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3 stories and a new proverb

By Kole Omotoso
01 November 2020   |   3:38 am
Once upon a recent time, the chairman of an African airline complained that a particular route was not profitable. She had observed that the Johannesburg to Mumbai back to Johannesburg route was, in fact, very profitable.

Once upon a recent time, the chairman of an African airline complained that a particular route was not profitable. She had observed that the Johannesburg to Mumbai back to Johannesburg route was, in fact, very profitable. But something in her made her say that it was not profitable. That something made her offer to share the route with a foreign private airline. As time went on, she succumbed to that something and she agreed to pass on the route to the foreign private airline whose directors went smiling to the bank.

At the same time, the domestic airline began to weep because it was not making money. The chairman was asked why the airline was not making money and it was weeping, saying that it was not making money. She said she did not know, that something told her she should not tell the truth, say it as it is. She told the something to shut up and not dictate to her how to tell the story of her successes for which she was being paid enormous bonuses.

There was the proposed alliance with a Middle East airline to share routes and data from which the domestic airline would have earned billions. She said she had no memory of such a possible arrangement. She remembered that some foreign enemies wanted to steal our data. What about…? What route are you talking about?
Everybody shut up. The directors of the company resigned because they did not want their names associated with corruption. But the domestic airline remains comatose, weeping.

What is this something that makes us abuse ourselves to the delight of our detractors?
Once upon another time again, a group of foreign brothers with the help of the prince suggested that we set up a cattle farm to the benefit of cattle farmers. It was a classic example of using Abu’s money to entertain Abu. Or maybe, not really, but yes, to some extent. Maybe you will see what I mean. The participating cattle farmers contributed their widow’s mite. But our government contributed their widow’s mightiest. But the money was given to the brothers who happened to be looking for money for the wedding of their niece together with money to fuel the private plane that would jet the guests from India to Africa. And back from Africa to India. So, the money from the cattle farm came on time, along with the contributions of the poor cattle farmer. Although the wedding party took place in Africa, the brothers said they did not want any kaffirs to serve at table at the wedding feast.

From Russia with Nuclear can be the title of this third once upon a presidential time. Our Numero Uno was allegedly poisoned by his wife, Numero Don’t Know and, he jetted to Russia from Africa to seek the cure to the African poison.

While he was still under Anastasia, not knowing if he was there or back here, the local president came to say hello get well quick because we have work to do. The future is nuclear is the future. Just sign this. That something directed his hands and he signed the binding agreement that the future is nuclear is the future!

Back home our Numero Uno insisted that the future is you know the rest. Unlike the directors of our airline, these directors did not resign. They fought back. They insisted that the country did not have the money to buy into that slogan and anyway, there were now cheaper means of creating power for sufficient electricity for all. There was nothing Numero Uno could say or do, along with his brothers-anointed ministers. No nuclear in our time nuclear no!

How are proverbs created? Who creates proverbs? Where do proverbs get sanctified?
The Egyptian lecturer was getting into trouble arguing with a cocksure undergrad who insisted that proverbs come, into the world, with their names, as proverbs. Like twins come in with their names and the names of the children who follow them.

The rest of the class kept quiet. Some students, who had better things to do with their time, walked out and went to the student union building to have a drink. Why spend time listening to two people who have publicly declared that they have no problem arguing with fools. In fact, they said that it was a thing of joy for them to argue with fools.

A proverb is a short saying that offers advice or states a truth and that educates. Every culture has proverbs and it can be fun to compare proverbs from one culture to another. That way we learn the values that cultures share.

Proverbs emanate from the knowledge and fear of the deity. We get to know proverbs from literature, from history and from famous people like philosophers and old people. But because proverbs first circulate anonymously in the colloquial language, it is found in the mouths of grand parents and elderly people. Sometimes though one wonders whether it was elders or grand parents who created the proverb “it is not the man who is hit who takes the number of the vehicle that hit her.” After all proverbs come from lived experience, right?

In terms of our three stories we could begin with the proverb that says “Complaining is the weak man’s weapon.” Which means that we tend to make weak people our leaders and when they complain about the work they are asked to do we are not bold enough to sack them.

The second proverb that relates to our stories is “The fruit of timidity is neither gain, nor loss.” This means that if we do not stand for what we believe in, nothing will change. Things will remain the same.

The last relevant proverb is the one, which says: “The chameleon changes colors to match the earth. The earth doesn’t change colors to match the chameleon.” Two of the proverbs are advice extracted from experience while the third is, in fact, earth truths extracted from observation like the truth that rain falls cold. Or water has no enemy.

What is the thing that drives us to hurt ourselves for the benefit of our detractors? Timidity is its name. We are timid to go back on an agreement that does not favour us. Our leaders are timid to defend us against their strong friends.

And the new proverb? There is nothing new under the sun. Don’t complain. Stand up for what you believe. And change begins with three persons in one – me, myself and I.

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