The Fine Art of Pretence- V

Impedance = Z

Well, you know what they say: ‘Whatever has an advantage also has a disadvantage’? Pretence, as fine an art as it is, isn’t any different. Sometimes you’re not so sure something will work. Scientists call it Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, but here we’ll call it the impedance to pretence. Now, let’s go on to look into some factors that could curtail or impede the workability coefficient of The Fine Art of Pretence.

First on the list is KNOWLEDGE. You know that thing about your not wanting to know something because you can’t face it and yet you can’t hide from it? Or how it’s so hard to hide when you think the very person you’re trying to hide from has already seen you? Let’s face it: knowledge is power. Yeah, I know some folks have become so philosophical with that cliché, albeit expectedly, that they now aver that knowledge is power only when applied. I don’t know what more to say to such unreasonable fellows except that it is wrong to criticize what you do not understand. Science says we have two kinds of energy—potential (passive) and kinetic (active) energy. Knowledge not applied is potential energy and knowledge in action is kinetic energy. It’s that simple.

There is something about knowledge that helps the enlightened mind see through a charade. I used to have a lecturer, Mr. Obinta, back then in the university who would say, ‘Let me help you enlighten your ignorance and illuminate your darkness’. And he would really mean it. That’s really the edge psychologists have. You don’t go pretending before a psychologist because they already read you like the palm of their hand the moment you walked through the door. It’s the same thing with people who have been around you for a long while: very few things you do will ever have them taken by surprise. Any new character you try to invent will be mere theatrics; they’re only waiting for you to snap out of it—as you surely will.

It happens a lot with me. My friends know that I’m not the gentlemanly sort, so whenever the ladies around me see me open doors or draw chairs for them, they know it’s just a show. They would always say to stop pretending to be a gentleman (imagine, they don’t even give me a chance to change). At other times, when I start running the sugar-coated edge of my tongue with flattery, they have learnt not to let it get into their heads because the very next minute could witness the other, caustic edge of the sword characterized by sarcasm. The funny thing is, they seem to love me and multiply their presence around me even as much as I pulverize them. That’s a phenomenon I’ve never fully understood, but I intend to cultivate that love till the end of my days. So help me, God.

Next to knowledge is TIMING. If time is life, then timing is living. I remember the story of a man who, being a fugitive from his own country, fled to take up residence in another. (This story is real life and happened in the Middle East.) He was taken before the governor of the city in which he proposed to dwell, and was just sensitive enough to perceive that the chiefs of the city were not favourably disposed towards him. Right there he began to foam at the mouth and simulate increasing levels of insanity until the governor, in a rage, chided them for bringing a mad man before him and ordered him thrown out. That was how he escaped to another city.

You see, timing is closely tied to sensitivity. Whoever has watched a wrestling match between Shawn Michaels and Yokozuna would concur with me on this. Do you recall how Shawn would exert just enough energy to keep himself in the fight and actually allow Yokozuna the pleasure of throwing him to the ground? The grand moment for Shawn was always when Yokozuna, obese as he was, would climb over the ring and make to descend full impact with his buttocks on the former. Shawn would simply dodge and leave, in his wake, a Yokozuna in throes of pain. Shawn climbs over and secures an easy victory when the referee makes three counts and the big man can’t get up. That’s the spirit of timing and sensitivity.

When prepared sensitivity meets..



The Fine Art of Pretence- III


I have met a lot of stupid people, but none worse than those who either don’t know how to conceal their knowledge and emotions or haven’t learnt how to flaunt it at the right time. These two groups of people are, to me, some of the worst human beings on the circle of the earth. Here’s the reason. The former, like brute beasts, are destroyed by the very powers and prowess they possess. For the latter, they want to please everybody and be the beast of burden.

Earlier we had said a little on quiet people being very dangerous. Now, as sweet as that sounds, it’s not always true. I know about the empty barrel that makes the loudest noise, but hey, even an empty barrel can be coated with thick rubber or leather so that it makes little or no noise. I’ll tell you this: if someone is so often quiet, it simply means they don’t think they have something useful to contribute to the pool of wisdom and don’t want to swell the cesspool of folly either. Or it may mean some even more sinister purpose.

