We The People

People

 

Imagine a school playground thirty years ago. A girl in a white blouse tucked into a maroon skirt, shares an opinion with four others dressed like her. One of them starts to make fun of her accent, mimicking her speech. The others laugh and join in. The girl soon realizes that raising her voice to defend herself prolongs the caricature. She stomps off to a corner. When they walk down the corridor to class, she lingers a few paces behind. Her classmates are still giggling and acting as they enter the classroom. They incite the whole class to uproarious laughter.

Fast-forward to today. Same incident, only that one kid would have recorded it with her smart phone and then shared it on social media. This time, as the girl walks down the corridor, there’s more laughter and pointing as students look down at their phones and up at her. She would eventually watch the video and her sympathisers would assure her it isn’t that bad. Compelled by curiosity, she would read comment after comment and die a second death.

Humans are the common denominator in both stories. In a previous post, I suggested that maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are. There are humans behind the inanimate internet. Give a fool money and you magnify his ability to do foolish things, but money isn’t the real problem. The internet can provide a breeding ground for our worst impulses to flourish.

In his 2015 TED Talk, Jon Ronson begins by pointing out, “In the early days of Twitter . . . voiceless people realized that they had a voice, and it was powerful and eloquent.” He then tells how people used their power to effect change, saying, “This was like the democratization of justice. Hierarchies were being leveled out. We were going to do things better.”

However, the major part of his talk centres on our own misuse of privilege, the opposite of democracy. He traces how one ill-advised tweet by Justine Sacco, a former New York PR officer with 170 Twitter followers, incited a Twitter storm that not only made her the worldwide number one trending topic on Twitter, but also cost her, her job. His talk is titled, How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life.  

Sacco’s story isn’t new to me. But, Ronson’s story telling made me uncomfortably aware of how gleefully we applaud another’s fall. According to Ronson, our desire to be seen to be compassionate is what led us to commit this profoundly un-compassionate act. Although I did not participate in the Sacco mob action, there was no moral pump fisting from me. I could picture myself in another time and setting, in a white blouse and maroon skirt.

Social media is now and the future. It is the platform where I share my thoughts with the world and interact with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Because the rules of engagement continue to evolve, talks like Jon Ronson’s hold my interest. Kudos to those raising their voices against social media shaming and calling for better internet policing. But who is going to police the place where it all begins, that is, the human heart?

I share details about Ronson’s talk and other innocuous social media faux pas with a friend. She says, “You see, that’s why I’m not on Twitter and hardly do Facebook.” I nod but after she leaves, I think about how Ronson concludes his talk, “The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people, but we’re now creating a surveillance society, where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.”

Surely, abandoning social media isn’t the answer?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Jon Ronson’s TED talk is shy of 18 minutes. If you’re reading this, you do social media and listening to it is worth your time.

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Sustaining Momentum

enthusiasm

It seems fitting that I write about enthusiasm at this mid-way-into-the-year point, because I have nearly lost mine on several occasions and maybe I’m not alone. I tell you, listlessness caught me by surprise. Me, who began the year wishing all Happy New Momentum, why would I not want to show up in my life?

I read interviews of smiling photoshopped people, who say because they are doing what they love and are paid for it, they bounce like springs and chuckle like old couples in love. Meaning that if a square peg found a square hole, he would have discovered the centre that defies gravity. Hmmm, I want to ask them, what happens on days when they wake up but do not want to get up? Or are they from Mars?

When I meet people who have arrived at the place where I am going, my question will not be, how did you get here?  It will be, now that you are here, how do you intend to stay here?

I’ve been digging in my childhood memories for a time when I did not feel like going to school or playing. Here is one—my mother would wake me up at an ungodly hour to get ready for school and I would pull my wrapa over my head, pretending to pray. But ten annoying minutes between sleep and wakefulness was just a blip on my bright day. Of course, memories lie. Nevertheless, they are proof that I can craft stories from sketches of the lacklustre days I have endured this year.

Still, I wish that three-year old who leaps out of bed and heads for his toys, putting one Lego brick on top another, could articulate the reason for his energy. Has he learnt to expect pleasures scheduled into his day by his parents? There was that awful year in which I looked backwards for so long I turned into a pillar of salt. To the degree that salt has value, I was a valuable monument but I did not think I had anything to look forward to, rooted as I was to one spot.

Was it not the other day that an eight-year old came up to me and declared, “I’m bored,” as if I am a boredom-reliever? My first instinct was to suggest things she could do. But I caught myself.

“What can you do about it?”

“I don’t know.”

