Nigeria and her Music, Two of a kind

“…nowadays nobody speaks about, the way they feel about things…and nowadays nobody thinks about a way to ease the suffering”, lyrics from Lighthouse family’s 1998 single “Question of faith”. Lyrics that still ring true till this day, talk about ever green. Or is it Nneka’s 2005 single from her EP of the same name, The Uncomfortable Truth, where she sings “Let us make a change, why can’t we turn the page, Lord make us able, without you we are totally unstable”. I suppose we might also consider Sade’s “Sweetest taboo”, Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”, Asa’s “Jailer” or the numerous works of Fela. Music by Nigerians, either in terms of lyrics, composition, vocals or production has always been beautiful especially when fostered in an enabling environment. By music I mean songs that are not just songs but are songs that are full and by full I mean songs that are timeless, that have essence, moods, life and carry substantial messages. But what do we have today? Bogus monotonic compositions from contemporary artists who possess little or no originality. Talk about originality when an artist writes a song about water and makes it a hit! Fela did!  But we have caricature songs that sample from and were inspired by great artists and then watered down to reduce the concentration of music in it. Danceable, chant able, remixed concepts, money, cars, girls, fame; cliché!

But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander right? At times when I hear stories of “Old Nigeria”, I find it hard to believe how far down the ladder we are. Old folks talk about a time when goods were left outside with prices on them, and people would buy and sell with little or no supervision. They talk about a time when you could leave your house without bothering to lock your doors; they talk about the times when Nigerians abroad could close down malls just to shop. They all seem like fairytales when you come up in a time like this where it’s hard to trust even your own brother. Oil came and we forgot everything else. States queue for their share of the budget and I wonder, what happened to state internal revenue? Why aren’t states responsible for the provision of power? Politicians run the nation as they deem fit without caring to maximise its resources. Along the line someone got greedy and all those that were aware, said nothing and that single seed grew and is still flourishing till today. As your president said, Nigeria is not poor; our problem is in the distribution of wealth.

A lot of the time I relate the state of Nigeria to its music. Are they not a matching pair? Nigeria’s main source of revenue is from Oil, the main genre of music is “Afrobeat” or “Afro-pop” or whatever you call it. Ever heard people say a certain thing would not work in Nigeria, say a new law that is standard in a lot of places around the world because it doesn’t fit us here? Ever heard a Nigerian say a song is good and they like it just that the person won’t sell here? Why won’t the new law work if they decide to follow it and encourage others? Why won’t that “good” artist sell if they decide to purchase good music and spread the word?

Nigeria is blessed with various resources, every type you can think of, but we don’t invest in minds, don’t invest in research, won’t actively use our steel or other mineral resources, won’t invest in renewable energy , won’t invest in agriculture and tourism or any other resource as we should. Why aren’t we producing when we have the capacity to do so? Why do foreigners have to make those investments? We have narrowed it down to crude oil and that’s that! Why don’t we have more genres? Soul? Rock? House? Alternative? I mean we listen to songs like that from foreign artists, why not encourage our local artists to be diverse? Why don’t we have more clearly defined genres as opposed to diluting everything with “Afrobeat”? Why isn’t afrobeat, our very own internationally recognised genre, on the radio? Why do Femi and Seun Kuti release their albums outside Nigeria? Why should foreigners get to listen to them and not us?

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The giant of Africa? Sure! In retrospect! We just talk in this country, but no truth or action in those words. Everyone has the solution to the problem but somehow the problem persists. Could it be because we don’t do accordingly? I mean we have a rich proverbial history but somehow we don’t update and apply it. Where are our poets? Where is our art? Where is our history written so we don’t forget? Who reveals the truth of the past and the lessons we must learn from them? But our music is better! Introspective and intellectual, you can learn from it. It takes you away and addresses your mood. If you are feeling sad, you have a companion! Heartbroken? You have something soothing. Afraid? You have something motivational. Calm? You have something down tempo. But alas I lie! The artist said he is inspired by life? He lies as well! The words in most songs are just empty, improvised with no particular direction? Where are the concepts? The structure? The vision? The passion? The talent? The words? Life? But then I suppose my life is a boring one, as that of a lot of the others seems to consist primarily of money, women, cars, parties, alcohol and the likes.

