We aren’t providing our addresses.
We are far too many.
We are home, we are abroad,
we are oceans away,
we are a stone’s throw from your house.
Council of Ageism and Oppression
of Nigerian Youths,
Oh You’re There Expecting a Title?
2020, the beginning of a fresh decade is a few days away. We are alarmed you are still thinking like a bamboo stick. Oh, are you confused by the format we’re using? How dare we put the date in the wrong place? We are sorry we have to break form. We are sorry. Forgive us if we switch tenses, if we start sentences with conjunctions, if we number points, if we break some of the rules our English teachers taught us. Some are not intended while others are.
Our Gospel concerning Ageism
I, the ringleader who believed bamboo-stick mentality was too alarming not to address, would try not to use harsh words. Oh, on behalf of all of us, I apologize for not greeting. How is work? How is the committee of inequality and oppression? How is the office? Hope there haven’t been recent riots outside the building? How are the children? How are the in-laws too?
Let me briefly introduce myself. I am a youth approaching twenty, and the prospect of a new decade is more frightening than exciting. Yes, I am young. Was it not just yesterday I was at my mother’s breasts and unable to clean my buttocks?
Yes, I am young. Yes, we are young.
We believe rubbish is rubbish regardless of age. We are writing to advise you because we love you: we do not want you more frustrated with youths in the next decade.
Let us start by defining terms. Of course, you finished schooling before we were born but we cannot afford the risk of assumption anymore. Considering a few conversations I have had recently, some people do not know English apparently (I was recently discussing with a 16 year old who did not know the meaning of rape. According to him, if it’s not a total stranger it’s not rape: one’s pastor, uncle or family member cannot rape, those you know can only commit molestation/sexual harassment.)
We are not sure if you are better off. To start with, if you are among those who don’t know English, go check your dictionary for the meaning of rudeness. I do not have the time to copy its meaning. Just check if age is mentioned in the word. It is very foolish to be rude to a younger person and refuse to apologize out of pride. Silencing an honest young person and calling it respect is stupid. Obsequiousness is not respect.
Ageism means treating young people based on stereotypes and assumptions relating to their age. It’s irritating to approach a young person with the assumption that they are spoilt, foolish and irresponsible when you know nothing particular about them. There are people like me who would never be rude but remain blatantly honest: age is not an excuse to be foolishly inhuman.
Rubbish is rubbish. Acknowledging it is not rudeness. The word ‘subordinate’ also has nothing to do with age. It is too foolish to feel threatened by younger people progressing in their careers, occupying positions of authority. That you are older than someone does not make him or her inferior. If the person offers regard, great, good ethic. But to feel that your age is an automatic base for obsequious submission, no no.
I don’t talk back at elders of course and you should see I’m trying to be polite. I have not used any bad words, have I? I’m not talking of the uncontrolled teenager who just starts shouting and frowning at elders and teachers. I’m speaking for intelligent young people who are shut up in class for looking at a middle aged teacher’s eye or not putting their hands at the back or for asking “Why?”, refusing to just obey useless orders like their classmates.
I’m sick of your unfair generalizations: ‘Your generation is spoilt. Your generation is foolish, proud and greedy and lazy.’
My generation is not spoilt. The world is. Who funds the talent shows you call immoral? Is it my generation? Who produces the pornographic movies you discipline your grandchildren for exploring? Is it my generation? There are problems we must acknowledge instead of generalizing generations. It’s unfair. I got pissed when BBC Africa’s Sex for Grades documentary was released and one of you (NOTE: this ‘you’ is not generalist, I’m fortunate to know some of your counterparts, people of your generation who have refused to join your foolish council) said, “This couldn’t happen in my time, all these are because youths of nowadays are spoilt.”
Oh really? Let us applaud your committee for teaching her that logic. How was the last conference on the evils of youths of nowadays?
There is a common perspective of ‘all these children of nowadays, see how the West is spoiling them’ in your council. In some contexts I understand but you still want to live in 1950 I assume. Attacking what you do not understand solves nothing. Do not compare generations; do not contrast now to when you were my age. 1970 and 2019 are not equal. It must be hard to deal with young people I admit, eyah, because the generational and technological gaps are pretty wide but please stop saying the West has spoilt us or that something human is unAfrican. I saw a press release in which you said hugging, affection and expression of emotions are unAfrican.
How amazing and worthy of applause! Carry your African flag well.
Once again, we are not spoilt but the truth is the truth and we shall express it. We are not afraid of you calling us rude when we know we are not. When we are wrong, we would prostrate and kneel, we are not bad children; the West did not spoil us okay?
When you are rude, we would question you. We acknowledge that approach matters but you are too conceited to listen even when we say it nicely. It is stupidity. Times have changed. Times are changing. 2020 is almost here.
Do not be that illogical to compare the present to the days of your youth. We are sorry for what your parents did to you. We are sorry your childhood had no tenderness, that your parents were extreme in the name of discipline. Eyah, when you were our ages, you suffered and you could not question.