I continued reading while she shuffled her feet and then kicked at nothing.

“I’m bored,” she said, tugging my sleeve.

“What can you do about it?” I asked, softening my voice.

She began to list the things she could do, like play with her brother. She calculated the constraints she faced; he didn’t want to play. Then she examined her other options. I thought, good girl! It’s never too early to learn to take responsibility for your own enthusiasm.

If you think starting is hard, try finishing. Vision leaks and passion wanes due to disappointments and even successes. I am responsible for my enthusiasm—finding it, understanding it, jumpstarting it, feeding it, and protecting it. It’s really up to me.

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Has your enthusiasm taken a dip? How did you recover it?
Share a quote that fires you up if you have one. Here’s one that makes me laugh and then move…

If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.
– Vince Lombardi

 

 

Photo Credit:  Wokandapix/ https://pixabay.com/en/run-running-sport-fitness-healthy-750466/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Heat

Heat

He stared at it for a long time. But when he looked up at the huge round clock, incongruous analogue, mocking the digital revolution below, only seven minutes had elapsed.

Now that the man had finished reading the label on it and his son had stopped pushing his face, chin first towards it, his daughter refused to go. The girl stood in front of it, revelling in the way it made her t-shirt crease and lean into her chest, her short sleeves shaking and sharing her delight.

“Mieke! Kom op!”

She ignored her father and spoke into it. The sound of her voice breaking and quivering cajoled her brother to let go of his father’s hand and join shoulders with his sister. Their voices trembled together, gibberish to others but holding meaning for them both.

And he remembered what it felt like to have someone whose voice rose and fell in cadence with his.  He should not have let her go.

“Dani!” their father called, securing the box in a tighter embrace before turning and walking away.

He measured the angle formed by tracing the son’s head up to the father’s and down to the daughter’s. An obtuse angle, the geometry of his life. He must have looked at their backs for too long, because when he turned around to move closer to it, two girls were already there. Their legs, as yet, insufficiently kissed by the sun, stretched long from the edge of their bum shorts to their ankles. They wore black flip-flops decorated with neon flowers, which would glow in the dark.

The first girl raised her arms and let her mid-riff enjoy it and although it teased her crop top, it could not lift the blouse higher. The second girl used one hand to plunge her neckline so that it could find more places to affect. They giggled. Then they were gone, as quickly as his youth, hobbling as they shared the weight of the box.

The whirring noise coming from it reminded him why he had come.

Pardon. Meneer?”

The boy who addressed him wore a red shirt with a name pin on the front pocket. The boy was leading a man with an open collar and rolled-up sleeves to it. He wanted to say he was not done yet, but moved aside instead.

He watched the boy, nineteen perhaps, summer job maybe, gesturing with his hands as he explained what it could do. The man nodded and rubbed his neck. He imagined that this man wearing a striped shirt sat in an office from nine until five, getting up for coffee every hour, and sending emails every other hour. The man’s torso had made peace with that kind of life.

The man must have asked how much and then asked for a discount because the boy told him 50 Euros. The boy said it was the last one but since it had been on display, the man could have it for 45. The man shook his head as if he could bargain on a day like today. The boy suddenly seemed older as he explained capitalism to the man.

“Tomorrow, we will get more stock and sell them for 70 Euros and people will still buy. We could have sold this one, but we needed a demo.”

He saw an opportunity he had not known existed and fingered the money in his pocket. But the man nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. Then the boy bent down and got to work.

He watched the boy break it in parts and steady the blades before pushing its head into a rectangular carton. He folded the cord in 4 cm strips, securing it with a string. Then the boy hoisted the box and walked to the counter where the man was taking out his credit card.

He swallowed his anger like saliva that gathers in one’s mouth from inactivity. He recalled his last night with her. She had asked him what his plans were, if he was going to drift forever. Her parting words, the patient dog never eats the fattest bone; can’t you be crazy for once, galvanized him to action now.

He dashed to the counter and snatched the box. He made for the door, pushing languid bodies with the box. The alarm sounded but the heat had humbled the security guard in a navy blazer who possessed neither baton nor gun.

Only when he reached his apartment door did he stop looking back. Inside, the open windows yawned and wished for something to do. Sweat gathered around his neck then slithered to his chest. He opened the box and put the parts together, steadying the blades as he had seen the boy with the red shirt do.

Finished, he admired his work and waited for it. After two minutes, he rechecked the parts and fumbled with the cord. He searched the box, moving his hand from side to side. He let out a deep sigh and banged the wall. Then he dropped on his bed and cursed the heat while his sweat seeped into the hot sheet.

