Sensitive. Emotionally sensitive. A lot of people use that description for a person when they talk deeply about something that the other party think isn’t worth all that. In most cases, its used as a way of blowing someone off or simply telling them that the world has bigger problems. I got that a lot when I wrote daddy issues. Some friends who had experienced even worse than I did shot me down. They thought I was making a mountain out of an ant hill.
There is a blog I follow whose owner is very conscious to women and men’s equality. You see, i’m a feminist too, just as she clearly is. But I’m not as vocal about it. And I admire her for pointing out the ills she goes through especially at the hands of fellow women who brag of not being feminist. As if they would be working or even going to school if the women before them had acted as they are. But I also notice that even though we are in the same course, affected by the same things, our anger is on different levels. By anger I mean the kind that made Mau Mau bear the cold of the forest to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Or the kind that led Wangari Maathai to the various violent protests to protect our heritage from those thieves in government. The kind of anger that leads to change. Because when we stop being angry, indifference breeds, out of indifference comes abnormalities such as corruption being normalized.
I have come to realize that, to each his own. What eats you up, is not what eats me up. We have different poisons. We live in the same society, but different things pick our interest. We are all angered by different things. And that is just the way it should be. We need people who are interested in food for there to be chefs, others in creative works for there to be art, others in science for doctors, engineers to be there. We also need people who hate crimes for there to be policemen, others who love God, for there to be religion, and others who hate or fear fire for there to be fire fighters. Hate and interest drive the society.
The only problem comes when you don’t respect what I love or fear. What angers me. When you call me emotionally sensitive because I’ve brought up something you think isn’t such a big deal. Well, to you it might not be, but to me it is. Just the same way you are angered by other things. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I expect you to believe me. What I’m telling you I feel or felt when this or that happened. Because its my pain. Belittling it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Ignoring it only makes it worse. Just because I think my world ends when I cut my finger accidentally doesn’t make me less human simply because someone else is paralyzed somewhere.
The effect of having a society that accepts certain stories or experiences while making others less( which we will now call othering), is that you end up with one egoistic lot that think they have a say over everyone’s pain, and another lot that is in most cases depressed. They say that visitors who stay in Kenya for a while longer than an average tourist usually go back to their countries to be treated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. By simply living a kawaida Kenyan lifestyle. But why is that a surprise in a country where finding a person who had a good dad is like searching for a needle in a whole farm? In a country where in social media people celebrate and wow at characters who have jumped from a wedding of a 100bob to owning a million shilling property, or from posting photoshopped pictures to being taken there for free? Ever heard of hard work people? Anyone? Where men post of how they want this or that from their future wives or all women are advised on how to be a proverbs 31 woman? Or where all households items are advertised with a woman on tow or ‘ best for the morden woman’.
The business of othering breeds a whole society of hypocrites. Where we all chat endlessly on Watsapp but go to bed crying alone. Where you ‘know’ your friends but have no idea of what they have been going through. After all, if he told you he was sad and feeling low because of his girlfriend, you would take him out for drinks and tell him to man up. Othering causes you to hurt others with your words and actions albeit unintentionally. It allows you to perpetuate ills in the society. If you don’t hear someone telling you of how skin color discriminations piss them off, you will continue forwarding those #lightskingirls to the detriment of the whole #girls as a whole.
My simple plea is, honour everyone’s pain. Learn to live with diversity, difference. Listen to others. Just as much as we all adore kids when they complain of something minute, listen to that coworker complaining of her husband. I agree some people can be petty. But my point is, don’t you dare tell someone, ” But nani went through worse and is doing better. Why don’t you stop making a fuss and pick up the broken pieces?”. Just because a remedy is needed doesn’t not mean you make someone feel less for being themselves.
And the worst lot is the kind that will advice you to pray it away. If you know me, i’m a Christian. A strong one if being willing to die for Christ can be counted as strength. God would not have put structures on earth if all problems could be prayed away. His own people had judges, and just so you know, they didn’t pray cases away, they settled them. By the time a christian talks of something ailing them, probability is that they already prayed about it. And its still there clearly. And you risk pushing someone further down by silencing them with ‘pray about it’ instead of listening to them and helping seek for solutions. After all the bible calls us to be doers of the word not just hearers. You can’t pray depression away. But if you pray about it, God will help you throughout the whole journey. Same applies to trauma of any kind, to job seeking or to even looking for a spouse. You got to do something, besides praying. Its called living actually. And in the process of helping your brother or sister in Christ, you should consider praying for them too.
All stories matter. I believe Chimamanda has catered for the dangers of telling or hearing one story. Be open. Be human. Everyone is different, let us all be.