By Douglas Anele
The inference one can draw from the conclusion of last week’s discussion is that the anonymous woman who criticised Chioma and her mother in the social media is probably a sanctimonious hypocrite who would have organised a thanksgiving service for her daughter’s “good fortune” in having a man willing to show her affection publicly with a very expensive gift. She is like the biblical Pharisee: in public, she pretends to be more catholic than the Pope, but in actual fact she is probably a moral chameleon.
Let us be clear about one thing: there is nothing wrong if a parent allows his or her daughter to have an affair with a man who had fathered children from other women, as long as the girl in question is happy with the relationship and knows exactly what she is doing. All Chioma’s mother needs to do is to have a heart-to-heart discussion with her daughter, ascertain what she thinks about the relationship with Davido, give her good advice and be a pillar of support no matter what happens in the future. As far as I am concerned, two adults can enjoy a fulfilling consensual amative relationship irrespective of what transpired in their previous affairs as long as they have learnt appropriate lessons that would make them better lovers next time.
Nevertheless, if Davido and Chioma pin their hope on a Porsche car or any material thing whatsoever as an assurance, a lifetime insurance for blissful love relationship, then they are living in cloud cuckoo land. Of course, material things can enhance love as a means of meeting some basic needs, especially if given without negativity, compulsion or expectation of immediate gratification. But beyond a certain point, monetised relationship becomes counterproductive and frustrating due to the perception by the giver that there is no commensurate emotional return on his “investment.”
Love founded solely or largely on material consideration without the necessary emotional compatibility and interpenetration that gives it real meaning, intensity and depth tends to be trivial, shallow and ultimately unsatisfying. For real love to blossom, therefore, it must be exchanged for love, because the single valid currency, the only legal tender in the kingdom of love, is love itself. The best thing Davido and Chioma can do in the circumstance is to respectfully enjoy each other’s company; they should avoid the grievous mistake of basing their feelings for each other on wealth and fame, put aside unnecessary anxiety about marriage, and ignore negative comments from people who do not really know them.
There are too many self-appointed moral policemen and policewomen in Nigeria today and, yet, the country is in a state of moral decay. Love can be beautiful, so enriching and enlivening irrespective of whether it leads to the altar or to a break up. The key is to love and be loved in return, to be true to oneself and to one’s partner, and be there for each other especially when things are not going well or according to plan. In addition, although they are now a celebrity couple, Chioma and her lover should try hard to keep their relationship away from the social media, which has become a mad house where all kinds of people, busybodies with mediocre intelligence and different types of emotional disturbance, parade outlandish ideas and opinions on issues that do not really concern them.
Many potentially good relationships have been ruined because of public exposure in the social media. Being a celebrity does not mean that one should not have a private emotional life away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi – some celebrities that exposed their private lives to the public have bitterly regretted doing so.
This leads me to a critical examination of the increasing tendency especially by celebrities for displaying ad nauseam their private lives and wealth in social media. As an attentive student of the philosophy of science and technology, I am fully aware of the double-edged nature of scientific-technological discoveries and innovations, particularly information and communication technology. While the new mode of electronic communication, information storage and transmission has further united humanity in ways pioneers of computer technology such as Charles Babbage, John Von Neumann, Alan Turing and so on could not have imagined, and revolutionised every aspect of our lives, it has also provided avenues for ostentatious exhibitionism, self-indulgent triumphalism and destructive narcissism.
Aside from conceit bothering on pathological fetishism or glorification of material possessions, why would a reasonable person display collections of mansions, expensive cars, clothes, shoes and other personal items most of which he or she does not really need and which do not in way guarantee happiness and fulfilled life? What is so important about the costly birthday gifts and celebration of a musician, actress, or actor in a so-called exotic location overseas such that it must be emblazoned in Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Opera Mini etc.? Some people seem to have lost their heads: also, they have inadvertently invited armed robbers to their homes and enticed kidnappers by their childish display of wealth in social media.
Now, is there really any benefit in knowing about the affairs, break ups, marriages, divorces, pregnancies, miscarriages and quarrels of celebrities? Attention seekers with low self-esteem go to the ludicrous extent of posting pictures of their husbands, wives, children, and lovers, as the case may be, as if the latter are trophies. On the issue of nude or semi-nude postings in social media, if a fully grown man or woman chooses to go into pornography as a full time job or profession, that is the person’s choice, provided the materials are showcased in appropriate adults-only sites or platforms regulated by law. It is a different thing altogether to post salacious images of oneself in regular social media that can be easily assessed by anyone, including children, all in the name of freedom of expression.
As a corollary, the pathological misuse of smartphones in the form of addiction to taking selfies, texting, chatting and listening to music with headphones while walking on the road or driving has led to avoidable injuries and deaths. Nowadays, children and adults are losing the capacity for meaningful face-to-face interaction with others because of overconcentration on their smartphones. It is not uncommon to see people spending hours continuously on their cellphones and other electronic devises despite the presence of human company around them. From experience, women seem to be more addicted than men to chatting and taking selfies with their phones. Right before our very eyes, a society of self-alienated individuals immersed in the electronic world of virtual reality is supplanting the real complex world of real human beings and actual events that give our existence meaning, substance and content.
It is impossible to turn back the hand of the clock by stopping the use of electronic devices for communication and entertainment: paraphrasing Erich Fromm, we have eaten from the tree of electronic technology and, consequently, there is no going back. What we can do as parents, adults, teachers, and so on, is that we must start by example to teach our children, pupils and teenagers the appropriate use of mobile phones, lap tops and computers. Discipline is absolutely necessary for restricting the use of these devices to the barest minimum at home and in schools so that children can emulate the good example around them. It is ridiculous that some parents, in a silly display of wealth and misplaced affection, buy phones, sometimes expensive smartphones, for their children in primary and junior secondary schools.
Even if there are good reasons for not comparing the older generation with the present one where children are growing up in the midst of electronic gadgets, it is just too early for primary and junior secondary school children to own phones. Children should be allowed to consolidate their natural capacity for non-electronic communication and interaction with others before owning phones so that as they grow older and more mature with time they would be in a better position to deal with or avoid the problems associated with regular use of mobile phones, such as making and receiving unnecessary calls and text messages, excessive exposure to health hazards in the form of radiation from the phones, and access to platforms that are inappropriate for children.
Parents have the responsibility to prevent the disease of phonemania in their children by not buying phones for them until they are eighteen years when they are likely to have the mental and emotional capacity to use them responsibly. My recommendation can be criticised for being “old school” and rigid. Nevertheless, I am convinced that allowing children to own phones before the age of eighteen is detrimental to them and should be avoided.