Keeping Up With the Joneses (and Kardashians)

Penny Wisdom

By Emeka Uzoatu

Over time, the management of personal finance(s) has coped with a whole ‘lotta’ problems. However, its penultimate – if not ultimate – bane remains the strive by virtually all homo sapiens to keep up with the Joneses. 

Which shouldn’t be a problem sha. Only that this often has folks living their lives according to the dictates of others. Our often disparate means of livelihood, tastes and shenanigans notwithstanding, it has the disadvantaged hanging their clothes where their hands cannot labour to reach.

Like has been recapped in papyrus, vinyl and celluloid, it initially applied to just our various neighbours next door. Then it gradually spilled on to the other houses on the street. You know, whether across a hedge, wall or fence, they were almost, always there to be measured up to. 

Especially in those days of low or no fences; when people absolutely had nothing to hide.

Broken down and taken back some, it must be opined that it’s apparently the only reason Eve had only the snake to relate with the only time Adam strayed out of sight. Wherever to, like a guy once questioned, remains a topic for another piece. That’s taking it for granted that bored stiff he hadn’t actually otherwise engaged with the other snake!

O yes! After all, back then there were only a pair each of all God’s creations… (My keyboard shut up!)

Anyway, suffice it to note that it’s perhaps the reason for the biological answer the dude gave to a purely geographical question thrown at him from above:

‘Adam, Adam,’ God was said to have thundered from His abode according to the first book of the Hebrew Holy Writ, ‘where are you?’ .

‘I’m naked!’ an overly embarrassed Adam was said to have answered.

Or so it went.

But that was then. With the world now an encircled village, the terms has been massively altered. So much that any attempt now to keep up with a neighbour now amounted to doing so with the entire globe. Like Adam and Eve were to discover in the ‘outside world’ they bequeathed us by their default. 

So, just like that, we now have the entire world to keep up with. Of course there are the Kardashians. Living in far away Americas, people living in far away lands have been made to keep up to their bizzare ways for twenty seasons – and more.

But then, even flying in the face of this, other arguments still emerge. Like that even if the world were to shrink to a hamlet, we must still have immediate neighbours. Implying that we might as well have them to keep up to first. That’s before venturing abroad to the umpteen inheritable from internet radio and cable television; as well as social and other new-born media.

Perhaps you lived in Onitsha, Anambra State after the Civil War. For those born and bred in its Fegge axis back then, neighbourhood meant sharing the same compound, toilet and bathroom with some six other families – exclusive of the landlord’s. 

Here you learnt how to keep up the hard way. After endless days you spent peeping at a 14″ tv screen from the landlord’s curtained window, your widowed mother could not but be envisioning televisions in her dreams. And certainly these mostly never transmuted to reality as, as yet, wishes have forever refused to become horses.

But then the landlord’s children could afford bicycles. More so, they were also driven to church in their father’s car on Sundays. They also went to better schools where the pupils wore sandals and pullovers and went on excursions and the like.

Above this, stories also abounded of the landlord’s master. That one, who, so rich for Fegge’s decrepitude, has since migrated to the Government Reserved Area (GRA). According to the tall tale, he now lives in a compound six times the one he had occupied in Fegge. This new abode also afforded reticulated water and strange contraptions like jacuzzis and air conditioners.

Funnily though, it’s this self-made man of means that is complaining now. Since his surreptitious arrival in the GRA, he has been finding it hard to keep up with his new neighbours. As though the storm he was stirring had been in a teacup and he was now reposited in an ocean.

Most so the latest arrival. A businessman of little consequence, he had only found his niche in politics. From holding infinitesimal positions under others, he recently became the head of a financial parastatal. Ever since his arrival in the GRA, he has since become the neighbour to beat.

Meanwhile, back in Fegge then, life went on at its own pace and level. While the landlords labour to move to the reserved areas, their tenants are locked in the struggle to keep up with their fellow wretched of the earth.

And life goes on. And on…

Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom