Some Advice For Citizens of Nigeria
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’ve never been to Nigeria, but I feel that I’ve come to know you through so many unsolicited emails from various citizens. I’ve come to hear about your government, your banking system, domesticity, family matters and many other aspects of Nigerian life. Well, I hope you don’t take offense, but it looks to me like it must really suck to be you, at least the way you operate these days.
Let’s begin with plane crashes. Don’t the airlines have any mechanics there? Airliners are sensitive beasts, and they need a little work from time to time, or the damn things will just fall out of the sky. Every week, I’m hearing from one of you that you mother, father, cousin Hakeem or beloved secret pinky pal went down in an air crash in the jungle leaving you lots of dinero. Look, a little consumer action may be appropriate here – If people quit buying tickets on Air Nigeria, maybe management will twig to the notion that folks would like a better than 50-50 shot of landing on the wheels on a runway.
And assassinations, why would any idiot take a government job there? Hey, the pay may be good and having heavily armed (and poorly trained) soldiers kiss your ass all the time is probably a rush, but if you’re gonna take a bullet in the brain guaranteed, I’d give this government service deal a little advance thought.
Also, your money management skills seem a touch primitive. Do you have full access to the internet there? Has anyone there gone to a European or American business school? You see, banking is a worldwide phenomenon. You can arrange electronic or paper transactions so the money never touches the Nigerian banks. Some places (I’m thinking Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, for example) even pretend to keep it secret. Then, you wouldn’t need my bank account information nor need to offer me 40% just to move your own money out of Nigeria.
Well, folks, it’s entirely your decision, but if it were me, I’d be beating feet outta that place. There have to be dogwork jobs on freighters, that sort of thing, and once you get to somewhere that doesn’t crash every other airplane or sell ammo only by the case, you jump ship. If you’re in Mexico then, head north, come on over to the land of opportunity and you got ‘er done.
Oh, if you’re really one of the shitheads in Milwaukee scamming, get off the computer and go get a job.
Somebody Needs to Take Care of the Cemeteries
I’m OK with my name. It’s easy to pronounce, common enough that it’s not odd, yet uncommon enough that if I call someone I know, usually “Hi, it’s Roger” is all it takes to start the conversation. I am extremely glad that my parents refrained from naming me “Somebody,” because then I would be impossibly busy.
I am reminded of that again this morning by a story in the Times-West Virginian about the Woodlawn Cemetery. This is a cemetery overlooking the downtown. It is on a lovely hill, and contains the gravesites of many prominent people from our history, as well as thousands of citizens, and it is still being used for interment.
Our culture respects the dead and their bodies. That respect includes maintaining the cemeteries in orderly and attractive condition. For the newer cemetery which is still selling lots of plots and doing lots of burials, that seems to go pretty well, since marketing the new plots, vaults, etc., requires that the grounds be beautiful. That suggests without promising that this beauty will somehow be an eternal thing. Also, when the cemetery is really active, there are immediate family members of the recently deceased who supply extra care to individual graves, extra cleaning, flags, flowers, etc.
At some point, graves become icons, curiosities or invisible. The icons, great and small, are of people that modern folk have heard of. A recent novel by Dan Simmons, Drood, was a supposed manuscript by a popular Victorian novelist, Wilkie Collins. There was a photo of his somewhat neglected, yet large and ornate gravestone. That’s the only connection we have to him, here is the spot where whatever remains of the physical body inhabited by the person known as Wilkie Collins is deposited in the ground. The logical sense escapes me, but I’m not exactly mainstream, am I?
A grave is a curiosity when the person observing it has no clue who the departed is/was, but feels something (a connection to the past? An interest in the carving?) by his/her observation. The people who do “gravestone rubbings” are in this class. That feels vaguely macabre, but I suppose it's harmless. But finally, graves will go forgotten. We rail against that and have little victories against that. My partner’s sister researched the family history to find the grave of an ancestor, and found it in the middle of a meadow, the stone laid down and nearly destroyed. She erected a new stone and fenced the grave, and thus put off the vanishing of this grave by . . . I don’t know how long. Not forever. Not even the rocks live forever. The wind will blow and the rain will fall, and there will even be what comes after what Carl Sagan called “the last perfect day.” I’ve seen estimates that for every person living today, there have been 15 others who have come and gone. That’s a lot of graves to tend. And we know that there are not that many graves.
Woodlawn Cemetery has been there for 150 years. It doesn’t have much income, so it cannot do much maintenance. It scratches for grants and such, and the State sends inmates from a nearby minimum security prison to do groundskeeping. [Whether that is a wise use of state resources is a topic for another day.] But it’s still not enough to make Woodlawn Fairmont a Forest Law Hollywood Hills. And so, voices are heard in the community, “somebody has to do something.”
“Somebody has to do something” should be printed on a banner to be carried at the head of a parade. Marching in this parade (or, more probably, riding in vehicles driven by someone else) will be the whining, the lazy, the complaining, the unimaginative, the short-sighted, the “I-got-mine” Brigade, the people who are the eternal spectators and consumers. If someone is not willing to say, who needs to do what and what will I do to help, his/her opinion really doesn’t interest me. Lacking commitment, s/he lacks the slightest credibility.
Oh, a final word about graves. Does it matter? Natural processes return flesh to basic components to be reused by the biome. “For all I’ve created returns unto me, from dust were ye made and dust ye shall be.” I am comfortable in the promises of my faith, even though some of the practitioners (many of whom believe that effectively communicating faith requires near-screaming) say that if you go for other than traditional burial, you’ll be punished or lose out in the Hereafter. So while the knowledge that in the long-away Fullness of Time, there won’t be two molecules of the physical “me” hanging together isn’t exactly cheery, I guess I can trust in God and just suck it up and move forward.
But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stick the job on Somebody.