Monthly Archives: September 2013

Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing

Listening to the same person talk for two hours in a class-room setting is not a feat to be undertaken by those blessed with ADHD. It is certainly not a feat for someone who is fasting. Few weeks ago, I found myself in that situation, and man! I could not wait for lunch. I had a good breakfast but the lecturers later sounds seem to be causing my body to vibrate at a frequency that all the breakfast I ate was being siphoned to a blackhole, unbeknownst to me. Not saying he stole my food, but I have a strong feeling he caused it to disappear.

It was lunch time and I thought “Munch Time!”. At the restaurant, a customer pays for a lunch ticket and then it’s basically a buffet; Buffet Time. There was queue. Patience, empty one; I told my stomach. Then finally got to make my order. Alhamdulillah. I had momentarily forgotten that queues are made up of people. I knew there was noise but my brain was wasting energy as it were hearing, it wasn’t ready to invest in figuring out the source of the noise. Ahhhh it’s people… humans.

Seated now. A child returns to the mother, beside my table, with a modest content of food on their tray. It was modest especially comparing with all the other dunes of rice, lakes of gravy/soup and scrap-yard of meat (excuse my metaphors). The mother scolded her under-performing child, and instructed the child get more food. I thought, here is a mother that wants her child to grow body mass. Then she spoiled my motherly opinion of her. She said “Oya, go and add more food jare! It has been paid for now. Add whatever you like!”. My heart was broken

Here is a kid who is learning the ways of the world from his experienced mother. She on the other hand is wired to think that because one pays for a thing, they must squeeze out the most they can from it, even if not beneficial to you. She probably sleeps better at night saying to herself “at least I didn’t let them make the most out of my money”. Now this child will probably grow up to be distrustful and a vindictive customer by default. Every money spent will be a wrong done, thus the vindictive customer must see to it that vengeance takes place in making life as difficult as possible to the paid agent. Outside the commercial sphere, this child is likely to have all sorts of cynical view of humanity, which will be confirmed by others with cynical views… and then they are trapped in a vicious cycle.

Niccolo Machiavelli

This is a problem I think we should look into; especially new-parents. A holistic approach would aim to correct the parent’s perspectives. That would be awesome, but as we know, dealing with oneself is the biggest struggle (Greater Jihad) there is. I propose an alternative, a lesser struggle, which is something we are good at doing, that is monitoring the kids. I call this the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing.

The famous Florentine statesman and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, like many philosophers, can be argued to be quite misunderstood. Today, the adjective “Machiavellian” implies deceit, ruthlessness and cunning, among other negative connotations. Some probably consider him the anti-Christ of morality. However, I subscribe to the understanding of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as basically saying there are two sets of morality: one for the world, and the other for the Prince (King/Ruler). That is to say that a Prince is not subject to the same laws of morality that is binding on all others, because the prince has to put the welfare of the state (kingdom) first, even above his/hers. Yea, Machiavelli espouses having a double standard of morality; one for the populace, and a flexible one that adjusts to secure the welfare of the state. I said Machiavelli is misunderstood, I didn’t say I agree with him.

Back to the prescription of the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. First parents must agree on the values they hope to impart on their offspring. Then they see if they personally act in contradiction to those values. If they don’t, then cool, all is well; no need for Machiavellian Ethics. If however, they act in contradiction to the intended values, then they could engage in Machiavellian Ethics.

Machiavellian Ethics simply instructs that, when in presence of your offspring, act in ways that encourage/build the values you hope to impart on your offspring. The kids will pick it up and your actions (or the hiding of it) will become the building blocks of your offspring’s internal morality. That means double standards of morality, but not one for you and one for your kids. Rather, one for you and one for the what you want your kids to see in you.

Back to the restaurant (I’m just finishing up my plate). What would I have the mother do in front of the child? She would first have to agree her reaction to her child’s plate is not proper for the world view her child ought to have. If she agrees, then she could apply the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. Imagine all the possible reactions she could ‘ve gone with at the sight of her child under-performing…

Since it is difficult to fight a person’s habits and inclinations (i.e. the greater jihad), then some could embrace the double standard inspired by Machiavelli (i.e. the lesser jihad). Most of use spend most of our lives acting anyway. Many of us are fake, this is not a rap song so lets us not make a big fuss between the real and the fakes. All I am saying is, if the greater Jihad is too difficult for you, then settle for the lesser Jihad, by acting. Do it for the kids, do it for the future generation 🙂

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Ramadan Diaries – Part 4 (Shawwal Special)

This series is an attempt to explore how Ramadan is undermined and its spirit demonstrated, through the diaries of a typical Nigerian Muslim. It may apply to other Muslims too. Read the previous posts in the series here: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

