Self-hate: real or imagined?

An old school-friend of mine, affectionately known as Aitch, has a theory that poor governance in former colonies is due to a condition he describes as ‘self-hate’. He believes that the lack of development, high debt, unemployment, lack of quality education for the masses and other negatives have persisted because we have internalised the dehumanising aspects of slavery and colonialism, and use it against each other to maintain our place in the pecking order of the societies we live in.

The idea keeps reappearing in the email chat we call ‘Fortis 78’, coined from our high school’s motto and the year we all graduated. And, although I didn’t agree necessarily with everything Aitch was saying, it got me thinking about all the issues facing African people throughout the world and wondering why they persist. I thought about Ferguson and the protests in Baltimore; then I pondered on the problems in my homeland Jamaica, across the Caribbean, and here in Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa; and finally, I thought about my own experiences, wherever I’ve lived, worked and travelled.

As I mulled over this complex mess of history, current affairs and observations, I was forced to confront some uncomfortable truths. As much as we excel individually, in virtually every field of endeavour, we do not appear to do well collectively and consistently. Our post-colonial history bears this out and often it is painful to watch. Recent events in South Africa are the most brutal example of this lack of unity, but mostly it passes unnoticed, due to its subtlety and familiarity. A cursory glance at most former colonies shows that the ruling classes tend to occupy the void left by the departing colonisers, even as they appear to offer upward mobility to the formerly oppressed.

As a child in Jamaica, I wondered why our household helper had to use the back door while everyone else came through the front. I remember asking my grandmother why she kept a separate glass, plate and fork for Watchie the gardener, even though we shared the family’s utensils with other guests. Patiently, she explained it in terms of customs and habit, something she had grown used to as a child, but I sensed her discomfort once she had to articulate it to a suspicious child. Many other similar issues could be explained away by differences in class, education and upbringing, but some nagging doubts remained. The most consistently noticeable differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’ was their darker complexions and their positions in the ‘servant class’ formerly occupied by slaves.

As I questioned these remnants of our past, one of the best things that ever happened to me was Kingston College, founded in 1925 to educate  young men from the less privileged sections of Jamaican society. There I found kinship with boys from uptown to downtown, all struggling to get the grades, make the sports teams and pass the final exams. In this environment, the brightest and most hardworking succeeded, regardless of family background. And we were brothers; every last African, Chinese, Indian or European-looking one of us, with every possible mixture in-between. Not surprisingly, KC gave many of us a springboard to success and a bond that endures more than 35 years later; but we were among the few lucky enough to attend an elite school.

Jamaican politicians like to compare our island home with Singapore, because we were similar in terms of size and population, and became independent nations around the same time. We had been through slavery, while they had less natural resources. However, they have prospered beyond our wildest dreams, for one simple reason – they made education and training their number one priority, and it made them immensely attractive to sophisticated investors. We have lagged behind; the result being poverty, crime and a lack of opportunity for the majority of the population. The brightest and most talented emigrate to North America, creating a brain-drain that impacts on leadership in business, politics and education.

This is the crux of Aitch’s theory; that our failure to give every young person a first-class education is rooted in self-hate – a contempt for the masses of African descent. If our children only go to the best high schools, why wouldn’t we ensure that every child has the same opportunity? If our workers had first-class vocational and professional training, surely the world’s top companies in biotech, pharma, telecoms, software, aerospace and other lucrative industries would beat a path to our developing economies.

Living in Africa has opened my eyes to other aspects of the self-hate phenomenon; areas that I previously thought were legacies of slavery only. One glaring example of this is the negative self-image that most Nigerian women have of themselves. Current estimates indicate that over 70% use skin-lightening products as part of their ‘beauty’ routine, oblivious to the damaging effect on their bodies and self-esteem. The story with hair is not much different, with most feeling that they do not look beautiful without the hair of an Indian, Chinese or Brazilian woman on their heads – even if it looks like a bird’s nest or what Jamaicans call ‘coconut brush’, the fibrous husk of a dry coconut. 

