As a child, I recall the peacock bird as one that got all the attention due to its beautiful display of its feathers and elegant stance. Male peacocks display their iridescent feathers for prospective female mates. Females may check out the feathers of a number of different males before deciding on a suitor. The length and quality of a male peacock’s feathers can indicate his age, vigor, and status.
As human beings we appear to imitate or display similar actions to animals or birds – yet most often than not when such comparisons are made, it is akeen to being insulted. Having outgrown the zoo-trips to watch the carry-ons of animals or birds, I progressed on to the human theatre of observation. Most of you that have watched cabaret shows or attended carnival displays would probably see the influence the peacock has had on the design for costumes worn. However these were and remain artists and this is their job to keep the audience captivated by both their beauty and the beautiful display on show.
I admire the beauty of the peacock bird in itself, for the reasons it goes about displaying its feathers is primarily for self preservation – to attract a mate. This said, I also enjoy the carnival costumes and cabaret performances in their respective format. It is when human individuals take to a kind of addiction to what I’ve come to see as a peacock effect that I start to ponder if their actions are based on inner insecurity or something else altogether.
The BBC went on a documentary trip to Nigeria a couple of months back and returned with a fascinating if not poignant and quite enlightening programme on life as seen through the eyes of ordinary Nigerians living in various sections of Nigeria. I saw a different kind of Nigeria which made me fall in love with the people and the country as I’d never could have imagined. Many times in the past, all I’d come to know about Nigerians was from the many movies that come out of Nollywood depicting mostly very wealthy Nigerians in huge mansions that you never quite get to learn how they made their millions, versus those who are obsessed with witchcraft in all shapes and forms. Very little wonder therefore for those who take what they see in the movies to try to imitate. It was very refreshing to see the human spirit hard at work in places I would have passed by or even written off as just derelict and worthless. It was a moving documentary because it did not show these persons as looking to just put out begging bowls, but proud persons, contented persons; in the life they’d been dealt to live and hassling to realise their dreams.
One thing in common did keep coming out though – the need to look good and show off. I observe that the need to show off or impress, akeen to what a peacock does, was not limited to just those who were wealthy or residing abroad in developed countries. The kind one cannot help but notice at social gatherings or functions trying to out-do each other on who drives the best or latest model of car, who owns the flashiest jewellery, home interiors, clothes , the list is endless. It appears to be a form of identity that I am yet to fully grasp the meaning. It was somewhat in contrast to the exposure I’d had from the culture I had grown up in where wealthy persons are discreet about their incomes or wealth; the exception being of course in regards to pop or music icons/celebrities in the entertainment business. It was normal for instance for people considered within the brackets of wealthy means or rich, to use public transport; or even see them riding bicycles or walking. If anything, being wealthy in some parts of the developed nations makes a person more determined to minimise attention to themselves from the public.
In Africa, to be wealthy it would appear that you have to show and constantly put it on display, kind like a peacock. This came to light with a citizien in Uganda who felt the need to display $3million to a media audience in the hope perhaps of alleviating those who were concerned his wealthy status was becoming a contentious issue.
Yet I find myself asking this: In the midst of such abject poverty in our continent where the gap between poor and rich becoming so wide, is it in good taste to carry on with this peacock attitude?