Origins of an Opintar
“Birds got something to teach us all; About being free, yeah; Be no rain… Be no rain…” – Gil Scott-Heron, from the lyrics, I Think I’ll Call It Morning
I proclaim myself an Opintar sometimes. Opinterity is the closest I know to freedom and joy. It is part aspiration, part practice. Many think Opintar is a fun name. Or of vernacular because they cannot google it. Or the vanity of one gnawed by rough illness many times. It is none of these. Opintar describes my lot in life and my journey compass. Ordinary is the life of an Opintar.
No more is my membership of organisations and fraternities that swear fealty to the ‘liberation of man and society.’ What a joke! They are autocratic cesspools, baiting members through polite evil, bootleg chicanery, and sense racketeering. Are such groups different from the oppressive lineages or elites plaguing our world? Unwitting outsiders baited by pretences of merit rush to say yes, but they’re wrong. How you live and what you belong to counts, more so if you expect different from others. Life isn’t always oppressive or evil. Oasis of liberty and decency exist here and there, and some ever live inside them; the fortunate ones. Semblances of freedom are what we pursue elsewhere to thrive but its germ rests within us.
Being an Opintar in Diaspora of African origin is a lonely struggle. Life plays out as personal for people, though rely on power and its exercise. The order of organised life is one big hub of power relations, authentic or perverse, necessary, or vain. All occurrences happen with the use, underuse, or overuse of might. Culture, like a gopher, is the amorphous labyrinth but irrepressible complement to might. The laws of life, driven by power, assert themselves through culture to massage and ground the interests of the Mighty. Not the weak, unless latent power hides in their ascribed weakness.
Only God and his human imitators do not complain about matters of power and might. The rich and powerful Bernie Ecclestone makes public his proud admiration for Adolf Hitler, who must have admired or envied King David, who praised a real or spook God, because all their money and power considered could not free them from ‘the rules of inevitability’. For example, the inescapable institution of death recedes forever from man’s control despite any try at self-arrogating the power to stop it. A great rarity is emperors, kings, presidents, or Prime Ministers thrown in jail. The sanctity of laws are at stake? Mess around, they bring you down, should be justice many wish. You can count the exceptions, though. Corruption dominates social organisation as the mode of choice.
The laws of sleep make sure the Mighty, like everyone else, wake up with bad breath. When the Mighty experience erectile dysfunction or frigidity, punishing the partner or an advising doctor is utter stupidity. Seek treatment or perversion. As the rules chastise ordinary folks, so they do the High and Mighty, but in different ways. Punishments averse to visibility and scrutiny relax or tighten consequences for offenders. We only see what they allow.
The reality of ‘Might is right’ underlies humankind’s condition despite fictions of free societies. Jail, Sodom and Gomorrah, the death penalty, torture, oppression, poverty, displacement, starvation and all the other Hells caught here on Earth emanate from Might. Dominions of might grow by manipulation and disconnectedness. Such is necessary to churn out multitudes who will catch Hell, without fail. The more Hell caught by the majority, the firmer the grip of the few. Hell is profitable. When the High and Mighty fall, all within the reach of their capture witness liberation or even flourishing. But such falls may open entrances up for the latest gang of High and Mighty.
As ordered by chance and time in the presence of Might, winning success is so uncommon in life; thus, most over-celebrate it when attained. The Mighty make us celebrate it, even when of no use to us. Who wins success more than the Mighty? They instruct us to make a laugh out of our lives while they squeeze away our pennies, freedoms, values, supports and even happiness from our hold till Hell visits and swallows us. Celebrations are often escape from Hell, for Hell is a Big Landlord and Big Employer, but also a pervasive adversity. Who gives then takes it back to give again? Is this not the grand game? Why did I not know it to be so?
