Monday, 21 May 2012

Exploring and Questioning Norms ..........Part 1

I want to start by saying thank you to all who visit this blog and follow my 'rambling' posts. I am really grateful to you all for an opportunity to share my thoughts. *kiss* *kiss*

Now today's post:

One of my favourite authors is Malcolm Gladwell - a Psychologist

In his book - Outliers, The Story of Success - he has a chapter titled 'The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes' where he discusses the impact of culture on airline safety

In summary, he talks about how 'Power Distant Cultures'  (where younger/ less powerful people accept that  they are required to defer and obey older/ more powerful people); seem to have have higher levels of plane crashes. This is because  because junior crew members find it difficult to correct the senior official - The pilot. It makes fascinating reading and got me thinking about my culture.......

In Nigerian culture, we very much defer to our elders and this can be a good thing in most cases BUT it can also be a bad thing.

In my next three posts, I will share some some of our cultural norms I now question....(Disclaimer: By 'Nigerian culture', I mean general cultural norms - not tribe specific):


(1) The eldest child should be responsible for his/her younger siblings..............:
I have seen instances where so much pressure has been put on the first child that s/he is forced to do things they should not have done. While I understand that some of them have lost their primary breadwinner i.e. their dad.....In most cases, they are pushed to provide for their siblings by their parents.

An example:
A friend of mine (let's call her Liz) told me about a conversation she overhead sometime ago.......

In those days before mobile phones became common in Nigeria, one of Liz's neighbours had a defective landline so this neighbour often came to Liz's parents house to receive phone calls.

This neighbour had a daughter in Italy who called home from time to time. Anytime this girl called, her mum and numerous siblings would crowd round the phone excitedly. The phone conversation would often begin with the girl crying to her mother - About how her 'madam' was forcing her to do 'extra hours'.....About how she often was not given food........About how the 'madam' took most of her money.......etc etc

Surprisingly, her mother would listen patiently and then pass the phone to her siblings. Each of her siblings would then proceed to tell her....
'Sister, dont forget to send my jeans oh'.........
'Sister, dont forget to send my shoes oh'.........
'Sister, my birthday is coming oh'......
.........on and on until the mum took the phone and concluded along the lines of:
'Dont worry my daughter, it shall be well. Try and work hard so we can put our enemies to shame'

So, basically this mother - and siblings - were telling this 'overworked ashewo-of-a-daughter' to bear whatever stress she was under, sell herself to the highest bidder and expose herself to AIDS ...... as long their needs were met. (ashewo = prostitute). God help us !!

 In my opinion, it is not right for able bodied parents to put the load of bringing up their own children on the shoulders of a young son/ daughter.

While I accept the truth in the saying 'He who eats alone, chokes alone'.....I also accept the truth in the saying 'Better to be alone than in bad company'
So, do you think our culture puts unfair pressure on first-born children? Let me know what you think about this...............................

(Part 2 on Friday)
xxxxxxxxxx

44 comments:

  1. I could have written this post.

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  2. It definitely does, and especially where the dad is late like you said. But I think the ugly side of this culture is so obvious because of the love of material things in the society, otherwise, it's not a bad thing per se to build responsibility in children as they learn to take care of their younger ones. But money has blinded many and skewed the things that are important.

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    1. Funny enough Myne...The dad wasnt late. It was a polygamous home where all the wives were left to fend for their kids.
      Totally agree with you that money has skewed things
      xxx

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  3. Yes!!! Most definitely our culture teaches women to hurry up and have children, the more you have the better you are at being a woman than Obiageli who slept around and now is paying for her sufferings since God refused her children. RIDUCLOUS!! We are five and what kept my parents going is reminding us and pressuring us in school so that we can remember to send them a weekly pay check. I love helping my family but why is it a requirement for me to care for my siblings, my family and then my parents and extended family, why is it a requirement that I include the rent of my-in laws or their school fees in my families budget. I think we have enough pressure already and this is what causes most problems. I rather have enough kids that I can handle and yes I am suffering insults from people who think I should have 10 but since I will be the one raising them it goes in one ear and comes out of the other. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Nenyenwa
      I seriously feel your pain. I guess it's up to you to draw the line .....after all we should be talking about college fund etc for your baby.
      Thanks for sharing
      I really appreciate it
      xxx

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  4. Our culture is definitely unfair and this story is so pathetic... I know of many people who only sleep around just to feed their family.

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  5. You know this is the reason why some times I feel like the white man has it easy. No overthinking anything. As the parents grow old, they don't expect their children to die to keep them happy at their old age. Their philosophy is simply, I'm training you up so that someday you can train up your own children as opposed to most of our philosophy which is "We're training you and you only up so that after that we can all leave through you"

    Ofcourse I don't advocate old folks homes for my parents but neither do I advocate 'suck-em dry afterall you made them'

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    1. Nice comment, but I think differently.

