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Date: October 14, 2019, 09:57:07 PM

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Billy and Parkinson Disease, the Wicked Have Done Their Worst, By Bunmi Fatoye-Matory: Random Thoughts : Nigerialog.com - Nigeria's Premier Online Forum

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Billy and Parkinson Disease, the Wicked Have Done Their Worst, By Bunmi Fatoye-Matory

By: Adenosine (M) |Time : March 24, 2018, 12:01:16 PM

The elites really need to prove the returns on the huge investment in their education by using science and reason to understand and demystify diseases that afflict them and their loved ones. Society loses a great deal when after so much learning, the so-called educated person still shows little understanding and engages in damaging superstition about the causes of diseases.

Billy lived a charmed life. He and I grew up together, along with my siblings. Like the other dogs before and after him, he appeared in our house mysteriously one day from a source only known to my father. All our dogs were not local, because they looked different from the local dogs. Billy was a big affectionate dog with floppy ears and a beautiful brown pelt. The dogs were given names like Kokres, Laakaye, Golda and Meir. I did not know the last two were the names of a real person until I became an adult. My father must have admired Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister back then. Billy and these other dogs lived in a household with a unique pet culture alien to the local culture. He, especially, stood out in my memory because his life intersected with that part of my childhood where memories were indelibly formed. My siblings and I took care of Billy, cleaning his urine every morning and picking up the waste he made overnight because he slept on the balcony, always on his leash. During the day when we could keep a watchful eye on him, he was free to move around the compound, but he was never allowed to go to the street. Whenever we children took Billy for a walk in the evening, he was full of exuberance. Despite being on a leash, he bounded along, barking happily and terrifying fellow children.
Billy had a loving attachment to my father. He sat near my father in the morning while he was having his breakfast. And, as if he had an internal alarm clock, just before my father’s car appeared on the horizon at the end of the work day, he waited for him on the veranda, his floppy ears at attention. As soon as he spotted my father’s Volkswagen, he ran up and down the veranda, yapping and jumping. He ran to the car as my father parked, standing on his hindlegs, welcoming my father home with his happy dog dance. My father displayed a tactile affection for his dogs that we children never experienced. In fact, as a patriarch, his deeply-held philosophy was spare the rod, spoil the child. We experienced only tactile disaffection with the cane, for the smallest infractions. He massaged his dogs, yanked the ticks off their bodies, bathed them with anti-tick solutions, took them to the veterinarian at the first sign of illness, and made us feed them the very same thing we ate. Their diet was complemented by the bones obtained from the local butcher. The vet clinic in our small Ekiti town mostly took care of more valuable animals like goats and sheep, which were of commercial value. Dogs did not belong to that category. Most dogs roam the streets, looking for their daily nutrition. They were often summoned to eat the waste of little children, with a special call only meant for them. They were not used for food because they were considered dirty. Occasionally, they were offered to Ogun, the god of iron and open roads, because that they were his favourite food. We did not allow our dogs to go out on the streets because we did not want them to acquire the local dog habit of eating human waste. One morning, an elderly woman on her way to the farm stopped by our balcony to watch Billy polishing up his bowl of food, shocked that a dog could be given such a sumptuous meal.

…many people in my family and in the town strongly believed my father was a victim of evil doers, the mysterious awon aiye, ever present in Yoruba cultural beliefs, always lurking in the shadows, ready to inflict illness, disorder, death, and confusion on people. During a telephone conversation with a family member, he said, “Africa la wa, you have spent too much time abroad.” He was a university graduate. Not rationality, not science, not Ali’s case could persuade him.

Another reason Billy stood out in my memory was the dramatic way he died. After many years of joyous living with our family, Billy fell ill. The illness grew worse, even as my father took him repeatedly to the Vet. The illness got so bad and the clinic could not do much for him. He had open sores all over his body, which did not heal in spite of the best efforts of the Vet. He could no longer move, eat, or bark and he was in pain all the time. After several weeks, my father thought his suffering was too much and decided to end the misery. On the fateful morning, he sat with Billy before going to work, talked to him gently and bid him farewell. My brother and my hunter-uncle led him away to a hole that had been dug in the wood, not far from our house. Billy got into this hole unbidden, and my uncle shot him with his dane gun, normally used for hunting. Billy was given a sad and befitting burial in the wood. Then the rumours started, totally unexpected because Billy was an animal, not a person. Billy was rumored to have been afflicted with “ata”, a dreadful skin disease local people believe has its origin in the magical and nefarious activities of evil people who throw something at your shadow. Supposedly, wherever this thing hit on your shadow, your skin is certain to rot. We did not know that Billy had such enemies, angry or envious of him enough to want his demise, or that animals were even a target of this magic. Billy supposedly died from the machinations of the wicked. By the time he died, he had lived a long life in dog years. Yet, his death was attributed to the doings of the wicked.

