I had been walking all day and my sister and I were considering a break from the “Ajala travel all over the world skills” we were exhibiting.
As we walked down the road, trying to make our way towards Big Ben, the famous clock, and “British personality”, I took a breather to observe the environment.
a) A cyclist stop at the red light;
b) A pedestrian depress the road side indicator to confirm that it was safe to walk past;
c) a city bus arrive on time to pick passengers who were in a queue because it was that time of day (when London is congested);
d) Various people looking out for signs and asking questions on what was right or not right to do.
In that moment, I imagined what chaos would emerge if things went south and everyone chose to move at will, cyclist pedestrian, motorist, and tourist and maybe I chose to do only what we felt like at the time; the result, CHAOS.
More disturbing for me was the acknowledgment that many of these people in sight were my kinsmen. I asked why this could not be Nigeria and what were the things preventing such order; my response to me was one word: CULTURE.
I have set below two definitions which I believe succinctly capture the meaning of the word:
Culture is – “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” E.B. Tyler (anthropologist)
Cambridge English Dictionary states that culture is, “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.”
What then is the CULTURE (habit, general custom [daily/hourly choice] of the individual Nigerian? Bringing it home, what is your culture as a Nigerian?
I don’t intend to throw scientific conclusions up in the air trying to answer these questions, permit me instead to use examples.
A lot of us are so easy to point fingers at the government, fault it for every mishap including our personal failures. It is my opinion however that our government is a reflection of our culture, our customs and beliefs at this particular time as individuals. As such, I ask these introspective questions to enable easy understanding of why I say so.
Our politicians steal because it is our culture to enable them by seeking close proximity to them for personal gain and making them heroes for wrongdoing. True/False
Our criminals are unrepentant because the last criminal on record was not punished; in fact, he got out scot-free or is still being bandied from court to court without due process being followed. True/False
Too many examples of what is wrong abound, but this realization is only the beginning point. This information only becomes useful when used as fodder for creating solutions.
The way to go
We all know that the current culture is not sustainable. The opportunity cost of doing the right thing is too high; it’s only rational to do wrong. That is what we need to change. We need it to make it very expensive to do the wrong thing and give incentives for doing the right thing.
We need to begin to hone our custom and behavior to accept that it is okay to do things right and celebrate the people who do it. That way, we consciously begin to adopt morals and values that enhance the quality of our lives as individuals and in the collective.
We need to agree on the minimum practices, behavioral patterns that would be collectively acceptable and induce a culture of doing right.
All that is ailing our country is easy to identify, the corrections should not be so difficult to apply. We only need to wilfully and intentionally adapt to the culture of doing the right thing especially when no one is checking or taking position to punish us.
Now you take the Culture Test
So you are one of those Nigerians, twitter lord and policy mafia who knows exactly how the country should be run and what is right to do e.t.c. It just might be that you are yet to solve your personal problem culture wise. Please take the simple test below to identify what your own culture is as a Nigerian.
a) When you finish drinking water in a sachet or bottle, do you or have you ever thrown it on the road?
b) Complete car papers or routine “yo men” to the policemen and VIOs that are now your friends? Where do you fall?
c) You see a queue; do you shunt or fall in line?
d) Do you drive on one way routes intentionally? Or more importantly, have you taken the pain to study what road signs mean?
So many other test questions will help us spellcheck our culture and show us where we belong.
If you want right, then you should do right; if the bulk of us do right by ourselves and our nation, there would be a difference.
Lastly, What if government remained “dysfunctional” and individuals took responsibility to behave right? Would change result from this?
I think yes, because the change of the culture of the individual would enable the change in the culture of the collective.
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