Ala Carte

Someone shared a Facebook post on ancestral curses and a comment on his post left me shocked and sad. The man who made the comment firmly believed in the existence of ancestral curses and said it had been occurring in his family until he took measures to end it.

It ended in praise for him, as he married in his early 30s unlike his father who got married at his late 30s. He has several degrees unlike his father who did not go to school. To put it in Christianese – the violent had taken his possession by force.

 

I read the comment several times and wondered how he did not see the crux of the matter, ancestral curse or not – he would still have a better life than his father because he had better tools for navigating life than his father was given.

 

For Millennials and Generation Z, it might be hard to imagine just how hard it was for the baby boomer generation especially, and Generation X to a smaller degree, to access higher education. Before the advent of free/subsidized education, going to school was an impossible dream for many as they had to go into trade/vocational careers to make a life for themselves and their dependent loved ones.

 

Most of the educated ones were only fortunate to go to school via scholarships & community efforts. My own great-grandfather gave up a prime piece of land to the missionaries for the education of his most brilliant son, I still have mixed feelings when I pass that land for several reasons.

 

I wonder how this young man couldn’t see that his life wouldn’t have been any different if he had been born in his father’s time and his parents hadn’t been willing or even more importantly – able to make sacrifices for him to achieve his current status of being self-employed and running a thriving business. He is so very blind to his privilege.

 

I grew up in a part of Lawanson that was notorious for producing young people who ‘settled’, the girls would get pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday and the boys… the boys! Let me not say anything. While there are many who grew up in that area who have made something of themselves, many more are still stuck in the same rut, unable to escape the circle of poverty they were born into. Having children who would only rinse and repeat the process.

 

It would be easy for someone to walk into that area and say there’s a god or spirit that is swallowing the ‘good luck’ of the inhabitants, that the stars/destinies of the people were being covered by this malevolent being. But how can these people prosper when the tools for reaching for a better life are mostly unavailable?

 

The person who brings up the destiny covering theory will be given more audience than anyone who is talking about building cooperatives and lifting everyone out of poverty. Because we are a people who are unwilling to take responsibility for our destinies and the outcomes of our actions. Because it is easier to blame long dead ancestors and sleeping gods.

 

A few years ago, someone told me “the problems of Nigeria began in 1977 when all the gods in Africa were brought to Nigeria in the name of festival of arts and culture.” We spent the next two hours or so looking up Nigerian economic policies over the years and the effects of our proliferate spending and looting.

 

I also asked him why the UK and Germany were still progressing even after partaking in two major wars with each war lasting longer than the Nigerian Civil War.

 

After all, they are major holders of Benin art after the punitive expedition of 1897 stripped the palace and carried sacred artefacts those countries. He mumbled something about the efficacy of ‘jazz’ being killed once it crosses the ocean. And then he laughed at his theory.

 

A Twist in The Tale is one of my favourite books, it is a collection of short stories by my personal Hero – Jeffrey Archer. I first read it more than twenty years ago and my favourite story until a few years ago was Clean Sweep Ignatius. This story is about a Nigerian Minister of Finance who was very allergic to corruption, it’s an amazing story – you should read it.

 

Another story in that collection always makes me laugh each time I read it, even though I have read it nearly a hundred times. This story was about a young man who finished his A-levels and wanted to work in the same car assembly plant his father was working at. The title of the story is Ala Carte.

 

But his father had big dreams for him, he sacrificed plenty to get him into good schools and to get good grades to give him an edge in getting a successful career. His father ‘forced’ him into working at a hotel and he eventually got a role in the kitchen and rose to become one of the best chefs in the world. He started a group of restaurants which all won Michelin stars.

 

If his father hadn’t intervened, he would have joined his father at the factory. His own son too might have joined him at the factory and then his grandson would meet him at the same job. And that’s how ‘generational curses’ start.

 

 

I will quote my favourite part of the story below. In many ways, it is true for me too.

 

“Under the influence of the finest wine, Arthur was soon chatting happily to anyone who would listen and couldn’t resist reminding the head waiter that it was his son who owned the restaurant.

Don’t be silly, Arthur,” said his wife. “He already knows that.”

Nice couple, your parents,” the head waiter confided to his boss after he had served them with their coffee and supplied Arthur with a cigar.

 “What did your old man do before he retired? Banker, lawyer, schoolmaster?”

 “Oh no, nothing like that,” said Mark quietly. “He spent the whole of his working life putting wheels on cars.”

 “But why would he waste his time doing that?” asked the waiter incredulously.

Because he wasn’t lucky enough to have a father like mine,” Mark replied.”

 

I wanted to send a copy of the book to the young man and tell him to read that story seven times. But I decided not to bother because he still wouldn’t get it; the fucking point would still sail over his big head.

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