PARALLAX: Somewhere Over Kogi, 2013 by J. Barook

PARALLAX: Seeing the same thing from two different points of view renders three dimensions.

According to Wikipedia, parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight. The essays contained in PARALLAX reflect the same displacement. While the shift can be uncomfortable or jarring or even unrecognizable, a new reality is created from the old.

Somewhere Over Kogi, 2013

It’s the law. All things move from order to disorder. Heat dissipates within the system. Absent an outside force the best we can hope for is steady state for a while until things fall apart. The arc of history doesn’t bend towards justice. At best it bends towards accommodation. But at tipping points you’d better hold on tight; the whole world’s about to burst into flames. Conflict resolution is about negotiating the dynamics of equity, interests, and power. Forgiveness doesn’t exist. But then someone like Mandela comes along and makes me wonder if I’ve got it all wrong.

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Mandela died today. I’m sitting in a 40-passenger twin prop flying over forest, headed from Akure to Abuja after two weeks by road through the Niger Delta: Benin City, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Akure. In Owerri, a big, bald-headed man gave me a stick of meat and said my conflict data were out of date. He told me that a couple weeks ago there was an incident over a plot land where the youth were supposed to cut the grass. Some came out and cut the grass like they were supposed to, working hard in the sun, bent over, swinging machetes, cutting grass. But others didn’t; the ones who did were mad because it wasn’t fair that they had to do all the work themselves. They marched over to the Community Liaison Officer’s house, insisting that he levy a fine against the ones who didn’t show. The CLO said to let it go—don’t force anybody to pay the $6 fine in this shitty economy. The youths decided to go and get the $6 themselves from the guy who didn’t do his part. It’s only fair, they thought. They showed up at the guy’s house that night, and the guy shot his gun into the air. Then in a blaze of gunfire and machete strikes, six people died and everybody in the community got out of there. Now the community’s deserted. The big, bald-headed guy said we should try to do something about the situation. Yeah, I said. We should.

Flying over Kogi, where last year a church was strafed by gunmen, it strikes me that consciousness does not emanate from a central point in my mind. It emerges from a micro-storm of conflicting electro-chemical impulses. And yet there is something I call me. That consciousness emerges is shocking, belying the God of Job who spoke from the whirlwind, who was the whirlwind.

God said don’t question me. There is no answer. I have no face.

But I say the universe must have a face. How else did consciousness explode from within it? And If I love my children, how can it be that something deep at the heart of the world doesn’t know and love us all?

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