Growing up we were given insights into the supernatural powers of the right hand, left hand and more. Every thought had an astral weight and the words that come out of our mouth could transform matter. I could inject life into the non-biological by simply praying, worshiping and serving it and in return, the new deity gives me direction. If I poured enough libations to a tree I could animate it, bringing life and its commandments to my life.
The paranormal was always at a corner and few things had natural repercussions. Bumping on a stone while going to collect a debt or fulfill a task was considered bad luck and the wise man is obliged to discontinue from that journey or face rejection, misfortune or both. Wearing clothing inside out, unknowingly, while sweeping in the morning was a sign that a visitor was on the way.
Once a naked mother cursed a child the child is doomed and no form of magic under the earth can break the spell. If my legs are extended and stretched out and you cross over them you have to cross over them again from the other end to avoid making me a victim of the anger of the Gods. An unrecognizable or strange voice calls you at night and you answer, for your safety, to cancel out this call of the void, you would need to ask your siblings or anyone around to call your name and your response destroys the bad omen. Or better still, rather than answering directly at night you respond with, ‘is that me’?
There were many traditions and habits with the aim to avoid evil and lead a better life. There was so much evil in the world, we were taught, and working with the common knowledge wasn’t all that bad. The intentions of our elders were pure even though many of the practices were made up of bullshit. Because belief in the mind and spirit was made prominent, it was easy to fall prey to ideas that ‘seemed’ logical. Because there were many right-handed people around, our cultures and traditions relegated the left hand.
The Left Hand has been called satanic, devilish, etc. It has been treated as a slave child who worked so hard for the betterment of the family but was still treated like the slave he is. The Left Hand is bad and demonic and if your toddler tries to use it, it must be stopped either by any means. You will be doing the child a favour by doing that and only a parent with bad parenting skills will watch their children use the left hand.
In the Igbo language for example, while the right hand is transliterated ‘Eating Hand’ Aka Nri, the left hand means ‘Lepers Hand’ Aka Ekpe. In essence, like the beggars around, the Left Hand is only allowed usefulness when the Right Hand is leprous. It is commonsense to these folks that the rights to use the Left Hand should only suffice when the Right Hand or the ‘good hand’ can no longer function. This is another dysfunctional teaching in our stable of myths.
About three weeks ago I witnessed a similar scene play out in a University shuttle. A freshman dropped and handed the older driver some Naira notes with his Left Hand and for a while, it seemed the world paused. If eyes could kill, the gaze he gave the boy would have sent him to the cemetery. He hissed and in unison, another older man at the back screamed at the frightened freshman who transferred the money to his Right Hand and handed it to the cussing driver.
The men were angry as the shuttle moved away and as though the curses were not enough, they cussed the boy and accused him of disrespect. What disrespect? The moment I discovered what was happening I interjected. Considering the state of Nigeria, it is difficult for many of the young ones to be at peace with her elders. They are proof that old age doesn’t make you better but only offers you the opportunity to be better.
First, we argued about the boy’s rights. He (the driver) had no right to do that and his insistence on the boy using the right hand had no basis in law or the transport company’s agreement but as usual with elderly Nigerians, he picked offense. I shouldn’t even be arguing with him in the first because he is an old man and by default, he knows better. I am rude and my generation has messed everything up!
He said it was not a good omen to give with the Left Hand to which I asked why and he had nothing but the typical Nigerian rant of how the aged know better. He is not alone. There are many like him both young and old doing things without basis or reason. The greatest achievement in the brainwashing program happens when the brainwashed begin to defend and brainwash others. Have you ever bothered to ask what is wrong with the Left Hand?
We often claim to be civilized but a simple look at the habits we promote will throw our civilization to the gutters. There is nothing wrong with using the Left Hand. The Left Hand is just a hand and its performance, just like that of the right, is dependent upon training and experience. Will you object if you are in a ditch and I give my left hand? If I were to hand you a briefcase full of cash with my Left Hand will you reject?
If you are slapped with a Left Hand is it not considered a slap? Why do you drive with the Left Hand? Why do you try to balance with the Left Hand when you slip? Are you sick in the head or you are sick in the head? That may not apt as the defenders of the tradition could use the survival argument. Because the propagation of human existence is the forte, lying to a terrorist about your faith does not justify the position of the terrorist. I understand. But what exactly is wrong? Can anyone tell me? Who started this nonsense?
Societies have lived on preceding traditions. Our fathers did this but today even though we don’t know why our fathers did it we still have to do it to respect our culture. To begin with, is it really our culture? Should culture be dynamic or static and what exactly should it be based upon? What are the inspirations for our cultures? Our story is like the story of the monkeys in the cage.
In the first instance, a monkey tried to escape the cage and a bucket of water was poured on it and the other monkeys in the pit. The second time he tried the same thing happened and when he tried the third time, fellow monkeys in the cage beat him to stupor. Nobody ever tried to escape. New monkeys come and go and as each one comes in he is told the norm as regards escape and he stays put.
Gradually, the older monkeys died and the new monkeys who assimilated the wisdom of the old ones didn’t attempt to escape the cage and so on and so forth. We copied traditions without basis but no attempt should be made by anyone to trench it. We just ‘know’ that it is wrong but how we got the information is pointless. The religious holy books also help to foster these points even if used metaphorically.
The good ones will sit at the right hand of God but what about his Left Hand? Even though this is interpreted as a metaphor it is a stereotypic metaphor. It tries to achieve what the White God and Dark Satan metaphors try to achieve. White and black are just colours but the biblical use of these terms has plagued many black people with bitter memories and shaped their lives negatively. Children who use the Left Hand are tortured by their parents and they pass through subtle segregation in our society.
What if Leo Messi’s parent had forced him to be right? What if the parents of Raphael Nadal tied his Left Hand as some parents here would do to force the child to use right? Maybe these are stretches (and not strong arguments) but can anything be wrong with giving the human being a less traumatic childhood? It will be wicked to know the right thing as a parent but still suffer a child with the wrong information. If the goal is to make life better and propagate healthy living, why make a few years in the child’s life terrible?
Some cultures and habits are hard to die because of how far we are in the delusion game. After repetitions, things get stuck and it will take a reverse repetition for it to be unstuck. You need to consistently pull the nail with your claw hammer to free it from the wood. Like Steve Jobs said, sometimes you need to go backward to move forward. These cultures without basis have deeply hurt us and I don’t see why anyone will enjoy the company of that which hurts them. What exactly is the sin of the left hand in Africa?