You think I’m not making sense with this? You just study them and try to make some trouble or put them on the hot seat. You’ll see that they aren’t able to respond intelligently when upset; the response will usually be more emotional than rational. Just try it.

It baffles me that some people can be so naïve, especially women. You got married to this man, he turned you into a punching bag, you kept quiet about it and stayed on in his house until he finally knocked you out. It is when concerned neighbours and friends notice that you’ve suddenly gone missing and organize a search party that they discover you either in a hospital bed or under house arrest, your beauty all but finished. Your morale is at an all-time low, and this time they forcefully take you away amid your muffled protests (you can’t speak loudly because your mouth is in excruciating pain from several blows). Meanwhile, you keep saying, ‘He is my husband. What God has joined together let no man put asunder.’

My sister, let me start by telling you the ugly truth: you’ve taken ‘stupid’ to an all-time high. If ever I happened to be one of those people seeing you in that state, I’d not sympathize with you or rebuke your hubby yet. The first thing I’d do would be to paint before you the very ugly picture of the slave you have become, then afterwards I could go on to give your man the rough tackles he deserves.

Of course, the first thing would be to take you out of there; there’s no point condemning you if I can’t give any practical solution to your problem because talk is cheap. You should, the very first time he laid a paw on you to hurt you (paw because beating a woman makes a beast of a man, except in serious self-defence), have gone to report to your family first, and then to his (I’m being very careful about his family because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). After that time, be creative with your quarrels such that, the next time there’s one, you have a standby weapon with which to deal him a fatal (but not mortal) blow. Make it fatal so that you have enough time to escape while he’s still weak, but you can’t afford to make it mortal because no one pays for his crimes when he’s dead. If you must make him suffer, let him be alive so that the lessons will endure and you will feel good after leaving the house if you have to. Besides, there’s still chance to reconcile as long as he’s alive; you don’t want to lose that chance, do you?

Whoa, I just said that you may have to leave his house! My dear, if you were truly one flesh with him and he saw you that way, then he’d never do to you what he wouldn’t do to himself. He should love you as he loves himself—save that he’ll not die for you. Oh, what were you expecting? That your man should be able to give his life for you? No way! If he did that, you would get married to someone else sooner or later and all his heroic martyrdom would be but a memory, probably a milestone in your history. For goodness’ sake, let him save his life instead.

Jeez! I just spent all this time telling you women how to deal with a violent man? You see, gone are the days when we would say, ‘She stoops to conquer’. That was in the era when women had no rights and were simply baby-making machines bought at a bride price and deployed towards bearing and rearing children to continue the family name. Not anymore. In our world today women are prominent in different fields of endeavour. You cannot talk pop without the mention of Whitney Houston or TV talk show without Oprah Winfrey. Here in Nigeria, economic decisions are more or less influenced under the current dispensation by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. So let’s not pretend that the world is still the way it was. No, things have changed and we must acknowledge the fact. Pretence is only fine when backed up with a sense of integrity and it can stand the test of reality.

By special providence I happen to have a lot of female friends, far more than male (and that doesn’t make me a ladies’ man). All of these ladies are intelligent to the core, but sometimes a few of them just get so gullible and you’d think they were under some hypnotic spell when you see them obsequious enough to eat ‘shit’ (sorry to say). I hate it, but I also don’t like it when people become toothless bulldogs. I’ve heard so many people say, ‘You can’t stand it when I’m angry’, and my response is always, ‘Are you the only one who knows how to get angry?’ Such people are so petulant, pugnacious and prone to throwing up temper tantrums, making much ado over nothing because they really can do nothing. These two groups of people are among the weakest and stupidest beings on the surface of the earth.

You must learn to manage your emotions. Be slow to speak and act but quick to learn. Pretence is about having information and using it when necessary to your advantage. You use it to either reveal or conceal something, depending on the demands of the situation. Silence is golden when the silent one has an advantage he’s waiting to unleash at the right time—and he must actively make that time happen, else he would have successfully crossed the line from pretence to foolishness.

I usually tell people that whenever they see me angry or speaking strongly to someone, it does not always mean that I’m really angry and letting words just fall from my mouth. Sometimes, I say things for effect even if I don’t mean them exactly the way I said them, and even the person will have to acknowledge later that I made sense. There are insults I don’t reply because I have a nobler objective in mind. At other times I could leave a stern warning or do something totally uncalled-for (what the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria would describe as replying a toothpick with a javelin) and it will only be an act of deterrence, not anger.

