“LOVE your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you…” the voice of 30-year-old Jesus floated to the ears of those within earshot that cool evening back in Palestine.
That was tough stuff for the Jews whose “Yahwehistic” doctrine had, for thousands of years, been ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
But many of them were willing to accommodate that admonition if it would ensure them passport into that “Kingdom of God” where all Roman dominion would end.
But then, Mary’s first son was not finished:
“But I say to you, do not resist evil. But if any strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Now, the gathering exchanged shocked glances. One of the disciples’ lower jaw actually dropped ajar. It was Peter’s. Peter peered curiously at his master’s face. Could ‘oga’ be serious? But Jesus’ expression was stern. He was dead serious.
“And if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well…”
Now Peter’s head bowed itself. The mouth dropped more ajar. The Rock on which Jesus planned to build his church quailed. For the upteenth time, the Rock wondered if he had not made a mistake by abandoning a flourishing fishing business to follow this, this homeless unmarried fellow who disappeared from the neighbourhood for over 18 years only to reappear with this irresistible aura of spirituality.
Orunmila, Akerefinusogbon (small-statured one full of wisdom) the Yoruba deity of wisdom, also heard Mary’s son that day. Orunmila merely smiled one small smile like this without parting his lips. He shook his head almost imperceptibly and resumed his poker face.
Orunmila was thinking: “Love, gentlemanliness do not always work amidst crude humanity. ‘Sometimes, even oftentimes, you have to fight to be a man.’ Omoaraye (people of the world), turn the other cheek to them and they will slap it as many times as you turn it. Adopt that attitude and you become the rubbish heap of a brutish world.”
But Jesus was not really to blame. By his own admission, he was a citizen of Heaven; Heaven, where gentlemanliness is (rumoured to be) the rule rather than the exception. And he was just a mere 30 years old on our planet. And even, most of these, he spent travelling and studying all over the world in religious environments and institutions among refined souls. And amidst the Essenes who lived away in the Palestine wilderness far from the uncouth masses of humanity.
The reality is that the average human being is selfish and self-centred. It is only the consciousness of the ability of the next fellow to slug back if slugged that keeps the average man’s aggression in check.
And usually, the man who takes the offensive in the first place is not likely to be deterred by acquiescence (docility) of the victim. In the rare cases where acquiescence works, you can be sure it is not due to a change of heart by the aggressor, but fear that the victim of the aggression has some sinister, perhaps, supernatural means of retaliating.
Several sayings in Africa, especially Yoruba land, capture the above realities rather beautifully.
“Agutan ri Belau be k’oto gba t’owo e je: It is the sheep’s consciousness of Belau’s idiocy that emboldens the otherwise timid animal to snatch food items from Belau’s grasp.” The message of this adage is clear: Even a fool will take advantage of you if you appear too docile.
Yet another modern-day adage is this: Afilo ni, oorun inu oko: It’s a matter of checking out your tolerance level (when) a co-passenger dozes off in a commercial vehicle (and in the process makes your shoulder a resting piece).
This last one needs some explaining. As sometimes happens, especially in long-distance travelling, if a co-passenger next to you dozes off and in the process rests his/her lolling head on your shoulder, he would continue to do that and eventually sleep off outright with his head permanently on your shoulders – unless you show your displeasure early enough by shrugging off his head or elbowing him.
So, while the Yoruba philosophy of life doesn’t encourage a life of aggression, it enjoins a delicate balance between being a peaceful human being and a healthy dose of aggressive self-defence in a predominantly competitive world.
Love, yes, but don’t go around kissing and hugging everybody; you’ll catch mumps (segede), rashes etc. Peace, yes, but don’t allow everyone to kick your ass.
The same goes for this idea of infinite forgiveness. In the first place, forgiveness in the absence of concrete evidence of genuine remorse in the offender is a tactical disciplinary blunder and an unwitting undermining of societal morality.
Forgiving anybody up to seven times is not only ridiculous, it is ludicrous. The fellow who offends you five times and still keeps at it has definitely made it a policy to torment you. Or he’s a forgetful imbecile who therefore needs a shock therapy. A solid retaliation for instance.
All that crap about forgiving your enemies seven times seventy times seven is pure shit. It is merely a good way of breeding crimes and criminals.
Solid commonsense, as opposed to naïve sentimentality, dictates that twice is enough to forgive. The Yoruba again put it so beautifully: Eekini pebe, eekeji pebe, eleeketa, ajeejetan: “A first offence is quite forgivable; the second… well, tolerable but the third calls for swift and enduring retaliation.”
Not even Yaheh, the “God” of the Old Testament is so forgiving. And who wants to be more virtuous than “the Almighty” anyway.
It’s either Jesus was quoted out of context or he never said so at all! Even more probably, some smart Alecs inserted that portion to make docile imbeciles of the rest of the world for the sake of socio-political domination.
The leading nations of the world today did not attain their heights through infinite forgiveness or docility.
Definitely not America (“God’s own country”) or Israel, that tough Taurus nation with a Scorpio ascendant. With both of them, it’s good old stuff: “an eye for an eye.” Often, they even draw the first blood by first plucking out the eyes of an identified potential enemy.
That’s good horse sense.
Well, even if by a slim chance, Jesus actually mouthed these homilies, there is screaming evidence in the gospels that the Nazareen’s earliest zeal about docility, forgiveness and the rest of it got gradually toned down by the cold realities he faced as he appreciated in experience. “Don’t adorn swines with your precious gold trinkets…they are too dim and dirty to appreciate such gifts. They will turn round to attack you.” Jesus admonished his listeners years later.
“Be as wise as serpents,” he once again said, “but as gentle as doves.” This is also a good one.
Taking the tail end first, Jesus was telling his fans to be non-aggressive. But the first part is the clincher: Be as wise as serpents.” Of course, the core of the serpent’s “wiseness” is that while it appears slender, soft, flexible and so, apparently harmless, it packs two formidable poison glands on its head – just in case.
Well, lets round off.
There was this sudden commotion in the premises of the temple in Jerusalem. Someone was furiously upturning tables and chairs and whipping all the bureau-de-change businessmen: Foi! Para!!Waii!!! People ran helter-skelter.
Who was this? But the dust cloud was still too thick for a clear view of the fellow.
Then, as the commotion subsided and the billow of dust began to drift off, a face gradually became discernible amidst the dust.
It was Jesus’.
Dishevelled, whip in hand, the son of Mary stood panting. A fresh tear was on one shoulder of his gown.
“Omo araiye, won tan oga ni suuru poo!” (Men of the world, they have exhausted master’s patience) Judas whispered to a thoroughly embarrassed Peter.
That temple episode was a classical instance of a visionary’s head-on-collission with the reality of human nature.
Orunmila also witnessed that scene. He merely smiled as before. But close by Orunmila, a lesser deity broke out in raucous cackle in mockery of Jesus.
Orunmila rounded on him “Sharaap! Never, never, you deride God’s anointed. The lesser deity froze in mid-cackle. And melted away. It was the second time Orunmila, the hoary one of wizened visage would lash out angrily in Hebrew.