On Cosmpolitanism

My favourite essay this year, so far! The premise is debatable and nuanced but it's overall well-argued and profound.

It situates cosmopolitanism within global nuances, and I can't but compare it to Afropolitanism, its African variant. I like how it stresses how cosmopolitanism seeks tolerance of differences but it somehow reduces itself to a form of tribalism that is also aristocratic in form. Brilliant.

"Genuine cosmopolitanism is a rare thing. It requires comfort with real difference, with forms of life that are truly exotic relative to one’s own."
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"The people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan” in today’s West, by contrast, are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity, by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call “global citizens.”

"This species is racially diverse (within limits) and eager to assimilate the fun-seeming bits of foreign cultures — food, a touch of exotic spirituality.... "
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"They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home."

 - The Myth of Cosmopolitanism by Ross Douthat

 

Oshodi Tapa, A Play (and Photos)

Oshodi Tapa enacts an aspect in the history of Lagos monarchy, one of palace intrigues, betrayal, statesmanship, etc. that sustain memory for what we call Eko.

While waiting for the play to start, I stayed in a corner with publisherDamola ‘Wildeye’ Ogundele, discussing culture and entrepreneurship. (Full disclosure: Damola runs one of the coolest Culture projects in the countryASIRI Magazine).

The drummers cued in the actors and the play began. 

As one expects in any chronicling of Lagos, certain characters (including names and places) were default mentions in the playKosoko, Dosunmu, Akintoye, Benin Kingdom, Epe etc.

Good story. Brilliant acting, especially. (Eletu Odibo and the Town Crier are easily my favourite characters. The guy that played Eletu Odibo reminds me of one Sunday Akinwa back in university; dudes that own theatre stages with rich belchy voices. The town crier is a kolomental, with his mischievous obituary announcement).

The play’s major triumph (or its production credit) goes to its minimalist enactment. No panoply of traditions or roving dialogues or exuberant costuming as one associates to plays of the same mode by Yerima and Osofisan. For reasons best known to the director (I suspect a fixation on the attention-deficit of a social media slash theatre-consuming generation, the play condenses that thorny aspect of Lagos history, without seeming lazy. Maybe my undergraduate years of watching epic palace plays and reading my favourite British playwrights have conditioned me to associate “epic” production to palace theatre. There’s just nothing maximalist about this production. Or, who knowsmaybe art has also begun to respond to the new miserly national culture of a Buhari economy. Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about this.

The story tells us that Oshodi Tapa, a demure character, saved Eko from a possible palace bloodbath by a rather difficult diplomatic intervention, even as he’s an outsider. I hope to find more real life details of this character, and also if the corner of Lagos called “Oshodi” is a nod to his legacy.

Kudos to the genius Director - Wole Oguntokun

Miracles Still Happen

Miracles still happen. I’ve had the March edition of Harvard Business Review on the radar for a while because of the highlighted articles on its front page. But me, certified alaroro, couldn’t deal with parting with N2, 500 for a magazine, or N3, 000 depending on the part of Lagos traffic one haggles from. And the forex situation in the country has made me cancel auto-subscriptions on every goddam magazine! I reasoned, “No man should go hungry while trying to feed on knowledge.” (Given a choice between Half of a Yellow Sun and Half of a Ripe Boli, a ravenously hungry man will feel insulted at the gamble on food. Gosh forbid you tease him with The Famished Road. Or The Palm-wine Drinkard). I had tried to read the articles from the HBR website but I always ended up exhausting the limited free access, on other articles.

But this morning, while trying to negotiate a route around the airport, and in traffic, a magazine man approached me, and moved his goods close to my nose. I pretended as though the prominently displayed HBR edition didn’t pique me.

“Oga, I get Harvard,” he said.

I entertained myself on an incidental joke. If I weren’t trying to look unconcerned, I’d replied with, “Yes o, me sef get University of Ibadan.” But I looked stone-cold, as though I’d rather be talking to a gala seller or a seller of the newly-reduced-in-size-plantain-chips-of-Lagos-traffic.

I used the traffic light to monitor how long I have to put up my antics while ensuring that I didn’t lose him when the traffic light goes green. Dude just stayed there, as though seemingly convinced I’d talk to him.

I talked to him. “Na how much be Harvard?” 

“Oga, theeree-five!”

I observed the mandatory shock one expects from a master alaroro! And with a deadpan slur. “Haba! Guy!!! This thing na since March naaaa!” He seemed immune against my trick. He just said, “Oga, na theeree-thasan last”. I got more stone-cold.

“Ok, Oga, just pay two-five”.