Anyone who travels to Nigeria will notice the complete lack of respect that the average Nigerian has for his fellow citizens. Whether you are a customer in a supermarket, airline passenger or restaurant patron, customer service is appalling. There’s no malice, just a complete lack of concern for your time, comfort or value for money. It is completely normal to be kept waiting several hours for a flight, without an explanation, apology or even an announcement. If the only flight is cancelled – good luck, you’re on your own. Often, when I’m introduced to business associates, my usual response of “Hi, I’m Michael,” is never enough – my friend or colleague has to explain my position and professional status. This always triggers a second, more enthusiastic greeting, now accompanied by a two-hand shake, a bow or curtsey. This may look comical but it conceals a sad reality: you are nobody unless you are an ‘oga’.

And, finally, to our beleaguered cousins in the USA, exporting their infamous fashion of ‘sagging’ trousers to our young Black males who think it looks cool to imitate the garb of prisoners who are forbidden to wear a belt, just in case they commit suicide. They have taught a whole generation to call each other ‘nigga’, either with affection (my nigga) or disdain (them niggas), while all the time trying to convince us that they have ‘reclaimed’ the term from the racist slave master or latter-day redneck. They don’t seem to mind that the majority of their hip-hop music fans are now White; the very people they have forbidden to use the term ‘nigger’.

I hope I haven’t pulled you in too many different directions, following this thread that seems to run through so much of the post-slavery, post-colonial experience. I wanted to show how so many seemingly unconnected things are actually deeply connected by our view of ourselves and each other. By all indications, we have some way to go before we can claim self-love and real affection for each other; or that we really want the best for each other and that we value the contribution that each person has to make.

You probably won’t agree with everything that has been said, however, I’m hoping that you will think about these issues a little bit more than usual. Next time you are in front of a mirror, look at yourself – your skin, lips, nose and hair. Do you love what you see – made in God’s image – or do you need to make some changes? What about the people around you? Do you give them as much respect as your boss, a celebrity or prominent member of society? Do you treat their children like your own?

Perhaps this notion of self-hate is a figment of Aitch’s quite impressive imagination. Maybe his relentless pursuit of this argument has persuaded me against my better judgement. Maybe.

73 thoughts on “Self-hate: real or imagined?

  1. Hi Michael,

    I totally agreed with your submitions on these issues
    .
    Africa needs mental revolution. Nigeria in particular, have the concentration of backward, terrible, greedy and useless human beings who had nothing to contribute to civilisatin.

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    1. Hi Greg, long time! I’m not sure I agree with your generalisation on Nigerians but I understand the sentiment – it comes from a deep frustration of such huge potential being unrealised. We live in hope that the people will realise one day, that the change they seek lies within.

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  2. Micheal, thank you so much for this consciousness which most aspects potraied has been unnoticed. This will go a long way if we all together pursue a paradigm shift in our mine set. Thank you so much. I will forward it to as many as I can. I pray it will help.

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  3. Quite a moving prose that should torture and nurture our sensibilities. This painted hate-scape is the “Tragic Paradox” of our collective insensitivity to all of humanity as scion from same trunk, which fuels our selfish vigorous pursuits to further widen the already yawning divide in our socio-economic stratum. The xenophobia in South Africa and everywhere else is a testimony of our historical and socio-cultural ignorance of who we are, who we should aspire to be, where we come from and where we should be going. This becomes not just academic but quite worrisome when so called monarchs – whether the Zulu King or Oba of Lagos – who should be holding the torch are the ones covering the light with the thick dark cloak of selfishness… it is melancholic.

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    1. My brother, this has to be the most eloquent response to my blog so far. We are drifting further and further away from the conscious-thought leadership we experienced in the post-colonial and civil rights eras. Can we find our way back, I wonder.

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  4. This is quite a soul searching prose. The painted hate-scape is “the Tragic Paradox ” of our collective insensitivity to all of human kind as scion from same trunk; which often fuel our continued selfish intended pursuits to further widen the already yawning divide in our socio-economic stratum. The xenophobia in South Africa and everywhere else is a tragic testimony of our historical and socio-cultural ignorance of who we are, where we come from, where we should be going to and who we should aspire to be. This becomes not just academic but worrisome when so called monarchs – whether the Zulu King or Oba of Lagos- who should be the torch bearers are the very ones who shroud the light in the thick dark cloak of their parochial selfishness. This to me demands some soul searching

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  5. MICHAEL, lovely article. The Issues raised like providing quality eduction and training for our people is a great example of what our leaders and aspiring leaders should do if we want a developed society.

