• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

It’s time we change the narrative

youths

Someone once asked me, “How did we get here?” How did our society degenerate to this level? And from my own limited knowledge and understanding, I did my best to give an answer. Not sure I did it much justice but one thing I know, however, is that it didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual but consistent, and this might explain why we didn’t notice enough to halt the descent.

We all pretty much, without exception share in the blame, because by our actions or inactions we implicitly support or accept bad behaviour. This is so every time we reserve special seats in church for people who cannot possibly offer an honest answer regarding their source wealth. We knowingly encourage thievery when a friend or relative receives a government appointment and we spare no expense in hosting them to a shindig. We lead our children in the way to go when they hear us lying on the phone that “we’re almost there” while we’re still at home with our feet up, watching football or our favourite television series. We blur the lines between right and wrong when we as parents teach our children that life is about winning at all cost, by trying to bribe the teacher of the school maths team, to slot our child in when it’s obvious he or she has no reason being there.

Many of our youths believe that in the current climate, there is little to be gained by behaviour modification and that rather, self-expression, being real offers the attainable and more realistic route to success

Lecturers degrade society’s moral standard when they insist on having carnal knowledge of their students as a condition for giving them a pass mark. Less conscientious female students preferring to take the short cut, encourage the same by offering what they have to get what they want. All of these and more brought us here. Unfortunately, to correct all this will certainly be a long and tortuous journey entailing arduous, deliberate and consistent effort. The mere fact that it would be slow and those of our generation may not even live long enough to enjoy the full benefits of such collective effort may also prove to be a disincentive to even bother but it simply must be done.

I found myself incensed recently in traffic when a motorist decided to drive against traffic, thereby blocking vehicles in my lane in the process. Before you knew it, I was out of the car telling the motorist off for his selfish and undisciplined behaviour. Thankfully others joined me to condemn his actions. The person sitting in the front passenger seat who I assume was his employer, began to beg us and was visibly embarrassed by the unwanted attention his driver’s action had directed his way. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to guess what he’s likely to say the next time his driver wants to try such nonsense again. By refusing to accept bad behaviour as the norm and rejecting the usual “this is Nigeria” to explain away all manner of indiscipline, at least one mindset may well have been reset.

Not too long ago, I engaged one of my brothers in a discussion. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why in the most recent instalment of the Big Brother Naija franchise, someone whose character was undoubtedly the most onerous and least endearing amongst the housemates got so close to winning. She by far had the largest number of supporters and was only prevented from being the first to breast the finish line tape by an umpire who had to resort to the rule books to insist wrong must remain wrong which subsequently led to her disqualification. Had it been left to the voters, she was looking like an unstoppable train despite her obvious lack of manners or any sense of civility, her unnecessarily abrasive disposition and generally anti-social behaviour. The fact that she even got so far spoke volumes of the times we find ourselves in. The long and the short of it is we must stop rewarding bad behaviour.

My brother said something about this which not only shed much-needed light but also made a lot of sense to me. He said, “Tacha represents the hope of a generation that seeks to become successful by remaining unchanged and taking the line of least resistance. An attack on Tacha is regarded as an attack on their dreams. Tacha is them and they are Tacha. Tacha thumbs her nose up at society’s unwritten code of behaviour and accepted pathway to success.

Many of our youths believe that in the current climate, there is little to be gained by behaviour modification and that rather, self-expression, “being real” offers the attainable and more realistic route to success.” This really hit the nail on the head for me but saddened me further as it revealed just how much work needs to be done. Seemingly oblivious to the fact, our valueless, morally redundant, power-hungry and unfathomably selfish leaders have by their behaviour and dare I say, unwittingly supported by our good selves, created amongst our youths, a Frankenstein who we now have no clue how to tame.

Still on this but coming at it from a slightly different angle. Call me liberal or a new-age parent if you will but I for one am not someone who believes in continuing to overprotect children from the “dangers” of this world even as they develop into young adults. By all means, monitor as diligently as you can and when they step out of line, discipline them with understanding and in love but most importantly, plant the right seeds of values and age-old virtues in them. Children must be allowed to develop restraint and yes, they may make some mistakes along the way. It’s far better they make those mistakes while young, learn from them and move on than to hedge them so much that when the inevitable day comes and the hedge is removed, the very novelty of freedom causes them to lose their heads.

It can be amusing when we see people do naughty things as youths because we know we did the same at their age but when it’s done at a more advanced age, it’s not just sad but it’s always a cause for great concern for loved ones. Likewise, the child who misbehaves and isn’t cautioned as a way of discipline is not the lucky one, contrary to what his belief might be at the time. He may later live to regret not being given the opportunity to develop the strength that comes with the ability to resist, no matter how attractive the wrong step may appear to be.

It’s really not your close marking that will matter at the end of the day but the core values you were able to plant inside of them during their formative years. Maybe the Jesuits had us in mind when one of them coined this: “Give me a child for the first seven years and you may do what you like with him afterwards.”

 

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.