As we landed into Lagos on the 29th of November, we were invited to a panel on the next day, it’s the last day of the TRUFESTA (solo and duo dance) festival – The topic; “Empowering the younger generation through dance”. For some reasons, i had blocked my mind to a state of stillness that I won’t bother to get involved in any serious talks in such gathering. My indifference was due to the fact that, this society i know so well, and i can’t be easily proven wrong about my opinion on what the general psyche understands as education. Before long, my assumptions began to gain outward appearance.
"You must go to University; if you don’t go to school you will be nobody.”
I remember while in primary school, in primary 3 i think, i couldn’t be more than 6 to 7 years old, our class was mixed up with another class, due to the illness of our class teacher, so for one reason or the other, i was denied of my usual first position, but second. I was so frightened by the reaction i was going to get at home that i refused to go home. I suspect that, that incidence must have added to the reason why I am generally troubled by adults, who out of their own fear for the real, has headed for the easier way out, and now, so passionate about projecting their fears upon the kids, telling them to go to school for no other reason than.
“A time will come when you can dance no more, then you will have something to fall back to...”
Nonsense of that sort. I don’t understand why the incertitude of the future, should lead to a condition of going to school, to learn what they have no interest in, how could that lead to a self realisation of any sort? BUT I KEPT MY MOUTH SHUT.
3rd December 2010
Tonight is our show in Lagos, the venue: University of Lagos. Everything around reminded me of the panel discussion, and each time i walk pass the students in their unruly behaviours, i smile. It’s about 1:30pm on my watch. It’s the first Friday in the month of December, and also my first Friday in Lagos in 2010. So i decided to go to the mosque to observe Jumat service with the congregation. Islamically it is nobler to worship in the assembly of fellow saints, so i decided to walk down to the university mosque. The walk from the theatre to the mosque took me about 20 minutes, for i met a long time friend on the road, whom i haven’t seen in a while, so guessed our brief salutation had made my arrival to the mosque five minute before 2pm.
Come rain - come sun, the imam will lead the salat at the dot of 2pm, so there was a rush all around. I entered into the little room made available for ablution but the taps weren’t running, so i walked further back the building to see if there was an alternative. Eventually i found one; there was a big drum of water, in which a brother was using a bowl to serve water to the entire students and saints. Water for what, you may ask? Yes, water to purify themselves and go meet with their God. Looking at my surrounding and all that it represents, – A holy mosque, in a prestigious academic institution – knowing that their religious education is to love and live in peace with their neighbours, while their academic education also teaches them to be orderly and to respect the humanity of the other. One should have no difficulty in thinking that these saints and students must be well organized in their queue for water. But NO, in a very aggressive manner, there was a grave struggle, for who gets his or her kettle filled first. DISTASTEFUL!
My rationality was not just able to grasp the least sense in their quest for being the first, is it to be quick and go back to their miserable school lives, or anticipating a front row position in paradise? Is it not right, that religious and academic institutions should help us, as we grow, to perceive the importance of bringing about a humanity, in which there is no conflict either from within or without? A world in which you are not in conflict with your neighbours, by first quenching your push for ambition, position and power? However, our education has been useful for the contrary, pass exams and get a job, a means of escaping the burden of insecurity, which the uncertainty of the future brings to our existence, and that’s what we call success. Our religion has been – on the other hand – reduced to symbols that we begin to lose the meanings at which these symbols carry; so how efficient can this schools be, in leading us to the truth and self realisation?
I stood by the side, as i hopelessly held my kettle, however, on my watch, time was running out. Eventually its 2pm and there goes the call to prayer, the tussle became even more intense, the brother serving the water – in a fair underlying principle – filled his own kettle, dropped the bowl and left to catch up with the congregation. The rush for the bowl became even grosser; nothing – i know of – could ever get so rough, not even in a rugby match. Both males and females, young and old, none of them could make a link between the purpose of life and the significance of that particular prayer, between love and the fear of God for the sake of life, between education and the need to build one’s mind to a state of spiritual verticality. Now the innocent bowl at their disposal is already suffering from their sins, they will totally break the bowl if something is not done in due time to save the situation.
It took me a while to get out of a state of being a mere audience to this human comedy, so i summoned courage to join in, in the struggle to get the bowl. After few failed trials, I eventually get hold of the bowl. This bowl in my hand became another statement about my desired world.
I’m no preacher, I’m no religious leader and I’m no professor to you all, but my educations (in plural) thought me that to be just is to be in harmony with the moral law – or the commandments of God. – And to be unjust is to be uprooted from eternal and natural law. Any education that uplifts human personality is just, any education that degrades human personality, human dignity and destroy lives is unjust. So, when your religious leaders and your professors tell you that this TRUTH shall set you free, they may be right. But first we must strive to set the TRUTH free of our fears.
I began to serve everyone water to go join the congregation, i didn’t raise my face up to see who amongst them has a pretty face, who amongst them has any form of affiliation with me, I didn’t care how much they screamed.
"Me, Me, brother i have been here since.”
I made sure that my decision to give water was as random as my hand motion could be. From the back of the mob around me, came a voice from a young man, who had apparently been amazed by my actions. "Hey brother, are you not going to pray"
I paused for awhile, for i want them all to hear my response and get the message clearly. There was no hesitation, and there was no second thought before i replied,
What other prayer can be better than what i am doing right now...?”
I left them all with that question and i continued to serve the water, my response calmed them down a bit. I made sure that everyone of them got their kettles filled and left before i served my kettle. As i was doing my ablution, i felt good with myself, even though the prayer was already over, but deep down in my heart I knew that even God will be happy with my actions.
After my prayers, i walked back to the theatre, and once again, i thought about the school those elders were talking about. Could it be this same one? This same school i stepped out from in 2004 – I didn’t drop out mind you; i stepped out by choice – not that i was too cool for school, but because i felt that to be educated is to know the truth, to know the truth is to be vertical and not conforming to the norms of a malformed social order. Education and our social structuring has been prearranged in a way that it continues to breed self-cantered monsters, that are particularly stimulated by their quest for ambitions and positions, with a mind that is weary and totally unintelligent. Everything – from our childhood till adulthood, from our video games to soccer games, from reality TV shows to the simple idea of giving awards, all – has been built on this egocentric notion of being the best, the first and of course the most cunning.
The first thing our education teaches us is FEAR! The fear of being the last, the fear of failure, the fear of insecurity, our parents and society wants us to live safely, and living safely means living like machines, in imitations and uninterrupted repetitions, but is the true function of education merely to help us conform to the pattern of this rotten social order – built on our reaction to fear – or to free us from our fears? Is the purpose of religion merely to help us seek a front row seat in paradise? Or to help us in finding what is true, so that perhaps, we may become intelligent again, so that we are able to face the world and understand it. To have total freedom to grow our mind and create a different society, so that inwardly we are in total revolt.
But when we head towards this noble living, we become a danger to all that is false; to be such a rebel is to be a danger to the benefactors of the status quo and those who are frightened by change. When you are constantly inquisitive, constantly observing, constantly learning, that’s when the truth surface, that’s when we find God accurately, that’s when we understand the simplicity of love, the fulfilment in just being, and we learn to live effortlessly. We cannot find the truth if our lives is built on fear, if we are always afraid. The function of any kind of education or empowerment – be it formal or informal, familial or traditional, religious or academic – is therefore, to totally eradicate this fear that destroys human thought, human relationship and the love and respect for one another. To be educated is to realise your gift in life and to know the purpose of life.
(c) DIARY OF A MODERN TUAREG