In late 1989, at the African Continental Bank branch within the University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka with an intelligent friend, Mohammed Oluwa, we witnessed an unusual soliloquy. A tall, handsome, bearded man, in fashionable casual clothes, in his early 50s, stood up from his private conversation with his male companion. With congenial loudness, he recited the initial four lines of the great poem, The Second Coming, by WB Yeats. Those lines distinguish the poem in the folklore of recent Nigeria. They open Chinua Achebe’s famed novel, Things Fall Apart;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loose upon the world.
His expression bore the signs of a distinguished education and privileged background. Maybe he was an academic at the university. He spoke for two minutes before he sat down in mischievous silence. What he exclaimed in conclusion, he might have been disputing with his companion, “Forget your hopes for Biafra. The eschatology of our people is nigh.” He then said something funny in Igbo language [I could not comprehend] mentioning Achebe, making the over forty customers and staff in the bank lobby laugh to exhaustion. The man neither appeared drunk nor troubled. He left the bank not too long after, and drove away with his companion in a Mercedes Benz, blazing the distinct jazz song, Birdlike by Freddie Hubbard. Some customers were still laughing afterwards.
An hour later, back in Oluwa’s room at the Zik’s Flats, I found the definition of eschatology and realised my initial reading of Things Fall Apart in early teenage was too literal. He gave me a copy of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. It was a revealing coincidence; The Fire Next Time is a collection of essays and commentary on an alternative Second Coming. It promises no more Deluges after the one Noah braved but Fire, blazing Fire, will come instead. Reading that had a lightning effect on me. It made my future hope as an African on planet Earth most perplexing. The essay, brutal with the truth of my existence either deformed or over-informed something inside of me. I became something new in an instant.
But my history and identity, an iota I could not shed. I had experienced a cerebral shock but could not integrate it. I then knew I was living in my eschatology, my end, my eventual calculated obsolescence with only the Second Coming to look forward to if ever it arrives. That was the day I started calling myself an Opintar. Opintar is the first word that came into my mind via intuition; I waited for another that never came. Was I awakened, transformed, deflated, or deranged? The Second Coming for me is beyond imagination. My power of cognition almost ran out of capacity just attempting to contemplate it.
An Opintar is “a person who understands his words and actions can never change the underlying conditions of life, but endeavours to work and think for his or her personal and society’s survival, regardless.” Other names for such persons must exist but I do not seek them. The Opintar begins by attempting to create order, not certainty, where none exists or better order if possible/necessary. The importance of order is his vocation. Besides life-cycles, absolute certainty is rare in human life. Why are people desperate for certainty? The Opintar understands his mistakes and errors and those of others through reactions to certainty and its absence. He learns from them as they unfold. Uncertainty often means unpreparedness, but through experience and intuition, he attempts to find the right responses or best reactions.
The Opintar abhors self-absorption, life includes others and a shared environment. ‘Live and let live’, is her creed and mission statement. Selflessness is an inevitable necessity of human constructions of order. The selfish use it in mercenary ways. The lack of selflessness sustains or breeds disorder, why not nurture it if seeking the dividends of order? Creating her own pathway within the uncertain currents of life and seeking truth is the Opintar’s challenge. The Opintar ensures she chooses, when possible, as options float in tricky streams, as unexpected choices that tease her. Few arts are more excellent than mastering choice under uncertainty, such is the gift of prescient ordering. Leaving things to chance alone is unwitting. Her caution; life is subject to tough conditions and unfree, and far more merciless than magnanimous. Look at the orders around you.
Opintars laugh without instruction. Opintars mimic a falcon flying high who sees choice as freedom. Otherwise, they have an aversion to but do not dread the conditions cast by the threat of violence, hunger, or isolation. Being law-abiding or rule-following is more than a demand of consistent moral compliance, the Opintar agrees. Those who spit on moral virtues either have nothing to lose or can no longer find their free identities in society. Money and might are the most ubiquitous replacement-identities on the planet. The next hundred years are not enough. No sphere of activity, preparation, ingenuity, or refuge trumps order. Order is the foundation of life.
