Thursday, July 12, 2007

On marriage, family and compromise

The word on everyone’s lips in London this week is marriage. The Conservatives are going to change the tax system in order to give every married couple with children what amounts to twenty pounds a week in order to encourage people to get married and stay married. They are incensed that the current system seems to privilege single parents over married couples. Listening to the debate swirling- and Gordon Brown made quite a good fist of it, using the examples of widows or women abandoned by their husbands as examples; I wondered why it had to be one or the other. Can we not just work to ensure that every child in the UK gets the support they need from the state whether they come from single, double, triple, quadruple or zero parent families? I suppose that’s me seeking the middle ground again….

On the subject of compromise, I’ve often wondered if Hillary and Obama could run on the same ticket- that would surely be an unbeatable combination and ensure a Democrat in the White House in 2008….is it too far fetched a proposition?

Still on the subject of the middle ground, Nigerians had brash, vulgar Obasanjo as President for 8 years and we all vilified him for his bull-in-a china shop, talk before you think ways; now we seem to have a more thoughtful, measured president in Yar’adua and we are already dubbing him GO SLOW UMORU…a beg my brothers and sisters, can we hold fire a while? I hope I do not eventually have to eat my words…

It’s summer and the avalanche of friends and relatives from Nigeria and the US begins- my phone is constantly ringing- an aunt there, an old classmate here, some cousins elsewhere. I can see that the next few weeks will be very busy- what with picking people from Heathrow and trying to follow badly given directions all over in London in the spirit of family and friendship….

On the subject of family, I had a call from a friend in Nigeria last week. I'd heard that his father had died a few week before but had struggled with whether to call or not knowing that their relationship was virtually non-existent- him having more or less abandoned my friend, his siblings and their mother many many years ago. When my friend called last week, he was indignant " You no hear say my Papa die? Na wa for you O! Which kind friend you be?" I apologized and promised to send a little something to help with the funeral expenses as I was obviously not going to be able to attend the funeral. Apparently the siblings are all rallying round to give him a "befitting" burial. I bit my tongue to stop myself from asking my friend why he was putting himself to all that trouble after everything the man had put them through. But I refrained. I guess the Nigerian position is that your father is your father but I'm afraid I struggled in this case....

I’m reading Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind, which is philosopher Julian Baggini’s attempt to identify a national English philosophy. He does this by going to live in Rotherham, identified by a market survey company as most typical of the national population profile. I’m enjoying it even if I quibble with some of his conclusions….

On Sunday I was able to pick up Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House and a signed copy of Biyi Bandele’s Burma Boy at the South Bank Centre even though I missed the reading proper- but that’s a whole other story. I loved Biyi’s The Street which captured the sights and sounds (apologies to CNN) of Brixton and am looking forward to getting my teeth into his fictionalized account of a Nigerian soldier serving in Burma...

Finally, it was good to see Monica Arac de Nyeko win the Caine Prize. I met her briefly once a few years ago and there was something about her quietly unpretentious, sedate but mischievious ways that I liked. The humour in her "brave" story The Jambula Tree about the relationship between two young girls in Uganda underlines that. That said, mark my words, we'll be hearing more from the Nigerians on the list- Uwem Akpan, Ada Udechukwu and EC Osondu

14 comments:

catwalq said...

I cannot comment on the London marriage issue cos I have no experience with what you are talking about. Right now, to be honest, I am not in the mood to talk about marriage...

About your friend and his father. I need someone to explain to me how in death, a person's actions are erased. Imagine a man who beat his wives (I am not saying ur friend's father did), slept around, neglected his children emotionally, spiritually and above all financially; was more interested with accolades and public attention than his own family(ies). Then he dies and his eulogy describes a man foreign even to deceased; a "God fearing", family loving, non-butter-melting, anti infidelity and essentially socially productive man.
I told my father point blank. "You don't know me and I don't know you so if you die today, when you explain our relationship to God, please don't lie and say me I neglected you. Cos we both know I am the only one making an effort."
He looked at me and I looked at him. Today, our coversations on the phone have grown from two minutes to about five. we are both making an effort.

Chxta said...

A friend of mine went to a party not too long ago and met a girl there. He followed her home, and when they wanted to get on, she asked him not to use a condom, that she wants a baby. That is the power of the benefits system that operates around these parts...

Nigerians are an impatient people, so the shouts about Yar'Adua's 'lack of action' is not all too unexpected...

I can't really say what I'd do in such a situation since my father was always there for us. My immediate reaction would be that if the father wasn't there for them when he was alive, of course they have to bury him, but there's no point pulling all the stops to do it. In any event though, I'm not a believer in our rather elaborate (and expensive) burial traditions.

