By Morak Babajide-Alabi
“We are in the end times,” my friend screamed down the end of the phone. I was alarmed by his tone and the fact that he could not offer a simple “hello” when I connected to him. He is not one to forget his manners, and this made me wonder what could have provoked his outburst. Here is a guy who always loves to make a point of the fact that he minds his own business. Therefore, I steeled my mind towards any contrary news he may break to me.
Adam (not his real name) is a gregarious guy. He works in the city and always on the go with little or no time for chit chats. He calls when he has something really important on his chest and seeking whom to unburden it on. Although I must say that of late I discovered I am bit concerned with Adam’s extensive conversations that sometimes border on irrelevancies. All the same, he is that friend that nevertheless manages to bring smiles to your face when you see the Caller ID.
Most times, you get the hint of what the conversation would be like, from his “hello”. But on this occasion, he didn’t give me much room to guess. His breathing was laborious, and I could feel he was visibly troubled about something. This is the opposite of the always upbeat friend. This time, he was repeatedly “kissing his teeth” in an apparent bid to suppress his rage. I was concerned for him now and out of nowhere the thoughts of him having an episode of mental depression ran through my mind.
No, this could not be. Mental depression? Not for this friend that I have known for so many years. I thrust the thought aside as I shouted “hello” to the phone. I was frightened and at the same time, I questioned why mental depression was the first thought on my mind. I tried justifying this by his unusual introduction and the fact that he had not said anything afterwards.
“We are in the end times,” he repeated in a distinct emotionless tone. At this point, the training notes of the Mental Health Awareness Course I attended recently flashed through my head. I pressed the phone harder against my ear as I recalled the five main signs of mental illness as taught by the trainer. Momentarily, my notes at the course ran through my mind as I listened more intently for any warning signs in my friend.
If you had undertaken the Mental Awareness Course, you would have certainly reasoned the way I did. Until recently, my idea of mental illness was different. But I have come to learn it is far beyond the African idea that “it is when a man goes naked in the market place” that he becomes a certified mental case. I have realised that every human being is delicate and should be treated as such. Many of us smile, laugh and seem jolly every second of the day, but the fact is that we mask our real selves. Some of us are burdened with depression that it requires just a little flip or an event to happen and we will completely lose it.
The events in the world in recent times also call to question the mental state of everyone, especially our political leaders. The examples are too numerous, and it will be an arduous task trying to catalogue them here. The decisions and utterances of some of these political actors are, to say the least, disturbing.
“Are you still there?” Adam asked. I sighed and replied “yes” waiting for the bad news. Instead, he “kissed his teeth” again and said “the world is coming to an end soon. I cannot believe all these events in every corner of the world in the past three weeks.” At this stage, I did not know if I should cry out, smile or jump for joy. I was, nonetheless, relieved in a bizarre way that my friend was only upset with the whole world and not that tragedy had struck him. Or that he has lost it to depression.
“Please tell me what has gone wrong with the world,” he said emphatically. It is not an indirect question; it is a straight statement that requires a response. But who am I to answer for the various misdeeds of the world? And what gave him the idea that I have the solutions to the numerous wrongs of the world? Many things are going on in the world now that defies logic. I am in no place to explain any of these mind-boggling events. It is simply that the world has lost its touch of humanity.
From one end of the world to the other, from the farthest continent to the nearest, the happenings are all on mega-scale. Take for example, while we thought we had witnessed the drama of BREXIT in the United Kingdom and the European Union, we were lately nudged into reality. The process has been in cycles with no light at the end of the tunnel. It is as if the country is cursed with this BREXIT which has claimed the premiership of two Conservative leaders, David Cameron and Theresa May. The citizens are at a loss of what is happening.
Ironically, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister managed to secure a not very impressive deal with the EU last week. It has been described as a revised copy of the thrice-rejected May’s exit deal. While Nigel Farage, the leader of the BREXIT Party, could not conceal his disappointment at the latest deal. He said: “This deal, if it is to pass, will not get BREXIT done.” No one is completely clear of the way out of this self-inflicted wound.
The Americans are not better off. The threat of impeachment hanging over President Donald Trump has further polarised a divided country. The President was alleged to have put pressure on the youthful Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden – a contender for the 2020 Election. A whistle-blower had exposed the undercutting business of the President as he held on to US aids to the Ukrainians in a bid for them to do his bidding. As was common, the Democrats were quick to pick on this and have started an impeachment process.
“The world does not revolve around the US and the UK only, my friend,” Adam bellowed down the phone. I did not know Adam had added mind reading to his enormously impressive credentials. “What is going on in the Northern part of Syria calls for condemnation by every sensible individual in the world,” he continued. I couldn’t agree more with him. For the past one week, terror has been unleashed on inhabitants of the Kurdish-held areas of Syria.
The abrupt withdrawal of American troops in the region provided Turkey with the green light to carry out its fatal assault on innocent people. Adam seemed more disappointed with the fact that the Kurds who had been key allies of the US in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) had been sacrificed on two fronts. They are Trump’s unorthodox politics and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s murderous hatred of the Kurds.
Adam continued: “The recent developments show the deterioration of moral values by some leaders in power.“ He was on the money by his evaluation. These leaders have lost their moral bearings and are behaving like people who need psychiatry evaluation. I sighed as I realised it was just the start of the conversation.
Thanks to Adam for conveying this to my consciousness.
As written for the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard, October 20, 2019.