[Paleopsych] allAfrica.com: Our group mentality
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Fri Jul 15 19:32:42 UTC 2005
Our group mentality
[Thanks to Laird for this.]
Daily Trust (Abuja)
July 13, 2005
Posted to the web July 13, 2005
By Professor Layi Erinosho
The technologically developed countries are highly individualistic.
Emphasis is on the individual and this is carried almost to a
ridiculous extent at least in the eyes of those in Nigeria.
The rights of the individual whether an adult or infant are respected
in the West. You cannot just scold or spank your child in the United
States. Your child could bring a report to his/her school authorities
who would in turn refer the matter to school counsellors who would in
turn recommend psychiatric assistance and/or criminal prosecution.
Chil-dren enjoy their fundamental human rights and their par-ents
cannot just order them around without seeking their permission. Better
still you may have to give something to your child for working for you
in North America. Similarly, children who are eighteen years old
always insist on paying something as rent to their parents if they
still live at home with them. This is because a child who is eighteen
and above is expected to leave home and fend for him or herself. This
is unthinkable in our society.
Students enjoy rights and as such their teachers are very careful in
their dealings with them otherwise they would pay dearly. Teachers now
take out insurance coverage nowadays in the United States just in case
their students seek legal redress over the infringement of their
rights. Doctors, lawyers, and parishioners name it are all conscious
of their rights. It has been suggested that medicine is
patients-driven in the United States due to the obsession of patients
with their rights and ethical practice.
Rights are extended to homes. Partners nowadays negotiate the
conditions governing their marriage well ahead and stick to them at
all times. The violation of the terms of agreement consti-tutes a
sound legal ground for separation and divorce. Thus, a husband cannot
take his wife for granted. He cannot just spank or insist on making
love to her at anytime. Her rights must be respected and the decision
to mate will be mutual. I had two profe-ssors who were husband and
wife in my department during my graduate studies in Tor-onto more than
thirty years ago. Each of them had pers-onal telephone landlines then
and you dared not try to reach one of them through the other's
Animals are accorded rights and must be treated humanely in western
soci-eties. There are animal rights campaigners and efforts are made
to protect them and handle them with care. The ethics committees of
the research institutions enforce the guidelines for handling animals
in laboratories. Wes-tern societies are therefore obsessed with rights
and this is traceable to their history and culture. Consequently,
Africans had better know about democracy and rights in the context of
the historical antecedents of western society.
Nigeria is not exactly unlike western societies because group rights
trans-cend those of the individuals. Ours is group-oriented soc-iety.
The group is more impo-rtant than the individual. We must carry our
group along all the time. First, we cannot marry unless we bring the
group (i.e., the family) into the picture. The members of the family
unit are expected to play prominent role at every stage of betrothal,
- introdu-ction, engagement and wedding. Even the wedding ceremony is
not dominated by the friends of the groom and bride but by their
parents and the long time friends. It is always as if the parents are
the ones getting married and not the young couples.
We are our brothers' and sisters' keeper. Therefore our homes are open
all the time to the members of our exte-nded family and friends.
Anyone can show up at our homes at any time and expect to be warmly
received and housed for as many days as possible. It is improper to
insinuate that such august visitors are violating your privacy.
Husbands enjoy unlim-ited control over their wives. They can order
their wives around to do anything with the covering support of their
extended family. Conseq-uently, a wife is least likely to secure the
support of her family or the society at large if she is crazy about
enfor-cing her fundamental human rights. Everyone around will simply
say to her: respect her husband. She will be treated to long lectures
on why the man is the head of the family and is always rights.
Of course, our children are in perhaps worse situa-tion. You are
always a child of your parents even if you are seventy years of age in
Nigeria!!! This means that your parents can still exercise
considerable control over you at any age as long as they are still
alive. They can order you around or insist that you do things in their
own away while you dare not disobey them because this is un-African. A
child can live with his/her parents as long as possible and it will
amount to a gratuitous insult for him/her to insist on paying rent to
them. These open and welcoming attitudes are indicative of parents'
sense of responsibility and love for their children. It is therefore
unthinkable for children to disobey their parents or elders in our
Animals do not have right at all in Nigeria. Pets like dogs or goats
or fowls/chic-kens are treated anyhow by their owners. In fact,
moto-rists deliberately 'gun' for dogs that stray onto the street
because it is believed to be a symbolic ritual for warding off
accidents. Perh-aps, the only creature that is respected are ducks
which are avoided by motorists at all cost. It is believed that
overrunning a duck is an invitation to fatal accidents.
The fact that we are our brothers' and sisters' keeper is beneficial
to everyone. We attempt to look after one another. Ceremonies are
never devoid of support from numerous kin and friends. It means
spending a lot to host far too many people that can afford any time.
Naming, burial, and wedding ceremonies are always well attended and
gifts are showered on the celebrants. It is our duty to support one
another all the time even at the risk of making life difficult for
But some have found that our commitment to group can be oppressive.
Indeed, it has been argued that Nigerians are prisoners of their
group(s). Group dominance therefore undermines the capacity for
indivi-dual creativity and initiatives. Sometime we are wont to follow
the group blindly to our peril. For example, thou-sands of Nigerians
struggled to deposit their funds in dubious finance houses because
their kin and friends did so. All of them lost their hard earned
The fact that we are a group society means that we have to struggle to
show appreciation for western values which underscore individual
rights. Nigerians cannot really understand this and it will take some
time before we can jettison group rights for individual rights. But my
piece of advice to Nigerians is to stay put wherever they are or move
in the opposite direction if their countrymen and women are running
eastwards or northwards or westwards.
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