      The white man does not have it easy.If the white man is left to choose, he will prefer to spend his old years with his family playing with his grand and great grand children. Depression and suicide is higher at the white man's than for a 9ja man/woman who knows that someway somehow, the child will send something home or better still invite him/her for holiday in the city. That is called hope, and its the motivation behind all the efforts they put into training their kids and making them better.
      However, I do not also advocate 'suck-em dry afterall you made them'

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    2. Thanks NR
      I do see your point when you say the 'white man has it easy.
      However, like NutriAlert said, there are also flaws in their approach.
      Like everything else, I feel we need a balance in demanding from the eldest and giving him/ her the support s/he needs at the start of adult life
      Thanks

      Delete
  6. Yes, I believe the culture is sometimes unfair to first borns. But I also believe that this culture is dying. The first -born burden is not as bad as it used to me in the past. My own family and that of my friends are of the younger generation, so we don't suffer from this first-born burden as much as your generation did.

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    1. Ilola, you are lucky.
      I know 25 year old who are already carrying responsibilities.
      It depends on the home and the parents
      Thanks sis

      Delete
  7. yes i believe its unfair too. the first born can definitely help but when all burden is placed on his/her shoulders, it becomes another issue. Cos then the siblings most times feel they have a cash cow somewhere who has the responsibility of providing; they have a sense of entitlement which makes them lazy and overly dependent.this still happens and its quite sad. each sibling should be allowed to forge their own path just as the first born did too. definitely the first born wont allow his/her family go hungry but it is definitely unfair if he is allowed to shoulder the burdens of not one, but two or even three of his siblings. if he is very capable and willing, why not? But then, it's all about wisdom

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    1. I agree that 'it is all about wisdom. So true.
      Sadly, common sense is not common....and people can be selfish and greedy
      thanks dear
      xxx

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  8. You're so right NIL. I have a couple of friends I seriously feel for who go through a lot to fend for their family with so little resources. It's actually fading bit by bit sha judging from trends. Definitely looking forward to the next one.

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    1. Thanks Michael
      I know what you mean re: 'friends'
      I hope this trend fades soon BUT I think it will take another generation before it really changes
      Thanks
      xxxx

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. Yes our culture does!
    So much on the first born!
    It is choking and annoying!

    I remembered how a man told his younger siblings if he was the one that killed his father that they expect him to bear the major cost of the burial?
    A tenant of ours, hid his address from his family because he was tired of the burden, but they still traced him! He married at an old age because he wanted to meet all their needs, so that they won't disturb his marriage..usai!
    Maybe it is because the largest portion of inheritance is given to them if it is a male or he becomes the HEAD of the family when the father dies.
    BUT...this norm is changing gradually because people now are taking their stand! Some parents provide for each of their children so that nobody will be dependent on anybody!
    An interesting post 9jamum.

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    1. I laughed at that tenant example. That na serious something LOL
      I am glad the norm is changing gradually. About time I say :)

      Hope all is well with you
      xxxx

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  11. yes it definitely does, especially in the east where the first born (most times) has to learn a trade and make money to help train the other kids

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    1. RE: East example.....still happening ??

      I thought that had changed a bit?

      *mmm*

      Thanks my dear

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    2. It's still happening o my Sister. And the expectations are higher on the first daughter (interestingly) than the first son. Its crazy. My eldest sis is an example. She shoulders it squarely but i fear for her mental health atimes. It must be just stressful to know you can't have an innocent convo without someone telling you about their needs.

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  12. Yes, our culture clearly needs to be redefined along better lines. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Blogoratti
      Re: 'redefining'....I think that is up to us and how we choose to live our lives.
      Thanks
      xxxx

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  13. Nice post N I L, this pressure thing on the firstborn in families is a big problem. Sometimes I feel that it is part of the ingredient that God used in creating us in 9ja.

    In the past, firstborn children especially the male amongs them were sent to school so that they will become great/rich and help the younger ones. In many cases, the parents could only afford to train only one child after selling their only piece of land- do we blame them for pressuring this firstborn?

    some may think that the younger generations are having it easier, the truth is that it still does exist, where it is not verbalised or equal opportunity given to every child to progress,that natural reminder is there to speak to every firstborn that the younger ones are his/her responsibility.
    For the scenario in your post, the woman is not only uneducated/unenlightened, she is evil.

    WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS NIL? ~~~ I always tell my first child to behave well, say/do the right things (you can call it pressure)so that he can influence his younger ones positively. I believe that every child is wired differently but there are tiny drops from older siblings that can influence them too. IS A THIS PART OF OUR CULTURE?

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    1. Sorry for the long comment *hugs*

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    2. No prblems, NA. You dont need to apologise

      My take - I do tell my first son to remember he is a role model for his younger ones. For example, if the others are being silly outside, I would expect him to use more common sense.
      However, I will never make him feel that his duty is to 'provide for his brothers'
      As they grow up together....anything he does for them (i.e. buys them stuff or spends money on them) should be regarded as a privilege - not a right

      Thanks dearie

      Delete
  14. :* :* good to know we'll be seeing more of you on these streets

    I agree, our culture puts unfair pressure on first born children and happy as i am that it's not as it used to be financially, the pessure is still there to be some top notch professional (doctor, engineer, lawyer and the likes)and it makes no sense at all. Fortunately, the world is changing and alot of people are growing the liver to say no to their parents

