IN “The Two April Mornings” and its accompanying poem, “The Fountain,” a 72-year-old schoolmaster recalls his youth as an energetic man, Wordsworth recalls. Virility is canonized only when lost.
It is documented as distant narrative removes, nostalgia within memory: the first poem ends with Wordsworth recalling the schoolmaster’s memories. Masculinity is contemplated through the bleared lens of age. Apology to Paglia.
In “The Last of the Flock,” we meet a full-grown, healthy man. But he is weeping in the road. Once rich, he has sold his fifty sheep to buy food for his children. Wordsworth turns the flock’s diminishing into a litany of dwindling manhood: fifty, ten, five, three, two, one, none. The poet’s arithmetic charts the shrinking of patriarchal domain and masculinity’s supple patch. As his property shrivels to the borders of his body, the protagonist, like Odysseus or Lear, diminishes to nobody.
Are we prepared for that dreaded epoch when we may become nobodies? Are we prepared for that period when our shiny glories in the time of youth may command only terse applause and a perfunctory nod or the crisp tribute of a grudging hand clap?
Is the young public officer prepared for that epoch? Are Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Yakubu Gowon living that epoch? How does a man welcome that frightening reality outside the corridors of power, when the unforgiving measure of his deeds as a public officer and private citizen, determines the tenor of his twilight?
Forget public officers, are you, dear reader, prepared for that direful eventuality? The Wordsworthian male decline, like Sango’s domestication by Oya and Kleist’s male mastectomy in Penthesilea, is a surgical reduction of self that beggars reflection and urgent intervention among Nigeria’s male-folk.
Wordsworth empathizes with the virile male of “The Last of the Flock” because he is suffering and because his masculine identity is fast approaching the vanishing point. For Wordsworth, a man becomes greater as he becomes less. Self-sacrifice and public martyrdom canonize him in the cult of female nature.
As a man, do you attain greatness as you become less? Have you made any sacrifice worth canonization by the cult of female nature? Would your name enliven high society and suburban poetry long after you return to dust? What quality of manhood do you pose to your wife (wives) and the Nigerian female? Would you wish your kind upon your daughter as a husband?
Far from the personal, what calibre of men steer the ship of the Nigerian state? Beyond our elevated treatises, political, economic, and sociological theories, who is the Nigerian male? What’s his value to the Nigerian state?
Who are we stripped of the veneer of randomly professed spirituality, feminism, chauvinism, masculinity, masochism, intellectualism, and every other ism or schism that serves and afflicts us?
I maintain that the moral nihilism embraced by the Nigerian man would terrify shayateen. It terrified Adorno thus his contention that radical evil was possible only by the presence of sinister men and the collaboration of a timid, cowed, and confused population, a system of propaganda and mass media that offered little more than spectacle and entertainment, and an educational system that did not transmit transcendent values or nurture the capacity for individual conscience.
He feared a culture that banished the anxieties and complexities of moral choice and embraced a childish hyper-masculinity. Such hypermasculinity has its logical fruition in Boko Haram, armed banditry, herdsmen-farmers carnage, kidnap for ransom, and our lack of compassion for the homeless, the impoverished, the unemployed, and the sick. It manifests in our lack of respect for our sons, our wives, our daughters, and our persistent fear of being neutered by rebellious female spunk.
Resistance to such acts cannot take place without a degree of knowledge and self-reflection. We have to name these acts and transform moral outrage into concrete attempts to prevent such human violations from taking place in the first place, notes Giroux.
But the contemporary youth accepts the system they inherited and find a comfortable place within it, biding their time to subvert and cheat it. Thus we shut our eyes to the venomous superstructure foisted on us; fuelled by insentient politics, retained by toxic economy, all borne of savage manhood, and ‘victimized’ femaleness.
In the system that we have created, treasury looters feign sickness, a handicap, and faint outright in frantic bid to avoid public inquiry or any attempt to make them answer for their misdeeds.
Such comical jaunts have attained a pedestrian taste of the splattering kind. It’s gross buffoonery, and yet a rite of pagan worship in Nigeria’s sorely spiritualised and bigoted political space – some rogue pastor or alfa, religious and ethnic group eventually issues subtle or brazen threat to perceived detractors of their favoured son or daughter. Thus any blockhead or egghead may attain public office, loot the coffers, and collapse during a public inquiry or arrive on a stretcher. It never gets old. Its pure radical evil that eroticises the horror banished by norms.
Feminists blame the patriarchy but our problem isn’t the patriarchy but the trans-generational ideal of callousness. A matriarchy wouldn’t fare better in a society built on the belief that virility consists of the maximum capacity to circumvent and cheat the system, which has foisted upon us generations of savage men.
Savagery dominates our culture. It runs like an electric current, powering our politics, short-circuiting morals, and our comatose economy. It activates our reality television and trash-talk radio programmes while superintending a bigoted, pliant collective.
Like the feminist, I would blame it all on the man. The modern male displays an incapacity for moral choice thus retreating into an ostensibly ferocious collective that must be led and vilified. But I am no feminist yet I blame the male, in particular, for the tragic turn of the Nigerian enterprise.
Grammy award-winning artiste, James Brown, released the album in 1966, “It’s a man’s world, but not without adding “But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.”
A man must live wary of the woman and vice versa. That’s tact but to stew in such fear is to be inimical to self and society. The North American myth of the toothed genitalia gruesomely connotes such female power and male fear. Metaphorically, the female genitalia has secret teeth, for the male exits less than he entered. Yet it takes a woman to make a man.
The importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles, and their representation in government would improve governance and reduce corruption perhaps because they implement policies differently from men.
I am a man with flaws but my daughters think I am the best man in the world. That’s understandable. It will stay that way until they attain full bloom as women and start meeting other men perhaps, an epoch I ardently dread.
I hope they end up with more honourable, manly, and God-fearing men. I hope my son becomes a poster icon of humane, quintessential manhood. I hope to be that man who inspires family, friends, and the random reader, and even my most virulent antagonists to the best of manhood.
I choose to aspire as Nigeria’s finest, holding a torch for deserving women. You should too.