Politicians can bring ridiculous laws and implement it without even a cough from us, no wonder they ridicule us. How does a human use billions to maintain 2 private jets while the masses lack education and the basic amenities? How does a leader seek pay after public office without considering the repercussion on his state’s treasury? Oh but leadership is the new royalty hence we call them “your Excellency” and make no complains! Creativity is when you can form words from nothing in particular that elicits excitement from people who are looking for an escape from their hardships. Creative licence is when an artist can say “In the middle of the center” and come off appraised. No well crafted verses, no content, no figures of speech, just chants. Well as Modenine said on his 2008 song “Hip Hop “, “I mean it when I say your whole album is a chorus”.

Nigeria is a country with so much potential. With the developing countries slowing down, we should lead Africa in the race to catch up and even exceed what has been done but we have decided to operate at 10% efficiency, or do you estimate it’s less? Our crops and culture is being stolen from right under us and we could care less. It’s our way of doing things and however wrong it is, we hold steadfast to it. Talk about dedication to destruction. But music is life, and when I see Nigeria, I see its music, and I wonder if we really are alive? How many people really learnt from Fela? How many people really learnt from Onyeka Onwenu?

Sigh, would I sound like a conspiracy theorist if I propose that Nigerian music might be fashioned to keep us dumbed down? A means to help us be consoled in our misery while the elites plunder our resources? After all a documentary I saw recently said the system of the world is made by the rich for the rich. But hey! Maybe things are getting better, at least on the BRT buses, it’s usually not the case of “49 sitting, 99 standing” as Fela sang. What do you think?

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The little things that do matter

Certain things amaze me, like how Terry keeps his bat suit in his school bag in the batman of the future series, or how Tony Starks keeps that magnificent suit with all its special effects in a “simple” suitcase. It’s fascinating seeing big things coming out of “small” people, actions, events and what have you. It gives hope and courage to a lot of people who often end up achieving more things than they ever thought they could. Ask any successful person and they would tell you how a little step led to a lot or a little persistence paid off big time.

ironmantwo10

On the counter, it’s frightening how something so small could command a lot more than it should. Our beloved country is full of such and these are a constant source of frustration for the social and economical growth of the society.

Let me start from a recent event where in a friend attended a wedding in what should be a regularly occupied event centre. Of course due to the poor urban planning of Lagos, finding adequate parking space in a city where social events like weddings are usually “packed” was out of the question and hence people resorted to parking at the side of what could be called a busy street. My friend had parked at a spot where some FRSC officials told her was “safe”. Allegedly the host of the event hadn’t “settled” the local LASTMA operatives and as such they decided to assert their authority and seize some “illegally” parked vehicles. As expected the fine was ridiculous in relation to the “crime” and the circumstance surrounding it. But what also caught my attention is the fact that the car tires were deflated immediately upon arrival by a vulcanizer within the premises. He would have to be paid for the tires to be inflated before one leaves. Why should the tires of impounded vehicles be deflated at all and why is inflation to be paid for by the “victim”? These could be at low as N40 on the streets but could be up to N100 per tire.

Another case of interest is that of university hostels. These hostels unfortunately cannot accommodate everyone and as such should ideally be prioritised for the new students, final year students and then students who live outside the state or at distant locations. In reality this is not the case. We find that most times, the final year and new students get hostels but the allocation of the remaining space is left unaccounted for. People eventually have to use backdoor means which are more expensive than the “moderate” fees one pays for hostel accommodation. They get the impression that the spaces have all been fully allocated and it’s apparent the spaces can’t be gotten through the legal channels. What they then resort to is finding “agents” who help process hostel spaces for them. Of course this is usually after several weeks of resumption where they have had to attend school from distant locations on a daily basis or had to squat with someone fortunate to have a space. Of course outside school accommodation is an option but not everyone can afford them. Consequently the moderate price tag attached to hostel accommodation rises in multiples. Why apply for a hostel one doesn’t want when they can leave it for those who NEED it?