A few decades later, my father came down with Parkinson Disease. It’s a degenerative disease that starts with tremors, while the body becomes progressively rigid. In the late stages it reduces the sufferer to complete immobility. The brain no longer produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the control of body movement. Mohammed Ali was the most famous sufferer of this disease. My father suffered from this disease for about a decade before he died. During those terrible years, I tried to educate people about the disease. Still, many people in my family and in the town strongly believed my father was a victim of evil doers, the mysterious awon aiye, ever present in Yoruba cultural beliefs, always lurking in the shadows, ready to inflict illness, disorder, death, and confusion on people. During a telephone conversation with a family member, he said, “Africa la wa, you have spent too much time abroad.” He was a university graduate. Not rationality, not science, not Ali’s case could persuade him. One of the pernicious effects of this superstition was that many of the people who liked my father fled from him when he needed them most. He was a community leader whose charisma and contributions to the town attracted people to our house all the time. There was always a keg of fresh palm wine for the evening, and Schnapps for early morning visitors who were visiting to discuss serious personal or community affairs. The house became deserted and lonesome as his illness progressed. It was a relative who finally confessed she had not been visiting him because the rumor in town was that his illness was not ‘oju lasan’, that it was the work of the wicked, and she reasoned if they could do that to him, a powerful patriarch, surely it would be easy to get someone like her. Some people in the town claimed they were responsible for his illness. He succumbed to it in his late ‘70s. The wicked had done their worst, according to the belief of some. I believe he died of Parkinson Disease. It was not unusual for someone in his age group.
It is those who see your mother’s co-wife, your own mother, your friend, some unidentified tall, thin woman or man, as the cause of your illness or misfortune that wreak havoc on society. They are the vultures who prey on our vulnerability at our weakest moment. They are the manipulative wicked who are doing their worst in creating distrust, confusion and mental anguish.

These stories are not uncommon in our culture. The fact is, we are not the only ones on earth who suffer from diseases, disasters, failed businesses, infertility, and other problems that are normal to human lives. What is different is the story we tell ourselves about why things happen. You would think all the heavy investment in Western education will make people challenge the superstitions and change the narrative about awon aye as the cause of illnesses and misfortunes, but often that is not so. One of the problems this causes is the lack of agency in understanding how we can improve our health and our fortune. It closes our minds to the science of diseases, preventing necessary investment and research into the diseases that afflict us as a people. Could your liver problem be due to too much drinking? Are you suffering from diabetes and you don’t even know it? Is your kidney disease genetic? Could your lack of progress be due to bad decisions, laziness, cutting corners, misspent youth, or lack of mentorship? Some people don’t even know what disease they are suffering from because they never see doctors until they fall sick, and many do not know the history of the diseases in their families. Many choose to believe charlatans posing as diviners, prophets, seers and such people who are only interested in money and the power to control other human beings. They profit from human misery. The superstition around illnesses exacerbates the already stressful condition of a sick person. While a sick person should be using his financial and emotional resources to look for rational cures, the diagnosis that unseen powerful forces cause his illness takes personal agency away and plunges the sick into an abyss of confusion and vulnerability. These quacks are different from true traditional healers who have long training and experience in the chemistry of herbs and have deep knowledge about certain illnesses and their cures. It is those who see your mother’s co-wife, your own mother, your friend, some unidentified tall, thin woman or man, as the cause of your illness or misfortune that wreak havoc on society. They are the vultures who prey on our vulnerability at our weakest moment. They are the manipulative wicked who are doing their worst in creating distrust, confusion and mental anguish. The elites really need to prove the returns on the huge investment in their education by using science and reason to understand and demystify diseases that afflict them and their loved ones. Society loses a great deal when after so much learning, the so-called educated person still shows little understanding and engages in damaging superstition about the causes of diseases. The wicked only succeed in doing their worst when the leading lights of a society dims and extinguishes that light with ignorance.

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