Achebe’s primary focus was the plight of the African in a European-dominated world, “at home”. I tuned into his endless worries and like himself never found an antidote. I could not resist his views, though. Rethinking the condition of my people [through Achebe’s eyes, Baldwin’s lens, and my naïve astonishment] I made a few conclusions. The dizzying heights of achievement and honour attained by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr are without hype or gloss representative failures. Sublime condoms that never prevented or reversed the pregnancies of backwardness and the divine soaps unable to wash away the stigma of subjugation and coming last. By the time you examine other greats among my people, it becomes pantomime.
Why do the greats degrade or neglect my people for fame and daily bread? Ostriches with pretty feathers remain ostriches. I and everyone else always forget my people are worthy of greatness within the global cultural heritage. Nevertheless, disqualified are the viable competitors, the compradors gain rewards as wards of “retirement honours”.
Our greats tolerate their dismissal as “Uncles, they are never venerated as “Fathers”, except in their tiny political patches or by their consanguineous kin. These Uncles claim, ‘there’s nothing in a name’. The irony, is they obsess over their prizes, honours, and titles, of which many become their literal equivalents–no more, yes, no more. The man and his prize are one. Our greats do not have small brains, but many have tiny testicles, fortitude-wise; it results from a habit of seeking “safety” and an invariable obsequious search for happiness in appeasement.
Neverttheless, the experience of a bullet wound or the prison cell also becomes the equivalent of their greatness. How many of our Brethren endure endless and unjust incarcerations or have died in innocence, of a bullet? The Mighty dictate to us what and who we celebrate and value. The sincerest spokespersons for my people and the despair of their Second Coming are not brethren. What a resounding disgrace. I share in that disgrace, but it harms me small. Does anyone know my name?
That “Might is right”, among my people, is useful to our dictators and their wealthy clients. It shows nowhere else among the Brethren unless in petty strife of brittle pride with massive consequences. Fights of malice, rancour or to the death. My people attaining Might may be a possibility of the Second Coming. Will it be a significant change of salience? Forgive the temerity of the question. With other Brethren, might is pervasive and unmissable, ushering in spectacular leaps and descents within powerful societies. Might’s absence leaves our nations flat on hard ground without the hope of a hop.
The Opintar is an occasional and reluctant leader, one willing to pay whatever price the role demands. He knows sincere searches for truth and means often end in a hard life or fatality. The Opintar’s dogged aspiration for simplicity makes the vocation of leadership stand outside his interest, even if he embodies abundant endowments, ability, and competence. His or her fears must undergo sublimation. Good leadership, translated into good governance, diminishes the fear of mortality in man. Terrible leaders exist for one purpose, the incessant reconstruction and reminder of our undeniable expiry. They proliferate insecurity and uncertainty.
Interestingly, Max Weber warned of rational governance by leaders that will create the “polar night of icy darkness” in the Iron Cage for individuals. Neoliberalism salutes you. The Second Coming is imminent but distant; we can sense it coming, but we don’t know what. No preparations ready. Wild guesses? Every good deed pushes it further away, and every wrong one brings it closer. Good deeds only proliferate sometimes, or the opposite happens to others with unobstructed force; they always unleash a shocking mix of unexpected persistence and unusual brevity. The contradictions within eschatology make a fool out of the smartest people.
Nonetheless, In these neoliberal years, a Second Coming may straighten the unequal life out. I am not waiting. I hope no such hope, not in the Second Coming. Not in The Fire Next Time. Never in elections of bought-out political liars into office, not after that billionaire “bequeaths” the world bits of his fortune in acts of cynical charity. Not in the Scriptures, putty on the lips of false clerics. Never in times of a debt-driven economy. Not in anything but myself, and I often doubt that too.
Ever fashionable are discussions of ‘inseparable dualities.’ Most tend toward the omnipresence of necessary evils, only to opt for their preferred and sometimes unwholesome rewards. It explains everything and nothing. The deceptions of people without pain and burden persuade others lacking much with feel good promises and inheritances of nothing. Does Yin and Yang interest you? I know a guy who swore by the Second Coming and Khalil Gibran when he was forever needy but later swore by his might when he became rich. Then he swore by Christ when his wonderful fortune dumped him. Having Might is supreme, by our desires, most are seeking it. But my Brethren often earn only pittances of it and its most insecure forms. And spend it fastest!
