It’s apparent we are among the most highly self-criticized people and most critical about everything us, at least in recent times. This is a signal that we are heading for some transformation. While it’s good to say it as it is, and to self-reflect, it’s equally important to first of all understand, both our psyche, then the trends and the events of our society. What shall it benefit an overzealous interlocutor to be passionate about seeing progress of his community, but to remain so oblivious about the “hows” and “whys” of its status quo?
Social science research, completely mindful of the abundance of windows (apology to Tariq Ramadan) through which individual human and his society can be viewed, provides for declaration of clear conceptual framework and paradigm (more of windows themselves) which a researcher will peep through as she attempts to view humans and paint what she observes. One is often expected to remain consistent as any attempt to judge different views observed through different windows may only yield confusion.
So similar are human societies that one is tempted to judge event of one based on trend of another! Yet they are so different in their principles and priorities that attempt to judge them using single yardstick fail to produce anything meaningful. Simply put, humans share similar instinctive predispositions and proclivities dictated by biology, but human societies differ in priorities and preoccupation steered by sociology (which in turn results from many things including geography, economics, ecology and so on).
Let me call a spade a spade, we have our own shortcomings but based on our triple heritage (as defined by Ali Mazrui) and other realities, our “paradigm” respects women differently and expects her to do peculiar things. Let us not be deceived by “freedom”, women in other climes too have their own expectations and what they are expected of. It was Mathew Hassan Kuka who at some point wrote about “Mutumin Kirki” and what is expected of him too in this clime! Ours is a society with “responsibility” as priority while other societies consider “liberty” as sacrosanct. For some of us fortunate to have closely watched the best and the worst of both the advanced and the advancing societies, it is hard to allow condemnations of ours based on principles not ours.
At individual level, every society has its own chauvinist, misogynist, pacifist, patriot, sadist, masochist and every other psychological coach construct. However, everyone will exhibit his psychological provisions differently based on his society. This is also similar even in case of normal behaviors such as show of emotion and so on. From time to time for example, one comes across someone calling African men “not romantic” because he hasn’t seen them openly hugging, kissing or giving flowers to their women! But a more careful observer will realize other means of showing affection peculiar to us and only available here, which an African woman may neglect but absence of which may cause her great worry. “He takes good care of his wife” definitely means different things in Brussels and in Borno.
It is therefore very important that one doesn’t use people exhibiting abnormal psychological constructs in our clime to define us. It’s even more important that one understands “outliers” in statistics and how media is reporting normal and peaceful behaviors of people.
Time and stage of civilization are highly tricky and allude an onlooker into societies. Many things are so different among societies only courtesy of the extent of their technological advancement, industrialization and so on. There are certain human trends dictated only by economy and irrespective of religion or region, some socioeconomic realities stand on themselves. Haven’t we all see how different Dubai and its people are becoming from other similar Arab Muslims in say Syria or Yemen? Countless scholars have written endlessly on how distinct psychology of Western Europe was in renaissance, industrial revolution and computer age. Shocking as it may sound, different societies at similar level of civilization behave similarly and when the so called advanced counties are viewed retrospectively, they were somehow similar to “present” of other societies. Time!
Interestingly, the fate of morality and values in the west is becoming a source of concern to the westerners. Many believe western civilization has reached its climax and “values and immorality” will crash it. It may not be true but we are all seeing how west is attempting to re-strategise on values related to family, marriage and so on. Some ideas are fast changing faces and foreign religious beliefs and spiritual rituals are making inroads into hitherto unexpected places. Take the case of neofeminism today, some feminists (paradoxically) are currently campaigning for equity and the return of the woman to that enviable and sacred role of motherhood, as at when due, with formal recognition. One commentator once argued that after running through this cycle of life, time will bring one back to the starting point.
It’s often argued in social science platforms on whether societies must pass through all stages as they grow (or as their economy grow) or should there be Abby-pass! It’s quite confusing whether we should pass through obsolete ideas only to arrive at a point those that have arrived earlier are reconsidering!
I know we are bedeviled by almajirci, domestic violence, ignorance, poverty, maternal morality and many other worrying problems and have written several times about them and proffered solutions; BUT I can’t accept the rash conclusion that ours is the worst of society. We have tonnes of our ills, but while we manage our diarrhea, it’s important to note that our neighbor who’s vomiting is not healthier than us and we shouldn’t extol vomiting or hope to stop diarrhea and start vomiting.
Dr Ungogo is a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org