We would question you. We are not inheriting your silence. No, human illogicalities must not be passed down.
I’m not encouraging all those children who were busy popping balloons when you had already built a family to be bad-mannered but respect is not foolish silence and obedience to stupid instructions. While you spit the adage that an elder can see from his seat what a child would not see standing, remember there are young people who know more on certain issues subserviently kneeling for you. In their minds, they are not kneeling. They are standing, towering over you.
Our Gospel concerning Career Ignorance
Excuse me. Are you God? Do not think like a stick of sugar cane. Things have changed. The fact that you do not know enough people who have ‘made it’ (I still consider this very vague, where did it originate, it should be my generation abi? What does the ‘it’ refer to? Is it money, fame, sandwich or plantain? ) in a particular field doesn’t mean you close your eyes. There is oil in every field o. Maybe you are afraid we won’t take care of you well in old age, eyah.
Let me tell you a story. It’s very fresh, unlike the ones you tell.
In my final year of high school we were once asked to sit according to desired professions. Guess what annoyed me?
‘DOCTORS, LAWYERS, ENGINEERS, ACCOUNTANTS AND OTHERS.’
Something happened that I would never forget. Mrs Akinyemiju, who is not like you, who is too busy for daft councils like yours, who is seventy, young, yes really young as in young young, because she has such a tender heart and open mind and strong spirit, always willing to listen and so smiley with skin so smooth, asked, “Others? Don’t these young adults know what they want to do? How are their dreams ‘others’?”
I happily screamed inside. Being the President, the founder of the school, the teachers thought otherwise and scrapped it. People began to stand for their ambitions, briefly saying why. Make up artistry. Sports. Catering. International Relations. Theatre. Psychology. Visual Arts.
I wanted to stand for creative writing but I was already seated amidst the engineers.
Now here is the moral of the story: our generation has broken the career tortoise so it’s very ignorant to think a career is above the other. It is stupid, very stupid, of anyone to think my scientific career is superior to my writing. One of your council executives told me I could keep it to the side, that not every Nigerian writer could be a Chimamanda. I respectfully told him not everyone could listen to unsolicited stupid and ignorant advice.
There is the young creative who is not as stubborn as I am, who does not stand and say, “This is not a mere hobby, this is my dream career and it would happen.” Do not kill him or her with your expectations. Not everyone can balance two worlds. I know you are afraid because the unemployment rate is high and it can be hard starting something unfamiliar but how can you be so sure? Have you seen the end? Have you seen if it’s more beautiful than what you think is safer? I know you want them to settle down (there are so many nonsense pressures you mean by this ‘settle down’ phrase) in time and have an impressive wedding the village would talk about for the next half a decade. I know you want to hold your grandchildren and have a sweet time before you leave your body in its dust but please think of the frustration of unfulfilled dreams too.
You must have recently held a conference where ignorance was served as a souvenir. A whole lot of your council members asked me this irritating question after secondary school leaving exams: “With this your big big grammar and brains, you are not going to be a doctor like your mother?”
I don’t know, but I think great brains do great things. And being a doctor is not the only great thing. Should I show you my ambition list?
Please open your eyes. I said please because I respect you even if you don’t respect me. Understand that no career promises automatic financial independence. Are you God? If you don’t know the destiny of a child, do not force an unexposed opinion down his throat.
Does that sound a good adage?
Our Gospel concerning Sibling Comparison
Oh, you think sibling blood is the best fluid to boil inside test tubes for you to compare. Let us celebrate your scientific prowess. How loud should it be?
Let us watch the observations and help you record the experiment since you are not with your glasses. What happens when you compare? What are the reactions? What is the entropy? What is the formula for its positive effect?
No visible reaction? Effervescence? Vigorous fumes?
What of when you compare to other children in the community? What is the capillarity? How reactive is it?
Let’s just calm down and be honest: why would you compare? It’s so stupid and unfair. I suffered it – not from my parents or members of your generation who definitely know better – but from blind people like you.
Open your eyes.
Did I generalize like you? I wasn’t speaking to everyone in your demography oh; did I say your generation did anything?
I said you. Is that rude? Sorry for the disrespect. Sorry, I am not sorry. I am not part of the spoilt children of this generation. I am just disgusted by all forms of injustice. You seem to understand racism but your age can be a ground of oppression if you do not take time to listen.
I wonder what I would do when I become your age. Would I laugh at the things I have said now? Would I think it of it as puerile anger?m Would I be like Mrs Akinyemiju , young as in young young, with an open mind or would I be like you, a distinguished member of a council of fools?
I would try hard not to. Oh you’re there expecting a title to this piece? Maybe we should say Three Gospels because if we say trinity you would think of the Holy Trinity. We would not say “The Oppression of the Curious Nigerian Teenager” because we know you would hiss.
We are not signing this. Just look at your age mates who are knowledgeable and change your ways. Aren’t you in the same generation?