Like every alaroro buyer’s dream, I noticed how he acquiesced with his new discount, so I jumped on it and stressed he would lose me if the traffic light goes green. He replied with, “Oga you don’t want to lose this magazine too”. He asked how much I’d like to pay.

“One-thousand”.

Right there, traffic goes green.

Seeing that I had motioned towards my wallet, he ran after me. I slowed down for him to catch up. He gave me the magazine while I struggled to remove money from my wallet. I mistakenly pulled out a N500 note and passed to him. He eyed me for a second and just said, “No worry, I go manage am”.

I honked in appreciation. I’m not sure if he figured that the honk meant, “May you never run out of miracle, in a Buhari economy.”

About A Great American Narcissist

This is good journalism, the type that invests in nuances, on an issue that seems cliché already. Everyone knows Trump and there have been guesses about what inspires his dangerous ideals. A few people have attempted to pitch a case on his mental constitution. This piece does it thoroughly. It also relates Trump's exuberance to the fears of white Christian evangelicals who wants to be saved from damnation (a.k.a ISIS), save the world (a.k.a America) from impurities (a.k.a Mexicans, immigrants etc.).

But more than this is how it explores the workings of Trump's mental makeup and how anger is the core of his personality.

Brilliant long piece.

"“As far as the anger is concerned, that’s real for sure. He’s not faking it,”... “The fact that he gets mad, that’s his personality.” Indeed, anger may be the operative emotion behind Trump’s high extroversion as well as his low agreeableness. Anger can fuel malice, but it can also motivate social dominance, stoking a desire to win the adoration of others. Combined with a considerable gift for humor (which may also be aggressive), anger lies at the heart of Trump’s charisma. And anger permeates his political rhetoric."

- THE MIND OF DONALD TRUMP

Pleasantly Playful Prittle-Prattle Pickled Poems of Yemi Adesanya

I labored on the choice of a title for this piece. If the obvious alliteration of Pleasantly Playful Pickled Prittle-Prattle Poems is not compelling enough to readers or does not earn an editor’s approval, I would console myself that it passes the test of being a good reference in a literature class on figures-of-speech.

The title tweaks the subtitle of Yemi Adesanya’s poetry collection, a debut publication that invites readers on a poetic journey paved with goofiness, love dealings and dilemma, child-rearing and childhood, supplication, existential musings, corporate chaos, mischiefs and misadventures, and outright naughtiness.

I launched into Musings of a Tangled Tongue as soon as it downloaded into my device. My reading ritual usually starts with randomly flipping through a new book, subconsciously expecting something to pique my attention, maybe a well-constructed sentence, maybe an odd idea, maybe some eccentric wordings, maybe an amusing quote, just anything to quickly advertise a book as worthy of my time. In this collection, the poem titled “Jack and Jill,” did the trick. Goofy like I love my rapports, mischievous like the literary works I love to return to, short and punchy like I love social media posts, this risqué poem served the first salvo from the collection. I laughed out after reading it and had to return to it to be sure I had not missed any hidden meaning, beyond its obvious naughtiness. Alas, no hidden meaning. It is what it is, a sexual tryst between two lovable characters of a famous nursery rhyme:

Jack and Jill went off the grid
To pet a rampant boner.
Jack came first and spilled his spunk
Then Jill came, trembling after.

I flipped to “No Kidding,” a charming poem that evokes a mother’s devotion and admonition to her child. She speaks of her responsibility as a guide and guard of her child life’s journey and acknowledges, in the second verse, that the duty comes with chastisement:

Put my life on the line to have you,
My hands on the grind to raise you,
My feet on the pedals I’ll drive you,
Upward and forward
You must go.

I’ll scream and wait to right you.
My hands are here they’ll flog you.
My feet on the path to guide you,
Uptight and forthright
You must stand.

My already piqued fascination about the collection (I must confess that “Jack and Jill” deceived me into thinking that I might be on a poetic Kama Sutra ride) was soon dulled by “Monday Madness,” a killjoy and bad-hair-day poem about the typical complaints of one caught in the throes of corporate monotony.

Stuck in a graveyard meeting

Can’t keep dancing this tango
In a half broken stiletto

A similar poem is “Hype Brigade,” which depicts a typical corporate lifecycle.

The collection’s major triumphs are its accessible themes and language. Especially those about love. I imagine Yemi reading “I Want to Love Your” at a spoken-word performance, maybe accompanied by guitar and conga.

The themes are simple and unpretentious, not as one expects from poets attempting lofty poetic experiments with heavy themes, say, philosophy, dark contemplations, or even of expressing mundane themes with manipulation of language to the point of boredom.

