Metropole Magazine

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01 Jan Written by  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Laughter and Other Crimes

It is two years since the pronouncement that would launch a thousand youths unto the streets. From homes, from schools and from their mothers’ shops, they poured forth.

Television showed Lagos was the rage, the state’s perennial troubles with the centre shifted to the population and they congregated singing songs, chanting daily, in defiance of attempts to shove them into their homes and switch complaints into inaudible grumbling at the workplace. It took a while for the Abuja protests to gather such momentum, but it finally got its own together, with people tweeting meeting places.

Like them, I was angry. Unlike them, I sat and switched on the television; but not for long. In a little while friends aware I lived in the capital heckled me. It is no longer enough to hold an opinion on politics; you have to hold it in public. Everything is politics, even the demonstration of a political view.

A day after a particularly snarky comment, a friend met up with me and together we joined the movement.

We met the protesters in front of the Old Secretariat building. Young people gathered, many looking like it was a fashion contest. The revolution would be televised: please be dressed accordingly.

Aside the carnal calculations inevitably made when young people are gathered, there is mirth, someone cracking a joke, someone clowning, everyone laughing at some point. It may be grim, but the young will smile. And then the inevitable phone showed up; friends gathered, took photos and uploaded to the internet. The revolution comes to you powered by Facebook.

Just before a photo was taken, someone made a joke, maybe I made a joke. I could never make it as a stand-up comic— I would laugh harder than the audience. The photo caught me mouth open, clearly laughing and as it happens the photo showed up on social media.

While many ‘friends’ expressed admiration, a friend either annoyed or mischievous— a New Yorker cartoon caption puts it aptly, “On the internet no one knows you’re a dog”— said something about the setting of the photo being a carnival. I took umbrage; it is a serious matter, I said.

“Why were you laughing then?” she countered.

There was no comeback after that. Now I think about it, was laughter so awful in that context? Should the photo have reflected the trouble of the time rather than the mirth of the moment?

Months, weeks later, going through my facebook feed, I came across the exchange. Despite the little concession from the government, we had lost and I had lost the argument on Facebook. I deleted the photo, banishing the exchange into ether.

It’s a new year. And I would be hoping I don’t have to explain my laughter at any point. In fact let’s make that my New Year’s resolution. Now to put it on a bumper sticker...