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    1. LOL @ 'growing the liver'
      True...not only liver but two heads sef LOL
      Thanks dear
      xxx

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  15. It is so true in this country that the 1st borns are subjected to all kinds of pressure. But truth is, sometimes it isnt the parents that put these pressure on the 1st borns. its they, themselves, that sometimes think they have to do certain things for their siblings cos 'thats the way it should be'. I know of a lot of people that prostitute in order to send money back home for their siblings and parents not cos their parents have asked them to go fend for the family but they have just taken it upon themselves to.
    All in all, its a trend that should be re-dressed. afterall ibos have a proverb that say 'oji nu kwa na obughi diokpara gburu' (whoever has the money should finance the burial cos it isnt the 1st born that killed the person) this just means whoever has the means should help the others. The onus must not be on the 1st born.

    I tagged u in a game, NIL. Go to my blog and check it out!

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    1. I feel what you said about 'that;s the way it should be'
      I have to say that the parents are the ones that put that idea in their heads in the first place....or what do you think?
      Thanks dearie
      xxxx

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  16. hmmmmmm I read that book as well.. very insightful.. and sad with the number of lives lost as a result of a cultural barrier.

    As for the lady and what she did to her first born.. as in seriously! The least she could do was to hear her out and console her.. if her motherly instinct were dormant at least she is still human... he siblings, i choose to believe they were not aware of the kind of work their sister was doing.

    I am a first born and I can say I have no pressure on me to provide for anybody.. but myself... God has been great and my parents are able to provide for themselves and their children... I chip in for my brothers occasionally but i am not obliged to.

    However, I can see how this can easily happen especially when parents are not educated and unable to earn income above a very low threshold and their kids who are educated and more than able to earn over and above them.... it is just to be careful not to take advantage of the child..

    but the onus shouldn't be on the first born.

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    1. I'm glad you loved the book

      Definitely, the onus should not be on the first born. Absolutely!!!

      Thanks dear
      xxx

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  17. Great article...Gladwell is my idol!

    I do think that is not just the oldest but also the 2nd. Sometimes I would be telling my parents about my problems and it is as if they are not listening. I could say I just got bankrupt and the next minute they will say I need to send down $1500 to Nigeria and I am like WTF (What the fufu)! O well...

    PS: I actually wrote an article on that particular Gladwell chapter called is HOW RESPECT ALMOST KILLED ME check it out http://ofilispeaks.com/respect/

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    1. Thanks for dropping by.
      LOL @ WTF...abeg shout my brother. LOL

      PS - I loved your article. fantastic.
      I guess great minds think alike :)))

      XXx

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  18. When I read the book I loved it. I think our customs put a lot of pressure on the first borns. it also affects their marriages as well. For some first borns they just couldn't be themselves because they were told constantly that their younger ones were watching them. maybe thats why i find that a lot of first borns are so stiff. Check out this movie "good deeds" by Tyler Perry. that is such a perfect example.
    Lovely post.
    www.secretlilies.blogspot.com

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    1. Absolutely agree that 'they were told constantly that their younger ones were watching them'
      Fortunately/ Unfortunately, I do same. However, I dont expect the older one to take care of his siblings
      LOL @ 'stiff' That is serious oh. Toooo funny
      Thanks dearie
      xxx

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  19. yea..it's def a common thing where we come from...and it mostly ends up being a pain..some 1st borns are not even coerced into taking responsibilities,they just step into the shoes cos consciously or otherwise the thing is "airborne" so somehow it gets into the lungs of the firstborns!

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    1. LOL @ 'airborne' Too funny
      Not airborne...they were contantly reminded of their responsibility that's why
      Thanks dear
      xxxx

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  20. I absolutely agree that in the Nigerian culture too much pressure is placed on the first child. I remember being responsible for my siblings from a very early age. In fact I can barely remember not being responsible for someone else. It took me such a long time to come to terms with this when I was in my late teens. I felt I was robbed of a proper childhood. For this reason I ensure my child relishes in being a child for as long as is possible. This post made me nod a lot. Lol.

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  21. This Malcolm Gladwell theory funny shaa. I can just imagine a Naija scenario where your chief pilot has several titles. Before you finish the courtesy-obsequious dance 'Honourable Sir, please, i want to tell you something very important Sir', it seems Sir that the right wing is on fire Sir'. Compare that to 'Jake, the right wing is on fire'

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  22. Wow it seems the book you're reading was so prophetic given the current situation in Nigeria with the Dana Air plane crash. Even though management was warned about the air unworthiness of the aircraft, yet they ignored the warnings and forced the pilot to keep flying the plane. Now almost 200 lives were lost! God help us.

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  23. When I read stuff like this it makes me appreciate my parents so much, because we grew up learning something entirely different. My parents have two major teachings (1) Education is your only sure inheritance, because there may be money today and none tomorrow (2)If you need anything, ask us (the parents) or get it on your own. As a result, none of us in a relatively large family of six children have the attitude of EXPECTING a sibling to provide for us. Plus now that my parents have retired, we know that we each have to rely largely on ourselves. This has taught us two lessons I think everyone should learn early in life - gratitude, and hard work.

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