Photo Credit: Skeeze from Pixaby
Dateline: El Raval, Barcelona, Spain
What is freedom worth to you?
A baby is delivered into the world after hours or days of intense, inexplicable and excruciating pain borne by a woman. As the foetus is pushed out through the birth canal, its advent is heralded by a cry; that cry that every parent looks forward to because it is a sign of life. It’s the miracle of birth. The baby is wrapped in a cloth and handed over to the mother freely. That’s it. Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in.
There are no chains around the neck or ankle. There’s no paraphernalia. Nature, having fostered and primed the foetus for nine months, freely delivers it to the world. The baby ideally is here to achieve the greatest and highest expression of his/herself as a human being. Inbuilt are the talents that enable him/her take up an assignment or assignments in service to humanity. Then life happens. The story from here, always never goes as it should
I met Maria (name changed) through a mutual friend. It was a Saturday. We had planned to grab lunch in town. On arriving at the restaurant, the queue was awfully long. Discouraged, we took a stroll in the neighborhood to find an alternative. The mutual friend Brian (name changed) shepherded us to a vegetarian restaurant. We joined the queue, a shorter one this time. Before Maria and I knew it was vegetarian food, it was a bit late to pull out.
We were finally steered to a table in a nice corner. The place was bursting to the seams with a congenial atmosphere and really lovely waiters. Sooner than later, we were swooning with delight over the scrumptious food.
As the cutleries went to work, Maria kept us engaged with the story of her life. Her parents are originally from Morocco and had migrated to France many years ago. Morocco, a Muslim country in North Africa, used to be a colony of France. As is common, some people from former colonies normally emigrate to the West in search of better life.
Maria was therefore born in France. She tells us that she never made efforts to connect with her roots, despite the constant urging of her parents. Africa felt like a distant place. Becoming a grown woman changed that. She had moved to Spain for work. After living there for some years, she became intrigued by her ancestry. It was time to explore her roots. She found a job as a French teacher in Morocco, packed her bags, boarded a flight and landed in Africa like Edie Murphy’s “Coming to America” the reverse way.
The only thing is, Maria wasn’t quite prepared for the culture shock. As a party going, alcohol drinking, unveiled Muslim woman bearing an English name, she didn’t fit the perfect image. As much as she was fascinated by the place, she was scratching her head to understand the restrictions.
Maria was too uninhibited by Moroccan standards. Simply put, she was accustomed to the Western way of life. But as Nigerians would say ‘man must survive’. Determined to stay, she found ways to adapt.
Her experience is thought provoking. Maria recalls sitting at the bar with a bottle of beer in one of the few places that serve alcohol to foreigners. She noticed an altercation between the waiter and a client because the former refused to serve a second bottle of beer to the latter on grounds that he was Moroccan. Talk about religious police!
In order to live as she wishes in Morocco, Maria alternates between a Spanish and French identity, meaning that she pretends to be Spanish in some areas and French in other parts of the country. In doing this, she erases her Moroccan ancestry completely to avoid questions. That way, no religious or cultural demands are made of her. What a world!
I probed further on why she would take on that level of disguise. What if, in a moment of forgetfulness, she mistakenly reveals her true identity? “Why can’t I be myself? You are born free,” she said. I concurred instantly. We are indeed all born free until society forces us into the system. We are socialized to “fit in,” which is a mode of control.
Maria’s story reminded me of my childhood. My parents went to many churches, taking the children along with them. When I went to university, I experimented with a few. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious to me that a lot of the rules are simply created by man. Sometimes, it has little or nothing to do with spirituality.
Some rules were extreme in some denominations. For instance, members were asked not to watch television while women were prevented from wearing jewelry, make-up, trouser, short sleeve tops and perming their hair.
This story potentially has many angles or perspectives that can’t be successfully explored in one blog piece. Whether in a religious or non-religious context, why do we have to be shackled by things that are of secondary importance? My instincts tell me that judgment day will be characterized by surprises of epic proportions, that is, if you believe in life after death.
I used to trust everything I was told without question. Not any more. I now realize that life is not black and white. The authorities, powers that be or so-called leaders always have an agenda. It’s left to us to determine whether we follow or not. My mantra is: use your common sense. It’s given to us for a reason.
What are your thoughts on being born free? Enjoy!