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  6. As usual very well written and thought provoking Michael. I echo some of these thoughts. I do believe that there is, to a greater or lesser extent, a degree of self hate as well as a belief that ‘this is what I have been given and it is so unfair’ and when our brothers and sisters prove this theory wrong, then they must have sold out, and ‘why haven’t I been successful in my career? Why am I not driving around in a beautiful new car, I have worked has hard as you’. The self-hate then externalises into hate for some of our brothers and sisters, who are successful. This in turn sends the message to the rest of the world that we hate each other and there can never be united as a race, so the manipulation begin’s and for those of us who do not recognise this, want to have lighter skin, the soft straight hair, the make-up, and all the trappings that tell us that it is better to move away from our culture rather than embrace our own individual beauty, and yes I believe each and everyone of us are beautiful, and just because you may not fit the stereotypical mould, does not mean you are not.

    Flipping this into the wider arena though, I do believe that this is human nature, be it an individual that self-hates because of the issues from childhood/adulthood experiences to a collective consciousness.

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      1. Ok, I have been read all the responses to your blog, Michael, with great interest and there is much agreement. To take this to the next level, how do WE, do something about this? How do we be the change that we want to see? Or more importantly do we want to do something about it? I would like to be part of the change.

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      2. My philosophy is that we should ‘do what we can, with what we have, wherever we are’. This frees us to do even the smallest thing in pursuit of our goals. Often we underestimate the impact of doing something small and doing it consistently, versus grand sweeping gestures that get a lot of attention but are not sustained. I started out, along with my brother and friends, speaking at predominantly Black schools in London on careers days, which led to other speaking opportunities. Together we ran an event management company, Renaissance, that brought together young professionals with high achievers who had broken the glass ceiling in corporate Britain. Here in Nigeria, I decided to focus my efforts on funding the secondary education of a couple of disadvantaged boys. Some people I know find it easy to contribute to others by sending empowering messages on FB and other social media. There are so many ways to make a small difference – the most important thing to do is to begin.

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  7. Lovely lovely lovely. It would be nice if you have a part two write up on the solutions to this problem. I know the self questioning is a good way to start off.

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  8. Hi Michael, Thanks for that insightful piece on the woes of our socio-economic situation. Aitch has a very strong point and you have opened up the argument and presented us with much food for thought. As regards the bias we still show against certain class(es )my Great-Aunt Nellie comes to mind. She was darker than my Jamaican red (light-brown skin), which you understand, Michael, yet she refused to return to the Presbyterian Church because there was now a “black man in the pulpit”.  She felt that that class of person was not ready for leadership. Aunt Nellie was born in 1870, just 5 years after the Morant Bay Rebellion, and I guess black was synonymous with slaves and slavery. I feel the more we open up the discussion, the more our leaders come to terms with the truth the closer we will get to correcting those issues, Then hopefully the emphasis will be placed where it ought to be on education, in its broadest sense, more dialogue with those directly involved, listening to their concerns and suggestions for solutions. Incorporate the younger folks who now see these challenges from a whole new perspective. Good work, Michael, keep us thinking!

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    1. Thanks for this great feedback, Clover. Aunt Nellie is typical of the thinking at the time. In fact, I grew up hearing ignorant people saying, “Anything too black nuh good” which was usually in reference to some dark-skinned person who had offended them in some way. We’ve come a long way since then but we’ve got some way to go before we’ve erased the prejudices we dare not speak aloud.

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  9. I been away, two months from social media, but it’s nice to be back and my first online read is you Michael. I totally agree, as I read and as we have discussed before, to me this happenings in our now leadership is the high in”Selfishness” Everyman thinking only for himself as opposed to “for the people and by the people”. More Ironically we experience this in a Democracy that should be maturing. It’s nice to see that you have started a blog, I will read you. Cheers.