Araceli Aipoh said...

I just love it when I click on your blog and I see a new post...

The "single, double, triple, quaruple" bit is great.

uknaija said...

@catwalq- it's good you're making the effort
@chxta - are you sure it's the benefit system that's responsible?
@araceli- Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words ;-)

Ekoakete said...

The UK is doing quite a lot for children already for example the £250 child trust fund, child benefit payments etc etc. It's the stats that show a lot of the delinquents come from single parent homes that the conservatives are worried about.

Hillary & Obama, now that would be a killer combination. But who would you see as the primary/running mate? My money would be on Hillary with Obama as running mate. Whether America is ready for a woman president is another question...

As per your friend, I feel he's doing the right thing. My philosophy is to do your part as is expected of you. Glad to read that catwalq is making an effort. What riles me is people who don't care about their parents when they are alive and then spend a ton of money to do funeral. Choosing "Aso ebi" and things. Some even throw a massive party 10, 20 years later. Tsk more money than sense I say.

Chude! said...

I have been thinking the same thing over and over again! I dont think it's farfetched - Obama and Hilary should get together and they WILL win that race. It's such an unbeatable combination. Oh, let's pray that they see the light...

Fatima said...

loving ur blog...nd just showing some love...thnx for stopping by...cheers
xoxo

Pink-satin said...

i know Hilary and Obama good combo

abt the marriage sturv men i dont know what to think!

Snuffleupagus said...

Originally I had assumed that Obama and Hilary would run together because it was the only thing that made sense. Both have egos that are too big to do what will work. Such is the way of the world...

chika said...

Yippee for Mo. I was rooting for the naijas, but I was rooting for my girl as well. She's my baby's godmother so family first, eh?
Uwem's collection of short stories will be out soon. It's going to be explosive!

Monef said...

On the marriage issue, although they are right to be concerned I'm not sure any amount of money the Conservatives attempt to throw at people will fix the issue.

On the Obama/Clinton thing, my take is rather different. I think that both are highly polarising candidates with the Republican portion of this country. To put them on the same ticket would in my view make it more difficult rather than easier to put a Democrat in the Whit House. I feel that whoever gets the nomination may well have to put John Edwards on their ticket to balance things out.

As for the funeral thing, I have long believed that Nigerians need to sit down and re-examine our priorities. Why would bankrupt yourself throwing a huge funeral for a father who wasn't there for you and is now gone, only to not be able to feed yourself or your family for a year after?!

I'm reserving judgement on Yar'Adua, but I have to say that the calm and measured approach is working better for me than the incediary flogging policeman tactics of OBJ.

Favoured Girl said...

The fact that the benefits system in the UK supports single-parent families more is something that I noticed ages ago, when I worked at a pre-school. I used to talk to the mums and I noticed that often the ones who had working husbands were financially worse-off compared to the single mothers. I think it's a good thing that the people in power have noticed this and are now taking it into consideration. Hopefully they can remove the incentives for women to have babies just for financial gain, while supporting married couples at the same time.
I was at the South Bank centre that Sunday. I attended those readings as well as the Caine Prize shortlist ones. I found most of them interesting. We'll definitely be hearing more from Uwem Akpan in the future. I heard he had 12 publishers bidding for him and he's now got a very good book deal. I'm waiting to get hold of his books...

Bitchy said...

Yookay, how now? I would call our new President, 'No Show Umoru!' Yes, I did insult OBJ for his constant hogging of the newspapers and weekly glossies, but I'm beginning to wonder about a President who is always "represented" by some official of the other. The newspapers talk about him in the active sense when describing speeches at a function or convention or something, and then tuck the fact that the speech was given by a stand-in, into the corners!

WHERE is Umoru? Me, I never see am!

By the way, I want to enter for next year's Caine Prize, do my characters need to be poverty-stricken, refugees or struggling citizens for this to happen?

And please come back and tell what you thought of Burma Boy, or whatever it's called. I bought a book by someone called Simi Bedford instead, but can always go back ;-) Xxxx

chika said...

Monef,
Uwem rocks. And the bset thing about him is that he's so laid back about his amazing talent. And he's such a wonderful, wonderful guy.
lol@Bitchy. No your xters don't have to be poverty stricken. Or suffering from AIDS. Or refugees. Or be victims of war. Or be victims of bad leadership. Or be lesbians. Or be homosexual. Or be oppressed. Or be prostitues (my favourites). Or be... They just have to have emotional connectivity.