Dehumanising our humanity By Hannatu Musawa

I have watched many crime shows and horror movies, mostly because I struggle to understand what could possibly possess someone to commit atrocities against another human being. The trail of death and violence that has characterised several communities in the north is so shockingly unimaginable one is almost lost for thought when trying to contemplate what could possibly be running through the minds of people who decide to slaughter others so brazenly.

The memorials of the slain that now sully several Northern towns and villages provide only small glimpses into the collective insanity that has gripped the society. It deeply saddens one to think of the horror and pain the victims and the families of these spates of violence have gone through. As for the people who can easily take another’s life, and be so pompous to think that that life had no value or light in this world, and that their existence was worth destroying are an abomination of our species.

From murder of sleeping families in their homes, to bombing parishioners, to reprisal mass extermination of innocent people, to eating the flesh of those murdered, to extrajudicial slaughter, to decapitation, it is almost impossible to imagine how so many Nigerians could have turned into coldblooded butchers. There is no doubt that a fragment of our society has completely lost its humanity. That loss happened the moment we stopped fighting for each other and started fighting with each other. And within that fight, came the madness that we see unfolding before our very eyes.

For how much longer are we supposed to take this violence that has submerged our society? How long can we take the things that we are not supposed to take? Nigeria today has become like the body of a chronic substance abuser. The body is not naturally made or prepared to take any external, toxic substances. It is not natural and is against natural justice. And as the substances and drugs continue to be forced into the body; that body will eventually stop to function properly and the mind will give way to madness. Sooner or later what the body would be left with will be the shadow of a junkie; a mad man aimlessly roaming shoddily on a winding road to nowhere.

Yes, our reality is as simple as that! You see, the simplicity of madness is this; There is good in the world and there is evil. There is light and there is darkness. There is hope and there is despair. And we all get to decide where to stand. The barbarians within us that tread the road of malevolence and wickedness choose to stand on the side of evil, darkness and despair. They choose to slaughter and main other people’s children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers despite the fact that they have children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers of their own that they wish to keep safe. They choose to indict reasonable minded, objective and innocent people in the community because of the association of guilt that Nigerian ignorance attaches to tribe, ethnicity and religion. The barbarians chose the dark side and as a result dehumanize our humanity.

From neighbourhood communities, to social networks, to communal gathering, our lives have become ravaged by crimes against humanity, overtaken by fighting against the evil chain of hatred. We don’t all have to stand exactly the same. We can stand in different ways, with varying opinions. But we should stand against the hatred that is ripping our societies apart. At this point, Nigerians no longer have a choice but to take that stance so we can show the barbarians within us where the majority of us stand.

Even for those who do not ascribe themselves to the violence enacted against fellow Nigerians, as long as they are part of keeping the chain of hatred strong, then they are part of the problem, because hatred is where it all starts. In the movie ‘Star-Wars’, one of the characters, Yoda, in advising his pupil against fear, anger and hatred said, “Fear leads to anger, Anger leads to hate, Hate leads to Suffering”.  He was correct because when one has fear, there’s the instinct of fight or flight. When they choose to fight, it manifests itself in a form of anger; Anger then leads to hate in some form. Hate turns to suffering very quickly and when one has all these emotions running high, they suffer or strive to make someone else suffer. Hating one thing could easily turn into hating many other things and that’s the vicious circle within which the barbarians within our society exist. That’s the vicious circle that those within us will find ourselves as long as we continue to nurse hatred against each other. So long as we have a desire to salvage what little strain of humanity we have left, the choice of the overwhelming majority must be one where we break the hatred chain and stand together against the dehumanisation of our humanity.

Every day we speak about the lack of justice in Nigeria, breach of rights, corruption, rigged elections and the cost of living. But how can we even talk about rights, democracy, politics, aesthetics and philosophy when we are murdering our neighbour’s children and training our children to kill our neighbours? The hatred we preach and the violence under any circumstances is unjustified and impure. It reduces us to something less than human; puts us on a slippery slope to the pit of destruction and damnation. More worrying is the lingering effect that the present activities will have on the next generation who will invariably be the product of a civilization which produced and dwelled in violence, hatred and destruction. That generation will be moulded with a consciousness of partial rationality and twisted moralities.

What is happening today in Nigeria is indicative of the fact that we have lost control of our lives and we have traded on the road of self-destruction. As the cost of living in Nigeria continues to rise to something that is beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerian, the cost of life plummets to absolutely nothing. The mass death of our neighbours and kin is now such a daily occurrence; it has become the natural order of our present existence. And as the insane and barbaric murderers continue to be guilty of mass murder, let the rest of us not be guilty of murdering rationality, liberty, equality, morality, natural justice, understanding and purpose. We must give way for our conscience and mortality to get back that purpose of humanity that we were all created with.

Our children are yearning for peace, looking for peace, and are in desperate need of peace. Yet, we cannot have peace while our communities are in pieces, shattered and battered. The violence has got to stop! It is totally unacceptable, it is an obscenity and completely out of order. It has become the grave evil of our time and all good people in Nigeria have a duty to be rational, understand and work together in order to eradicate it. No matter what one community has done to another, there can be no justification for violence in any form. Responsible and respectful communities handle their disagreements with understanding and patience, not rage and violence and that is what we have to strive to get back to.

The leaders in the affected communities and the government have to provide a common ground where all identifiable factions of any communal clash can share their opinions and needs in a civil exchange that can ultimately lead to an acceptable outcome for all. At the very least, the communities involved should keep in mind that compromise and understanding is necessary to make their community a place worth living in.

I have watched the scariest and goriest horror movies imaginable and I still don’t have an understanding as to what could possibly possess one human being to commit terrible atrocities against another human being. And even though many of us will never be able to understand the way the deformed mind of murdering barbarians operate; we each have a duty not to allow ourselves to be part of the vicious circle that leads to the dehumanisation of our humanity.

Ms Musawa a Nigerian lawyer was trained and lives in the UK. You can follow her on Twitter- @hanneymusawa



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