A CULTURAL MERRY-GO-ROUND
I find it intriguing, confusing, shameful and downright scandalous the behavior of Africans in the so-called Diaspora. I say so-called Diaspora because when people leave their ancestral homes and relocate to the Diaspora (foreign countries, mostly Western) for economic, educational, security, or personal reasons, there is an expectation that a fusion of their “inherited” and diasporal cultural influences will produce a culture that combines the best influences of both countries.
In the case of Africans (more so for particular countries that shall remain unnamed) there seems to be this phenomenon that I call bicameralism. By this, I mean that the left part of their brains remain rooted in the worst cultural practices of their native countries while the right brain adapts to the diasporal condition. When they are in the midst of their diasporal hosts, you cannot differentiate between the hosts and the immigrants. However, when they are in the company of fellow Diasporans from the same country they revert to the worst practices that would astound those that they left behind in the home countries.
Cases abound of distinguished African Professors, Lawyers, Doctors, Clergy, Business People and indeed people from every profession that run the affairs of their organizations with exceptional competence that fail to transfer the same competence to their diasporal organizations. Constitutions and bye-laws are written only to be ignored, financial malfeasance is condoned, and attempts to bring order to an organization by any well-meaning individual is met with opprobrium. In fact, you become a know-it-all and public enemy number one attracting as much hate as Hitler or even more.
Financial fraud, administrative incompetence, and gross misconduct are rewarded by tenure elongation and undeserved praise which makes sycophancy look like hate. One may ask which condition exists in Africans in the Diaspora. The answer is simple: Genes. When I started proposing this hypothesis 20 years ago, Africans protested vehemently and ascribed their asynchronous behavior to cultural and environmental factors. But why would Africans behave like white people when in the presence of white people and as atavistic Africans in the presence of Africans given the same diasporal environment and culture?
While all humans may have the same genes, the arrangement of the genes amongst the various races is different. Recently scientists were able to assign races based on genetic analysis. This has become a useful tool in heinous crime investigations especially homicides. One gene in particular, the gene for influenceable shamelessness is over expressed in Africans. The only way to modulate this gene for shamelessness is the presence of external, authoritative forces capable of punishing bad behavior. In the colonial era, this authority was the colonial “master.” But it does not have to be foreign. During General Buhari’s military rule in Nigeria, he declared a war on indiscipline (WAI) which changed peoples’ behavior. The war was badly conceived without planning and it plunged the economy into recession. With the exit of the colonial masters, and the herald of self-governance by Africans; corruption, nepotism, shamelessness, greed, wickedness, homicidal behavior, and outright misanthropism became accepted cultural practices. Apparently the colonial influence brought out the worst expressions of the African gene once they exited!
The advent of Western and Eastern Religions only served to aggravate an already dire situation. In the old African Religion, people were afraid of their oracles, shrines, and priests. They were even more deadly afraid of the curses rained on them by God through the priests. This kept bad behavior in check. Heart attacks, strokes, liver failure with ascites, congestive heart failure with ascites are all attributed to divine intervention and punishment by God for evil deeds. In some African cultures, if you died with a bloated abdomen, you are abandoned in the evil forest for wild animals to devour. They did not realize that ascites (bloated abdomen) is a natural consequence of heart, liver or cancerous disease. Nobody dared tell lies before an oracle or shrine. This sense of divine intervention through early death or physical ailments kept people in line.
The colonists came and destroyed as many of these shrines as they could lay hands upon in the name of Christianity. Those shrines and oracles that survived assumed greater importance. Africans of all faiths still visit these shrines and consult with oracles on important matters. This is religious dualism. Some Africans living overseas still believe that they can be cursed by evil people in Africa or attacked by witches who have flown from Africa in the dead of the night. With the deteriorating economy of most African countries it will not be long before these witches start carrying fee-paying passengers. Hold your breath! This will never happen because African voodoo is only effective when administered on Africans. It is also believed that they may lose effectiveness after traversing large bodies of water!
Religious Authorities ascribe bad events to curses put on you by relatives and enemies. No death is deemed natural. If you attend a church service with your eyes closed, you would think that you are at a voodoo ceremony. The celebrant would be talking about demons, curses, and tying of wombs instead of concentrating on extolling God and directing his/her flock to follow church teachings. Sometimes religious ceremonies are staged where live tortoises supposedly buried by your enemies on your premises to cause you serious misfortunes are dug up. Before these animals are dug up, it is mandatory that everybody present at the event must close their eyes. With your eyes closed, the religious official pulls a live tortoise out of his/her bag. These modern priests combine traditional religion with their new faith. In the old days, innocent people who did not die or get sick would be poisoned by the priests to maintain their hegemony over their subjects. Nowadays the liars, criminals and outright misanthropes have the means to afford the best medical care care to circumvent the curses and avoid an early death.
The Bible or Koran replaced the shrines as tools for oath taking. Liars and criminals were never punished by God after telling lies holding the Bible or Koran. Government officials and legislators swore by the Bible or Koran to uphold the law but subverted the law. If these same officials are made to swear by the oracles and shrines today, most of them will be law-abiding. Since there is no record of anyone being punished by God after swearing by the Bible or Koran, liars and criminals prefer swearing by the Bible or Koran.
Africans pray not for a change in the status quo but to become part of the status quo. Any attempts to point out irregularities in the present system is quelled with a vicious maliciousness that will astound an outside observer. By overlooking and condoning malfeasance, those not in power but aspiring to acquire power by succeeding those in power can continue the vicious cycle.
The worst thing an African government will do is to recruit African Diasporans without proper screening in the false hope that they will elevate governance and spur economic development. Combination of their penchant for rapid wealth acquisition; unabashed zeal for rule bending; with their Western and Eastern acquired tools for covering their tracks, create the perfect conditions for financial malfeasance. There abound cases of some individuals having more money in their personal accounts than their respective countries.
If Africa is hoping for salvation from the Diaspora, the prognosis is grim. From my own personal observation, Africans on the continent are better suited to remedy their economic, social, religious, cultural, and social wretchedness. Without genetic engineering, natural mutation, or imposition of a beneficial external authority, I see no easy solution to the African conundrum. Only Africans will solve their problems through mass action and not prayers, Amens, or God! God only helps those who help themselves.
The cultural merry-go-round keeps spinning.