In Physics, Newton’s third law of motion is generally stated as thus: “To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction; or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and directed to contrary parts”. In life, however, a reaction to an action or inaction may be disproportionate or unequal.
Therefore, we should be careful of our (in)actions because we may not be able to determine the reactions they will precipitate. It is easy to blame reaction and lose sight of the action or inaction that caused it. Believe or leave it, we are often the causes of our own misfortunes. Our actions and inactions make and mar us.
Specifically, action, inaction and reaction are always in a state of flux. They mix and recur ceaselessly. The most important thing for us is to be mindful of our actions or what others may perceive as our inactions because the reactions that would follow might be beyond the expected scope and intensity. Remember Zaria in December.
We often blame reactions but our world would be more peaceful and beautiful if we give attention to the actions and inactions that emanate from us. Every (in)action has a reaction, the extent of which we may not know at a given time. We should therefore control ourselves; we have no control over what others can do. Self-control, self-restraint and self-discipline are key to our survival.
Before I directly address the recent Zaria bloodbath, two tragic incidents during the year can as well serve as additional background. In the last week of July 2015, new reports indicated that a 32-year old man from Bayelsa State, Amatari Christmas, committed suicide. The reason was that he discovered that his wife was having an illicit sexual relationship with another man. What a reaction!
The same week, one Marufu Olasoji reacted differently when he also realised that his wife was allegedly committing adultery. What did he do? “He repeatedly hit the wife’s head with an iron until she gave up the ghost”. I called the two ugly incidents in my “Newswatch Times” column “the tragedy of errors”.
It was the same crime that made a man to commit suicide that made another man to commit murder. Different folks, different strokes. Other men would react by beating the wife mercilessly or divorcing her or simply engaging in a frank talk with her. It is also possible for some men to just look away and assume nothing happened.
In the two instances, attention would be more focused on the reactions. The man should not have committed suicide. The other man should not have committed murder. This is right. However, should the women have committed adultery? The answer is no. So if the women had not committed the crime, the unfortunate reactions would not have arisen. That is the point.
The unfortunate killings of Shiite Muslims in Zaria had happened and what remains now is to learn life lessons for our own peace. Under no circumstance, either on campus or in the larger society, should we take law into our own hands. Our rights end where other people’s rights begin. So, we should get our bearing right.
Then, we should refrain from over-reaction and let action and reaction be equal, as Newton’s law states. The Nigerian Army over-reacted with the excessive violence unleashed on the Movement to address the provocation. Over-reaction is always not the best approach as it often has its own consequences.
In summary, it is always important to do what is right and be on the right side of the law in our actions and reactions. We won’t do what is right until we take charge of what is going on within us. It all boils down to character.
As Frank Outlaw famously said, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
To some extent, we are the real architects of our own destinies. May God save us from evil destiny that we directly or indirectly inflict on ourselves.
Re: From Aluta to Aloha
Dr Mahfouz, I am one of the avid readers of your EDUPEACE in the New Telegraph. I am always blessed with your profound and educative articles. My days in EKSU were jealously guided because I don’t believe in students’ violent protest to achieve their aims. Re: Minus character, plus disaster: The article was touching and bitter truth or message to our morally decadent society that we must get it right. Aina Akindele Oyebanji, Ketu, Lagos State.