Cultural Shift: From Self Control to Self Authentication 

​CULTURAL SHIFT: FROM SELF CONTROL TO SELF AUTHENTICATION 

Many rapid changes are taking place in our culture. Many of them are easily discernible and their causes easily identified, but many others, which turn out to be the most widespread and dangerous, are not clearly seen and easily discerned. The ideologies and conceptions and thought patterns that shape human behavior in a particular cultural context are  not easy to see sometimes because some patterns of behavior come to us not through intellectual theories and convictions but subtly, these patterns of behavior become ours while we don’t even know it. Most things that happen to us are not a result of clearly reasoned out worldviews and convictions but a subtle erosion of our moral compass by the culture around us 

I illustrate this particular shift with some examples. Firstly. In a movie, two young men are part of a training program to become operatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These two were roommates and seems to have a lot in common. One of them, indifferent to religion, the second, a devout Catholic. The former, a Briton, the latter, a Chinese. The Briton secularist was an openly gay man who had gay relationships with his “partners”. The Chinese Catholic as it unfolds seems to also have those leanings too. The Briton, one way or the other seems to have known that the Chinese had homosexual feelings and leanings but he is determined to overcome the feelings and not engage in the act or yield to his leanings. He seems to have placed his conscience above his feelings and was committed to overcome. But the Briton was always torturing him. He believes that the strife of the Chinese with who he is (the Briton’s expression) is not necessary but he should rather give full expression to what he feels. In nice convincing words, he constantly told the Chinese that self-authentication was more important than self-control and there is no need to struggle with who we are as defined by our emotions and feelings. The Briton was so dedicated to ensure the “conversion” of the Chinese and it was a constant struggle with the Chinese Catholic between his conscience and his feelings and leanings. 

Second, as I was going through the front page of an online Forum, I saw a topic that I was interested in. The original Poster gave reasons most of the times the ‘good girls’ are the ones that get married very late and even some never do. Good girls, in his view will be people who are chaste, decent, moral etc. He gave many range of reasons and then, many comments and opinions began to pour in. The comments were diverse. Some were concerned about his definition of good, some felt pretense was the issue and some felt some good girls are too extreme and are always contained within themselves. But there are some who seem to suggest that good girls are people who are not just being true to themselves. Some suggested that the good girls should stop trying to pretend and that they should be real and authentic and true to themselves. Again we see the same trend. It is assumed that those who live with certain moral boundaries and control over their feelings and emotions are not just being true to themselves and should learn to express who they are and be authentic. 

Or take any discussion on Virginity, notice who end up as the Villain. It is assumed that the girl who keeps herself is just not being true to herself but rather she should feel free to explore as a mark of true maturity. It is the Virgin that now gets marginalized among his/her friends, it is the relationship based on abstinence that is now being laughed at and ridiculed, it is the guy that does not drink or smoke that is now the bad person, he is the one that is now being made to be ashamed and feel out of place and out of the real world. It is assumed in today’s culture that real men drink / smoke, real women party hard and sleep around, real married men keep other girls outside and vice versa, real people give expression to their feelings or even their weaknesses and that those who strive are the unreal people 


Third, on the same online forum, I was surprised to see a topic that reads so convincingly that “Nigerians are Hypocrites”. Interested in what that could be as a Nigerian, I opened the thread. At the end I discovered that the person who made the statement was a Single mother that had participated in a TV show where she and others were involved in obscene acts while she was specifically noted for some immoral acts. This made some people to lash out at her immorality and the morality of the show as a whole. Her point? Many of those who criticize the show are hypocrites. People do and will always do terrible things in the world she said and they adding to it seemed to her not a big deal, they were just helping people find self-expression. They are not like the unreal people out there. 

I think the point here is readily seen. We have come to that time where self-control has been substituted with self-authentication. This does not mean that everyone should live as hermits isolated from society, alone with ourselves so we can control ourselves, for one thing, that does not work, our struggles and weaknesses are not just because we live in a sinful world but that we ourselves are sinful. And secondly, it will be a life where we cannot make any real good in the world. The world has been changed not so much by ‘perfect’ people in hermits but by people who in spite of their weaknesses and failures lived with great aspirations and lived lives that made a difference. Mother Theresa recorded her own struggles but still made a huge difference in the real world. The solution is not just mere self-introspection.  

This does not mean also that we should hate ourselves with fury. This has led many to suicide and to live their lives in uselessness. Many have been led to hate life itself and all that it stands for. This is also a wrong approach. Apart from the fact that it changes nothing, it makes us useless to ourselves and to the world around us. We must hate our sins and weaknesses and strife against them but we must not hate ourselves and drive ourselves to insanity, drudgery or suicide. 

But why even bother? Does it make any difference after all? The ultimate issue is a discussion about Moral Conscience. In a relativist postmodern world where morality is a matter of choice rather than authority and responsibility, more and more, 21st century man is without a real moral conscience. Moral conscience is what drives us to self-control rather than selfauthentication. A man without a real, informed, active moral conscience will end up giving expression to every of his leanings and feelings and emotions. A man without this moral conscience live for the moment and his life is dictated by his urges. It is the man with a living moral conscience who puts his convictions, his moral convictions above his feelings and places his body ‘under subjection’ 

What then makes a moral conscience? It is Moral Responsibility that leads to a moral conscience. Moral responsibility also arises out of a sense of moral authority or of a moral necessity. I believe there are three things that should make up a living conscience: a) A sense of moral responsibility to God, our creator (moral authority; b) a sense of moral responsibility to our neighbors/Society (moral necessity) c) a sense of moral responsibility to ourselves. God as our creator has moral authority over our lives and we must always live with a moral consciousness of his demands for our lives. God is not just the person we all pray to for our lives to get going on, he is a holy God who has demands upon our lives. Secondly, none of us “lives to himself”. We are all bound up in our common humanity and we have moral responsibility to others living around us. Society cannot even be possible without this understanding. I can’t live anyhow as I like because I live with others who are also humans created in God’s image who also have their rights. Our actions or otherwise affects everyone around us and that should spur us to our moral responsibility as a part of our moral conscience. We are our brothers’ keepers. Thirdly, our lives are not our own. We are created to live for a purpose and our lives are only meaningful and productive when we live with that purpose. We have a moral responsibility to live for that purpose for which we have been made. 

But if we continue on our path of self-authentication, there are of course consequences. Firstly, we sin against our Creator and separate ourselves from him. Secondly, we create a society on the verge of ruin. There has never been in documented history a nation that had given rein to self-authentication and passions more than the Roman Empire. Rome was the definition of selfauthentication itself.  There was no limits to the debasement of the flesh. And Rome became a shadow of itself. Its self-authentication also became its destruction. No society can live without a moral conscience and not destroy itself at the end. That, we should be more afraid of than even wars. What destroys us from within is more dangerous than that which destroys from without. Thirdly, we end up destroying ourselves. Alexander the great did not die at a young age because there was a better opposing commander or a lack of good strategies on his part but because he failed to live with self-control. We cannot live apart from our source and purpose for too long without destroying ourselves.  

