Friday 22 July 2016

Efè's Thoughts in July


At the age of 20, I'm in £22,000 debt.

It worries me deeply, especially as someone who is working towards being a business owner, that I'm unable to manage my finances and as a consequence I've incurred a huge debt.

The truth is, I can be a frivolous, emotional spender. When I was a child my mother and other authoritative figures in my life always used to say that I will appreciate the value of money once I started working but if my actions are anything to go by, I would say I've only had the opposite sentiment. The only thing I can appreciate since earning my own money is having control and choice – something I didn't have when I was spending out of my parent's pocket.
Now I avoid at all costs to ask my parents for money like I'd rather starve than do so, because if I did it'd be under their terms and conditions, something I'm absolutely not keen on. Yet with this in mind, I find myself occasionally doing what I loathe to do because, once again I've been irresponsible with my finances.

And yes, I have attempted at making a budget as advised by so many money-advice, minimalist blogs, sites, etc etc but that hasn't worked. I'll tell you why it hasn't worked: My job only offers zero hours, meaning one week I could work up to thirty hours and the next week I could be working for just four hours, or some weeks I'm not working at all. Meaning month to month my salary greatly varies. Having gone through some personal challenging circumstances over the last year meant that I was left with only a quarter of my salary that barely covered enough money for transport for the month and my tithe offering and possibly a few spare changes afterwards.

On one hand I don't care because it gives me time to focus on my writing projects but the other hand, the hand that wants to travel and go on adventures, live in my own house and have savings in the bank for future investments, cares. It cares a whole bloody lot.

It's all fine and dandly not having to go to a ten-hour, feet-numbing waitressing shift to instead concentrate on artistic pursuits but how in the bloody hell am I supposed to perform my best and give undivided attention to my writing when every ten minutes I'm checking my work schedule online to see if they've added or cancelled shifts on my rota (which is often the case)?

And the frustration that comes with it...urgh. Emotionally crushed and mentally exhausted I beat myself up for not having my writing talents spotlighted by the world and being catapulted to international stardom because of it. And instead of sitting in my room sinking in depression over my mountain pile of debt, I'd be standing in the balcony of my lavish apartment with a refreshing glass of lemon iced tea in my hand overlooking the picturesque views of Como's lakes.

Being in debt is not fun. It means making up excuses to not see your friends because you don't have money to spend whilst you're out with them. It means heart palpitations and nervous flutterings in the belly whenever you're about to check your account balance. It means reposession of your property. It means sleepless nights because you don't know how you're going to pay your child's school fees. It means taking out your frustration on your partner and eventually fucking up your relationship. It means slavery.

But you know what really pisses me off about this whole being in debt issue, is when I receive fucking junk emails from all this credit card companies trying to convince me to apply for their credit cards writing shit like '5.23899849793% APR interest rate” and expect me to understand what it means. I'm looking at you Vanquis and Barclaycard.

When banks know they're not doing you a favour...
Let me not get started on the several TV adverts seducing people to take loans, loans that many cannot afford to take. Loans that many people use to pay other loans and so on and so forth, until it gets out of control and they don't make payments and they begin threatening court action and all sorts.

According to 2016 statistics taken from The Money Charity, credit card owners owe on average £3,649 in the UK and Citizens Advice Bureau in England and Wales dealt with 4,495 new debt problems every day during the quarter ending March 2016 (themoneycharity.org.uk/money-statistics/).

Can't say I'm surprised.

And it's funny to me that for the majority of society there's an endless amount of services dedicated to 'sorting out your debt' when it's really, 'sorting out your debt whilst you accumulate more debt.' But just like we're living in parallel worlds, the ones with money, they have endless amounts of services dedicated to 'spend your money, to make more money' and lawyers and wealth management officers to give them a gentle reminder when they're spending habits need to simmer down a bit.

This reminds me of the time when I went to my bank asking them to put restriction on my overdraft so I wouldn't be tempted to spend more than I should, but was told it is the responsibilty of the account holder to monitor their spending habits but in the same breath told me I needed to have a certain amount of money in my bank account to be eligible for those services. So I completely understand the saying now: The poor get poorer and the rich get richer.
"Everyone who wants to earn money, keep money, and enjoy money in this lifetime, should KNOW about money."

Like it's only now that I know about bartering, bonds, stocks and the stock market, pension, taxes, credit scores. Why don't they teach us this in school? Like why is it the most important lessons in life we don't learn in school but we have to learn it the hard way when we're riddled in debt?

The only sort of education I got concerning money was when I was in college and the student advisor was explaining the different kinds of help that can be rendered if we find ourselves without any money whilst in university.

I find it funny but not like ha-ha funny just sort of sad funny, that they have the guarantee that students WILL run into debt and WILL need to run to them for financial help. Reason being they've been irresponsible with managing a lump sum of cash dropped into their bank account - the excitement just gets too much for them.

It's funny that the only piece of education I got in school concerning money was what to do when I ran out of money. Why did I not receive education about what to do when I do have money?

Why did I never receive education about investing? Bit-coins? Corruption?

I shouldn't need to be an economic student, or some fucking investment banker before I know about all these things. Everyone who wants to earn money, keep money, and enjoy money in this lifetime, should KNOW about money.

Sometimes when I get really down with my money problems, I go on Google searching for artists who had money problems too but nonetheless delivered tremendously well on the art front. My favourite go tos are Leonid Afremov (love, LOVE him!) Henri Matisse, Kevin Carter (sensational photographer) and of course, everyone's personal favourite Van Gogh.

On my recent trip to Nigeria, I stayed with my aunt and her family, and just outside their house was an artist's studio. I wish I had taken pictures to show just how good the guy is, but it didn't cross my mind. His overly-modest art studio was built with planks of wood and inside was littered with his masterpieces and often there was an apprentice sitting inside watching him at work. See, artists like that, just simple and mindless about money. He's an inspiration to me now.

Like these money situation has had me seriously considering having a benefactor i.e. sugar daddy to pay off my debts, but I don't think I'm pretty enough for that career path, so that thought is (almost) in the bin.

Even when I was a child I always used to pick out the most expensive things and obviously it wasn't intentional (what child looks at the price tag?) I clearly just had a great eye for nice things. By the way, that hasn't changed.

And with that statement to follow on, I would like to admit that in an ideal world, I would love, love to be married to a super wealthy, generous guy and not have to worry about money but do what I want to do 24/7 which is write and travel. Judge me.

I think to myself I was born debt-free, and even when I die I shall be free of any debts I may have incurred (Godwilling none), so why is it that the time between birth and death one is reduced to paying the tax-collector? I want to be like those people who are satisfied regardless if they have a lot or little but it doesn't really affect them because they have peace of mind.

I just don't know if I have the perseverance to be in this dead end rat-race where money is the sole objective. It bores me. Sometimes I feel like I should make peace with the fact that I might not make much money from my writing, but at least this gift is mine to keep and the only person I'm indebted to is God, to do what He's given me to do and do it with all my might.

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Thursday 5 May 2016

Efé's Thoughts in May


In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group. Political Blackness is thus not an identity but moreover a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms. The word "Black" has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas."

I'm a dark-skinned Italian.

Aesthetically-speaking, I'm West African, but because people can't fathom the fact that a black person could be Italian, I get questions such as these:

I mean your background, where are you originally from?”

What are your parents though?”

Or just a straight up, “You can't be Italian, you're black.”

This is what modern racism has evolved to, where if you claim to be from somewhere people will reject the idea because you don't fit in to the stereotyped aesthetics of the nation you claim to be from.

And when I get really frustrated and passionate with my answer people tell me to calm down – no, I will not calm down, what you should do is calm your closed-minded mind down. For the past twenty years of my life, it's been the same epic tale.

Another thing I detest is when after telling people that I'm Italian, they ask me if I can speak the language as if that is some concrete proof of my claim to be an Italian but of course if a white person was to say they're Italian, they would not be asked such questions.

But isn't it just so funny when a white person says that they are South African people so readily accept it and move on with their lives?

The world is not less racist. We just live in a more “polite” world, where people reserve their racist opinions in the comment sections of the internet anonymously or in the comfort of their home where they can vent to their empathetic families.

We still live in a very xenophobic society. What pisses me off about the topic of immigration is when the Western world can be like, “Oh no, we don't want any more immigrants, they only come here to take advantage of the social welfare system and don't contribute to the economy.” So it was okay for all these Western nations to colonise African, Asian and Carribean territories, profit from their mineral sources, pinch their land, strip them of their identity and basically make them peasants in their own country?

The colour black itself I love, but not what people have associated with that name: Black-list, black-market, black-hole, black- people. No, thank you.

When a white person does something, it's like standard, but when a black person does something it's like “Oh my gosh, he/she is the first black person to do this.” People become surprised that black people can achieve things and therefore the whole world needs to know about it and make it breaking news because who knows when such a feat would ever be accomplished by a black person.

The fact that there's such a thing called, 'Black Excellence,' is ridiculous to me.

Where's Asian Excellence? Where's Caucasian Excellence? Where's Latin Excellence?

The fact that there's such a thing as a black caucus groups in the American Congress is ridiculous to me. And following on that, rarely would you see any university without an Afro-Carribean Union, African union, or some other Black Student Union that whilst its purpose is to empower, to me it just feels more like a pity party that further segregates.

The fact that so many black born Americans refer to themselves as ''African- American'' is ridiculous too. It's like you're not good enough to be just American and just to really alienate you, we're going use an hyphen so you don't forget that you're not all that American, we just didn't where we purchased you all from.

If a TV advert had all just black people, people would think it was to make a political statement but nobody would think otherwise if it was just white people.

And another thing I find ridiculous is when white guys (and guys of other ethnic groups) think it's appropriate to say ''I've never dated a black girl before.''

In my head this is what I hear when such an idiotic ignorant bastard says that to me, “I usually go for humans, but I'd like to try out how it is to date an alien.”

How is that a compliment that you like black girls? Am I supposed to feel honoured? Should I feel special sir?

Why do you think it'd be any different to be with any other ethnicity?

That. Is. Not. A. Compliment.

One time at work, I was talking to this girl and somehow the conversation got to her telling me that her boyfriend was white. Her facial expression and the tone she said it in one could tell she was a little bit too excited about her boyfriend's shade. It was as if it proved something about herself, like it added to her self-esteem.

People treat white people as the hypernym for all ethnicities and the coloured people are genetic anomalies.

I always feel like as ''black'' people we constantly act as if we need to to prove ourselves to the ''superior'' race: “Master, master look at me, I can afford to live in a gated community just like you, I can buy designer clothes just like you, I can become the CEO of a global company just like you, I can become the president of a Western nation just like you.”

By emphasising that you're black and successful does not make you more successful it just puts the spotlight on your insecurities.

When there was a white man ruling Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, South Africa was there any fuss?

You have nothing to prove to anyone, except God. God doesn't focus on colour, so why should we?

The sad truth is that so many of us have been born into that mentality. But I can only pray that the next generation of children that are born grow up with culture, where people of different shades can speak in one voice and not feel threatened because they don't share similar physical features.

I'm a dark-skinned Italian, whose parents are Nigerian. Having Nigerian parents plays a big role into how I am as a person. I grew up living with two cultures.

It means I have dual nationality. I sympathise and empathise with things that go on in both countries. It means I can understand more than one language. It means my mind is a little bit more open.

When it all comes down to it I am abstract art.

It was only when I was five years old, that I realised I had a skin colour. Before that I was dancing naked to the tunes of Bob Marley, Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti because it was pure and I didn't understand the political and social reasons that my dad would play such music in our house.

So why can't we just accept that we're all living art pieces?

Let's celebrate God's creativity for He is the Master Artist and Lucifer is just an art critic.

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