Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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In recent times we have been reading instances of physical violence of men against their wives. Although men argue that some of them also suffer beatings from their wives, I consider this an exception rather than the rule for the simple reason that women cannot generally, match men physically. Naturally, men are physically stronger than men. In cases where the battering becomes publicly known, it turns out that the wife had been trying to conceal or endure it either out of love for her husband, due to cultural norms which generally do not accord respect to single or unmarried women or concern for her children. For the latter, the woman has a mother-love instinct for her little kids, whereby she is prepared to suffer ‘death’ for their sake. However, as the children become adults that are responsible for themselves before the spiritual and earthly laws, such instinct gradually weans off and love for the independent human being takes over. A human being devoid of love is described as being soulless, for (true) love is skin deep, it is directed to the soul within not the physical body per se.
Unfortunately, many persons these days (both men and women} marry essentially for a variety of physical and earthly reasons solely; like so called physical beauty of their would-be spouse, so-called financial security (monetary considerations), family background that is families that wield some earthly authority (so-called ‘powerful’ lineage) whereby we have arranged marriages by families. Thus, the fundamental ingredient of genuine love is lacking. Our concept of love has also been distorted. There are relatively few marriages today that are built on true love. What we have are false love masked in pretence. Love is a quality of the human spirit that oozes from within. A yardstick for gauging genuine love is selflessness in which is embedded service; you serve the other person truly. But our concept of service has also been distorted. Service is not equivalent to servitude or slavish submission. Indeed, the concept of slavery is anathema to the human spirt, it is naturally resisted from within by the human being. It is tantamount to equating human beings to animals which is wrong for the two creatures of Creation originate from different parts of Creation; whereas the animal’s soul comes from the animistic realm, the human being hails from the spiritual kingdom. The human being stands under a higher pressure on earth than the animal.
Again, unfortunately, the African man falsely believes that once he has done all traditional marriage rites on a woman, including paying her bride price, the woman becomes his ‘property’, part of his earthly possessions and so generally treats her like a chattel, a modern-day slave (slavery in another, refined form) who must ‘submit’ unconditionally like an animal to him. He thereby seeks to ‘dehumanise’ the woman, leading to suppressed grumbling which though seemingly not apparent because of cultural beliefs, envelops the home with the spell of falseness, showing itself partly in fault finding that causes disharmony and in time to visible physical acts like verbal abuse or physical assault. A husband that mercilessly beats his wife debases himself to the level of an animal and so behaves in a way that is utterly unworthy of a human being. Husbands should realise that that their wives are first and foremost creatures of the Almighty like themselves who also like themselves, have rights, chief among which is the freewill entrusted to each human spirit by the Creator. This means that use of force, battering or the like to compel a certain type of behaviour or to ‘correct’ perceived missteps would not yield good fruits in the end. Only what a woman does freely of her own accord, what comes freely from her heart is of value… She deserves utmost respect as a woman, a human being in her own right. Respect begets respect. Where a woman ‘fears’ her husband, then there is no genuine respect because it is not borne of love.
Thus far, one has stated the truth that ‘submission’ is not in the vocabulary of human spirits, rather it is a word that is associated with lower-ranked creatures like animals. For the human being, the concept of ‘submission’ shows itself in the form of loyalty. Love is the fundament. You can have love for a man or woman, love for a cause, etc. Where you have true love, loyalty and (selfless) service ensue. They are intertwined. Where one for example, takes on a job for some pecuniary, material gains rather than primarily for the love of the cause, there, fault finding rears its head, place hunting, backbiting, intrigues and other associated evils crop up; in brief, disharmony reigns. However, where love for the overall cause is the driving force, there, work becomes a joy and true harmony subsists.
Ditto marriages. Where a couple’s marriage is anchored on true love for each other, there follows automatically, loyalty and selfless service. And from the harmony arising therefrom, the couple emits peace and happiness. When we look around in our neighbourhood how many of such marriages can we vouch for? The growing statistics of disharmonious relationships/marriages as evidenced in rising numbers of separations/divorces, unmitigated domestic violence against wives testify that marriages these days are built on wrong/false values. Love means doing what is of benefit to the other person, not doing anything that harms or will harm your partner either in the body or soul. And this genuine love has to be mutual. Where only one partner is in love and not the other, then it is one-sided and one-sidedness is itself disharmony. Truly, many of us are not worthy to be called human beings, given our monstrous behaviours that have made us caricatures of what a true human being should bring forth.