Self-Control does not mean we always win but that we always try. Not that we don’t fall but that we rise again.  Not that we have got it all sorted out, but we are willing to live subjecting our feelings and leanings to our living moral conscience. At the end though, a strong will does fail, seclusion from society does fail, rigid rules and ascetism does fail and a sense of our own value does fail. But Christ promises to give a new birth to those who trust him, transform them with a new will, a new disposition, new life, new desires and through his Spirit constantly help them to become who he wants them to be, not from self-introspection or hatred of self or ascetism but by a constant gazing upon the love, grace, mercy of Christ, we are constantly transformed not with drudgery and fear and regrets but with the Joy of Salvation and a trust in and cooperation with the active power of the Holy Spirit that will not fail 

Dignity of Labour : Workers Day in Retrospect ( FINAL) 

​Owolabi Paul and Kassarachi Chinemerem Favour 

One wonderful thing about this generation is that there is a lot of knowledge flowing around. There are motivational writers whose jobs it is to dish out tips on how to succeed, there is wisdom in the media and funny still there is wisdom on t-shirts and memes on the internet. 

Some of these words of wisdom are: “hustle now, play later”; “first learn, then remove the “l””; “work hard till your landlord becomes your tenant”. The way these are being drummed into our subconscious everyday makes it seem a wonder that people are still lazy and not willing to work. Where exactly is the problem coming from? 

I believe there is a subtle double-standard and hypocrisy that has formed the root for the distaste for labour. It has been the purpose and concern of these series to expose this distaste and then point towards the right way society should be going. In conclusion, I will like to make the following points: 

Skills, Talents and Creativity 

Modern society is filled with many evils and unemployment is one of the worst. There are no jobs. It therefore behoves that skills and talents should be emphasised all the more. It is the case that whenever there is a talent hunt, the emphasis is on “can you sing, dance, rap, tell jokes, come and show them off.” Society needs to turn around. Of course, there is need for entertainment but if everyone were a singer who would do the listening? If everyone were a footballer, who would do the watching? If we spend the whole day listening to comedians, what do we do when hunger sets in? 

We need to refocus on productive skills and encourage those who have these. It really hurts me that when we hear that one politician or the other has organised a skill acquisition exercise, the funds allotted to it are meagre hundreds of thousand but then the very same will spend large sums to sponsor upcoming musicians. Our mindset has got to change.  

Back to the Farm 

Aka aja aja na-ebute onu mmanu mmanu is an Igbo proverb that translates that sandy hands bring oily mouths. It is similar to a proverb that says that dirty hands are a sign of clean money. There must be a concerted effort to change the orientation of the youth and I believe that it must start with making them see the dignity in labour, especially with farming. Farming may be the job most hated by the youth. In Nigeria, there is a cry to return to farming to save the economy. Farming is really essential as any nation that cannot feed itself has started on the path of failure. When Buhari came in he promised indigent Nigerians #5,000 stipends. At a later point he said they have to go to the farm to work for it. Nice approach. Money does not come free. But wait, five thousand naira for how many hours of work?  

We must start ensuring that all these menial workers are paid well. Then and only then that the youth will be attracted to them. The truth is that this generation might always be materialistic and if we want to make a change it has to be to make them see they have to work for the good things they want. 

Blowing and Growing 

Success in this generation is defined as blowing. The youth see success as suffering for a while and then suddenly having a windfall and life will never be the same again. Of course, sometimes it happens sometimes but very rare and we cannot all be waiting to blow. 

Sometime ago, I read Robert Greene’s Mastery and I was really touched. He talked about apprenticeship and he was talking especially to students who have graduated. Here is an excerpt from the book: 

“You enter a career as an outsider. You are naïve and full of misconceptions about this new world. Your head is full of dreams and fantasies about the future. Your knowledge of the world is subjective, based on emotions, insecurities, and limited experience. Slowly, you will ground yourself in reality, in the objective world represented by the knowledge and skills that make people successful in it. You will learn how to work with others and handle criticism. In the process you will transform yourself from someone who is impatient and scattered into someone who is disciplined and focused, with a mind that can handle complexity. In the end, you will master yourself and all of your weaknesses.” 

 

His advice was that to attain mastery (I would substitute that with ‘success’) the student must after learning still submit himself to another “apprenticeship” at the work place. That is not the case with the youth of this generation, no one want to begin at the lower end of the ladder. Everyone wants to blow! 

 

Society has to make sure that the emphasis is on growing and not blowing. Growing is an instalment process, it might not be as fast as blowing but it is way better. If society would do this, those who have been diligent at their work and their calling must be appreciated. I want to place special emphasis on the pensioners. It is disgraceful to owe pensions and gratuities to someone who has given the best of his life to society. He must be repaid. The youth don’t want to work because when they look those who are working are owed salaries and after they retire they are not paid their dues. How on earth do they become motivated to work? Rather they will want to be politicians, musicians, footballers, comedians, rappers because  at least they are not owed. 

 

THE NEW FACTORS OF PRODUCTION 

It has been the burden of this series not just to emphasise the dignity of Labour but also to define what “Labour” really is and we cannot deny that in this modern world, it includes a lot of things. But as it was emphasised, the baseline for anything that qualifies as Labour is that it must be productive, add value to the individual and the society and within the moral and ethical boundary of society and conscience. There have been so many calls for people to go back to farming and harness potentials in this field and other primary industries. While we agree with those calls (as stated above), I believe that there are other important areas that should be explored in the developing world. Tope Fasua, an economist, consultant and public affairs analyst, wrote an article some months ago titled, “The New Factors of Production”. In this article, he posits that the traditional definition of Factors of Production as Land, Labour, Capital and Entrepreneurship will not suffice in this age. He believes other more relevant factors should also be our focus: Technology, Innovation, Knowledge/Learning, Intelligence/Aptitude, Talent/ Creativity, Information/Data. To create Jobs for a nation of 180 million people with a high working population takes more than farming or mining. All hands must be on deck, all brains activated on innovative ways and means whereby productive activities can multiply and people get engaged. Those who are especially educated have to stop thinking of their advanced education as something that places them above everyone else but as something that makes them responsible to the world around them, using the skills learnt, knowledge acquired to continuously innovate ways to make society better 

 

FULFILMENT, THE PRIORITY 

I remember reading a post on a Whatsapp page where the writer gives us the period of time (in days, months, years as appropriate) it takes for different set of people to make a certain amount of money( I couldn’t recover the post). It compared the Politician, the celebrity, the government worker, the Yahoo boy and others I can’t remember. But the point is actually obvious. It goes back to the points made all over again, the tendency for the modern world to place priority over money and material wealth as the definer of success and even of anything good in life. This mentality is not only misplaced but dangerous. Many of the most successful people in life who have changed this world were not men seeking after money but men committed to making their society better and making sure it mattered that they live. Some of them went on becoming rich, some did not but all of them were fulfilled and are remembered by society. Martin Luther might not have been wealthy, but he pursued a course that changed the world, William Wilberforce, John Wesley and the rest. Even people like Steve jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did not set out pursuing wealth but a dream, a drive for fulfilment and purpose. The wealth came but for these people, that is not what defines them. Let’s make a difference in our sphere of influence through diligence, hard work, integrity, commitment to values, love and empathy, let’s find something to live for and probably die for, then we have started living and then we will find that there is a life better, sweeter than a life lived merely on materialistic self-pursuits 

 

DIGNITY, FOR ALL MEN 

 

There was a day, a friend of mine, then a 200 level Law Student came to me and told me her uneasiness about some facts she has learnt. She said I should compare a graduate who earns #30,000 monthly with a petty trader who earns (I think), #1500 daily (Not so sure again of the figure, but it’s a figure that multiplied by 30 is more than #30000). According to her calculation, the petty trader ends up earning more money than the graduate. She feels this is not fair. Away from the University campus, I have also heard government workers that think it is not fair that a mechanic, carpenter, bricklayer builds his own house before them. 

