You know you’re African when you’re being given advice at every turn by any and everyone (even people who have no idea what they’re on about) but I suspect you really know for sure that you’re Nigerian when you feel like you MUST accept and act on the advice you’re given. Particularly when it’s coming from someone of an older generation than yourself.
I’m West African. Not Nigerian but I have had the chance to observe Nigerian cultural interactions a lot over the past few years and it’s interesting to me that it really is just as it is in a Nollywood movie (if you’ve ever seen one) – deference despite anything else. I recognize that that’s a generalisation but you’ve got to admit that generalisations come from somewhere. They’re not conjured up out of thin air.
Deference is the general attitude towards the older generation in Nigerian society.
It makes me think about the topic of respect not just in Nigerian culture but everywhere. The respect demanded by some members of society is based on position and age and, supposedly therefore, experience. In a hierarchical society, you might struggle to remember that experience can sometimes be limited. That older gentleman may be able to learn something of value from you and you should therefore be able to speak freely about what you know. You shouldn’t have to sit, shut up and listen to them drone on. There needs to be room for dialogue without fear of having your “youth” despised.
It’s a blessing to reach an old age and have people treat you properly because of it. Age will of course teach you an endless number of lessons that you can pass on to the younger generation but that doesn’t mean that you should expect anyone younger than yourself to sit quietly and let you pontificate about your experiences and tell them how to live their lives or conduct their businesses without hearing their POV as well. People are no less human or intelligent because they are younger or less experienced than yourself.
I’m so grateful for how I was raised – knowing that I could speak my mind to anyone, old or young, as long as it was in a respectful and polite way. I’ve never been told to keep quiet because the adults are talking or to sit down quietly in the corner until the adults are done talking. I was also never beaten in my home. I may have been spanked a bit once or twice. Once actually. I’m certain it was only once as I remember the day and time too. The 7 o’clock news had just come on and I did something naughty which my father used his belt to literally tap me on the bum for. He promptly apologised and explained why what I did was bad. Having said that, my brother had an entirely different experience in the same family and with the same father when it came to being beaten.
Frankly, I think you need to take the time to figure out what kind of discipline works best for your own child based on their personality. That’s why I won’t let random people such as teachers at school beat my child. Certainly not without my permission. That’s just my view though and I’m saying that now when my daughter is too young for me to know for sure what works for her. I only know that beatings seem to be more emotionally tasking on the beater than the beatee 😀 and seems to be a way of letting out some personal frustrations on the child. It doesn’t seem to teach any real lessons either. Certainly no lessons about respect. Maybe only fear.
Back to deference. I understand respect to acknowledge age. This is where it’s a blessing for you as a younger person, if you’re physically capable to, for example, help an older person to carry something heavy or stand up on the train to let an older person sit down. What I don’t understand is allowing for pontification and being made to feel like a child when you’re not one. A 30 year old adult reverting completely to child status in the presence of their parent or any other older adult is funny. It feels nice to let your parents treat you like their child sometimes but they can treat you like their adult child. Their adult child with real life adult experiences, responsibilities and opinions. Expressing those opinions should not be seen as being rude.
True respect at all ages is not matter of fact. It’s not based on money or gender or even age. And if you know that your respect for someone is based on any of these, you might find that the respect is either fear or cultural/traditional deference.