The Enemy Within

For many individuals, having an “enemy” is a practical reality. The enemy is seen as an adversary who never seeks a person’s good, but rather, is willing to go all the way out to sabotage a person’s efforts, causing ruin and sorrow in the process. However, despite the high propensity of individuals to blame enemies (real or assumed) for their misfortunes, many times, the real enemy lies within. The complainant easily fits the picture of his own enemy.

Al Jazeera recently carried a story about some smart-ass individuals in Kenya. Those guys have turned electric transformers into money spinning machines. Transformers contain a type of oil used for cooling the components. By a stroke of genius, some individuals realized that this oil is good for frying food—forget that it contains a toxic substance, PCB. Thanks to this newfound resource, transformers are attacked and dismantled; the oil is retrieved and sold to owners of restaurants to help precipitate a medical crisis. The wise saboteurs also collect the transformers’ copper wire and other metallic parts for sale as scrap metal.

In a country where less than fifty percent of the population has electricity, one would have expected that the population would view critical electricity infrastructure as precious components. When transformers are damaged, the few with access to electricity enjoy power blackouts. Traditionally, the government would be blamed, along with the utility companies. However, the blame lies within those communities. The enemy is within, not without. The restaurant owners, who create a steady demand for the stolen oil, are as guilty as the actual saboteurs are. The members of the community, who watch idly while this happens, are also guilty for their negligence.

In northern Nigeria, a debilitating disease, polio, runs amok freely. In the south of the country, the occurrence rate is extremely low, thanks to the use of polio vaccines. In the north, some wise men raised the alarm that the vaccines were a ploy by Americans to sterilize the northern population. With this guidance in place, many parents have kept their children away from the polio vaccine. The deaths and prevalent disfigured limbs in that part of the country demonstrate the wisdom of their actions.

Who is the real enemy? Is it the organisations that provide the vaccines, or the advisers who convinced their communities to reject the vaccines? The people in northern Nigeria would scream at the West, while holding their real enemies in high esteem. While they face the wrong direction, their children continue to die, and suffer from polio.

Down in the south of Nigeria, another unfortunate culture takes centre-stage. In the midst of a huge infrastructure deficit, people still have the wisdom to shoot themselves in the foot.

Community boys would gang up to prevent a contractor from executing duly approved projects unless the contractor first pays them a given sum as settlement. Some contractors play ball, while some refuse to accede to the demands. Important projects are delayed by these acts of extortion.

While the inhabitants of a community continually blame the government for not fixing bad roads or providing needed social amenities, sometimes the real blame lies within the community. The irony is that the touts requesting for monetary gratification would benefit from the project’s execution.

An adage says that when we point one finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing at us. It is easy to look for whom to blame, and absolve ourselves of any responsibility for any event. It takes a lot more to think objectively, carefully examining issues to locate the real cause. There is more to life than always looking for someone to blame.

Be careful when looking outwards for enemies. The enemy may just lie within.

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