Let’s take time off our political rants today—and despite all that evidence to the contrary, we are not a political blog—and get cracking, instead, on some important stuff that’s bound to make you a happy person in life. Of course, there’s plenty of things we could show you to achieve this: how to marry happily, how to pay your taxes; how to find good food and how to successfully manipulate your company’s financial records without getting caught.
But, before we focus on your future welfare let’s quickly dig up a favourite nightmare from the past—exams. Of course, at this stage of your life, you’ve probably gone way beyond the dreadful claws of examinations. You now have a job, you pay your monthly tributes in the name of bills and you have even attained the privilege of punching school teachers in the face. But no matter what age you are now, that primeval fear of exams and the horrific memories of those days of torture will always be there to mock your dreams. And every time you hear the sentence, “There’s going to be a test”, you’re bound to shiver inwardly. Sorry. Now that we’ve kicked away the lid of your subconscious, we’ll just give you a few seconds to shiver and recover from the repressed memories.
Now, here are some other reminders. Those damned examinations often come in two main types of indigestion-inducing questions: there’s the “objective” or multiple choice question and then there’s the “subjective” theory, or essay questions. And of course, you remember the rules—the “objective” questions are the ones that require you to give an objective, undisputed answer—usually achieved by simple guesswork, elimination processes and outright gambles of Las Vegas proportions.
You don’t even have to believe in rightness of the “objective” answer—just pick the freaking correct one, according to the dictates of the examiner. And unless your examiner is the Second Coming of Satan, there’s going to be only one correct answer. For example, when you see the question: “Was Hitler an evil person? You had better choose a “Yes” as quickly as possible or you’re on your way to a life of failure and hardship, or worse—a career of producing music videos for Tonto Dikeh.
Unlike objective questions, essay or “subjective” theory questions have no “right” answers. What you have are: fucking good answers, fucking bad answers and “whatever” answers. Answering a subjective question is where students prove their mettle. This is the point where your hours of posing at the library begin to count, and then you begin to write furiously as you dramatically defend your position—or, more likely, if you are human like the rest of us, you take up a sudden interest in the architectural structure of the examination hall ceiling while hoping the paper will sort itself out.
And here is the point we’re trying to make in today’s post: life works like a freaking examination administered by a bureaucratic examiner who keeps throwing you a bunch of objective and subjective questions in the guise of decisions and dilemmas. Your objective questions are easy to figure out and spout. It doesn’t take any effort to give the correct answers. Even the most superficial person can easily state all the nice principles of life objectively: “Love Your Neighbour as Yourself”, “Do Good to All Men”, “Democracy is Good”, “Corruption is Evil”, “Babies are Assholes.”
But when it comes to the subjective, essay, questions, things become less clear and the shit begins to spray around. That’s where life asks you to stand up, unzip your pants slowly and show the world your balls. Do you begin to count the ceiling at this point or do you draw up, and submit, a kick-ass paper?
Take a socio-economic scenario, for example: the objective answer states that “corruption is bad”, but when the President decides to cut down the bogus civil service—and you end up losing your job, how glad will you be that you have sacrificed something to fight corruption? When your 15-year-old car is impounded, do you praise God for the objective joys of road safety? When your beautiful house is demolished for the superhighway, do you rejoice in the objectivity of town planning and infrastructural development?
And here’s our moral for the day: a strong education is built, not on the ability to pick objective answers, but also to subjectively defend them. It’s the essay questions that get the high marks. The existence of a disconnect between your objective answers and your subjective arguments is a premise to failure. Your principles should be more than just agreements with objective facts, they should also have subjective application. You, as an individual, should be willing to defend your paper—otherwise, you will always be apprehensive whenever an exam is around the corner. Or if you prefer, you can always call in sick.
P.S. The upcoming book, Sorry Tales is still in progress. Keep your fingers crossed, folks, and also bear with our fortnightly publication schedule. We’ll be back to weekly in no time, seriously. 😉