 

This reveals a very bad mentality amongst the educated elites. We have come to think that we having the privilege (Yes, it’s a privilege) to be formally educated means we are better than everyone else. Reminds me of a Corps member (lady) who came to Nairaland to complain of how she was treated by an “illiterate soldier”. Because she is a graduate she thinks she deserves to be honoured above everyone else. She should be respected because she is human not because she is a graduate and the soldier is wrong not because he is Illiterate but because people should not use power anyhow. If your education means anything, it means you should be more respectable and do all you can to make life richer for those who don’t have the privilege 

 

Every worker is to be treated with dignity whether corporate or menial, white collar or otherwise. No one is more important than the other. It takes the same values to succeed in both. And who told you, you have to be richer because your work is corporate. You should be doing the corporate work because it brings you fulfilment and makes best use of your skills, education not because it makes you more human than anybody else. Everyone committed to the dignity of Labour, working day in day out to bring productivity is to be treated with dignity whatever our categorisation of workers.  

 

 

 

Dignity of Labour : Workers Day in Retrospect Part 3

​The 1st of May every year has been internationally devoted to the celebration of the workers. In the last article, we have looked at what work really is and by consequence who workers are. In a nutshell, workers are people who engage in activities that add value to themselves, to their society and increase/improve the productivity of the economy and maintain the basic moral fabric of society. The world must be ever grateful for those laboring men and women who with dedication and passion go about their activities to ensure the socioeconomic development of our nation. No nation can develop beyond its productive work force. Great leadership is needed, yes, but beyond great leadership there is always the need for great executors, who with great sense of purpose commit themselves to bring the great plans and policies at the top to the bottom. These people might not be known and celebrated. They might not be celebrated like the CEO, or praised like the great Governor/President or even compensated like the great consultants, but these people still go out of their way to make things happen 

There is a sense in which we have been fashioned to want to work. Laziness is one of those ‘sins’ that is universally recognized and condemned.  There is a sense in which we have been wired by our Creator to be active productive people. This internal drive is the reason why many will take jobs that don’t pay as much as they would expect and still do it with great passion.IT is true that there is a degree of external motivation that is needed for people to be at their best, but I have seen many people who even when these external motivations were lacking in sufficiency have found a thrive from within. Thousands of young entrepreneurs who will defy the fact that they live an environment that does not really support business growth to build great and thriving businesses. Many young men have left promising careers to build that business or empire that will really fulfil their dreams and aspirations. In spite of the great limitations, men are constantly striving as a response to that inward drive. 

However, it seems that many organizations in our country ( private or public) have taken it for granted that the greatest asset they have is their human resources. On one hand there has been so much talk about technological advancement, how it is changing the world and how in future years, many workers will be left redundant because these technologies would have taken over their work. But what we must remember is that it takes humans to produce technologies. The world has only become better because behind every medical feat, technological progress, great arts are great men who have done great things and we must never get to the place where the ‘creation’ is more important than the ‘creator’. What is needed is investment in human resources to develop the skills necessary to make the world a better place and cope with changing trends 

CHALLENGES 

But even worse is this almost universal (used loosely to refer to Nigeria where I am familiar with) trend where the welfare of the workers is the last thing on the agenda. It started with Osun State owing their workers’ Salaries for a good number of months that sparked outrage across the country, then like a Virus, it became almost universal. In Kwara state where I live, apart from the months that are still in arrears, the government pay salaries in percentages. This month it might be 50%, the next it might be 40% and only God knows if there is any plan or even any accounting procedures put in place to pay the remainder. Those who have labored for years in service to the development of the country are turned to paupers and beggars after their service. Even in the private sector, employees are using the fact that jobs are not readily available to negotiate absurd Salaries with job seekers that is not commensurate with the job tasks. Many Job adverts are filled with a long list of responsibilities and requirements that span from computer literacy, advance knowledge in certain IT software, years of experience, below 25. Yet many of these employers exploit these workers because of their desperate conditions. Getting to work, the job loads are enormous and they are tossed here and there by supervisors and threatened with sack. There is hardly a year you won’t find complaints by contract staffs of even reputable banks on how they are given unreasonable targets and treated with high hand. In some organizations, the workers cannot even have a union because it is assumed that the purpose will be to challenge management. Guess someone is afraid of their shadows. 

It’s so sad that while the ‘Executives’ are flaunting around with their wealth and gaieties, the workers are ‘suffering and smiling’. And it is this same executive that run many businesses to debt by their lack of proper management and financial prudency. Yet, it is the operational workers that suffer the consequences, workers are downsized without adequate lead time to sort themselves out, many times without severance packages and with harsh treatment. The executives are Kings we seem to be saying, they can do and undo. Traditional rulers are paid huge amount of money, Senators more, needless train of special advisers are made as comfortable as possible, business executives live large but the welfare and conditions of life of the main powerhouse of development and productivity are neglected even when “the average man does not ask for too much, he only wants what you and I want, a safe place to lay his head at night, his children to go to good school so they can become somebody”(Beautiful Nubia). But we find it hard to even meet the physiological and security needs of workers here, talk less of self-esteem and self-actualization needs. And yet these are the people that make the economic machine works.  

You then wonder why a new generation of people are working out schemes here and there to enrich themselves. You wonder why betting houses are multiplying. You wonder why many Ponzi schemes are developing. You wonder why our Students at Tertiary Institutions are embracing internet scams. You wonder why entertainment seems to be the new ‘employer of labor’. You wonder why everyone can sing and dance overnight. Wonder no more. While no excuse can justify these things, I believe we ourselves have created the platform for them to thrive. We have made money not virtues the most important thing, we have treated Labor with disdain instead of dignity, and we have failed to value hard work and Integrity. We have treated our workers as if what they stand for is irrelevant and unworthy. We have sowed the wind, we are reaping the whirlwind. If the current trend continues, as it was written in the first part of this series, the effects will be devastating 

It’s not all about the money we pay them. This is not written just to encourage salary raise or increase in minimum wage. It’s about treating them with honor, with dignity and respect, treating them as the most important resource in the organization. It’s restoring the dignity of Labor. It’s looking at the workers as human with dreams and aspirations, with desires. It’s giving them the right place where they belong in the most important schemes of the organization What is the way forward? 