Do I hear it’s simply simple economics of supply and demand? Do I hear inflation?

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What of the case whereby people ask for incentives just to do their jobs? Like the cleaners or guards in public and private establishments? Places where certain privileges ordinarily expected come with a price. We pay taxes and then pay for the people who live off our taxes, and apparently might not be performing up to par on the job, to still do their jobs. There are those as well who just expect a more fortunate individual to hand them money just because they are more fortunate.

Do I hear corporate begging?

It’s funny how ingenious people feel when they devise a means, legal or illegal, to get money they didn’t morally work for. But who is deceiving who really? Just as a friend put it, “Its exploitation and not exploration”. The issue is that where there is illegitimate gain, there simply is a loss somewhere else. Is the economy growing? Is money being made where value is offered? Or are we just accelerating the movement of money where money is “made” with no apparent value created?

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But these are small issues that sum up to a large deficit. Of course an even larger example of this sort of instance is one where less than 500 people serving a country are paid about 25% of its budget for a job that’s horribly done. Where is the value for which they are paid?

We need to stop praising mediocrity, we all have to work for what we deserve and do our best to increase Nigeria’s income as opposed to creating a false sense of value. Remember what is of excessive value is of no value at the end of the day (context).

Do share any similar experiences or views. Thanks.

Customers Care

A friend once told me of his friend who looked at a SIM card for 5 minutes then proceeded to destroying it! I laughed and wondered how often this occurs, I would love statistics on this -_-. Really makes me laugh every time a network announces its ACTIVE users because I can only imagine how many activated lines get destroyed or abandoned. But really I ponder more on why the rest of us active lines are still active. It all boils down to the age old saying, the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. Even when you do switch to another network and it serves you better, you discover a flaw in another aspect where your previous network was performing. Hence majority of us end up with several SIM cards. I myself have three of them, >_>, all for different reasons. Don’t ask!

The bane really is when there is a problem, the type that would require the network’s attention. Ever tried alerting a policeman to a robbery involving ammunition and seen him run before you finish your sentence? Or have you witnessed a situation where the notorious playboy gives up chasing a certain girl who’s said to be as stiff as a statue or rumoured to be a lesbian? You have? Well, that’s the scenario here. Where do I start?…

First are the voice prompts that require you to enter the appropriate digits. This usually isn’t straight forward and could be annoying and repetitive if you don’t call them regularly.

Secondly, there is the waiting period which could be infinite. They keep you “engaged” with adverts and/or songs which are in a loop. The kind of loop you don’t even put on your favourite new or evergreen song. In time, you learn the words of the adverts and it drives you nuts and just when you think it can’t get any worse, you realise you know the order and can accurately predict the next advert. Then IF you have the patience to stay on, you get cut off after an hour. How annoying is that? Thank God for earphones and if those aren’t available, then there is the speaker phone but then you still have to pay full attention to your phone for that moment when someone says hello because if you miss it, it’s back to square one.

A very recent occurrence was when a friend’s SIM stopped working and after two or more days of calling she finally got to an operator who said her SIM was damaged, in her phone! Bottom-line is she had to get a new SIM and swap it and it was back on in about 6 hours. Why didn’t the first operator say that the first time instead of making her wait a few days?

A slight detour, I recall a certain bank where I had to stand in line before I was attended to and each time I was given directions and returned to complete the resolution, I’d have to stand in line again! I was directed to do two or three different things and had to join the line all the way at the back about three times. The icing on the cake was when I reached the front of the line the last time only to realise I was done and had spent five minutes or more on a line I had no business being on. I had to give it to them, time is money yo!

My solution is that if networks actually do their jobs well and run their processes accurately, then that would reduce the pressure on the customer care lines. How many people have the time to visit service centres especially in a busy city such as Lagos?

