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Just because I’m left-handed doesn’t mean I can’t do things right

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RICHMOND, VA – OCTOBER 19: Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he campaigns for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam during a campaign event at the Greater Richmond Convention Center October 19, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. Northam is running against Republican Ed Gillespie to be the next governor of Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP


Jim Morrison said: “The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.” When we refuse to accept others the way they have been wired, we kill them subtly by trying to turn them to something else. Trying to change a ‘lefty’ to a right-handed person is a form of ‘instalmental’ death.

One of the greatest remaining mysteries of science is the brain. It has been scientifically proven that when a child is manipulated by parent, teachers, care-givers or societal perception to swop from using left-hand to the right hand, it can affect the brain and can lead to clumsiness, low self-esteem, withdrawal issues and identity crisis.

Being left-handed is indestructible, and we must help children to find, discover and express themselves, instead of trying to change them.Prudence Kohl said: “The search for self-worth begins by finding what is indestructible inside, then letting it be.”

Guess what all these men have in common- Aristotle; Alexander the Great; Julius Caesar; Napoléon Bonaparte; Henry Ford; Michelangelo; Leonardo da Vinci; Charlie Chaplin; Albert Einstein; Isaac Newton; Bill Clinton; Barack Obama; Bill Gates; Phil Collins; Steve Jobs; Mark Zuckerberg; Amitabh Bachchan; Whoopie Goldberg; Angelina Jolie; Celine Dion; Justin Bieber; Tom Cruise; Julia Roberts; Sylvester Stallone; Bruce Willis; Oprah Winfrey; Rafael Nadal; Pelé and Diego Maradona. They are all left-handed.

Some people are just wired differently and this unique design is actually sacrosanct to unlocking their genius, ingenuity and awesomeness.August 13 of every year is the International Left-Handers Day, a day to celebrate being left-handed, share the struggle of left-handed people in a right-handed world and also raise awareness of the frustrations of using right-handed equipment.

Back here in Nigeria, Funke Akindele; Desmond Elliot; Babatunde Fashola; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Adesua Etomi; Segun Arinze; Teco Benson; Emeka Ike and Toolz are all left-handed and are making waves in the entertainment and political terrain.We are living in a world that is, by omission, designed for right-handed people. The case is further worsened by cultural and traditional perspectives, nourished by many years of unenlightened mindsets.

From scissors, class desks, car steering, musical instruments, cutlery, golf sticks, games, game pads, mobile phones, keyboards, mouse, remote controls to door knobs, it has become so obvious that the world is right-handed biased.

Even the design of ATM (Automated Teller Machine) and the calendar is right-handed. Just because some people are left-handed doesn’t mean they should be left out.Things have just become so difficult for left-handers living in a right-handed world, but the object of my piece is not totally on how left-handed people have been left out in the design of the world, as most of them are constantly adjusting to these inherent demeanors, but the one that is psychologically damaging is the fact that some people see them as a misfit.

The struggle is real. Statistics has it that 2,500 left-handers die yearly using products designed for right-handed people.Do you know what left-handers go through, just to use a pair of scissors? Do you know what they go through in class settings, just because the desk cover is not positioned on their left? Do you know how uncomfortable it is for them to use the conventional mouse and keyboard? Do you even fathom the difficulty they go through, just to knit? I bet you don’t know these, probably because you are right-handed.

Some traditions and cultures have long contributed to the perpetuation of the stigmatisation of left-handed people.The word ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin for left-handed. The German, Sanskrit and Estonian words for “left” also mean “clumsy,” “wicked,” and “worse,” respectively.

In Africa, there are many derogatory remarks for left-handed people. We need to correct the wrong notion that left-handedness is an anomaly, because it is not a bad omen; it is simply being unique.I come from a part of Africa where culture and tradition place a demeaning tag on the left-hand. In fact, left-handed people are seen as a mistake of nature. There is even a Nigerian proverb that says: “It is a bastard (illegitimate child) that uses the left hand to describe the house of his father.”

I grew up looking pitiably at how our culture and tradition continuously made left-handers look like scums. In fact, some people believe they were created on days when God wasn’t in the right mood.I remember vividly how out-of-the-world, my colleagues in class felt when they had to restrain themselves to raise up their hands in classes, simply because the teachers term it as a sign of disrespect.We were made to believe that there is something inherently wrong with using the left hand to perform ‘sacred’ tasks. We were battered psychologically that the left hand is inferior.

There are many African traditions and cultures that believe that a left-handed wife is a bad omen and a vessel of misfortune to the family. In fact, an African culture believes that people that shake hands with their left don’t wish their acquaintances well. There are even some people that see left-handedness as a form of disability or aberration.The social bullying and abuse is just too much for left-handers to cope with. They may have adjusted to the inherent flaws of living in a right-handed world, but must they also be the object of our derision and abuse?

When we tamper with the way people are designed and wired, we ultimately set them on the journey of identity crisis.Francois de La Rochefoucauld said: “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.”

In one of my surveys and chats with left-handers, someone emphasised how he always looked uninvited in conferences, as the writing desks attached to conference chairs are always to the right-hand side. He joked on how he often accidentally drinks someone else’s drink, an occurrence that has become a constant form of embarrassment to him.Most times, people who use their left hand have been placed at the end of the table, because ‘lefties’ would always knock elbows with any right-handed individual they are sitting next to.

In an essay competition I sponsored for some left-handed people, tagged ‘hidden struggles as a left-hander,’ I read them all with deep admiration, as it became even clearer that there are hidden struggles that left-handers go through daily. Despite all these, they have come a long way to rise above them all.Some researches have shown that left-handers are more creative and intelligent than their right-handed counterparts. Left-handed people are unique; they are special and there are plenty of positive things about them.

Left-handed people mostly use the right side of the brain, which controls creativity, imagination, intuition, insight, holistic thought and art awareness.I want to say to parents, guardians and teachers that to love someone is to give him or her the freedom to be him or herself. The greatest platform you can ever give to others is to make them be themselves. You are abusing children when you force them to abandon the use of their left hand.

Parents and teachers should help left-handed children build their self-esteem by letting them know that they are awesome the way they are.Finally, to all left-handers all over the world, resist vehemently, the attempt by society or people to force or manipulate you to abandon the use of your left-hand. Rita Mae Brown said: “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you, except yourself.”

Celebrate your uniqueness, as the easiest way to destroy your uniqueness is not to celebrate it. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are; you are amazing, just the way you are.Frederick Douglass said: “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false and to incur my own abhorrence.”Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth. Stick to your peculiarity and uniqueness; it is your winning edge. The more you try to be like someone else, the less visible you become.Kurt Cobain, a left-hander, once said: “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.”Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.


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