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Twenty Fifth Day of Ramadan…
9:00am Looking forward to tonight, which is an odd-night of Ramadan; the night of of the twenty fifth.
01:00pm Shehu keeps “discussing” his tahajjud last night, with anyone who didn’t care to stop him. Should I shut him up by telling him that he is bragging about praying tahajjud on an even-night? nah let him carry on, I don’t want to rub it in his face, like he would. God forgive his Riyaa (Ostentation of virtues)
06:10pm Awaiting Iftar and gisting with siblings to while away the time. Told them about my preparation for tonight, being an odd-night. What! my younger one just corrected me. Tonight is actually an even-night. I forgot that nights come before days in Islamic Calendar. So Shehu was right all along. I’m glad it is not the night of the 27th yet; that would be tomorrow.
Note to self: night of the 27th is actually the night BEFORE the 27th day of fast. Cant wait for this Laylatul Qadr (Night of Power)

Twenty Sixth Day of Ramadan…
Ready to pull an all nighter tonight. Applied for casual leave from work tomorrow to enable my night worship but got denied. Crap! I guess tomorrow will be a slow day at work coz I ain’t cutting my worship on Laylatul Qadr for no office work.

Twenty Ninth Day of Ramadan…
Time to reflect on my achievements – I mean my progress – this Ramadan. I got Laylatul Qadr! I don’t want to raise my hopes too high but man, on the night of the 27th, I gave it my all. Laylatul Qadrs is better than a thousand months. BETTER I say… actually the Qur’an says. For calculation purposes, lets say it’s even just One thousand months, and let’s say there are 29 days in a month, then that is like better than 29,000 nights of worship. Ma Sha Allah!

Wait! this whole Laylatul Qadr thing is a bit confusing. Not the calculation. I mean, it is not necessarily the night of the 27th, it could be any of the last ten nights, or any of the last-ten odd nights. 27th seems to be the most deserving based on some Hadiths (reports from the Prophet).
But then not all Muslims start Ramadan on the same day. Does that mean the night of the 27th for me is actually the night of the 26th for others, or even 25th. Too bad for them I guess.
What about if others start their Ramadan on a different day from mine, and they happen to be correct. That would mean that I should have prayed my “Laylatul Qadr” on the night of the 26th or the 28th? Oh dear!
Perhaps everyone’s Laylatul Qadr is actually relative. So that even if we start on different days we all have our own nights of the 27th, and that would be our different Laylatul Qadrs. Hmmmm… So there could be many Laylatul Qadrs. I can hear Mal Aminu refuting this theory using grammar; saying that the Arabic word “Laylatu” is singular and so cannot – and can NEVER – mean more than one night. But who is right and who is wrong, on the date of starting Ramadan?
There is a bigger problem here. Since Muslims use the lunar calendar, how come the only controversy around beginning of months is around Ramadan (for fasting) and Shawwal… that’s an issue for another day
Now that I think about it, may be it is simply advisable to do Laylatul Qadr for the entire last ten days of Ramadan. Saves one from all these complications. And for 29,000 nights of worship, its worth it.
Oh Allah, give me the rewards of this year’s Laylatul Qadr, I promise to commit the entire last ten days next year. Thank you. I mean Aameen!

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…… A month later

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Twenty Eighth Day of Shawwal… 
I utilised time more in Ramadan. The hours are the same but for some reasons, I found it difficult to even keep up with my diary entries. What has changed? Do I spend a lot of time having meals… or could it be that the devils that were locked are now taking up my time? It must be them. No wonder the fasts of Shawwal seem harder. I only finished my six-of-Shawwal (Sitta-sh-Shawwal) two weeks ago. Two weeks for six fasts?! Curse those devils.
Anyway, I was not the last to compete my six at home or at the office. In fact I was among the first few to finish in the office. And that saved me from unceasing victory-sermons on the virtues of sitta-sh-Shawwal. This is how it works:

Someone asks you how many fasts you have done. If you have done more than them, they praise you at this point and remark how they want to catch up to you. If (unfortunately for you) you have done less than them, then you are in for something. They kickstart a lecture about how you must not allow this opportunity to pass you (as if you were not already subscribed). Then they conclude either by telling you how many they have done (which is more than yours) or more commonly they tell you how long since they finished theirs. Just rubbing it in you face.

I was saved from some of these lectures, but not all. Next year, I’ll finish in the first week InShaAllah, if only to make the lecture shorter (not so that they can conclude our conversation by praising me).

Looking forward to next Ramadan! InShaAllah!

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