“Customers care” as I see it is a situation where a customer cares enough, for whatever reason there might be, to take their precious time to call their network on an issue that might have been easily avoided and to be patient enough to get through to a customer care agent and risk the high possibility of being told “ballz” as opposed to just tossing their SIM. How else do you explain finally getting through just to be cut off after 12 seconds on the line? Granted some networks operate a method where it’s only the caller that can cut the line, but then what happens when the customer care agent cuts the call before the issue is resolved? It’s a sticky one really because these operators might have developed a bad attitude over time due to rude and aggressive callers or maybe extended the bad day they were having to the customer. A cheerful and helpful attitude would help a great deal, but with the fact that most people pick jobs out of necessity that would only occur if one were lucky.

Whatever happened to the business archetype which demands that the customer is King? Do you really feel like a King when it comes to service provision? Or do you just feel blackmailed considering you have no option since the pot, pan and kettle are all black? Please share your experiences. Thanks

Act now or wait till they are at your doorstep

This morning my brother sent me a link:

http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/159995-jonathan-faults-world-banks-classification-nigeria-poor.html

I was sad; because this is the umpteenth time the president had made a statement that made me ask “Is this the sort of mentality Nigeria needs at this time from its leader?”

“Is this the type of mentality that would lead a conclusive effort against the accurate and effective organisation of boko haram?”

I did mention in my note, the red pill or the blue pill, that if we keep ignoring it and acting like it doesn’t concern us they would make their way down south and a friend happened to send me this just this morning:

http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/05/us-warns-possible-boko-haram-attack-lagos

Why do we let our comfort, freedom and seeming safety dumb us down as we underestimate the very thing that will take away those very things we hold so dearly?

Do we really need them to attack and cause grieving families here in the south before we act? Do we as collective Nigerians not feel the pain and loss of several families in the last 5 years?

5 years!!!

Yes it’s been 5 sad years and we still haven’t learnt, we still haven’t washed our eyes clean to see all the blood and tears that’s been flowing. We still don’t know the severity, wickedness and future implications of the past and present happenings in this country.

One of our problems in this country is that we run from our grim history which we should have learnt from and don’t bother about the future which we think our “hope” will sort out. E go better! Yimz! Sure, the present is a present but what happens when all that chocolate leaves no teeth left to eat with tomorrow? Our spur of the moment decision making without a consideration for the apparent consequences is what has brought us so far!

So you are learned right? Have had some form of education right? So why don’t you learn? Your job, phone, car and “life” would be “over” if places in the south started going up in flames!

You are smart right? So what’s the solution?

From a broad perspective we have two options, we separate from the north so the “new owners” can do what they want with it, which is unlikely or we fight for Nigeria which was foisted on us from the start. The unlikely combination of the parts that make up Nigeria along with our reluctance to address the errors in our history is STILL the foundation of this problem.

From all indications our leadership and military, those who readily oppress civilians, are not going to help us out here. They just will help our taxes get spent and protect their own families. What else would people who oppress those who pay for their lively hood do? Unlike the police and military in some foreign countries that are educated enough to know when not to choose between the leaders they are sworn to and the people they have sworn to protect, our security agencies are sworn to themselves.

What if it isn’t just political? What if after the elections the activities continue? What then? It does look like the crescendo we all expect to precede a calm. But it’s been 5 years and it seems to be moving up, what’s the assurance there would be calm after? The fact is we are shrouded in ignorance and we aren’t doing anything to reduce that. No wonder it is said that ignorance is bliss.

So what solution do you propose and what would be the form of cohesion? Or would you rather live your life of comfort till they are at your doorstep?

Kindly share your thoughts and this post as well. Thanks.

Happy People

…and R. Kelly sings: Happy people, yeah yeah yeah, keep the world, turning turning turning, I believe that, happy people, yeah yeah yeah, keep the world, dancing dancing dancing…and then with the end of the song comes the dance, do you remember? Step to the left, step to the right, stand around and break it down tonight, bring it on up, move in close…*record scratches*…err sorry to cut you off like that but couples dancing isn’t the subject of today’s post, atleast not those types.