Here’s my point: you don’t have to wait to be angry before you react. More than that, learn to …

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The Fine Art Of Pretence II

​Turning the Other Cheek: A Closer Look

The idea behind turning the other cheek, a religious injunction that has gained secular popularity, albeit in a derogatory sense, is to let someone go as far as they wish if they want to hurt or deprive you. That is, to let them exhaust their sinister intentions, or at least let them have a little more of it than they might have even thought possible at the moment.

Think about this just a moment: someone slaps you, even if you may have deserved it, and the next thing you do is let them have the other cheek. At first it may seem like a really laudable virtue, but just imagine if, during the great wars of the twentieth century, Britain and the USA had allowed Germany continue sinking merchant ships and even warships after Germany had conducted some air raids. Or perhaps, you allow a rogue rape your daughter after stealing your property. That would very well pass for turning the other cheekand for foolishness too!

Some of you, at this point, are already wondering whether Im not going a little extreme with this, but what is good for the gander should also be good for the goose. If its okay to let someone slap your other cheek because he had the cheek to slap the first one, then maybe it would make even better sense to let someone have your job after taking your spouse.

Okay, okay, fineI heard your objections. Perhaps we should really delineate that admonition and ask ourselves if we sincerely believe that its okay to turn the other cheek the way we know it to be, or, maybe, we can scan this statement under a different hue of light and get results that are more agreeable to practicality.

You see, some diehard pacifists have postulated that if someone were to strike you on one cheek and you offered them the other, they would lose the willpower to keep the assault on. But it does not follow. We know for a fact that each one owes his destiny to himself, and if you leave your well-being to the stretch or shortness of anothers conscience, you become vulnerable to their every whim. So if their conscience has been seared with hot iron, youre doomed.

Understand this: people seek unlimited power, and anytime anyone becomes conscious of the possibility of taking you for a ride, then your days of freedom are numbered. Youll live the rest of your life in servitude. But you stand up for yourself and the evil slave driver will be forced to back off. Those in political circles and the armed forces understand this perfectly: failure to build your own power is invitation to trouble.

You dont believe? Well, thats your business. Wait till your vast reserves of potential are outclassed by your many wasted years, then ask your contemporaries of the past why they ride on wheels of progress while you are still legging your way through life, or even worse, crawling on your belly. That is if youre even able to see their brake lights again.

So what are we supposed to make of this supposedly divine admonition to turn the other cheek?

My first suggestion is that you forget vengeance. You see, the quest for revenge is almost a choking one in all of us, even the apparently soft people. It takes the truly strong, even when all the means are available to exact their pound of flesh, to extend grace in lieu to those who have hurt them.

In saying that, I am not an advocate of the leave it for God or God will judge maxim of the weak, but I would say this with all due respect to your feelings: To err is human; to forgive is divine. You may have heard this axiom several times and even grown to hate hearing it because you think it will make others trample you underfoot, but nothing could be farther from the truth. You must forgive!

When, however, people ask you to forgive and forget, what they really mean is that you should make yourself more vulnerableand I wouldnt advise that. Lets face the fact: there is a God and you are not Him. Only God possesses the power to truly forgive and forget (atheists, please skip this part), and even that is a mind-boggling paradox for the Supreme Being who is omniscient, all-knowing.

Listen to this: God can safely forget because He knows where the sea of forgetfulness is and He can also, with pinpoint exactitude, pick out whichever part of your history is needed exactly wherever it is located on the map of that Great Sea when matters come to a head. As for man, we must try to forgive and forget within the ambit where amnesia will not occur. Yes, your graciousness shouldnt degenerate into memory loss in the name of piety (more on that in the next chapter), but if you allow a grudge to fester in your heart, the suffering is on you while the offender might well be enjoying life elsewhere. You should be rest assured that we are human and are therefore bound to err (whatever the intent), and then steel yourself against the surprises of such misdemeanor. Then, forgiveness will be easier.

If that is too hard for you, then imagine if all the people you ever offended decided to take it out on you. How would you feel? Now is the time to respect the Golden Rule. An eye for an eye, they say, leaves the whole world blind. (Heres our little secretkeep it between usI also hate hearing forgive and forget.)

