By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
I have watched the trajectory of our lives in the last 25 years and with the advent of technology and particularly mobile phones and social media. And I ask myself the simple question: what has happened to common sense? I have only come to the same conclusion that my uncle would expound all the time when people behaved in a non-conventional manner. He would add,
“Common sense is not that common because not everyone has it.” So many rules and regulations are not written down but championed by common sense. But today we are challenged by the level of uncommon sense action. I should not narrate another person’s stories and surprises in this episode, but after listening to the story of others we learn from their wisdom or their mistakes. It is our people who say that when the kids whose parents are still alive were being advised, the other kid whose parents have died would also be listening to learn from that advice. For example, when I was a pastor,
I got a phone call from my altar server at 2 am. I quickly picked up the phone, thinking that some emergency or sick call situation had happened. I quickly responded, “Hello.” And he replied, “Hello Fada.” I asked what the problem was, and he said no problem but that he was only testing a new phone bought for him by his brother from Onitsha today. What should be my reply to this lack of common sense?I did not use social media in 6 years as a pastor. I am still not a big fan of social media. Some people would always say that they see me on social media, and I will wonder what I was doing when they saw me. During ordination and chrism mass, during weddings and baptisms, many people will show up with phones and cameras.
They will be taking pictures and walking around the church distracting everyone. Shuffling their legs and chewing gum. Common sense says the church requires some level of decorum, likewise offices and classrooms. In the quest to get pictures for Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, common sense is thrown out the window. Now if there is an uneventful situation that diminishes the value of a person (Ile-ugwu) that would be the first thing they will send out to the social media for the whole world to see. Is it not a commonsense issue to know that we should not expose the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters to the public? The Igbo proverb says, “Please hide me, the way the melon protects the interior.” (Zobem ka ugbogulu zobelu anyu).
The external body of the melon is green, the inside is red or yellow. Why should you send out someone’s picture to the whole world from a private event? So, I banned pictures in my church because of common sense scarcity.We sat down for the village meeting when I was home this December. I have been attending this meeting for over 40 years. All male children of the village are invited. You do not need any special invitation as a male member of the community. In the 80s when we started going it, was my father who led the way. If we were early, he would direct that we help in arranging the seats and sweep the floor. Then sit down quietly waiting for the village heads and the chiefs. While sitting down during the meeting if an elder were to show up, we were to yield our seat and move by the side for the elderly person to have the seat.
We kids did not say a word in the meeting, which is an idea that I may not fully subscribe to in the present time because I think the youths have something to say, but that is a story for another day. As I was talking to my brother about the number of people in the meeting and the importance of having a meeting that would bring together the male and the female members of the community,
I heard a colloquial greeting behind me. And when I turned around it was a ten-year-old boy saying to an uncle of about 70 years, “How far?” And I called him closer to me and asked him whom he was talking to. Boldly he said, “Papa Onyeka.” (Onyeka’s father). Oh my, what happened to good morning, sir? What happened to common sense?I told him to apologize to the man, which he did, but I was also worried about him saying no to me since I am a younger person that his Papa Onyeka.
As we sat down for the meeting, 90% of the members were on the phone talking freely without considering the person speaking at the high table. Others were sending text messages. The two people beside me were watching Facebook and YouTube. What happened to common sense that informed us to respect the speaker in a common gathering? While the meeting happened among the people sitting on the high table, the rest of the people were busy with their phones.
The noise and distractions were very disturbing to me. When I approached the village head to inquire why the lackadaisical attitude, he told me how he wanted to ban the phone 4 years ago and no one supported him. They recorded his speeches and sent them out to Facebook and said that he speaks the wrong grammar. They record arguments between the participants and post them to Facebook and vilify the person they don’t like. That was why he avoided the social-media generation because he did not want anyone to post him on Facebook with a bad caption. What happened to common sense and respect in the advent of technology and social media?