My Brethren seek grand solutions to their many everyday problems, in every way. But solutions ever eludes them with energy, swift, and distance. Splendid outcomes attract our leaders, not the acute inputs they need to make. It requires tireless work! Begging bowl politics is politics with bitterness. Moreover, debt and borrowing are the symptoms of governments with grandiose aspirations but no viable capacities to realise them in any enduring way. Inputs are the seeds of growth. How simple! Are there no small, efficient, effective, and reliable clusters of action our leaders can adopt? Development is the cross of my Brethren, in thought and practice; it’s their reality, like the Second Coming. Look here, my Brethren, are you serious about anything? For every good deed leaders and citizens do in society brings development closer. Who is doing the society good?
Do my Brethren want Development or the Second Coming? I ask this question every day. My leaders want both; they want a glass of boiling water filled with ice. Understanding the Great Opportunity Costs is born of enlightenment, constancy, and consistency. So, my leaders and my Brethren should stick to the Second Coming; waiting is easier than enlightened work. Enlightened effort when successful manifests as might. Who is forfeiting it?
Our destiny must not be to “wait” on something without a timetable or calculable season, the Second Coming. The paradox is my leaders and Brethren are the most “impatient” human beings on the planet; their aspirations of a “quickie civilisation” can never touch a civilisation based on sustained consistent action and a long wait for the harvest. My leaders, Hell creators, are yet to fall; their followers know how. Thus, my people will not flourish by any means. Waiting in despair for the Second Coming. Multitudes want rapture, or end times, or miracles, or even messiahs. ‘Waiting on’ mystery is not an answer, but sweepstakes. Such realisation is the gravest tragedy the Opintar knows.
Claude Ake proclaimed that my Brethren’s post-colonial ways impede our success as a ‘developed people’ within a ‘developed society’. Was Ake expecting these people to become phoenixes, who will re-rig their ways for the better after their end? As for Development, the bye-word has been “FORGET IT!”. To negotiate and control Development under your terms, you need Might. We must keep working. Look, the bottom of Maslow’s Triangle awaits you all, even the Mighty in our realm. Only you believes every other brethren got their greatness by bequeaths. How history fools us? Ask Baldwin.
The Opintar continues working as others do and is not special but as confused as everyone else; only work gives him or her direction and purpose, but only just. Toiling in the mud is okay in our transient, changeable world. The Opintar negotiates time and succeeds for nanoseconds. Seconds become magical, but fifty-nine seconds scatters and passes over an entire day; this is a tight reality. Who gets one second of their own? Many call it the ‘present moment’, which reminds me of the futility of neoliberal life foisted upon us with the sole fundament of “Achilles and the Tortoise”. It is a never-ending cost-ridden catch-up game people must play and lose; the ascendancy of compound interest. Oh, dear!
A sophisticated lady once told me my Opintar talk was rubbish. I then explained it to her in sexual terms, then in financial and esoteric nutshells. “The Opintar lives in sequences of Fibonacci Numbers, where and when possible. It guarantees lucidity in thought and banishes illusion”, I told her. Captivated and convinced, I declined to spend the night at hers. People ask more of pleasurable things. Hence, it will never be that casual again. The Fibonacci Numbered secrets of the Opintar stay secret except to initiates.
Opinterity is part-esoteric, rooted in practical human action, actual observation, and the full exposure of the soul. The spirit is here and takes care of space. I fly like a bird by Fibonacci Numbers. I taste the real potentiality of freedom, calm, and safety in those digits. Culture leaves me alone, for my perceptions are no longer much embroiled in it. Opinterity begins as a hard-to-form habit.
