Friday, July 5, 2013

Dear Africa, this is not thy Big Brother!

Sayo Aluko

Africa enmeshed between the BBA & its sex scenes

Varying climes exist all over the world, each with its own uniqueness in lifestyles, belief systems, behavioral patterns, senses of judgement, etc; these reticular strands of unique elements of life are what add up in abundance, to give each clime its correspondent value. For example,
while the majority of Asians are known to be thorough with industry, the British are renowned for their conservatism. Here in Africa, we've got quite a number of our own values too, and for the sake of this article, I've summed them up in four cadres which are:
1. Reverence for our roots,
2. Richness in Cultural diversity and Hospitality,
3. Innate tendencies for Hallowed Self-Esteem, Bodily Dignity, and Mundane Morality, and,
4. Enviable tendencies for Selfless Virtues of Leadership.

But, quite unfortunately, we all know that these values are now being held in utter repudiation, and a lot of factors are responsible for this dwindling away from values that gave us our uniqueness as Africans; factors like rampant poverty, overdose and paradox of civilisation, academic and moral illiteracy, nepotistic politicking, etc. Of these lot, one that presently strikes my hopelessly inquisitive thought are the now unbearable EXCESSES of the outwardly pervasive Big Brother Africa show, excesses of nudity, sex and wantonness that have tethered the fate of our Africa to the apron strings of depravity.

The Big Brother show is a three-month long reality game franchise created in the Netherlands by John de Mol, who then tagged it as a "social experiment". The premise of the show is that a group of people (called housemates), basically strangers from different backgrounds, numbering 12-24, are made to live together in a large and usually specially constructed house. They are meant to survive periodic evictions through viewers’ votes till only one housemate remains to get the winner-takes-all cash prize. During their time in the house they are isolated from the outside world and are not commonly aware of outside events. Contestants are continuously monitored by in-house television cameras as well as personal audio microphones during their stay for the whole 24 hours of the day. The first version of Big Brother was broadcast in 1999 on Veronica TV channel in the Netherlands. Since then the format has become a worldwide TV franchise, airing in many countries in a number of versions and varying adaptations. Africa too caught this bug in 2003, and the spurious adaptations made to the show here have kept tongues wagging. This year's version, called "Big Brother Africa: the Chase" has unarguably perturbed sane minds the highest!

With the intent of raising the bar in TV ratings and viewership, the Africa version producers, from season to season, successfully introduce a no-holds-barred amp to the extent of content relayed to viewers on TV and especially on the internet, a decision which in this year's season, has further fueled geometric spread in the availability of detestable perversion in the streets, hands, homes and heart of Africa and Africans,  thus, making us lose the core of all our values that erstwhile made us tick.

I wouldn't go further without sincerely stating some good which this show has had to offer through the good use of its mammoth viewer-base. For example, the producers of last season's edition titled "Big Brother Stargame”, used the opportunity to project veritable orientation and awareness about the levels of hunger in Africa, a move which in the true sense is laudable. But, it isn't a farce that this attempt at good has been largely eroded by the bad and downright ugly sides.

It is now so achingly obvious that this show has totally lost its primal intent of being a "social experiment" aimed at the development of healthier human symbiotic relationships, and has since being a parody of itself, more or less a like a freak-show with debilitating effects. I don't know what else one would expect, if not uncouth senselessness, when fame-seeking, self-glorifying, self-regarding, self-delusional, narcissistic and totally demented bunch of me-junkies are packed into a house with the futile search of self-validation as their sole intent, and also with just the increase of viewer-base and pecuniary gain on the Producers' mind. And so I wasn't surprised when I got a mail from one of the news sites I subscribe to, bearing a link to watch a video of two housemates having unprotected sex inside the house just 3 days into their 91-day sojourn of solitude. Truly, I wasn't surprised, but I got spooked as more and more video links of such (more sex, bathroom sessions, wanton show of drunkenness, etc) kept coming in their barrages. I imagined the depth of sorry effects these "Big Brother Africa" excesses would have on our Africa life, and how deeper the excesses would plunge sanity into trace-less abyss.

Dear Reader, this isn't a hypocritical article with many blind spots, I quite understand the sentiments of people who believe that the Big Brother Africa show gives its viewers some fun, excitement or intrigue, true.  I am not a rube, neither am I a professional moralist, but because I still avidly ascribe to the notion of cause and effect with checks and balances, I know what true fun/excitement is only when it isn't marred with excesses like these offered alongside this show. Excesses that should make us immediately unite to seek some redress that will help salvage Africa’s pride.

