My parents and I happened to be watching the ‘X Factor USA’ last week ago; and my dad kept going on about how much confidence Astro (a contestant on the show) has for a 14 year old kid and I could not help but flip. Every time, Nigerians always compare their kids to their age-mates in the diaspora.
“Michael Jackson started singing at the age of 5!”
“Madonna’s daughter has started designing her own make-up line at 14!”…. Yada yada yada.
I had to tell him that it’s easy for them to say kids abroad have the confidence we so very openly lack in this part of the world due to a structural defect that many have tagged ‘culture’. In Yankee and Jand where they are said to lack cultural values that we so dearly hold to our hearts, they are progressing at speeds unimaginable to us even if we all slept and dreamt the very same dream.
Over there, elders, teachers, household staff etc. are addressed by their names, i.e. Mr Paul, Mrs Paula (formally) and their first names (informally). This is unlike Nigeria, where the mere thought of calling a neighbour you absolutely have no relations of any sort with ‘Mr or Mrs’. You will be castigated as a child who is full of pride and absolutely no respect for anyone.
It is so crazy that even in an official setting; I cannot in my capacity as the boss properly scold an erring driver, gateman or subordinate who is older than I am without becoming the devil that wears Prada. I do not understand how in a country/culture that any, and I mean ANY random person can send you on futile and useless errands just because they are older than you, a child is expected to have confidence.
The confidence that probably would fetch you the ass-whooping of your life, when that ‘aunty or uncle’ that bears that title only because he comes from the same geo-political zone as your mom or dad or he/she owns a shop on your street reports that sole act of insubordination to your parents. The confidence that has been sucked by parents and teachers who would do wrong and punish us for questioning such actions.
The very confidence that we have been brought up to lack, even when the requests of these so-called elderly people are discordant with logic. This same FEAR for elders which we have been raised with has caused woe, sadness, absolute sorrow and even death to the families of those little girls that have been raped because an‘UNKU’ sent them on an errand, the young boys that have been kidnapped because their teachers told them to wait behind after school, or the men/women caught with drugs or body parts because they had too much respect for the ‘elder’ that gave them the package, that they could not even ask what it was they were transporting.
The respect that has seen many dreams die with their owners because they didn’t in their prime, have the audacity to question or alter the ideas of a boss or superior who probably had nothing to offer.