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  10. Slavery has a part to play because of its residue held firmly by the ruling class which differs in every territory, however poor governance rides on the backs of power hungry men who care only for their pockets and legacy and very little about the people. Men who will do anything to stay in power hence the willingness to accept bribes from foreign investors, to kill 3,000 men in exchange for the support of an elite foreign government. Self hate stems from the popular fashion and habit: bleach skin, facial reconstruction and change hair, occurs in every ethnic society when it becomes the gateway to acceptability. It is human nature.

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  11. Very well delivered, as always! It seems that’s the story in most colonial regions. We need to educate our people on the right values not just going to school and getting degrees. Like you’ve rightly said, people need to love themselves just the way they are and most especially, they should love their neighbours, irrespective of their race or class; maybe we would have a better world and a fighting chance for progress.

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  12. Michael, well done. I have just perused your very thought provoking piece and couldn’t agree more with you.
    I share the sentiments expressed and really hope that many more will read this. I’m always wondering what has become of our values as a people. Where did we loose it? What has become of our education, family values, morals, culture etc.?
    You look into this generation and really worry what tomorrow holds. We can only pray and hope but above all the change we desire must begin within us

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    1. Thanks Patricia. I don’t think all is lost. Young people in Nigeria still have an appetite for marriage and church-going, compared to their counterparts in other post-colonial societies. A sizeable minority still deplores corruption and believes that hard work has its reward. However, the system is broken and there are no real consequences for graft, except at the lowest levels of society. I guess we’re about to find out whether the clamour for change is genuine and can be sustained. Please check out the other posts and give me your thoughts. I hope you enjoy them just as much.

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  13. Michael, what you write has a lot to do with post colonialism and its legacy. the class status and consciousness is coming straight from out of the British Colonial power. Race was a strong factor and although many Jamaicans would say “we have classism and not racism”. I would laugh sometimes because they fail to see that the rigid class system was based on race or colour if you will.
    I always wonder why we as a people would seek to emulate the same people who enslaved and oppressed us. I would think people on a whole would shy away from evil or evil doers but I guess people of African descent see it otherwise when it come to looking at former European slavers and colonizers. Whatever one want to say about the Arabs, they are strong in the belief and understanding of who they are as a people. When they get rid of their colonizers they sought to establish all things Arabs. People of Africans descent on the other-hand seek to establish everything European in their life style the further up the economic ladder they climb. I always wonder why is this so.
    Self-hate is a strong word but it is a fact for many people of African descent. I have seen it too many times to forget. Sometimes I sit back and laugh at the experiences I have been through. Until the government leaders see the vast majority who are poor as valuable asset of the society, things will not change for the better. Only education and health can move massive amount of people out of poverty and crime. Somehow, the leaders never get this message or if they do, filling their pockets takes first choice.

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    1. Very good analysis, Taylor. I think Arabs have two distinct advantages – they were not enslaved and they had their religion to cling to. We adopted someone else’s religion and their whitened representation of Middle Eastern and African Biblical characters. Later, they discovered oil and were able to forge their economic independence.

      However, look closer and you’ll find that without all of their oil riches, they would be dealing with some serious post-colonial issues too. I was reading the translation of a leading imam’s sermon recently and he said something that we don’t consider very often. He was chastising the Arab for producing, creating and inventing absolutely nothing. He criticised them for their taste of all things foreign. With all their riches, they were importing everything and failing to encourage research, development, manufacturing and innovation. He felt that this dependence on their former colonial masters left them quite vulnerable.

      I guess we all have our issues but ours appear to be much deeper. Self-hate is a strong term indeed but so is its effect. I appreciate the feedback, bro. Thanks.

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  14. Michael this such a very thoughtful article, which highlights a deep and disturbing truth. I see it every day in the Black on Black violence and killings amongst our youth here in the UK. I pray that the message you bring will one day be understood by a much wider audience than we have here and then the lot of the Black man and woman will begin to change. Well written sir, I salute you.