The Society must recognize that there is no greater virtue than hard work, integrity, commitment to live by moral values. Society must place priorities over who people are than what they have. Materialism mentality must be substituted for character and virtues. Innovation, hard work and commitment to excellence must be awarded above talents. Programs that will develop the mind must be prioritized over programs that merely appeal to sensuality and entertain while leaving the mind empty and the moral life depraved 

The government must put the workers welfare as priority. Whatever else there is not enough money to do, there must be enough to reward the workers. Government must learn to be financially prudent and financially literate, cut down on excesses and structures that add no value. Government must engage labor leaders on regular basis on ways to make their work conditions better. It must be a continuous dialogue. The ministry of Labor must have a strict oversight over private sector affairs as it relates to the workers and routinely challenge employers to make their welfare a priority and erring organizations should be penalized 

The Labour Unions must do more than exist and only show their faces when salaries are not paid and subsidies are removed. They must actively engage in working with government and private sector employers on the best ways to improve welfare conditions as well as their productivity 

Private Sector employers must objectively deal with their workers. They must stop exploiting current economic realities. They must see their workers as human. There must be adequate commitment to their welfare and schemes that will improve work conditions while not compromising productivity and profitability must be employed. Workers also need time to pursue some personal dreams they have. Weekends, public holidays, Vacations, leaves must be really work free for the workers. Regular trainings should be organized (or time given for such) for them to improve their skills, develop innovative schemes that will make them ever relevant. Labor Unions that will give workers a sense of identity and a platform to discuss their future development should be encouraged. Work responsibilities should not be too burdensome and unreasonable. In all, workers welfare must be treated as a priority 

Workers themselves must show great zeal and commitment to their work. Workers must learn to be internally motivated, what’s well doing at all is worth doing well. All the shady business, bribes, laziness, lack of concern for organizations’ goals, lack of innovation must be cut off. Workers should be respectable, do all things with a sense of honor with diligence and integrity. Workers must not work to impress people but always be on the road of self-improvement and self-development. They must do everything as unto the Lord. They must seek to make a difference and create a legacy everywhere and anywhere they find themselves. 

Dignity of Labour: Workers Day in Retrospect PART 2

Work: Definition and Short History 

The key words that appear in both the title of this article and the introductory part of it are “work” and “labour” and it is essential at this point to provide a working definition of it. This would, aside from achieving the purpose of this article, ensure that we are operating from the same understanding of the key terms used. 

The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary provides the following as a definition:“activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something; sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result; activity that a person engages in regularly to earn a livelihood; a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity.” (Emphasis mine).This definition will be adopted in this work as it contains the key elements that this work will be emphasising on. Tracing the history of work is a very arduous task and one outside both the purview and size of this work. But a brief incursion into the history of work will be helpful. 

Immediately the idea of the creation of man was mentioned and after the creation of Adam, we see work coming in. Unlike the creation account of the other, the creation account of man began with a purpose: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (KJV). And immediately after creation, man was endowed with duties: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Gen. 1:28 “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  (KJV)  

And immediately after the fall, as part of God’s plan to cure the effects of the fall, we see work coming into play again: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground”. Gen 3:19 (KJV). A 19th century writer commented thus “It was God’s purpose to alleviate by toil the evil brought into the world by man’s disobedience. By toil the temptations of Satan might be made ineffectual, and the tide of evil stayed. And though attended with anxiety, weariness, and pain, labor is still a source of happiness and development, and a safeguard against temptation. Its discipline places a check on selfindulgence, and promotes industry, purity, and firmness. Thus it becomes a part of God’s great plan for our recovery from the fall.”  {Ellen White}  

From then on, down the line of history the concept of work has defined manhood and it has been part of the things that constitute his being. Whenever the bible made mention of any man, it was customary to introduce him with many things his occupation being one of the most common: Joseph the Father of Jesus was a carpenter. (Matt 13:55); Zenas, the lawyer (Tit. 3:13); Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). 

Modern Trends 

 

In modern times, there has been a shift from manual labour to skilled and mechanised labour. There has been moves to simplify labour so that where before a man would labour for hours or works with beasts, there are now machines that will simplify the work and ensure greater output.  

Another shift is from menial (blue collar) to professional (white collar) jobs. And consequent upon this, there is marked disdain for menial jobs. The question about the dichotomy between blue collar and white collar jobs and their pay is not at this point the issue. The only thing to be noted is that with education and changes in society there is a change. Creativity is now the focus of work in this generation.  

This article seeks to extol both menial and creative work. The biblical injunction is 

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” Eccles. 9:10.  

Modern society needs the farmer as much as it needs the accountant, the lawyer as much as it needs the carpenter, the economist as much as the chef, the doctor as much as the trader, the teacher as much as the pharmacist. The Creator, in His kindness, bestowed different talents on different individuals.  

Effects of Work and Indolence Compared 

 

Discipline vs Addiction 

Work is dreary and involves routine that bores many. The average worker wakes up at the same time every day, goes through the same routine preparing for work and then goes through the same route to work and at work has to do substantially the same thing over and over again. This is not really appealing to many of the youth of this generation who want adventure. But the beauty in the routine is that, skill is gained in the work itself. The more you do a thing, the better you become at it. That is the basis of the saying that practice makes perfect. And the bible says that the diligent worker stands before kings and not before mean men.  

 While the average worker becomes disciplined by doing the same thing over and over again, the indolent become addicted. Hours spent before the television brings with it addiction not only to the television and movies, songs, but also to food and this leads to obesity. Hours spent surfing the internet leads to addiction to smartphones and other electronic devices and this is the bane of our society now.  

 

Responsibility vs Irresponsibility 

Related to the above is responsibility gained by the worker. The man who has to work long hours before he earns money to supply his daily bread knows the value of that money and spends it responsibly. The man who makes a bet and has a windfall does not know the value of the money and loses it faster than he got it. It bears mention that most people lost more than they earned to the MMM scheme. And also while there are a few success stories about people who have made some money through betting, the fact still remains that the real money goes to the betting companies. They most times do not engage in any other business and still have enough money to pay their workers and satisfy the few winners. The money has to come from somewhere and it is from the losers that the money comes.  

Independence 

Man values his independence above all else and would do almost anything to secure it. But true independence is in labour. While many would look down with disdain upon the menial worker, the truth is that he is his own master. True that he might be working under an employer but he is still independent as he feeds himself, clothes himself, shelters himself and provides for his family. He has not to look to anyone for his food. He does not go begging.  

“Real happiness is found only in being good and doing good. The purest, highest enjoyment comes to those who faithfully fulfill their appointed duties. No honest work is degrading. It is ignoble sloth which leads human beings to look down on the simple, everyday duties of life. The refusal to perform these duties causes a mental and moral deficiency which will one day be keenly felt. At some time in the life of the slothful his deformity will stand out clearly defined. Over his life-record is written the words, A consumer, but not a producer.”  {Ellen White}   

Skill 

Any work requires skill, and this applies to both blue collar and white collar jobs. Constant engagement in work  helps build these skills while indolence blights them. The story of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) comes to mind. Any talent not usefully engaged becomes wasted and there will surely be accounting for it at the end of our journey here.  
Owolabi Paul and Kassarachi Chinemerem Favour 

DIGNITY Of LABOUR: WORKERS DAY IN RETROSPECT Part 1

By OWOLABI Paul & CHINEMEREM Kassarachi Favour 

This is really a good time to be a columnist, there are several issues to be dealt with; and even if you focus on a sole issue, you will still find many stories to motivate you to write. You can start with the falling moral standards, youth and distractions, the effects of social and print media on this generation, nuclear warfare, world politics, religion and violence, and the list could go on. But the sad fact still remains that while there are several live issues to deal with, our columnists have instead decided to focus on entertainment, games and other “trendy” news.  

