Straws on the Camel’s Back: Part 1
The people outside my window unsettle me. Their sun-scorched skin and pleading eyes proclaim the unworthiness of my own birth. Hawkers and beggars, my age and much younger, look through the separation of the car window with an aura of hope hanging heavily on them that I will consider their lives and alleviate their hunger.
Since my return home, I have felt the plight of poverty more deeply than ever before. In the West, well in the UK, poverty is not so obvious in its physical form. Desolation is well hidden within council buildings, welfare benefits and soup kitchens. Even the British homeless are healthy well-to-do people compared to the ragged hungry I see here in Lagos. And they go largely unnoticed in the heated chaos of the city. No one else seems to mind. No one else seems to notice their suffering. It is all normal life to them. Nigeria suffers from a severe desensitisation to suffering.
Where is the compassion? Among a people that profess so much religion, poverty’s grip still strangles many. Souls are littered on the streets gasping for air. With their suffocated breaths they call out in faint raspy voices for what little help anyone is reluctantly willing to offer. Their voices are largely unheard and suffering takes hold of their minds.
It is painful for me to watch my people bathe in poverty. People that could easily have been me if not for the cold decisions of fate. Life saw fit to birth me into affluence. It set me on a path of abundant nourishment, a steady luxurious roof sheltering me from tropical storms, strong brick walls providing refuge from the dangers that roam at night, a world-class education and countless other unjust blessings. All the while, others are perishing, struggling for their next meal and being terrorised by the authorities that should be protecting them. These people hunt me.
I do what little I can do. Sharing small change, giving a little food and clothes; but what am I, one unemployed person, in a multitude of 170 million? I can affect one or two people’s lives a day but regardless of how much I do, I am not enough. The Nigerian attitude towards life and humanity is diseased. There is no value for life, absolutely no appreciation for the human soul.
The fact that suffering is ignored. This is a straw on the camel’s back.