“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels” – Saint Augustine
“There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance” – John C. Maxwell
“With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings” – Ezra Taft Benson
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” – Rick Warren
I find myself in this splendid bar late at night, perching on a high stool and scribbling my weird thoughts on a piece paper. There is a half empty glass of Smirnoff vodka with a slice of lemon lying idly beside my phone on the table. My eyes are hazy and my mind is racing at the speed of sound. The barman is staring at me with a holy anger, as if saying: “Mudafuka, go home please. You’ve been drinking since evening. Gosh, I pity the woman who gave birth to you”. And I am staring back at him with a devilish grin, as if saying: “Nigga, plueeezzz…you gotta do your job. If I drink till daybreak, ain’t nothin’ gonna change about your pathetic job”. Ouchhh…dat was harsh, Nigga!
On the east end of the bar, two drunk dudes were busy screaming on top of their voices and cursing at each other.
“I will deal with you. Dey there…you know who I be? I must teach you a lesson you will never forget” the taller one shouted.
“Shut up, Mister Man. Who you be? You think say person dey fear you? Idiot…I will deal with you personally. If I don’t, call me Bastard”, the other screamed.
“So you dey phuck my girl behind my back. Abi? Fool! And you call yourself my friend. Don’t worry, that your scrotum, I go give you concoction wey go make am swell…walahi. Just watch and see…by the time I finish with you, your villagers won’t recognize you again”.
“Gerrrout…imbecile. See you and your mouth. No be me pursue the girl first? Na me force her come my house?”
And the drama went on for a couple of minutes before the barman intervened and sent them packing from the bar, after collecting their bills. The incident reminded me of a similar scenario that used to play out amongst us while growing up. Two lil’ kids would have an argument and instead of proceeding to pounding each other and beating the hell out of themselves, they’d first waste time staring at each other and threatening themselves, waiting for who would touch the other first.
“If you know that it is your mother that gave birth to you, touch me first”, one would say.
“Anumanu, touch me now. Just touch me and see what I will do to you”, the other would say.
And we, the spectators, would keep staring at them, screaming for blood and waiting in vain for who would draw the first blood. In the end, nothing would happen and they’d all disperse from the land of settlement. Phucking Braggarts! Crazy Charlatans!
But the episode at the bar got me thinking deeply: what is it with people and the phrase – ‘do you know who I am?’ I mean, if you wanna shoot, you shoot…don’t talk. Why would you ask someone if he knew who you are before beating the hell out of him?
Back in the days while growing up, there was a popular man in his 40s that resided in our neighborhood. He was rich. He was also a titled Red Cap Chief in his village. You know what I mean by being rich: he had 3 cars – a Peugeot 404, a Beetle Volkswagen and a Pickup Truck. His business was also thriving as well. He lived in his own gigantic house in a compound so big that one could host three owambe parties simultaneously. But on the flipside, he was arrogant and pompous. He never ceased to talk about his massive wealth and affluence wherever he went. Anyone that didn’t measure up to his class was seen as a lowly peasant that wasn’t fit to exist. One time, I overheard him bragging to a shop owner in the neighborhood that he would rather die than be poor. He always demanded reverence and respect from everyone in the neighborhood. Any freaking soul that doesn’t do so, would receive a hail of abuses from the man. Shouts of – “Do you know who I am?”; “Who doesn’t know me in this neighborhood?”; “Do you know how rich I am?”– would fill the air.
There was a popular story told about how he abused a young man that came from overseas. One time, the members of his kindred clan were having a meeting for the welfare and progress of the mbaraezi. People were encouraged to contribute whatever they could to enable them carry out a unique project before the iri ji festival. Obum, the palm wine tapper stood up and pledged a goat. According to him, the goat would be sold at the next eke market day and the money put into the clan’s coffer. Everyone clapped for him except the pompous Chief. A young man, Kachi, who recently came back from Eastern Europe stood up and after greeting the elders, proceeded to tell the clan members that he would handle every single aspect of the project, without any input from any member of the clan. This was to show appreciation for how well they treated him before he left for Obodo Oyibo. Everyone was jubilant and praised Kachi except the pompous Chief. He stood up abruptly and called Kachi a riff-raff. He belated the elders for accepting a gift from a ‘small boy’. He called them ‘hungry village champions’.
To cut the long boring story short; the man’s situation ain’t the same no more. I had the opportunity of going back to the neighborhood a couple of months ago and beheld the man. He was no longer the pompous-fat-filthy-rich dude; rather, nature had bestowed on him a certain version of humility that only comes with sorrow and a fall from grace to grass. I learnt his business failed not too long ago. He kept blaming his setbacks on his enemies and ndi ufu anya. At the shop where they sold akara balls, Mama Akunne said it was his chi that dealt with him for treating others cruelly over the years.
Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t rejoice at any man’s misfortune; neither do I rejoice at one’s setbacks. But this is an important story that reinforced my belief that humility is the key to living a seemingly happy life. No one gives a phuck about who you are. For phuck’s sake, there are more pressing issues that occupy people’s thoughts and time that they don’t even have a single time to spare and worry about the latest charlatan in town. People have the kids school fees to pay, Mama’s health is failing and the hospital bills have to be raised, the car needs servicing…blah blah blah. Why would they worry about your rich and pompous ass?
In this era of everybody-wanna-be-somebody, one should endeavor not to neglect the essential elements of living a fulfilled life. Altruism and humility breeds happiness, contentment and bliss. I still reiterate the summary of the theory of phuckonomics: the less phucks we give about un-phuck-worthy issues, the happier we’d become!
I eventually left the bar at 3am, knowing I won’t be able to attend morning mass again. Virgin Mary, please have mercy on your son! So I flipped my iPod out of my right breast pocket, selected Nina Simone’s It is a New Dawn and walked into the dark and lonely distance, hoping the fortune of the nation would change for good with GMB (abi na PMB) at the helm of affairs. Capisce!