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    1. Thanks Charles, your kind words and encouragement are deeply appreciated. I remember arriving in London at 18 years old and being amazed at the lack of ambition and self-awareness of my peers, and thankful for my upbringing in Jamaica. Looking back, I realise that this was the starting point of my curiosity into why so many of us lack the pride and self-love necessary for success.

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  15. Brilliant, brilliant article Michael. You need to consider publishing or speaking these truths to a wider audience. More of our people need to hear it and hopefully with a raising of our consciousness things might begin to change for the better. Take good care. Charles

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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    1. I’m writing a book that may touch on some of these issues but, now that you mention it, I will consider a publication that will delve into these issues. Maybe we can talk about some speaking opportunities. The big question is: do people really really want to confront these painful issues?

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  16. Good one Michael, your spot is gradually becoming my favourite blog.

    You pointed out the impact of educated people, I took a peep into the northern part of Nigeria and all the people at the top are conciously or unconciously fighting against education for the common northerner, with this the people at the top believe they will remains at the top with lots of followers while the poor stick to their fate with the believe of being favoured when the time comes and violence remain constant in the north this in turn destroys the peace of a whole nation.

    Boko Haram fight against the same education (Western Education), they know the facts, education is the most powerful gift you can give to anyone, the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world and a major key in correcting societal vices.

    I have seen feedbacs asking which way forward, Michael has started something on one of the strongest platform to changing the world, #Internet, it’s a good place to start and we can all spred these information that could influnced the world together.

    Also note, just one word on a social media platform can burn down a country and just one word can also build a nation. Thanks Michael for putting thsee words together. I will keep sharing your post where I can reach.

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    1. Thanks for this great contribution. Your analysis is spot on – if the masses remain uneducated, they remain poor and easy to manipulate. For example, the rampant rigging of the recent elections would have been very difficult with an enlightened electorate. Thank also for sharing my blog with others.

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      1. As you know, I do a bit of work in education. On Education and Boko Haram, here’s an extract from a presentation I made on education in the conflict zones of Northern Nigeria:
        “Available data presents incontrovertible evidence. The 2015 EFA Report offers focal points for a real change agenda in the North: a survey conducted by “United Nations Children Fund” (UNICEF) in 2011 revealed that Nigeria had the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. States with the highest rates were Zamfara, Borno, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe, all of them from the northern part of the country in North-East and North-West Zones. Similarly, North-West Zone had the highest out-of-school primary school-age children followed by North-East Zone. For junior secondary school, States with the highest rates of out-of-school were Borno, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Bauchi, again coming from North-East and North-West Zones.

        …..In February and March 2011, the Nigeria Northern Education Initiative (NEI) conducted an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) of children’s Hausa language reading skills in primary grade 3 (P3) in Bauchi and Sokoto states. The test was administered in Hausa because Nigerian education policy dictates that instruction in the early grades (P1 through P3) take place in the local language, which in Northern Nigeria is primarily Hausa.
        The results of the EGRA reveal that, after three years of instruction, the vast majority of P3 pupils have not mastered any foundational reading skills – approximately 70% of pupils could not read a single word of a simple narrative text. As a result, pupils’ average oral reading fluency (ORF) score, a measure of both speed and accuracy in reading, was low: 7.8 correct words per minute in Bauchi and 3.9 in Sokoto, with more than 70% of children in Bauchi and 80% of children in Sokoto unable to read a single word.
        Despite at least three years of instruction in Hausa, the percentage of children who were able to read a simple narrative text with at least 80% comprehension is extremely low: 5.6% of pupils in Bauchi and 2.9% of pupils in Sokoto.
        The results of an EGRA conducted in P4 in June 2010 indicate that children have not yet acquired sufficient reading skills in English, reading only 16.7 correct words per minute in Bauchi and 24.6 words per minute in Sokoto. Furthermore, their ability to read and comprehend was extremely low: Only 2.1% of pupils in Bauchi and 4.8% of pupils in Sokoto could read with at least 80% comprehension.”

