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CULTURE SHIFT - pt 1 (The Colonial Paradigm)

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by Ayo Ogundipe    •    26 Views    •    likes, 0 dislikes    •    0 Comments

 

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“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. - Dr. Nelson Mandela

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The hallmark of every culture is language, the heritage of a people (uniqueness).  These people are the nucleus of existence, and the ambassadors of their culture, interfacing with the outside world, and with the repeat pattern of culture passed down generation lines, culture is preserved through tradition.

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People are at the heart of culture, they are the point of interaction, through their appearance (fashion), language, Architecture - the constructed evidence of their lifestyle through historical relics (e.g.the Benin Architecture), and even Cuisine - the native diet of a people that attests to their unique culinary ingenuity (recipes). These agents of culture, institute the primacy of any people (civilisation). 

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Culture is the function of any civilisation, wherewith we hold our pride as a unique family of the larger human race. That said, I do not however subscribe to every doctrine of our (Nigerian) culture which often victimise, and stigmatise especially in the belief of the “ogbanje”, “emere”, “Osu”, the mourning rites, etc, as were common practice in time past (even till now). These were base acts of ignorance. However, rather than we negotiating cultures and evaluating our customs when we found ourselves at the crossroads of colonisation, we surrendered ours entirely, consequently struggling against instinct, and the familiar thereby loosing (most of) our native identity. Did we have to throw away the child with the bath water? 

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Bringing the argument a bit closer home, we ask, what is the sentiment of the Nigerian culture and later, observe the aftermath of colonial infiltration.

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Deference (I dare say) is a culture mentality amongst the Nigerian populace, what is expected from your superiors/predecessors, and since culture is often based on what is popular (accepted norms), a variation to this even in the slightest form, is an aberration, and would be deemed as gross insubordination. We are after all, a nation of high Power Distance. 

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A cultural rebase took place in the era of colonialism. The amalgamation of three prominent commonwealths (a discourse for another time) for the (selfish) purpose of extending the footprints of the British empire in the name of colonisation, left a legacy of subjugation.

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Historically, we were once a nation of animist, prior to the invasion of Usman Dan fodio with his Jihadist group in the north, and the ‘second-coming’ of the missionaries in the south, post the Berlin conference in 1885, (who ironically had prior brought slavery in one hand first, and later religion in the other). History suggests we got on just fine before these encounters, but we failed ourselves in evolving our culture in embracing this new ideologies (Christianity) i.e. documenting our achievements for historical archiving, and teaching our legends more often as folklore. 

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Take China for example, China which by the way is officially an atheist nation, but one whose traditions (are mostly built on the teachings of confucianism, centuries old teachings) have been upheld through practice and pride without apology - festivals. I am not antagonising religion (Christianity) it is only an observation, that China has learnt to evolve culturally and adapting to the change, and  more importantly, have found what works for them -now arguably, the second largest economy in the world. Culture works for people because it’s a kind of natural selection to which they subscribe to, and promote. 

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More so on the subject of deference, we share a common denomination with the Chinese. I recall I was once had this Chinese colleague, with whom I had some qualms - culture clash if you may. It was over a remark she made, where she opined that she expected deference from me. This was a bit of a culture shock for me because, in as much as I was from a similar background to hers where we concede to ‘higher authority’ (but I wasn’t even reporting to her in my line of duty), I found it absurd that she “demanded” respect, regardless of the fact I reported to her business partner from who I got my pay cheque anyway. I felt she was a bit overbearing in the process, and probably logged on to a different (eastern) time zone somehow ...lol ... Wake up love! This is England (which is more egalitarian by the way). My response was that I owed her her due regard - nothing more, nothing less - no groveling! However, I soon understood this culture shock where she ‘expected’ that I show deference to her (even in an egalitarian community as England), was  more of a cultural reflex  as a result of her background. In time, we both had to respect our cultural latitudes in order to work together, and duly compromise. (There is an allowance of space where your right to an agenda begins and ends). Hey, when you are in Rome, you act like the Romans. This by the way is the moral lesson of cultural tolerance, when interacting with a foreigner.

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Culture reflects how we were raised (background) and somewhat predicts the behaviour/response of an individual in certain peculiar circumstances. Such response is often triggered by a pre-conditioning; instilled belief over a course of one’s life experience(s). Now consider a culture steeped in superstition and piety like ours (in Nigeria). We ‘show’ these attributes to ‘show’ we are respectful and ‘God-fearing’. Take for example a scenario where a simple salutation like; “how are you? or "how are things" is greeted with a response “we thank God”. Is such automated response, as a result of the strong religious sentiment we have, just to simply suggest humility, and acknowledgement of God in all, or just shear meme of subservience thereby relegating the common sense in a simple gesture of exchanging pleasantry. To what practical end is this, as I still can’t get my head round this shallow attitude. 

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In comparison again, however by contrast, between the Chinese culture and ours, where there is no clear evidence of colonisation by an ‘outside sovereignty’ unlike Nigeria. Such absence, has somewhat helped in the persistence and preservation of their culture and civilisation.

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Colonisation played a part - a part of culture shift, relegation and even denunciation of our culture. The irony is we deferred to the imperialist who greatly suppressed our customs and traditions as barbaric (which may be true to an extent) and troglodyte in the name of ‘civilisation’. Culture MUST be preserved through evolution over time, otherwise it becomes obsolete, look down on, and consequently annihilated.

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Colonisation is like a heart surgery with a scalpel that cuts deep, and a morphine of amnesia that cleanses the mind of its native culture -  A bleach on any civilisation.

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