The infrared sensor on its sleek black panel glowed and turned to an eye that grew and grew. Then the boy with the red shirt emerged from the eye. The boy shrugged and gestured with the remote in his hand, “It is the heat; it makes people crazy.”

He blinked and looked away, fear creating tremors in his heart. When he dared to look again, the glow and the boy were gone. He groaned. Was there no more room for analogue in a digital world?

Tomorrow he would return to the shop wearing a baseball cap. Tonight he would wrestle the heat. He picked her wedding invitation from the bed and began to move his hand from side to side, rewarding himself with hot air. He imagined the card was made from steel and black plastic, like the fan on display in the shop.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Conversation

 

The Conversation

“Stop! Wait, wait. Na wa. Which conversation are we having? This one or the one we had a few days ago?”

“This one!”

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean are you sure? Am I a child? I hate it when you patronize me!”

“Sorry o . . . that was not my intention—”

“As I was saying, so what did you mean when you said what you said about Jimi’s—”

Ahn ahn, which conversation are we having now?”

“We’re having this one, the one we had a few days ago, and every single one we’ve ever had!”

Wahala dey—”

“What did you say?”

“I’m listening . . .”

“So what did you mean?”

“I . . . I meant what I said . . .”

“Meaning?”

“Ha, what I said na?”

“Please humour me, elaborate . . .”

Mehn, okay, I can’t remember what I said.”

“You said that what a woman brings to the table increases her value. That the assets Jimi’s wife brought to the table had diminished comparatively in the last several years. That for women, love and attractiveness were neither here nor there as they placed a higher premium on the combo—love and security but for men an inverse relationship holds—”

“Wow! I said all that?”

“Yes. I mean no . . . the magazine article put it that way, but yeah, in essence, it’s the same sentiment you shared, I guess . . .”

“Which magazine? I can’t remember saying—”

“How can you forget? That night we returned—”

“Okay, okay, if you say so.”

“So what did you mean?”

“Hmmm. Jimi loves his wife and he’s chosen to see other assets beyond what she first had to offer.”

“But she’s . . . she just . . . she doesn’t really take care. . .”

“She’s fat.”

“That’s not politically correct! She’s just on the big side!”

“Okay.”

“You were saying?”

“No, no. . . I’m done. Political correctness stifles conversation, don’t you think?”

“Just say what’s on your mind. It’s not as if you’re giving a TED Talk!”

“So, obviously, a man of his influence and means would be spoilt for options. Though people who’ve done business with him vouch for his integrity as well.”

“You didn’t say this part that day.”

“I’m not a parrot. These are just my thoughts—”

“But you said one of the things that put men off is unattractiveness. That after hooking the guy, some women just stop trying . . .”

“I did?”

“Yes! Remember? When we were dating?”

“That was like what? Years ago?”

“Three and two months to be precise.”

“Elephant mem— hey, where are you going? Why did you put on the light? Turn it off please!”

“I want you to see—”

“See what? Geez—”

“I knew it!”

“What?”

“You think my butt is too flabby!”

“But I didn’t say so!”

“You said geez!”

“Because of the light!”

“But when Patrick said that if he were married to Jimi’s wife, he would’ve taken off, you laughed.”

“Seriously? That’s just a guy thing. He didn’t mean it and we were joking.”

“A very mean joke about a woman who’s had kids. Do you know what having kids does to a woman’s body?”

“Em . . . em, which conversation are we having now?”

“What do you mean? We are just talking! Why do you keep saying, ‘which conversation are we having’?”

“Because—”

“Some women just manage to look great no matter what . . . like Angela. Four kids and she’s still tight. What do you think of Angela?”

“I haven’t thought of her. I have eyes for only you.”

“And Jimi’s wife obviously, since you noticed she’s fat! Are. . . are you listening?”

“Uhuh.”

“You’re sleeping?”

“No.”

“I think I’m pregnant.”

“That’s fantastic! We are pregnant! Come here!”

“Not sure . . . I’m late. I’ll buy a kit tomorrow . . .”

“We’ll do it together.”

“Okay, I’d like that.

“Good. Come to bed—”

“See? See? When I walk it just kinda wiggles all over the place!”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“What?”

“Are you wearing anything under? Turn . . . walk again let me see . . .nice . . .very nice.”

“Gosh! Are you even looking?

“Oh yes! And even if your butt is as wide as Texas and lumpy like dough, I would still love you.”

“Lumpy like dough—”

“I didn’t mean it like that. Oya, please turn off the light and come back to bed.”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.