A Malaprop’s Noise About Noise


In my undergraduate years I was passionately attached to The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, one of the finest playwrights of the 18th Century European Literature. Actually, I was so passionate with the comic character Mrs. Malaprop who always misspoke words to show off her status and sophistication. But her poor sense of the semantics and syntax of the Queens English often put her audience in a messy task of rigorous pragmatic and discourse analysis of her odd phrases and sentences.

I admire this confused character for her efforts at inaugurating the term “malapropism” a word that explains the act of misspeak or misrepresentation of ideas in a comical manner. Thus, an analogy for Mr. Lawore’s “Why The Noise About Noise?” published by the PM News of Thursday 29 July, 2010. With this piece, the writer vividly brought back the memories of the odd lady in Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals.’

His submission about Africans living with noise as a way of life and the definition of civilization were two contradicting pieces of information. Africans have never embraced noise making as a normal way of life.  His assertion that some ethnic groups used to shout while talking is a great insult on the people who he was not confident enough to mention. The fact that he did not understand the language should not imply that the people shout while talking. Civilization according to him connotes decent and neat way of living. Thus, Africans cannot be said to be far away from decency which is a critical component of civilization. And going by that, it amounts to self contradiction to say that Africans are copycats because Africans rank among the most decent and neat people.

There were, and are still decent ways of African lifestyle that Europeans and Americans would emulate any day and anytime because the process of civilization includes the interpolation of ideas, customs and ways of life. Respect for elders and consideration for others in our dealings are sacrosanct to African tradition. Africans can never be said to be individualistic, even though our tradition has suffered a huge setback after its traumatic contact with the outside world for two hundred years including a hundred years of colonialism. It is wrong to conclude that Africans are living the “Oyinbo Way” by trying to re-institutionalise decent and conducive ways of living through the use of modern institutions and laws known and respected by all civilized nations.

The Bible and the Qur’an do not enjoin their devotees to embrace noise making as a way of living. The Old Testament has musical instruments (Ps 150: 1-6). But Jesus said God wanted new worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24, 1 Cor 14:15, Eph 5:19 and Col 3:36). The Holy Qu’ran in Surah  Al-Israi (17 v 110) instructs Muslims to make their Salat (prayer) not too loud and not too low. I am in no doubt that these Holy statements strongly jettison indecency. I am convinced that they approve decency and command us to observe such in our spiritual activities.

To say that any government law in tropical Africa against noise at the present time is anti-nature, anti-human, sacrilegious and unholy is a display of sheer ignorance. I want him and his ilk to know that as a matter of fact, human laws are replications of God’s law. I am in no doubt that these few statements disapprove noise making and indecency in our service to God. To further drive home the point that God abhors noise, the following few assertions can be found on spiritual and inspirational websites.

Experts on prayer from Teresa of Avilla to Charles Stanley do not report audible, frightening noise as commands from God. As an old saying, “God is a gentleman. He doesn’t push himself in where he’s not invited.” “God will not compete with music, newscasts, cell phone conversations or other form of noise to get our attention.” (www.inspiration-for-singles.com.noise.html ). Furthermore, if we want to hear from God, and we want to improve our spiritual being, we must invite God by first of all moderating the noise we make and go into serene period. Even when we play (RELIGIOUS) music, the ingredients of decency must be present, the absence of such as we know, will turn the music to a noise. (www.av1611.org/cqguide.html.). It is on record that Islam abhors noise making. The natural wealth deposited by Allah for the benefit of mankind has equally been spoilt by noise and such noise has serious bad effects on the human hearing.(www.islamonline.net).

From the stable of health experts, the World Health Organization (WHO) has documented seven categories of adverse health effects of noise pollution on human. The identified health problems are hearing impairment, cardiovascular disturbance, mental health, negative reactions, low  reading –cognitive and sexual impotence among several others. This international body has also identified children as the most vulnerable to health implications of noise making. Is it not logical and imperative that we uphold these information and work vigorously towards the sustainability of our younger generations rather than misinforming the general public on what the government is doing to upgrade the environment for healthy living?

My submission in this wise will rather be a sermon and a sincere appeal to other Lawores out there. Africans have never embraced noise making as a way of life and in any way the act of regulating such noise should not be seen as a manifestation of inferiority complex by Africans. Noise making without regards for others around us is an infringement of other people’s fundamental human right to live a serene life. God said, He wanted it and we must observe it.

I recall vividly in those days when I had to travel from Lagos to Ado-Ekiti through Ilesha in Osun State; motor parks in towns and cities along my journey route were not using loud speakers to seek passengers going on different routes. Tags made of planks with specific inscriptions of designated towns were placed on vehicles for easy boarding by passengers. There was no touting with indiscriminate noise making and hawkers moved around canvassing their wares in decent manner to interested commuters and travellers. An uncle of mine even had his residence very close to a particular motor park along the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti via Ado Grammar School. And in those days, we never had any cause to be disturbed by the activities of the commuters. Right now, in my candid opinion, it would be the mode of operation of the so-called modern motor parks in our cities that is the source of worry to government.

I equally remember in the 80s Mr. Ige Jongbo on the former Ondo State Radio with the phrase “ariwo gee ko ni aye jije” (Noise making does not signify comfort and enjoyment) in the jingle that intermittently warned the public about the social nuisance of noise making. Therefore, in my opinion, any serious government would not relent at regulating it. It is evil if such disturbing activities should go on unchecked by the government that people have entrusted with the protection of their rights to decent and peaceful living. Thus, the various advocacy programmes on radio and television stations are far beyond ‘complaints’ and should be commended by right thinking people.

The essence of social and environmental debates on radio and television that noise generation in our society to the lands of the Eskimos would be an unrealistic way of curbing noise making in Africa by Africans.

In advanced nations, governments generate income from fines paid by defaulters of available regulations on noise decibel. It is ignorant to say that there are no enforceable laws on noise making. As a matter of fact, the only act that can never be found under any law is an act that has never constituted a nuisance to the wellbeing of mankind. And it is also a legal fact that as soon as an act becomes an offence, the appropriate institutions would draft a legal statement that could later become a law to regulate, curb and sanction such act in any human society.

With due respect to Mr. Lawore, in the industrialized nations and in Nigeria too, there are Labour and Industrial Laws guiding the regulation of industrial activities one of which is noise generation. Please read Labour Law in Nigeria by Oviaghara for more clarifications.

I advise that rather than dissipate efforts at blackmailing governments on this issue, he should just face the reality that the days of unbridled noise making in the name of commerce or religion must give way to healthy, peaceful and decent living.

•Ismail Olawale writes from  Lagos

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