This article aims to draw our attention to a trend in society which very few have noticed and fewer even care about but is fundamental to the future. This article would be focusing on labour, and why the dignity of labour is lacking in this generation 

Among the youth today, there is an alarming distaste for work. This is the trend not only in Nigeria, West Africa or even Africa only but a worldwide psychological state. There have been diverse studies in different countries and the results echo the fact that the youth today have an entitlement mentality, materialistic, live in a fantasy world and lack basic employment skill, and worse still, are not willing to work at all. “Compared to previous generations, recent high school graduates are more likely to want lots of money and nice things, but less likely to say they’re willing to work hard to earn them,”   

An American writer laments that it was once common to see teenagers mowing lawns, waiting tables, digging ditches and bagging groceries for modest wages in the long summer months. Summer employment was a social equalizer, allowing both affluent and financially strapped teenagers to gain a foothold on adulthood, learning the virtues of hard work, respect and teamwork in a relatively low-stakes atmosphere. But youth employment has declined precipitously over the years, and young people are losing a chance to develop these important life skills in the process and the result is that the workplace is filled with assistants who won’t assist, new workers who can’t set an alarm, employees who can’t grasp institutional hierarchies.   

The fantasy in young people’s minds have driven them to consider work as degrading and then look to quick money making schemes that will make them “blow”. Sometime ago, in Nigeria,  there was a story of an akara seller who “blew” when she was chosen to model because of her slim body and the media was agog with such an “inspiring” news. When I was in school, I met many students who had come to the university to study but many of whom were not reading books but instead thinking of how to become rappers so they can make quick money. 

There once was a time when gambling was seen as despicable and those who engaged in it were seen as morally decadent. In the days of pool betting, I can still remember that it was a mark of shame that a man lost money in pool betting. But that trend has changed now and sports betting has a new face where it is not just trendy but has been described as presenting “lifesaving opportunities” and another describe it as “very risky but highly rewarding business”.. Amid growing poverty and rising unemployment numbers, many Nigerians are investing their lean resources, time and energy in football betting. From brands such as Sportybet, Bet9ja, Nairabet, Merrybet, to Winners golden bet, and Access bet, contemporary soccer staking is markedly different from the earlier pool coupon. One of the agents Mr. Johnson, who has several centers in Abuja, says he opens them by 8am to 6pm. At an average, he says at least 1,000 people bet at his centers daily. 

If that is not alarming enough, an investigation by the News Agency of Nigeria has it that  about 60 million Nigerians between 18 and 40 years of age may be spending up to N1.8 billion on sports betting daily with each person committing about N3000 daily. 

On August 31, 2015, a professor of a university in Nigeria was reported to have won N58,000,000 on sports betting. He confessed to have been betting for 25 years! There was a time when eyes would have rolled, but not now, he was celebrated and went with relatives to collect the bounty; with pictures in the Newspapers! 

Last year, amidst the recession, another get-rich scheme came to light in the form of MMM. While much of our discourse will be focused on it, the fact still remains that it was not the first time such a thing is happening in the world or in Nigeria (indeed the scheme and those behind it already had a history of fraud). In 1991-2 in Lagos, there was Forum Finance that promised to double the money of everyone who invested in the scheme. It all turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. And there have been others. 

But last year, Sergey Mavrodi brought his scheme to Nigeria promising 30% interest to investors and the promise was too rosy for people to see the accompanying thorns to wit that 

Mavrodi had already been convicted in Russia for running a similar scheme. Several Nigerians “invested” in it and at a certain point it was the talk of the town and everyone was going online to check their updates. Anyone who was not on the scheme at that point was seen as daft. The level of our ethical collapse was seen with images of worship places that should teach the right values about wealth creation organizing Ponzi seminars for MMM in their auditoria! 

The warnings of the government and its agencies fell on deaf ears. When the bubble burst, it was too late and investigations revealed that 3 million Nigerians had lost 18 billion naira to the scheme! This has not deterred the average Nigerian as several still patronise new schemes like greeenspeer, Netellites, Global Cash Nigeria etc   

When quizzed about why they engage in sports betting or “invest” in get-rich-quick Ponzi schemes, the normal response is that the recession and unemployment pushed them to it but this raises several questions. If a person can somehow manage to spend N3000 on the average a day betting on sports, is such a person incapable of employing himself? Several people lost an average of N500,000 to the MMM scheme and the question is whether this is not enough to start up a business? Incidentally that is the capital base needed to start a public company in Nigeria! Which means that if the person who lost that sum had started a company, he would be a director today. If the N18,000,000,000 lost to MMM had been pumped into the Nigerian economy legitimately who knows the impact it could have made!  

The truth therefore is that the real reason why these schemes and betting is so rampant is that people no longer have the patience to work hard and reap the benefits overtime. They want the money that “grows like grass” so they, like the stars they see on TV can spend their money in “bundle”.


The Social media and others are filled with lots of news and updates about “success” stories of various people who have made it through these, not illegal (but unethical) schemes. Various celebrities with obscene images and music videos and immoral lives are celebrated as the ‘idols’ of society and the mentors of the young people. They are the ones that win big and get millions of naira for being locked up in a house doing a whole lot of irrelevant and immoral things.  

But focusing on these symptoms will not lead us to find lasting solutions to this mayhem. With the mass production of the industrial revolution, innovations that makes production easy and abundant, coupled with mass marketing that bombards us daily, we live in a new world of Materialism. All these enhanced by globalization leading to an international market. We in this generation have access to a whole lot of products and services and producers are doing everything to entice us to buy. Adverts are no longer about the qualities of the product; they are more focused on arousing our different passions and urges. This is why sexual images and images that appeal to the lust of men are the new trends in advertisement. With this mass production and advertising has come mass consumption. Now, success is defined by how much of these things we can possess. We purchase things not because they are needed but because we just want them or because we want to merely catch up with the trend or prove to others that we are rich and fashionable  

With this mindset, everyone wants to get so many things and therefore they need to make a whole lot of money and with enough time to spend the money. This is why we have this craze for get rich schemes. They give you money without Labour and therefore give you time to spend your ‘fortune’ to satisfy your passions and lusts  What are the effects of this trend (these trends) on the society?  