Having taken the step of striking retaliation out as an option, heres a further idea: strike first! And just in case youre unable to do that, develop second-strike capability in your shock absorber as a back-up plan. You see, some people need some massive retaliation from you, but not at them. For example, in your office there could be persons who are avowed antagonists of your person, but if you settle it in your heart to do better all the time and always make friends with the right people in power, then any plan those foes of yours contrive will be difficult to implement because your records speak for you. Besides, they will fear a backlash if they are found out, since you have on your side the powers that be.

You see, it pays to be both smart (perceptive) and sharp (powerful). Dont forget that the first person who needs you is yourself; if you cant protect yourself, then how do you protect someone else? Let your strategy lie in your smartness, and your strength in your sharpness. In learning to strike first, you will need to draw attention away from your awareness of the antagonist (lest people suspect your every move as being against the other person). You must pretend not to know of their sinister intentions unless letting them know will keep them at bay. 

Let me give you an example from my days in the secondary school. Seniors could come wake you up anytime to go do anything for them, so juniors devised a means of getting their own back somehow. They would be awake but pretend to be asleep, and when they knew they were being roused by a senior, they would suddenly fling their hands in the air, leaving the senior stunned with a slap. Immediately, the junior would apologize, citing the name of some troublesome classmate whom they had supposed was disturbing them again. Most times they would thus escape with just the errand and the very lucky ones might even be left to go back to sleep, but the less fortunate juniors, God help them.

Turning the other cheek is good advice when youre under persecution or oppression by an enemy against whom you have absolutely no power. I mean, you are simply no match for them. At that time it will be useful to acquiesce to their demands and go the second mile because, in fact, you are preparing your mind for when it will be your turn. You know what? When such a person gives you a hard task, carry it out with grace and complete it if you can. Then do just a little more and thank them for the opportunity. Leave them in no doubt that you are greater than them. When someone much stronger keeps beating you, and after screaming and crying you end up smiling the next time you meet them, you have overcome the evil in them with the good in you. As it is said, The best revenge is to be successful.

In a nutshell, Im saying that if there are any odds in your calculation that you could outwit or destroy your opponent, do it by all means. If you must fake a smile or a plea in order to buy time till you find something that gives you the advantage (for example, a weapon around or a means of escape if youre in a physical fight), please do it! Pretence isnt a bad thing when its for the greater good. Pretence, like money, yields itself to the whims of the one who wields it. It is always better to be the big man being magnanimous than the small man seeking mercy. Turn the other cheek but show a juicy carrot and a heavy stick. See if youll not be on top of the situation.


The Fine Art of Pretence- I

I hate pretence!

I dunno how to pretend; I like to speak my mind!
Why should I pretend? Who wants to kill me?
There is freedom of speech!
I will say it as it is!

