The young woman walks down the highway. She carries the Nigerian flag. She wants to live in a country where her aspirations can be met and not suffocated by the detritus of Nigeria’s tragic history. The sound of gunfire is familiar, it has returned to the city, with the bullets flying towards the protestors.
When Houston energy worker, Shawn Baker, was laid off in 2015, she opened a new business that quickly became a “smash hit.” It’s a place for angry, stressed out or anxiety-filled people to take out their frustrations on inanimate objects. Inside the building are four rooms lined with thick plywood, all stocked with old furniture, dishes, burned-out TVs and appliances, out-of-date electronics, and even feather pillows.
Baker buys from junk dealers or used furniture shops. Customers get their choice of instrument—golf club, baseball bat, lead pipe, or sledge hammer. Then, after donning mandatory protective equipment, they close themselves in a room and smash everything in sight.
Baker named her business Tantrums, LLC. Customers pay $25 to $50 for five to 15 minutes of demolition. After a session, the room looks like a war zone, filled with broken glass, feathers, ceramic shards, and electronic innards. People from all walks of life flock to Baker’s business—mothers, businessmen, doctors, teachers, oil and gas workers, and even some therapists.
Customers rave about how beneficial a session of smashing has been, enabling them to relieve stress in a controlled environment. Baker said: “I would have never thought I would be helping people like that.”
It’s easy to understand the impulse that drives customers to Shawn Baker’s business. Anxiety is one of the defining symptoms of our times. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, or just over 18 per cent of the population. It’s a major factor affecting our general health; people with anxiety disorders go to doctors three to five times more than the general population.
Some anxiety disorders are clinical in origin, springing from genetics, brain chemistry, or both; others are the result of life events and conditions. Whatever their cause, we know rates are rising among all ages, including children and teens.
Younger and younger children are being diagnosed with anxiety, while colleges say rates of anxiety are higher than ever among their students. It’s not hard to see why — our world measures, grades, and judges everything young people do. Every social media post is “liked” or not, cyber-bullying is on the rise, and kids feel pressure to achieve like never before.
Seeing the anxiety of those we love can increase our own levels of worry. Dealing with the normal stress of home, work, and life is already a challenge, but at some point we’ll face other pressures too: money worries, job stress, family conflict, traumatic events, addiction, caring for a loved one. Layered over these immediate concerns is the general sense that our world, our country, and our communities are increasingly unsafe, plagued by international conflict, political discord, rising anger and incivility, violence, and even climate uncertainty.
When it comes to dealing with these fears and stresses, most of us realise that smashing a microwave in a safe room is not going to cut it. Behind this kind of therapy is the idea that our fears and frustrations build tension that can only be released through violence. Certainly, taking a sledgehammer to a TV set is better than taking our emotions out on others, but the theory that anxiety can be banished and peace achieved through the application of violence is simply not true.
And here is where I introduce my beloved Nigeria into the mix. Nigerians are more than anxious. We are dead tired having suffered all forms of expectation fatigue and exhausted all known medications. Government at all layers and across platforms seems destined on the path that builds all forms of anxiety for citizenry.
A friend said to me, not having a High Blood Pressure these days was not normal. The pressure of been Nigerian is becoming unbearable. We all are putting on caps that have snakes underneath and wanting to pretend to be at peace.
We wake up to some confusion on banking charges and allied charges by Communication Companies, in anxiety the Communication Ministry suspends plan.
Have you seen the floods in Lagos, and other states? These rains come every year, yet wreak same amount of havoc. Imagine the anxiety, and no amount of smashing would change much, except maybe we are smashing the leaders responsible for all the mess.
Look at the anxiety of people in that part of Kano where the lion escaped and the reaction when it was caught. Look at how families go through hell when someone is abducted, on one of those crazy roads of ours. We want to get there, but we give budgetary allocation to science and technology, education and health in envelops. How won’t we be anxious and in need of smashing something.
There is a growing need to depart from the current way we are treading. We cannot continue on the same path and expect to get to the proverbial “there,” when we are not even on the road “there.” The need to smash old ways is very important.
Are we ready to really smash the current trend of 2000 being sacked in Kaduna by bandits, who wants to break the cycle of security agents that continue to parade criminals and not address crime? Are we ready to smash the misnomer of the army wanting to do policing and monitor responsible dressing and identification when we have not addressed the institutional issues around national identification?
Who wants to smash our roads into order? The Benin-Auchi road, for example, has become a sacrificial slab, just as many roads across the federation. Funny enough, in 2018 alone, states squandered or could not account for N267trillion. With bad roads come the avoidable deaths of citizens, high cost of food as a result of uneasy movement of goods.
Who or when will we address our constitutional vandalism and the lack of independence in the judiciary, so much that it is one law for the rich, another for the poor, one law for the ruling party, another for the opposition? Fact is that some smashing has to be done or else we will remain stuck with all the illegal rehabs being discovered from Kaduna to Katsina, Ilorin to Ibadan with inmates abused sexually and psychologically because the system isn’t working. Call it restructure, call it remake, rewrite the constitution, whatever it is we want to do, we need to smash, break the holds that are bent on destroying this beautiful country.
•Prince Dickson, Phd, is a development & media practitioner.