        I could continue but I would take up your blog. Much of this and our conclusions/recommendations are on my blog for those who want to pursue this further.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Thoughtful and well-written as usual
    I think in discussing Jamaica vs. Singapore, you came close to the core then pulled back. While I do agree that Education is critical, what is the driver is Leadership: it was key to Singapore as it has been to every nation that has achieved a full expression of its historical mandate (yes, every nation has one and it might not be to be the best or greatest among its peers).
    Since the dawn of time and the earliest beginnings of civil society, man has struggled with the problem of how to ensure wise and just leadership in the context of the commonwealth whilst simultaneously ensuring the ability of the entrepreneur to create wealth through innovation. It is the tension inherent in this evocative and perpetual dynamic that lies at the heart of socio-economic growth and self-actualisation in individual and organisation alike.
    In governance, it was Plato who offered that the solution lay in breeding a cadre of philosopher-kings for the specific and exclusive function of governance ‘that men may be guarded from themselves and the foolishness they would inflict upon the world.’ For this breed of supermen, Plato prescribed a rigid physiological, spiritual and academic diet that would equip them adequately for the tasks of governance, ‘so political power and intellectual wisdom may be joined in one’.
    I am convinced that if you look closely at our African nations failing to realize their potential, you will find not self-hate as Aitch argues, but a debilitating system of mediocrity that stifles the emergence of the courageous and wise leadership we need to become all that we can be.

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    1. Great analysis and one that I agree with. The discussions I have with Aitch are quite similar, except that he sees self-hate as the root cause of the symptoms you have described so well. Also, the vacuum in leadership doesn’t explain the other issues explored in my post. Self-hate is the only common thread I could find but I’m open to another explanation. It’s often said that people get the leaders they deserve. Thanks for adding your perspective to this fascinating debate.

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  18. I commend you sir for this thought provoking missive. I now realize the far reaching impact of ‘self hate’ and i am determined to look inwards, reaccess my priorities and set my records straight. I totally agree with the instances you cited, and as an Educator, you struck a chord when you voiced our greatest challenge – Lack of quality Education.

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    1. Thanks Peace. I thought this would resonate with you, given that you are already a highly conscious young woman. Survey after survey has shown that the majority of prison populations have grown up in children’s homes and/or have very little education. Recent tests in northern Nigeria show that up to 80% of children in some states are functionally illiterate, providing fertile ground for Boko Haram.

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  19. I largely agree with you Mike and I hope all who agree with this position will from today begin a revolution in this regard from their little spaces and together WE CAN. This path to self-destruct must not continue.

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  20. Michael, your article is thought provoking and very well written. I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Looking forward to the next one. M xx

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  21. Another interesting piece Michael. It does raise certain questions, I often find myself pondering on. These ones in particular.

    How would you describe an average Nigerian, perhaps an understanding of who we are might shed light on the pertinent issues consuming us. I would say cunning aka ‘sharp guy’ and sanctimonius. A theory that has been proven so many times. Why though? This is not as a result of his own machination rather I think a necessity for survival.

    Your friend was right to say, we have internalised aspects of slavery and colonialism. Why are we not self-sufficient ? Why can’t we do things for ourselves? We have cooks, gardeners, stewards, gatekeepers etc at our beck and call. In other societies it will cost an arm and a leg to afford these services. More so certain tribes in the country have taken pride and ownership of these ‘servant type offices’. No doubt they create employment, however they need to be seen as highly skilled professions not just meagre jobs that people are paid peanuts for.

    We priotise education here, Nigerians are brilliant, knowledgeable people. We attend the best schools abroad. Yet we behave in a manner that leaves me puzzled. So I ask, Are we properly educated? Going beyound education , I think we need enlightenment and conditioning of our minds.
    If it isn’t poverty of the mind, lack of reasoning and enlightenment that will make a person after queuing for hours to buy fuel, drive away rejoicing and pitying others on the queue forgetting so soon he was on that same queue then I don’t know what is. When are we going to come together and put an end to this NONSENSE.

    So Michael it’s not self-hate, on the contrary i think it is self-love. We are a selfish lot. No one seems to care about the other person. It is ME first, second and last. Ofcourse customer sevice is appalling when service providers believe they are doing you a favour (oga mentality) .No you are not. It is your JOB!!!.