My favourite saying applies a great deal in this issue, “Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power”. I remember as a child, the concept of homosexuality was foreign, it wasn’t something we children knew or spake about. Playing ‘mummy and daddy’ and being teased by friends about girls they assumed or knew we liked was natural. Except for a few isolated cases where there was a reference to it or an occurence that seemed like a bizzare exception, it wasn’t talked about. All of a sudden it was everywhere! In everyday secondary school conversations, in jokes, in disses and so on. It grew in consciousness and gradually went public, such that it finally had to be recognised by law. Gay people or ‘Happy’ people started requesting for their rights in public after being more or less in the background for centuries.

Liberalism, as everything else has its advantages and disadvantages. From a liberal point of view anyone can say and do whatever they desire but not when marriage comes in. Now marriage has always included God, and thus it would be weird if I spoke about it from a liberal point of view. Civil union has been something they used but that’s not enough, every gay boy has always dreamt of his own white wedding, to the man he ‘loves’, in the church daddy and daddy got married in. Oh well this is what the bible says about that:

Lev 18:22
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (ESV)

Lev 20:13
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (ESV)

Romans 21-32
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)

The above texts are from the old and new testament. Verses 26, 27 and 32 are of particular interest. It’s clear that God is clear on this issue, those who practice and those who give approval to them that do. So what do I think?

If I saw a group of Christians running after a gay person to assault or murder them, would I join them? No because that’s in the old testament and a lot of those don’t apply today. Do I support gay marriage? No. If a gay person asked me if that way of life is right would I reply in the affirmative?  No. Do I think gay couples should adopt children? No. Why not? I believe God gave us free will and so if gay people want to have sex in their privacy then that’s their decision as God isn’t in support of premarital sex and a lot of us engage in it. So if we use our freewill to sin against God then I feel we shouldn’t point fingers. Whatever decisions they make is between them and God, and only He can judge. However, I don’t support their marriage especially NOT in a church of God. Again I quote Myles Monroe “Every problem in the society can be traced back to the family”. God made a system of family where the father and mother have a blessed union and produce children who are raised with the love of God and who are given an identity and where there are no kids, the adopted children should be raised by a father and mother. With the increase in divorce rates, increase in the number of single parents, reducing number of hours career parents spend with their children in a week, I think it would be a step further in the wrong direction for children to be raised in a home with ‘parents’ of the same sex.

I’m of the opinion that we should focus our attenion on returning to the core values that now only exist in storybooks and build our families the way it was intended. The institution of marriage which has been ridiculously abused needs to be placed back on the pedestal where it should be. In the beginning God saw Adam was alone and He made a woman from and for him. Simple! Let’s all get back to the only functional plan for society so that we can all live under the blessings of God as happy people.

Up Nepa!

Hello, its been a while, there’s been a lot going on asides my seeming part-time writer’s block. Well here is a post from a friend, Busola Taiwo, a topic all of us are very familiar with. Your comments would be gladly received. Enjoy, share and have a great week ahead. New post from yours truly would follow soon. By the way, can you smell water? An elephant can smell water up to 3 miles a way, I bet you didn’t know that.

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We live in constant fear
Of your inconstancy
Forsake your drunken moods, we beg
Return to sobriety

We fear thee as we fear our Lord
So much so that we pray
“I really want to watch this match
PLEASE don’t take the light today”

But are our prayers not futile?
Don’t we always pray in vain?
You tease us with low current, then
Disconnect us again.

We gave our time and gave our money
All that we had, and more
But this disease of yours, it seems
For it there is no cure.

Forgive us for we have lost all faith
Forgive our uncomprehending pride
Forgive us our unrelenting efforts,
Forgive us, for we have tried.

Forgive us our lack of understanding
We suffered as well you know,
We were told you’d be well by 2012
We held fast like a dog to his bone.

No signs of improvement have you shown
And that is the reason why
When you say you will be better soon
We survey you with a cynical eye

“Really” we sneer, “that’s what you said
Yesterday and the day before.”
I wish there were support groups
For organizations, too.
Alcoholcs have AA, drug addicts have rehab,
But what can we do for you?