I believe in my shared consanguinity with my ancestors. The forbears allow me to drink by tradition. Temperance was never their forte and drinking was an incantation-laden affair. I am merry and live every day in their honour and memory. If they didn’t “do it”, no me. I drink for light recreation, hoping I land on ‘16 Black’, my lucky number; irresistible odds for countless people, better than heads or tails.
“In God We Trust?” I only believe in God because of whiskey, “the Water of God”, (my parents named me after a Scotsman and I grew up in a household with a Liberal-party bent). And the holiest libation cum tipple known to man is Talisker. Pour a three-shot measure of Talisker 10 years aged in a well-chosen environment. Close your eyes, calm your mind and drink; tell me if you do not see God! Do not misunderstand me. I never said I find God in a bottle of stills, just entheogenic or ancestral encouragement to a willing heart. Heineken, “the drink that spits,” also sanctifies. Even if you don’t praise the Lord, have these drinks.
Toto water must never go to waste, for in it our conception happens, and from it, we are born. Forget the graphics of our creation and its binary nature. The oscillatory entry of one into zero is enough description. The day the binary matrix of the underlying condition of the Opintar exposes its essence, and I bear witness to full freedom and joy, I shall shout “Land Ahoy! Green Fiddlers, let the whiskey flow men! Hallelujah!” till I lose my voice. There is nothing wrong with making our ancestors happy; I never cared much for their culture, just their bloodline and memory. Thus, I too shall become an ancestor without mufugbeneity.
Will the Second Coming help me? I have had a walloping by a nefarious mafia of illnesses; thrash-canned by ever-desirable women without a second chance to grasp; suffered immiseration of my million pounds; made a mere convenience for friends; fattened by medical prescriptions; squandered my promising youth; will the Second Coming do me any good? My pleasant looks have faded, muscular legs “caned”, body second-handed, good upbringing broken, keen learning irrelevant, skills gained nearing expiry. They have rendered my good intentions unnecessary, evil branded interesting; laughter misunderstood; do I need a Second Coming? My personal Second Coming sounds complex. Mine may be “the Eternal Second Coming”. Does that make sense? A personal Second Coming does not count, though; it’s for everyone on equal terms.
Why will I not be an Opintar? Am I alone? I cannot be, but neither is my soul connected to other Opintars. There are several Opintars all over, but I cannot find them. if I cannot see them, they must be spooky guys and girls. Do I get spooky? An Opintar does not do diversions. The immanence of the Second Coming may have made me into a spook without… No wonder I complain! O, Achebe! O, Yeats! Why have thou misled me so? I find nothing wrong with misleading to embrace good things expected to destroy me. I’m still here.
Notwithstanding, a schoolmate of mine who I had not seen or heard from for 35 years reminded me via social media, I had translated the first four lines of “The Second Coming” into the Urhobo language when still in secondary school and buckled my aspiration towards a tidy life once again. I recited it;
Ọjuẹrariẹ ọjuẹrariẹ jẹojiji biẹyara
Apiapia gbesa nyumirẹ ọrose apiapia;
Ehwahwa sheguọghọ ukherevie gbiseyọre;
Ozigiorare shere’akpọr tiẹna
The Second Coming and my realisation of its possibility have left me inert enough to go into action, and I have no hideaway nor a corner of respite. I must be an Opintar, whatever comes or goes. How else will I find freedom and safety, dignity and results, strength and harmony in this life? Otherwise, ancestors must show me a sign and others after that. Or grant me the freedom of a bird in my human state.
Without obsession, I must always contend with Might, its eschatology, and my very own. It offers more choices than usual when you discover the inevitable sequences. It enables the Opintar and his vision to endure the unendurable; hope trumps expectation, but in its best form, is an accessible, lucid understanding of people and why they are so. No experience beats awaking to the reality of you and your purpose and acquire the readiness and tools to achieve it. Exclaiming Aha! and Oh No! drench your mind. You do not need numbers for that, just clean honesty.
Therefore, aspirations are necessary but order and action make them.
Please take a look at my musing, A Death in a Dream. Cheers