I might be too effusive about this collection, but the poems are somewhat a reverse of the type of poetry I am familiar with, the type that assumes a smug pose, overwrought in structure and expressions, tense in mood, brain-tasking—poems considered as literary gold-standard. We all know them.

But the collection suffers too. I will get to that shortly.

These poems suggest that Adesanya is attuned to creating from playfulness and restiveness, say, about being a romantic and sensitive lover, or occupying herself with existential concerns, or just musing over a reality that bears pressure on the creative process, with humor too. In this case, poetry becomes an act—art too—of making sense of the world, a spiteful response too, to that which tugs on reflections.

Besides its shortage on linguistic ambitions, it is an impressive publication that adds the author to a list of new age Nigerian poets surprising the world with poetic resourcefulness—Dami Ajayi and his dazzling devotion to allusions drawn from medicine, pop culture, social media, street lingos; Jumoke Verissimo and her treatment of the human condition like a tales-by-moonlight affair; and the textural lightness of Sadiq Alabi’s poems that break Remi Raji-like ideas into new age intelligibility.

On technique and stylistic ambition, I would score the collection a six-over-ten. The free-flowing poems, especially “Here Lies Lust”, “McHunger”, “Ms. Adventure”, “Crackles if Soulful Melody” are impressive exceptions. An insistence on end rhymes is charming on some poems—“Loafday”, “Iyke the Kite”, “Forever Living” but distracting on others like “It’s Changed the Same”, and “Sleepless Nights.” This point may be ignored, as I tend to be cynical about poems that have structural allegiance to European poetic forms. I just want the flow, not technical mascara. These days, I associate them with original photos made less original by Instagram filters.

Anyone that picks this book will notice I’ve ignored commenting on the “serious” poems like “Death Left You a Note”, “Kahlo’s Picasso”, and the praise song, “Thank a Brave Soldier.” If I edited the work, I would leave them out. They got in the way of my amusement. In my world, Kama Sutra is not compatible with Karate.

One more risqué poem, and we can end this piece. “Play With Me” might be the advances that led to “Jack and Jill:”

Love me like a butterfly
Fragile wings and colorful bits
Touch my soft parts and electrify
Spill your pollens and let us bloom

Love my (sic) like a bestseller
My intricate lines, yours to explore
Flip my pages like a sheet propeller
Show what you know and learn my ropes

With Musings of a Tangled Tongue, Adesanya registers herself as a fun poet. If I ever have the right to suggest what her next collection should be, I’d say make it a single-theme work, on either Love or Motherhood. Or a paean on Sex. It will sell.

Musings of a Tangled Tongue is available on Amazon and on Okada Books

First Published in Brittlepapers

How Elon Musk Started

I'm usually cynical about writings that attempt to use the lives of successful people to prescribe how others can replicate them. For that also, I mostly mistrust motivational speakers and their clever marketing tactics that whip up emotions than substance. All of them, glibs! More than the benefits of coping mechanism (for the weary, for the hopeless, for the defeated, for the confused, for the superstitious), I treat motivational speaking with suspicion. There's a salesman selling fantasy with mesmerizing language. All of them, placebo!

Unfortunately, the domain I prefer for coping mechanism - Science, has not found a scientific type of motivational speaking or speaker, beyond the dots that Psychology pieces together. It's not like I expect to take life direction from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, or Gosh forbid - even Richard Dawkins. But Science needs to provide something to motivate those that only believe in Science over anything else, only believe in Reason over unreason.

But I like this piece about Elon Musk for treating the path to success with logic, and especially referring to the phenomenon of Narrative Fallacy, of looking through a timeline and putting dots together along decisions, circumstances, etc.

It says Elon Musk finished reading the Brittanica. I'm sad now because I started reading the Brittanica as a teenager. I used to sneak into a family friend’s library to read his complete Brittanica. Who knows what I would have become today if I had finished. Maybe I'd be colonizing the Sun & Uranus by now. ;) PS: I'm going to resume the Brittanica.

How Elon Musk Started

My Dear Future Children

My Dear Future Children,

Dem say philosophy is good for your brains. All these Spinoza, Descartes, Russell, Hobbes and philosophical jagbanjatis that I've fed my head with will come handy when you're birthed. Every action will be an exercise in philosophy. Instead of "are there cookies for you to eat?” expect - "Use a pantheistic argument to form a deterministic theory as proof that right in front of us from a material lens-view are crumby consumables worth eating for your existential survival." Whatever danger I do to your brain with philosophy, your mother will cure with paracetamol; just pass your exams. 

- Teaching Kids Philosophy Makes Them Smarter in Math and English