummeted by touts but we didn’t interfere. We were silent. Scared. Traders minded their businesses as though it was a normal thing; the same way they neglected us the day we were thrashed in our beds. We would discuss injustice and proffer solutions in the comfy of our hostel but lose our power of speech and right to act when they matter most.

I understand him better now. I fully understand the looks on his face.

Thunder’s treatment was noxious and not humane, but what else would you expect from a half-sane— if sane at all —inveterate thug? The same way a bad electric iron is expected to shock (no shock is good but it’s not strange in this case).

As friends and neighbours to Kenneth, the proverbial apple a day that keeps the doctor away, we betrayed him with our silence and inaction. The shock must have been very devastating, just like an unexpected electrocution from a green apple.

Life is a tragedy not because of the strident clamour of the bad people but because of the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King Jr.

What difference does it make in shouting in your closet and keeping mute in public? For you have not spoken until you’re heard.
Anonymous

In the end, we will remember not the words of the enemies but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Ken is doing well as a budding activitist. He says he has forgiven us, but we’ve not forgiven ourselves.

Only if I can go back in time and undo things by raising my voice and acting against it; make others join me. We were more than them. We would’ve won, but our silence was a cue for them to go on.

If we do not act against injustice, we are accomplices in the perpetuation of evil.

I can’t travel through time, but the present is mine to fashion the future.

I am @jossef69 on twitter.

Adewoyin Joseph A.
Comments and opinions are welcome.

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4 thoughts on “Quiescence: Our Great Undoing

    Yemie said:
    June 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Our society’s become one that’s wrought with folks who are either oblivious of the happenings around or are casual bystanders, choosing to watch events unfold and ignore the wrongful acts propagated by evil men. That part where Kenneth manged to look up and peer into the eyes of his ‘friends’ who watched helplessly as he was being lynched moved me to the verge of shedding tears and I couldn’t help but remember the plight of the ‘Aluu 4’ as their lives were snuffed out by the manic mob. Its so sad! *sighs*

    Kudos to you Senor for this thought-provoking piece, truer words have never be written! Well done Sir!

    Like

      Adewoyin Joseph responded:
      June 20, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      True talk ma’am. Aluu 4 was such an unfortunate one. That someone would violently hit another and then set him ablaze while some others watched and enjoyed the lynching is worse than cannibalism.

      Thanks a lot. You encourage me.

      Like

    aribike said:
    June 23, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…nice piece.

    Like

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