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Its personal

It was two weeks ago, myself and two other corpers were waiting for our letters when the issue of speaking one’s “mother tongue” came up. You could say I’m part of the exception as English is the only language I’m fortunate enough to be adequate in. French just never stuck with me even after years of being a student neither Yoruba nor Igbo. As a result after the “Where are you from” question, I get the “Ha! O jo omo Yoruba” (Cos of my fair-skin, stereotypical yeah?) and then the “Oyinbo lo tin so latekan, so gbo yourba ni?” and then when I tell them I can’t speak they might switch to English language and go “Ah! It’s not good for one to not know how to speak his mother tongue. It doesn’t say well about you. You should be proud of where you come from.” or its Yoruba equivalent. Pause! Now I could go on about reasons why I shouldn’t be proud of where I come from and even ask why Yoruba, if it were superior, didn’t go round the world like English did, but really I wouldn’t because the simple truth in this instance is I have never at any point said I wasn’t proud of where I come from, they just presumed I wasn’t.

Now there was a colleague with us and we argued back and forth and as much as toying with the emotions of my “opponent” was fun, seeing as she was emotional about the whole thing, I never let my points be made without having logical reasons behind them. Not my main point but wouldn’t it be terrific if we could extend the emotion and vigour we put into this whole “mother tongue” issue towards other issues affecting our society? A Yoruba man for example might be corrupt but because they don’t want to “bite the hand that feeds them”, the people around him would simply look away. If an elder were wrong in a situation, most people would simply cover it up instead of standing on the truth all in the name of respect, thereby sending a putrid message to the youth. If our language which we would fight for so dearly, defines who we are then I look around Nigeria and I ask who are we?

Many times I have been in a public place where two or more people decide to speak in their language and there is nothing wrong with that. But where there is only one person who doesn’t understand that language, how wouldn’t that person consider the possibility that the discussion is about them? Once I joined a queue where two Ibo guys were speaking English, then they changed to Igbo, I kept looking at them till they were uncomfortable, they then embarrassingly asked if I understood them and I just smiled. Maybe a private conversation, maybe not, but it does cause a faction in public places.

My main point is simply the rule and its exception. Should every man speak his mother tongue? Yes. Ideally is it possible? Yes, realistically? No. So where is the exception in this case? My friend Victor can speak Igbo and Yoruba, the languages of his father and mother respectively. He also speaks Hausa and French relatively well. I once met a man who could speak the three main Nigerian languages excellently well along with some other languages and apart from the slight Ibo accent, I really couldn’t figure out what tribe he was from. Then there is me the man who grew up in Lagos and whose only exposure to Hausa language was in junior secondary school, whose exposure to French should allow him construct and reply simple sentences. If not any of those, what of Yoruba, at least Lagos is said to be a Yoruba state? Have I tried? Yes, to an extent. Would I keep trying? Definitely! But you see, the question most people failed to ask is “Why can’t you speak your native languages?”. Now that basic use of language opens up a discussion, not a debate because then I get to tell my story and then help can be offered. I have heard people say “It would be good if you could speak it” or “You should try learning, it’s important”, now those sound encouraging rather than the instances given in the opening paragraph.

Shortly before we got our letters an Akwa Ibom man came in and he contributed by saying his children grew up in Lagos and they understand their native language but can’t speak it but that they spoke Yoruba well. I have met Ibo people that speak Yoruba well and some even say it’s easier than Igbo. Coupled with the fact that Westernisation has played a huge part in our lives from birth, it’s really an integrated problem. But a lot of people often forget the fact that the lifestyle in the rural area of a place say the United States, is different from that of those in the urban areas. Ergo, the issue of language is an individual issue as well as a collective issue. So judging someone on an individual issue from a collective perspective is wrong. Technical Drawing is fun for me, but it’s a pain in the neck for some people. Someone might speak up to six languages fluently like one of the lecturers in my final year, while others may only grasp one language easily.

Society should remember that we all don’t have the same abilities and language isn’t an exception!

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