1. First is waste. Much of the money gotten through these schemes are wasted on products and services that add no value to the spender or to the society they represent. For example we read of many who spend half of their fortune on a drinking spree to celebrate  

2. Second is crime. With so much desire for easy money, many are willing to go to any lengths to fit in to society and meet up with the class of their peers. There was a story of a young student some months ago that said he does not want to go to school but wants to do Yahoo. You cannot help but have this scenario. When Labour is not valued, crime will .Many care less about moral bounds (and even lesser, legal bounds). So we have hundreds of Students (to say the least) in our higher institutions who engage in these criminal activities. They just want their own opportunity.  Added to this is the use of voodoo to protect. We hear of countless people who have had their body parts severed all in this mad rush for money. You might think this is unconnected with get rich quick schemes, but they are both built on the same mindset. And that’s all that matters. The mind gets more emboldened, fears are dropped and with greater products comes greater desires, with more money comes a greater desire for money and no one knows where it will all end  

3. Income inequality persist: When one person wins out of 1000 and 999 losses, it only widens inequality in society. The kind of development that impacts every tom, dick and harry in the society cannot be based on these schemes. These schemes only perpetuate inequality while inequality perpetuates greed, envy, anger, crime.   

4. Stagnated Economy: When productive forces are not available and the innovations required to develop an economy are absent, that economy cannot develop. With laziness and  

Unproductivity among the teeming young population, the economic progress of that nation is almost impossible. Money made through these schemes have no explosive good effects on the economy. Entrepreneurship, technology, youth innovation are the stuffs that develop a nation and such preconditions cannot be found with this mindset prevalent amongst us  

5. Loss of Values: Every society that has developed have done so because the citizens had values that guided them. Hard work, Integrity, Patience, Dignity of Labour are values upon which any developed society must be built. When dignity of labour goes, hard work and integrity follows. Morals generally are disregarded and the only moral becomes ‘thou shall be rich at all cost’. The values that shape society and leads to its progress are diminished. Self-focus, individualism and loss of patriotism become the main thing.  

6. Collapse of Society. Get rich quick schemes are not sustainable. A society where labour is not valued and everyone is concerned about making money and redefining success around that is bound to crumble. The desire soon outweigh the supply since there is no productivity to improve supply. And whenever demand outweigh supply, there is competition. The odds are bigger, the greed and lust is more enhanced and so are the losses. The percentage are higher and then higher still until the whole system crumbles. The standards fall deeper. Uncharted territories are explored. More crazy, debased, immoral schemes develop until the society itself collapse  

More could be said, but for the sake of space. But I think the consequences are readily seen by any reflective mind that cares for our society  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

​VALUING HUMAN LIVES LIKE BILL GATES AND DANGOTE

We live in a country where we have little or no value for the human life. The security of lives and properties which is a fundamental necessity for the existence of a society are greatly lacking. We live in a place where people can die from very absurd reasons and unimaginable conditions. If you are not killed by a car, you might just be the victim of a drunk police man with his rifle or a crazy driver running away from a police personnel. Life here is not just secured. From people lynched because of religious remarks or an inter-ethnic war arising from mere cases of disrespect for the wife of a leader of a road transport workers association, people live their lives in fear.  
Recent issues that have made the news has also shown more or less this chronic disease of our polity. From the Soft drinks saga to the Meningitis outbreak, our deep rooted malady have showcased again. The lackadaisical attitude of NAFDAC and the Standard Organization of Nigeria is beyond words. Even if the fact was granted that the difference in temperature between Nigeria and UK necessitates a higher level of acceptability in regards to the Benzoic acid, the fact that no review in the standards has been made since 2008 is a call for concern. Or are those that were supposed to be the experts in such issues unaware of studies that are being done to show greater health risks in Benzoic acid which has necessitated the drop in the acceptable level? And to think that this particular matter has been dragged in the court for 8 years, leaves much to be desired. And then to think that this issue will not have been raised if not for concerns expressed, not by a Nigerian Laboratory but by a UK laboratory.  As noted by Simbo Olorunfemi, for example, the standard set by Codex Alimentarius Commission(CAC)- (who sets international limit) as high as 600mg/kg was reviewed to 250mg/kg. The United Kingdom and other European countries have set theirs at 150mg/kg including Ghana in the same tropical region with us. But even the argument of difference in weather is misplaced. As Simbo noted, “ But then, after learning that benzene was present in some products, research was undertaken by both FDA( their version of NAFDAC) and the soft drinks industry in US to understand the factors that contributed to benzene formation. This revealed that ‘elevated temperature and light can stimulate benzene formation in the presence of benzoate salts and vitamin C’ So, I am left again with more questions: If elevated temperature, as is the case in tropical Nigeria, is a factor that can enhance benzene formation- a well-documented carcinogenic substance, how then does it make sense for the prescribed benzoic acid level in Nigeria manufactured soft drinks to be higher than that of a temperate United Kingdom and other European countries?” And in a country that care less about causes of deaths or sicknesses (but rather give you drugs to cure symptoms), who knows the untold harms that would have been caused by such negligence and carelessness about the value of human lives.  

While countries are researching every time to make sure that the health of their citizens are in the best state and to review what needs to be reviewed to achieve that, we here care less. As Simbo concluded in his first piece on this topic, “But then, this is even beyond Fanta and Sprite. The more pertinent question brought to the fore by this are- Are there more things we need to be worried about? Can we be sure there is someone out there really looking out for the safety and best interest of Nigerians? To lose faith in an agency such as NAFDAC with charge over food and drugs is no good for the system. It has a lot of work to do redeeming itself.” And this is not just a NAFDAC issue, it cuts across varied institutions and what their practices tell us about their value for the human life. 

Well, weeks have passed after the whole drama and just as the rug was being rolled, another issue related to our value for the human life arose. It was the case of the outbreak of Meningitis in our dear country. Again, Simbo Olorunfemi gives some insights. “According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease control, (NCDC), as of April 3, 2017, a total of 2,997 cases, with 336 deaths, have been reported, with 146 of the cases being laboratory confirmed.” Though these outbreaks have occurred in the past, yet we have not been able to adequately contain these outbreaks. In 2015, “this outbreak lasted 17 weeks, and affected 1039 villages in 21 local government areas in three states- Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger.” Though excuses have been cited that this current one is serogroup C and it is new occurence while the previous ones were of the serogroup A and that vaccines for the former are not easily accessible.  But as Simbo noted, “We are told that the C strain is a relatively new occurrence, but the scientific study I read reported that in 2013 and 2014 in North Western Nigeria, ‘two sequential, localized outbreaks of meningitis were caused by a new strain of Neiseeria meningitides Serogroup C (NmC)” And even at that year, the study had already suggested that, “a Vaccination campaign against NmC with a long lasting conjugate vaccine should be considered in the region”. Apparently, no one has cared.  We would rather give religious connotations to the problem, than acknowledge our folly and repent of them. In a country where the lives of citizens are not valued, such reports lie useless in one box while life continues, hoping it will not come again. But alas, it came. For many of us, as long as it is not our family members or our friends, who cares? We have gotten so used to so much deaths from preventable causes that we no longer seem to see it as a problem that needs urgent redress. Do we really value the lives of thousands of people that die on our streets, in our half-baked hospitals, in the hands of uncaring nurses and reckless doctors? Do we really care for the lives of our citizens that die on bad roads or those who in the 21st century still have no access to portable water? Do we value the lives of the youth corpers that die yearly just because they want to serve their father land? Do we value the lives of those who die on fake drugs and smuggled products or those who die as victims of the recklessness of our own security agencies? Do we even care? Are these lives worth it? Does it have to continue like this? Are we cursed to this continuous tears and loss? 