    At this juncture, we need to evaluate what is truly important and begin to teach it at every cradle of learning from the home, the school to religious places and the society at large.

    So many issues continue to divide us from post-slavery and post-colonial experience to present day tribalism and religious intolerance.

    Can we love ourselves the way God made us and be selfless in that love to care for the other person? I ask

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    1. Wow, this should be a blog all by itself! Great analysis of the issues and a good understanding of what’s required to turn things around. Just one clarification: the love that you talk about at the end is the only love there is. Selfishness can not be described as self-love because it fails to recognise the inter-dependence of human beings – you can’t survive by yourself. It’s like Jesus asking, “How can you claim to love me when you don’t love your brother?”

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    2. “Can we love ourselves the way God made us and be selfless in that love to care for the other person? I ask” – the answer is YES. Our understanding and use of the term, selfishness, is largely incomplete and often inappropriate. The greatest motivator for positive behaviour is not the “denial of self” (selflessness) but a “transparent presentation of self” (selfishness). Would you rather a person who pretends not to be him/her self than one who is transparent about this so you know where you stand, what you are dealing with and can negotiate a position with the knowledge that the person’s actions are predictable, honest and “true to self”?

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  22. Interesting, and while I agree with much of what you’ve said here, I think there’s another dynamic that you’ve missed. And that’s the fact that the “self-hate” that you (and Aitch) see as the root cause for many of our problems was no accident. Centuries ago, our colonisers deliberately planned their moves, devised outcomes, and anticipated (and continue to manipulate) the game from the very beginning. This construct has been sometimes referred to as “divide and rule”, and it worked very well – indeed, it is still working today – but it has evolved and taken different shapes: From the division of nations, to division among communities, to pitting people against each other. Seen from a wider perspective, this ever-changing game can adapt to cleverly use whatever tools are available, and latterly, electronic media has been working well for “them” as a means of keeping the divisions real, while distracting us from what should be important.

    One other point I’d like to make, my friend, is that I don’t believe that we were singled out for this treatment. Africans, Asians, Indians, we all were colonised using the same templates. The plan just worked better in some places than in others. And over time, the same story was played out in various places – Africa, the Middle East, The Caucasus now, Burma/Myanmar, North Korea, Afghanistan, Native America, Australia – all the same…

    In order for us to over-ride the damage, we will have to acknowledge that the plan worked, understand how it works, and then take the deliberate courses of action necessary to restore balance. Obviously, this action is where the questions marks are – what needs to be done, where to begin, who to begin with, and how to implement?

    I suspect that deep down, underneath the clouded judgements, and before the grand charges, we each know that we must begin with ourselves – in the mirror, just like you said.

    Fortis

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    1. Ali B, my brother, it’s really good to get your input on this subject. I agree with you entirely – it was deliberate – but I didn’t miss it, it’s just that I wasn’t examining the causes because I assumed they are understood. I was more interested in highlighting seemingly unconnected aspects of our behaviour, believing that awareness is the beginning of any change.

      As individuals, we are able to recover from disadvantages and a poor start of life, and become successful. However, it’s much harder collectively because of a lack of consciousness across the majority of our people and poor leadership from those who know better. We tend to maintain those lines drawn during ‘divide and rule’, rather than find ways to elevate the masses. In Jamaica, Manley was the last leader to try to do so, through free education, literacy programmes, land reform and other social reform.

      I think it’s time to move forward, using our collective power as sovereign nations in Africa and the Caribbean; as voters in former colonial powers; and as influential consumer groups in North America. Everyone can do something. I’m doing what I can.

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      1. Michael, do you have a BQ (Boys’ Quarter) attached to your house? If yes, does it face or back your house? Who lives there? And what are the historical origins of a “Boy’s Quarter”? NB. I have had one in every house I have lived in except abroad.

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      2. I have a BQ at the back of my house. I can only imagine that it was originally servants quarters stemming from colonial days and retained in the modern era. I can remember my shock when a Nigerian colleague introduced an employee (in an office setting) as his ‘boy’. The man smiled and eagerly shook my hand, showing not a trace of resentment. In Jamaica, that is fighting talk – you can’t call a man a ‘boy’ and get away with it. That’s because, for us, it is too closely associated with slavery and has completely negative connotations. In fact, if you want to insult a man, just call him that, as long as you’re prepared to deal with the response!