All right, cool down. Just in case you would like to know, this title was chosen because the writer has observed the hypocrisy immediately revealed once the issue of pretence is mentioned. For goodness sake, you speak your mind? 
All the time?
You mean every single thought that crosses your mind about every single person and event is vented in your reactions and voiced through your lips? What about those times when you were flogged in class and didnt cry till you had got to your seat and bowed your head to break the fountain of tears loose? Or every so often when someone says something and you nod your head, hum or reply without getting all they said? Or when you laughed with someone and then the laughter changed into a straight face as soon they turned their back? What would you call all those times?
Seriously, I am yet to find a human being who bares it all, so maybe you wish to become the first if you subscribe to the idea enunciated at the beginning. I supposeand correct me if Im wrongthat women are guiltier of making such assertions than men are. It could be because its a mans world and we have nothing to prove. Yes, ladies, you heard that right. Its a mans world and Im not afraid to say that cause you cant get me lynched. You think Ive crossed the line? No, Im only speaking my mind, and if its a bitter pill to swallow, then take it or leave it!
You know, the typical woman pretends a lot. Imagine how many guys she has had a crush on and never told them. She may even have snubbed them when they made advancesyet she doesnt pretend. Sometimes a woman would look you square in the face and say I HATE YOU!!! with triple exclamation, and yet at the back of her mind shes dying to have kiss from you. I really think we should have more female than male diplomats because women seem to have that essential quality of pretence required for fruitful diplomacy. Diplomacy is simply pretence with an expected end. Plain truth!
You remember what they say about diplomacy: speak softly but hold a big stick? But really, its not only diplomacy that requires us to cultivate pretence. And there we go: why call it The Fine Art of Pretence? Is pretence supposed to be something positive? Whats the art thing, anyway?
My answer to the question of the positivity of pretence is a resounding YES. Let me tell you something: it is much easier to be reprimanded for something you said or did than for something you left unsaid or undone. The reason is simple: it is easier to say or do something wrong than to reverse the process. How do you take back I hate you when the receiver has already committed it to memory? You see, if we look at things carefully it appears that quiet people are very dangerous, and that is precisely because they have mastered The Fine Art of Pretence. Someone told me that when you question a naturally quiet person on some allegation levelled against him, his silence cannot mean submission to pleading guilty because he would likely have been silent whatever the weather. That spells dangerous, doesnt it?
Now you want to know why we see pretence as an art, and a fine one at that? All of the qualities of greatness require pretence as companion. Why? Precisely because we must all learn to ignore distractions on this highway of success and make them seem less real than they really are till they fade away.
Look at the LONGMAN definition of pretence right here: A way of behaving which is intended to make people believe something that is not true. Now lets look at the verb form: to pretend is to behave as if something is true when in fact you know it is not The real issue, I believe, that people have with pretence is not the fact that it is so badat least we now know that we all pretend in one way or another for better or worsebut because it has been branded with the bad badge, having a lot of hypocrisy and outright mendacity! The level of deception accompanying pretence can be so great sometimes that it leaves the other person befuddled and frustrated, thinking, If only I were a mind reader!
Well, youre not, so get used to it and stop whining!
True, there are people for whom pretence seems the natural thing; they pretend as effortlessly and involuntarily as they breathe. Well, while that is true, it is also sensible to expect that pretence can be learnedelse we should be able to pretend as soon as we are born.
But we all know that pretence is as much an acquired trait as it is inherent, and perhaps the former even more, because we usually pretend in order to ignore something or someone, or to put up a show. That means pretence is causedand thus acquired as a defensive mechanism much of the timeand so becomes a creative art.
Now let me show you a more palatable form of pretence. Heycool down; dont be so eager. Okay, it is called acting. Yeah, now we can better relate with that. Every actor has to learn to fit into a character and play a particular role. That, precisely, is pretence. If youre like me, then you usually dismiss the emotions that well up when you get so caught up in a movie by, They are just acting, or, like my dad would say, Pretenders they all are. Ladies, stop crying when other people are enjoying acting, understood?
Ill show you another scenario where pretence has been found useful. Ever seen someone shouting at another in public? I have observed this situation time and again with consternation, and been both victim and perpetrator of the act. I have found myself shout at people, or sometimes speak softly but stingingly, simply because there are witnesses to tell the story.
You, no doubt, can relate to this tendency. Time and again people say things they dont really mean just because they want to present a false appearance to others. If we were to blame it on temperament, then I would suggest that the more extroverted traits (sanguine and choleric) like a shouting match while the introverts (melancholy and phlegmatic) deal in shyness and silence.
Check it, especially with the sanguine: whenever they want to react to something they consider offensive, they almost always want to make a scene out of it. It is no coincidence that extroverts generally get their fingers burnt more easily than their introverted counterpartsthe propensity to blow things out of proportion becomes their Achilles heel.
What are we saying, then? Pretence is both passive and active. Whatever your temperament, you must learn these two sides of the pretence coin in order to make the most of circumstances. Learn how to feign ecstasy amid disapproval; planned will and spontaneous whim; surprise and serenity; pleasure and painand so on. You should be able to weave yourself into different moulds as occasion demands. As the ancient Egyptian philosopher Ptah Hotep said, Fit thy deeds to the occasion and thy words to the point. That, my friend, is the essence of The Fine Art of Pretence.
Finally, remember, nobody gets ahead by pretending all the time. To be yourself, however, requires that you continue to recreate yourself into an increasingly better you. You are thus able to build the power and wisdom to master situations and command them to yield juice from the top of the mountains (that is, to answer favourably to you). Become a better you.