But beyond these two examples, the one that worried me most was the outbreak in Queens College, Yaba. The report by Sahara Reporters says “A recent laboratory report has shown that since the beginning of January 2017, over 1222 students of Queens College in Yaba, Lagos State have been treated at the school’s clinic for abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea”. The problem? “The analysis also indicates that the boreholes that provide principal sources of water for the school are too shallow and too close in proximity to the sewage systems, to which the contamination has been traced”. But what one of the kitchen workers said was worrisome. She said the school principal, Mrs Lami Amodu “buys spoilt fish and molded rice at cheap rates for the student’s consumption”. When one of the students died, the school management denied any death and was still trying to allay the fears of the parents. But then the report of another death came to public knowledge. But when you think it can get worse, you read, “ Despite the Lagos State government’s recommendation that the school postpone classes till the premise are cleared of bacterial infections, the management of the school has asked the JSS 3 and SS3 students to resume without taking necessary precautions to ensure the students will be safe when they return to School.” How can repeated cases of same or similar symptoms be ignored from January until it became epidemic in April? How can a principal put her own profit as priority above the students’ health? How can they be indifferent until the intervention of Lagos State Government and Minister of Health? How can they reopen the school without any change in conditions? How can they deny the death of a student and give false security? What height of selfishness and irresponsibility! But the worst of it all that should bring pain to any heart is what was said by the Principal and his Vice as reported by Chidi Anselm ( President of Unity Schools Old Students Association). First the principal, “there is no epidemic, epidemic is when threequarters of the population has died”. Then the Vice, “We are looking after 2800 students and we are being crucified because two die”. Do these people even have blood in their veins? Would they have made those statements if it were their children? The lives of two young ladies with future aspirations are worth nothing? Nigeria, how did we ever get here? How did we grow callous? But while all these ravaging issues were taking place, Nigerians and our media outlets were more concerned about Apostle Suleiman and Stephanie Otobo, Dino Melaye’s certificate, Hammed Ali’s uniform, Saraki’s SUV, Big Brother Nigeria and the married lives of some so called celebrities. Can we focus on issues of greater proportions and issues that deal with the very values that make society possible?  As Ayodele Adio stated, “A nation without a conscience and the slightest of compassion will continue to recycle injustice and rebellion at the cost of innocent lives. 

But in the midst of all these bad news, I was so encouraged by an article I read on the 30th of April, 2017. I have written in greater depth and details on this issue of the value of human life in an article titled, “The Value of The Human Life” on Fadelessvision.blogspot.com. The article went beyond the symptoms to the real issues and possible solutions. But I was urged to take up the pen again on this topic, not to go over the explanations again but to show that all hope is not lost. The article was written by Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa and Bill Gates, one of the richest in the world. It was titled, “Why we are Hopeful about Improving Health in Africa”. The article introduced us to what these men have been doing to make sure that Polio is eradicated in Africa. They met in 2010 in a conference concerned about this same issue. Since then, they have been working on complete eradication of the disease. More than 180,000 vaccinators have been sent into 5 African countries. They had supported the establishment of emergency operations centers in Nigeria. In Kano, they are working to ensure that “children can get essential childhood immunizations against Tetanus, pneumonia, liver cancer and measles. They have plans for nutrition programs in 12 states. They have also launched a campaign to end Malaria. 

But what impressed me most was not what they have done or plan to do, but what I saw as their motivating ideology. I derive that from this statement, “At the time(referring to when the conference held in 2010), Nigeria had done an amazing job tackling polio- reducing reported cases by 95 percent in just one year. But it was still circulating in six Nigerian States. While 95 percent might seem like success, as long as a single child remains infected, children across Africa and around the world are at risk” Wao! I have not read 

something as moving as this in years. True to their ideology, Borno is now the only State out of the 6 where Polio is still circulating and they are working relentlessly to end it there. To them, the life of one single person matters. Is it because they are so rich and wealthy? In fact that should be the reason why they should not care. These are guys that have all the comfort and security anyone can ever wish for. But there is an ideology, a commitment to the value of one single human life that drives them on in this mission. We might not be as rich, but if we have the same mentality like they do, that every single human life is precious and important and deserves life and security and comfort, then we can do the little we can in our corners. We can brighten the corners where we are. When the ideology is there, it will find expression, either in big deeds or in little acts. 

 All is not gloom, all hope is not lost. Let us as individuals and as far as our voices, pens, influences can go, make a commitment to the sanctity of the human life and commit to live every day of our own lives in view of that fact. We need a massive revolution of mindset in this country, individually and institutions wise. It can begin with us. The Nigerian life is sacred and it should be treated as such. Whether sick or whole, whether in the womb or out, whether male or female, whether theist or atheist, educated or illiterate, poor or rich, privileged or not, irrespective of race, tribe or religion, every human life is precious and we should treat it as such. And it still remains my conviction that this is true because every human being is created in the image of God. 

 

 

 

 

Ayodele Adio, Nigeria We Hail Thee, Opinion.premiumtimes.com.ng, April 30, 2017 

Aliko Dangote, Bill Gates, Why We are Hopeful about Improving Health in Africa, Opinion.premiumtimes.com.ng, April 30, 2017 

Chidi Anselm, Death of Innocents at Queen’s College: Crime of Involuntary Manslaughter, livebip.com, May 1, 2017 

Owolabi Paul, The Value of The Human Life, Fadelessvision.blogspot.com, June 12, 2016 

Simbo Olorunfemi, Are we Doing Enough to Contain this Annual Outbreak of Meningitis, Opinion.premiumtimesng.com, April 5, 2017 

Simbo Olorunfemi, More Questions on Soft Drinks, Benzoic Acid and Nigerian Regulators, Opinion.premiumtimesng.com, March 20, 2017 

Simbo Olorunfemi, Should We Now Be Worried about Drinking Fanta and Sprite,Opinion.premiumtimesng.com, March 17, 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FALLACY OF CULTURAL GENERALISATION

​THE FALLACY OF CULTURAL GENERALISATION 

Nigeria is a multi-cultural country. Therein lies our strength and also our weakness. These different ethnic groups have given many different cultural identities. Culture is the total way of life of a group of people and every human being is a product of a particular cultural distinctive. In our country, there is a tendency that I noticed whereby some particular ethnic groups are defined by a particular behavior or habits. Whether in formal or informal discussions, whether seriously or jokingly, we are confronted with many such cases. Maybe you have heard some of them. My first experience was when I heard people say they cannot marry anyone from Kabba, a town in Kogi State because their ladies are promiscuous. Then later on I heard some people say that Igala people, an ethnic group in Kogi State are hotly tempered people and can destroy anything when they are angry. This gets more interesting especially when it comes to marriage. So a guy brings a girl home and the first thing in most cases that the parent ask is what tribe in what part of the country is the lady from. And when they don’t like people from that tribe because they have been starred with a particular character, the marriage can’t be successful. The same goes for the guy too. In fact many parents start ‘drumming’ it into the ears of their children very early that some particular tribes are anathema. No matter their individual character and the strength of relationship between them, they would rather oppose and leave the children in emotional trauma. Such is the depth of such generalizations. 

