[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
    telephone line!!!

    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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