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Every form of refuge has its price

By Donu Kogbara
ONE of my all-time favourite pop music ditties is a wonderful song called Lying Eyes. It was recorded by The Eagles, an American rock band that became hugely successful, both in Europe and the States, when I was a student.

I still play Lying Eyes at least once a week because, in addition to being marvellously melodic and catchily rhythmic, it also happens to possess haunting lyrics that have given me so much interesting food for thought for over three decades.

The song implies that eyes are mirrors of the soul and categorically states that “you can’t hide your lying eyes”, meaning that even when concealment is attempted, eyes will still reflect the truth and reveal an individual’s true innermost feelings.

Lying Eyes is about a cynically calculating young girl who has, effectively, sold herself to a rich old husband who doesn’t inspire her…simply because she’s greedy and wants the expensive lifestyle and financial security that he can provide.

But the girl in question has a heart of sorts and is miserable whenever she thinks about the emotional and sexual compromises that she has inflicted upon herself.

Late at night, the mansion she shares with the man she doesn’t really want gets lonely. So she acquires an attractive lover of her age – a penniless boy who lives on the poor side of town but excites her nevertheless because he not only has “fiery eyes and dreams no one can steal” but “makes her feel the way she wants to feel”.

In other words, our anti-heroine can’t win because she is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea…in the sense that neither the pensioner spouse nor the impoverished boyfriend can give her everything she needs…or thinks she needs.

The Eagles songwriter, having outlined her dilemma in a few uncomplicated verses, wryly and eloquently concludes that “…every form of refuge has its price…”.

You can, quite justifiably, restrict yourself to a literal interpretation of this song and view it purely as an indictment of an manipulative female who tries to have her cake and eat it by betraying both the wealthy male benefactor who provides her with luxuries and the impecunious but desirable guy who provides her with passion.

But I’ve always regarded Lying Eyes as being more than a commentary on one woman’s problem. To me, it speaks volumes about the entire human condition.

“Every form of refuge has its price” is, as far as I’m concerned, a profoundly philosophical observation that reminds me that no situation is perfect, that total bliss is rarely achieved outside heaven, that every refuge we choose or find ourselves in will cost us something and that the price is not always paid in cash.

People always have and always will need refuges, whether we are talking about physical sanctuaries like the roofs over our heads or spiritual sanctuaries like churches and mosques or other refuges such as employment, relationships, families, etc.

And, sure, every refuge has a positive element and will deliver some kind of plus to those who inhabit or frequent it. But refuges are often negative overall.

Tribes, for example, can be regarded as refuges…given that they are like cosy clubs in which most members speak the same language, share cultural values and enjoy a sense of belonging that can be so very comforting in an often harsh world.

Tribes are positive refuges when people who come from the same area help each other for the right reasons and in the right ways. But when deserving individuals who come from other areas are ruthlessly marginalised or excluded from perks, tribes become toxic citadels of bigotry…or, less dramatically put, negative refuges.

When one is in a powerful position, it is tempting to take the view that one will lose absolutely nothing if one takes refuge in bigotry that is dressed up as tribal loyalty and secures unfair advantages for oneself and one’s tribesmen by ill-treating those who are in weaker positions. But there is a hefty cost attached to amorality.

People who suppress their consciences – or don’t have consciences in the first place – will lose out eventually because they are damaging themselves spiritually.

Eternal life is infinitely more important than worldly benefits. The soul is more important than jobs, bank balances, social status, personal ambition or political considerations. Compassion, justice and honesty are more important than anything.

The bottom line is that even if unprincipled and unkind individuals do not suffer for their sins on earth, they will be compelled to face God on Judgment Day. And that’s the point at which they will finally realise that every form of refuge has its price.

Why?

BOKO HARAM – the Islamic fundamentalist sect that has recently caused so much tragic mayhem in Northern Nigeria – is violently opposed to Western education.Other extremist Muslim groups in many other countries are equally anti-Western, as are some African nationalists who classify themselves as Christian or Animist.

I’ve never been able to understand the above attitude because my view is that Western influence has, at the end of the day, been more benign than malign.

Sure, Western imperialism was an economically exploitative insult to peoples who had their own cultures, leadership structures, etc. Sure, it’s good that we vigorously fought for independence from colonial masters like Britain, France and Portugal…and won the right to rule ourselves and control our natural resources.

BUT let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, for crying out loud! Anyone who wishes to avoid or fight modernity is free to do so. But such enemies of progress should respect the fact that some of us do not wish to live without aeroplanes, TVs, cars, the internet, antibiotics, oil refineries and the many other existence-enhancing benefits we have gained from Oyinbos who went to school!

donzol2002@yahoo.co.uk


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