Some things seem insignificant but their significance is best seen by their results and consequences. If you think this is an insignificant matter, ask the young girl or guy that cannot marry the person they love not because of the individual but because the guy was unfortunate to belong to a tribe that has been known for a particular character or behavior. Even apart from marriages, in different social spaces we all see this issue play out.  In many online forums, there is also this tendency to associate a particular behavioral pattern to everyone coming from a particular tribe. For example, you will hear someone say, “Yorubas are cowards” or someone makes general statements about Igbos based on the Biafra agitation. This also plays out in the way some particular tribes are stigmatized and treated as if they are not human beings. 

So what is wrong with this way of making general statements about people from a particular culture? Many such statements are made based on few examples. When some people from a particular culture manifest a particular people over time, there is the tendency to generalize about everyone in that culture. Why is this a wrong approach? 

Firstly, the nature of Socialization. Who we become in terms of habits, attitudes, worldview, character is a combination of so many factors and so many influences. The primary influence they say is the Family and the family is the basic unit of any culture. But the influence exerted on a particular individual goes beyond the primary culture. There is the influence of the School system. There is the influence of friends that are coming from totally foreign backgrounds from ourselves. There is the influence of religious instructions which transcend a particular culture. There is the influence of the mass media. There is the influence of Charismatic leaders here and there. There is the influence of the books we read. There are just so many influences apart from the primary culture that come to bear on the life of an average human being that makes it difficult to make cultural generalizations. In a multi ethnic nation like Nigeria, it is more absurd. The values that impact the life of an average person transcend cultural boundaries.  Even many sociologists know that there is nothing like cultural purity. Different cultures are interacting and they all leave marks on the other culture. If a culture itself is not pure because of cultural mix and interaction, it can’t be expected that a particular individual will be a mere reproduction of his own primary culture and primary agent of Socialization.  Therefore, the character and habits and behavior patterns of an individual is unique to him and it’s a combination of many agents of influence that has been brought to bear on him. Though some influences are stronger than others, it is still difficult to believe that the primary culture is dominant or it is all that is. These different influences can be positive or negative on the character. They may either encourage bad character, reform bad character or breed good character. As a result of these influences, many people are able to override many inherent behavioral possibilities 

Secondly, the nature of migrations and globalization.  We live in a world that is large. There are many people that have not even lived at all in their particular ethnic group or tribe. Many have lived all of their lives far away from their primary culture. For many, apart from some occasional visits, they are not even part of their primary culture. Indeed, many don’t even visit. Many don’t even know the road that leads to their village/town. So, in a world where mass migrations, within a country and without are possible and frequent, many people are not even influenced at all by their primary culture. Also, in a globalized world, many are becoming global citizens and the attachment to a particular tribal identity is waning. Though I believe to be a global citizen is to be a citizen of nowhere and that we must never do away with our national identity and patriotism, but the primacy of tribal identity is waning. Therefore, we have a whole generation of people who are not even influenced primarily by their immediate culture of birth. 

But most importantly, what about heredity ? Maybe the reason why the cultural generalizations may be valid is that a particular behavioral pattern is passed down from parents down to children. So, the behavior is not passed down through Socialization but through genes. Maybe this is why? Like Scientist Richard Dawkins said, that we are all dancing to our DNA. IS this true? Do we automatically inherit the behavioral patterns of our parents and therefore our culture and we are helpless about this? 

Every human being has hereditary influences that are huge and genetic dispositions that affect our life. But Scientists in the study of Genetics are coming to some interesting conclusions that we need to look at. “Bio information is the biochemical instructions through which living things grow, maintain, and reproduce themselves. DNA, has long been considered the library of bio-information and the controller of systems in cells and creatures. Beginning largely in the 1990s, scientists have been finding this view unsatisfactory. What we see in the DNA of a cell or creature is not fully what we get in its body or behavior. Something else is going on between the instructions contained in the DNA (the genotype) and the resultant product (the phenotype). This something else has been dubbed ‘epigenetics’ meaning ‘above genetics’ or ‘outside of genetics’” “And again, contrary to a core belief of the DNA era (the second half of the 20th century), epigenetic research reveals that significant bio-information can be acquired in creatures’ lifetimes through experiences and choices. This information can then affect their bodies and behavior, and can also be inherited by their descendants for at least several generations. All this without changing the creatures’ underlying DNA” “It appears DNA will be seen as the creature’s consistent, slowly changing bio-information baseline that is largely insulated from the creature’s environment. In contrast, epigenetics will be viewed as the fast changing, environmentally responsive bio-information system that provides rapid adaptability for the creature and passes these adaptations to its descendants in a resettable way ”

“In the Nature view, “You are your DNA” and DNA, like predestination controls you.  In the Nurture view, choices and free will matter. With knowledge only of DNA, science built a skewed worldview where DNA controls everything in life. Epigenetics is DNA’s apparent contradiction and reintroduces freewill. The reconciliation between DNA and Epigenetics, like the reconciliation of predestination and freewill, is correcting this skewed worldview and yielding new insight into life and therefore God.” 

The summary of the above quotes written by Marc Hughes on Epigenetics is that while our DNA has enormous influence on us, by our choices and influences we allow to get to us, we can turn on or turn off certain inherited genetic dispositions. Epigenetics is telling us that we need not dance to our DNA and by our choices we can achieve adaptability and even pass on such to our descendants in a resettable way. Our genetic makeup is not all that there is. DNA is not the ‘sole blueprint for life’ 

In the year 2000, a professor at Duke University did a research on Epigenetics on Agouti mice. The Agouti gene predisposes the mouse to be overweight, sickly yellow to cancer, diabetes and other life threatening diseases. By changing their diet to a plant based diet, when the baby mice were born, with the same DNA, they were no longer yellow and diseased. By changing environmental factors (nutrition) genetic dispositions were turned off (Quoted from’ Life commandments’, Mark Finley). 

None of us have a perfect bloodline. We are all affected with hereditary tendencies. In this way, we can really be said to be a product of our parents life and therefore the influence of our primary culture. But as the researches in Epigenetics tell us, we are not locked up to our DNA. We can turn off a great deal of our genetic dispositions and even pass on better bio-chemical information to our descendants. Therefore, it is still wrong to make cultural generalizations. Even if people have some particular traits that are passed on within their culture, people are not locked up to that, by their environment and their choices, they can become better people. None of us is perfect or totally break free from genetic limitations but with our choices and environment, we can live beyond our DNA 

No matter the culture we came from, we can break free from such limitations in relation to character, attitudes and behavioral pattern. Therefore, we can’t make hasty generalizations about people.  

We are influenced by many agents and factors outside our primary culture; we live in a world of migrations where people don’t even get influenced by their primary culture; we live in a globalized world where ethnic identity is waning and even if it’s true that some particular dispositions are genetic, change in environment and positive choices can overturn such. We should not make cultural generalizations about people and even if some of those limitations are true for us or those close to us, we can live beyond them 

And for those of us who are believers in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit we have been born again and through him, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. We have divine power on our side and we can progressively overcome. We can become what Christ wants us to be.