By Dapo Akande
Thank God for cable or satellite television; depending on what you like to call it. Whenever you receive visitors at home, you’re assured the variety of global news and other assorted programs will keep them entertained for a while. At least until you’re ready to attend to them. And even as you do attend to them, it’s always there, ever ready to provide current issues for you and your guest to discuss, debate or just laugh at; especially during those awkward quiet moments.
Children of nowadays have it so easy. In our days, we the children were the entertainment; albeit reluctant ones. Much like court jesters called to amuse the King in his palace at his own expense, our parents would summon us to come and dance for their guests. One major difference however is that if the court jester failed in his unenviable task of quickly reversing the King’s mood, there’s a high chance he’ll lose his head at the gallows within the hour. He literally had to perform his duty as if his life depended on it, because it did.
We faced no such threat to our lives, only the pang of humiliation and wishing every single time that the floor would be so kind as to open up beneath us. Funny, but I don’t think I ever remembered to raise this issue before either of my parents passed. I’m sure the mere introduction of the matter would have elicited guffaws of laughter. Back then, they would call us into their midst, introduce us to their guests as their youngest kids, place the vinyl record in the player and ask us to start dancing. Just like that! Whether we were not in the best of moods, busy having fun elsewhere already or simply had no inclination to dance at that moment really didn’t concern them. Dance they say, so dance we must.
Till this day I squirm when I remember how my older brother Banky and I would step from side to side on one spot, while swinging our arms in the same fashion. Sorry, I still can’t bring myself to call it dancing. I pitied the guests who were compelled to watch because if they had been expecting some sort of Jackson 5 elaborate repertoire, they must have been horribly disappointed.
Our movements lacked no such imagination or enthusiasm so were certainly less pleasant to the eyes. But at least they always had a good laugh, even if it was always at our expense. Till date I’m a terrible dancer and I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m sure the permanent scars these episodes must have left somewhere in my psyche played a part in this. No one can convince me otherwise. Anyway, it’s a convenient excuse so let’s leave it at that. But believe me, it was tortuous.
Although the above is on a lighter note, there are times when we put our children through things which affect them for life. The intent may not be malicious but the consequences can only be described as adverse. It’s important we get to know and understand each and everyone of our children as unique individuals in themselves. And merely for the fact that they are human beings with an innate ability to reason, perceive and feel emotions, ethical consideration demands they be accorded the respect and dignity this bestows upon them. Every child is wired differently, with his own strengths and abilities, weaknesses, areas he naturally gravitates toward and others which cause him to scamper. And so when we’re making choices for them, satisfying our ego should not be our primary concern but what’s best for him or her.
Utilitarianism, a teleological ethical theory, states an action or decision would be considered morally correct only if it causes the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain, to the greatest number of people. Meaning, more people must benefit than those who lose or are disadvantaged by it. But there’s yet another theory which holds highly the autonomous will and it says, “act so that you treat humanity whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only”. The crux of this is that we should not use people.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Oladapo Akande is a Surrey University (UK) English graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. He’s an alumnus of the National Institute for Transformation and a two time author; The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. He writes from Lagos.