Africa's all-round fate and growth be it economical, industrial, developmental, leadership-wise and other likes, all rests on the shoulders of its gargantuan youths' population, and this is where most of my worry lies. I'm worried because this same bulk of Africa youth is the one aggressively adhered to the excesses offered by this show. It irks me when I see a portion of our youths religiously following the negatively addictive events of this reprobate show, chattering away valuable amount of time and also displaying needless giddiness and sweet frenzy over it. The show is rated 18+, but you'll wonder how fulminant its knowledge grows even amidst sub-18 teens and shallow-minded youths alike.

We need to seek efficacious redress or else, the doom in-wait surely looms larger per sunrise.
In an instance, I had once noted in an article of mine that one major reason why Africa is presently unable to breed great leaders that can sustain profitable and people-based democracy is the shallow-mindedness of its elite followership (youths being major), that makes them ask no questions before they sheepishly cast votes for "politrick-cians"; so, now with the spread of these excesses of vanity, together with the youths' fervent adherence to it as discussed above, I don't know how many African 18+ youths who can verily boast of a sound mind with veritable understanding about democratic franchise through which sound democracy can be made. I don't know how we're going to have youths who can use their soundness to chair, steer and man pathways to sustainable democracy that will keep exploring the values of Leadership in us; values which though were ‘replete-ly’ innate are now regrettably inert.
Little wonder why the Mugabes don't want to go, because asides their own greed, they also don't trust our wits as mantle-worthy youths. How are we going to produce another Madiba, or Awo, or another Zik or Kwame, Tafawa or Julius, if all what we now have is a vicious cycle of the "all-about-fun/fame" youths semi-cycling the "all-about-greed" leaders? Redress please!!!

Saying that this reality TV's excesses have tarnished Africa's moral fabric is a gross understatement. The truth is that the more we allow the proliferation of this ill, the more it succeeds in the creation of an African atmosphere where there lies no regard for regard, and no wind to even throw caution, thus, leading to quantum decay of morality. I read a news item two days ago about how some Ethiopian lawyers have already issued a law suit against one of this year's Big Brother Africa contestants for having sex on live TV; well, this shows that some groups of people truly seriously hate this heat. Some have said this elevation and celebration of amoral behaviours especially through the media/internet is a sign of the end-time, the end of the world. Yes, I share this sentiment, not totally though, because the "end-time" is a phase of life which you never know, could last a million years! So, my point is that we should actively accept the truth about the untoward effects of these man-made excesses, and consequently shunt them off, instead of allowing them to force our pride and value as Africans into a Procrustean Bed of sorts that keeps giving us bad romance!
I don't wish to raise children into such atmosphere, neither should us all, so, redress please!!!

Amid all of these anachronistic straying, it is going to be quite unnecessarily absolutist in nature to demand for a total scrap of this franchise (as already done with Big Brother Arab). What I deem right that the Big Brother Africa producers do is a non-negotiable removal of these excesses of relaying nudity, sex and their likes on live TV with or without censoring, while also intensifying sincere efforts to really make the show proudly African in terms of ‘value-addedness’. For example, I believe more of their efforts should be directed at tasking housemates to engage in more cerebral discuss about timely and topical issues while inside the house, may be issues like the rise in domestic violence/battery, democracy in Africa, gender sensitivities, HIV/AIDS, etc, instead of asking them about frivolities of how and why who fought who or who slept with who. These kinds of positives and their like can be easily done while also the Producers' aim of social experimentation will still be achieved pari-passu.

We are not asking for hypocritical perfection, rather, what Africa seeks is moderate chastity, brainy fun, edible intrigue and digestible excitement.

The original creator of this show, John de Mol got the "Big Brother" term and idea from George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel titled "Nineteen Eighty-four". The novel portrays one named "Big Brother" as a tyrannical ruler who put his followers in check by claiming to always watch every of their moves through ubiquitous television screens; he wielded an omnipresent power for his own cause against the people while always echoing the now commonly-used phrase - -  "remember, Big Brother is always watching you".
This said, it is truly known in present day life that any individual is either made or marred by decisions/choices he/she solely makes; but, we all, especially in Africa, still share the cultural and blood-line sentiment that siblings thrive better or otherwise based on the actions or inaction of such siblings' elder ones or as the case may be, such siblings' "Big Brother(s)".

 So, in light of all these, and with all facts raised above as touching the unfavourable and ill-mannered excesses of this reality TV show, more especially that if the excesses thus remain so without excision from thy midst, My dear Africa, I’m left with little or no choice to admit and then solemnly declare to you, that this ain't thy Big Brother, don’t get it twisted!

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