What was the worst feeling you ever had? Was it the feeling of being abandoned or the feeling of being betrayed? Was it the feeling of losing something or someone you really cherished or the feeling of not getting something you really wanted? For me, none of these was.
As one living in West Africa, one occasionally happened upon movies or stories about men making hard-to-believe – some may say, barbaric – sacrifices in the all-out pursuit of wealth. I once found it impossible to see the perspective of people who had the all-out anything-goes approach to the pursuit of money. But Life takes you “places”. An acquaintance once echoed a sentiment I had come across before, “People do not want money for the sake of money; they want money for the options, the freedom it offers.”
Life eventually took me to a “place” where I could see with stark clarity why people adopted the anything-goes approach to the pursuit of money, a place where I encountered the worst feeling I ever had: the feeling of not being free, of being a slave.
For all the gentleness and docility of my exterior, my soul cherished freedom to rather violent proportions. I did not want freedom from responsibility. I did not want freedom for a lack of ambition or discipline. I did not want some delusional pursuit of freedom from pain or hurt. I simply wanted freedom to be, freedom to lend a helping hand to the man or woman or child next to me, freedom to be honest and not need to tell a lie in order to be seen as able and willing, freedom to explore the world around me and serve the world around me with the very best of me. And, no, I did not want a freedom or “salvation” that said I had to lose my God-created self in the entity of a God that supposedly created me. I wanted freedom to find – or, see – my God-created self in the entity of the God that created me. Every day spent in captivity dealt a dose of death to my soul – what made me, me: a government that took and took from us, its people, and gave very little back; corporate organizations that exploited the dearth of opportunities in the country to demand – often subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly – from its employees sacrifices of what was supposed to be the employees’ personal or family time, with a consistency and entitlement that far outstretched and disregarded the agreed terms of employment; religious systems and their guardians who taught about the conditions for enjoying the unconditional love and blessings of our creator.
“People do not want money for the sake of money; they want money for the options, the freedom it offers.” There is a folk joke in Nigeria that “money stops nonsense.” The well-off are not subject to the same rules – governmental, societal, organizational or religious – as the middle class and the poor. And so, I, like the other young men my age, chased money all-out, relentlessly, even in the face of an anti-graft agency and a state-sanctioned policing outfit that targeted ambitious, unaffiliated young men and labelled us “yahoo boys”. We would get rich – and free – or die trying.
This is a work of fiction.
Photo by Carlos Esteves on Unsplash