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      3. Yep! My point is that more than love, or perhaps stemming from its absence, is the structure of economic relations has not changed since colonial days and that is what determines the character of our relationships with each other. If we have ‘boys” and continue to build “Boys quarters” centuries after colonization, then it is only our lands that have been vacated – our minds (and hearts) remain in the construct that grows through exploitation and logically, celebrates oppression! It might manifest as self-hate, but what underlies and perpetuates it is simple economics.

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  23. Speaking as a average Nigerian girl I must say, it’s hard not to join them because beating then is a million times harder and nigh impossible. Let’s talk about skin lightening aka bleaching,ive once heard a girl say light skinned girls gets all the rich guys,her reasoning being most billionaires she knows are either married or currently dating a light skinned, having formed this rationale she went ahead and bleached her skin and yes let me shock you she actually started meeting /dating better guys..now what do we make of that.
    Are the girls to blame for the extremities they’ve gone to to attract the men or should the shame go to the men for being shallow enough to accept them thereby making more girls indulge in the craziness. I could go and on..But I’ll just stop here.Nice one Michael..Count yourself lucky that you are an Oga..it’s all that matters in the world of today

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    1. Hi Comfort, it’s great to have your feedback on this subject. The example you gave is real and I’ve heard it dozens of times. I don’t think this is about blame but more about realising how self-hate affects everyone in this scenario. The guys have a fantasy about the ideal woman and she is probably very light or white. What does that say about how he sees his mother or sisters? How will this view affect his daughter, born of a woman who is genetically dark-skinned? Will she be lightened to match her mother and continue the illusion? A woman who pursues a man with money who values her only as a trophy has warped values and low self-esteem but it’s difficult for her if the society is constantly reinforcing those values. The irony is that far from being valuable to that man, she is ultimately disposable because she would have failed to develop herself. Disfigurement and possible skin cancer are a high price to pay for being the object of someone’s Euro-centric fantasy but for some I’m sure it’s worth it.

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      1. Michael, methinks you missed the import of this closing line: “Count yourself lucky that you are an Oga…it’s all that matters in the world of today”. As we say in Nigeria, that is the koko.

        There are a lot of things that are wrong which are made right by Nigeria, officially and otherwise, morally and otherwise, socially and otherwise… and the turning point is at the fork which Comfort calls out. If you are an “Oga” you have the luxury to make reasoned, values-based choices – that is often too high a price to be paid for indulging in what for many is a near life/death decision. It isn’t all about the frivolity of a handbag, pair of shoes or travel – it is sometimes as basic as the expectant stares of dependants at home (parents, siblings, friends…) who have been wondering where the next meal is going to come from; the desperation of a young man about to lose his leg to amputation because he has no money for the surgery that could save him; the younger brother at home instead of in school because fees have not been paid; the young man unable to treat his girlfriend on her birthday because she delayed her run to Abuja and he knows…

        Even on the plantations, light-skinned was highly prized. In many ways, we haven’t left the plantations and maybe that is because we have yet to create a new place of economic security where production can happen and reward gotten based on what you put in , not give out. Maybe.

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  24. My brother, nice to see you back. I didn’t miss the comment at all; I took it as acknowledgement of the point I made in the piece about me being treated differently because I’m seen as an oga. The scenarios you paint are very real but not unique to Nigeria. The supposed solutions, such as skin-lightening, are reflective of the societal values that have become warped over time. If young women trade their bodies for employment, money, favour from wealthy men or exam results from lecturers, is it really enough to say that they feel responsible for all their siblings? In the end, it’s a choice they make because the society mostly reinforces their view. No matter how poor they were, Nigerian parents of old would not accept money from their student daughter who cannot explain her iPhone, iPad, fancy clothes, shoes and Brazilian hair. Competition with their peers is much more of a motivator than the welfare of siblings, trust me.

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