The Paradox of Twenty-first Century Savagery
On December 31, 2012, while the world was enraptured with the prospect of ushering in the New Year, someone in Kogi state, Nigeria was busy scooping the brains out of his four-month-old son whom he had just murdered. Earlier in October of the same year, the nation was shaken by the gruesome murder of four promising undergraduates who were beaten to death and set ablaze over a minor disagreement. And just as I was contemplating this piece, news filtered in again – a man has set his pregnant sister-in-law ablaze for pouring water on his dog!
It's amazing the indifference with which we have adjusted to the torrents of abominable incidents that assault our minds daily. News of carnage, acid treatments (or acid baths, if you like), ritual killings and other acts of brutish violence no longer have the sobering effect that they used to have. We claim to be the most civilized and technologically advanced generation of Homo sapiens on earth, yet savagery is at an all-time high. What a paradox!
Over the years, the West has made us believe that savagery is endemic to Africa but recent events, such as the frequency of indiscriminate shootings in America, have proved otherwise. According to US newspaper reports, at least sixteen mass shootings took place in America in 2012 alone. Similar incidents have been recorded in other parts of the Western world. Savagery then, is not limited to any geographical location; it only puts on the garb of the dominant culture and adapts itself to the prevailing circumstances wherever it is permitted to rear its ugly head.
A critical examination of the current trends all over the world reveals a fundamental problem – our value system, the set of personal principles, standards and beliefs in which we have an emotional investment.
The gory tales recounted above are fundamentally linked to a warped value system. The herbalist who scooped out his baby's brains obviously valued power, his religious beliefs or whatever it was that prompted his action, over and above the life of his son. We can reach similar conclusions about the other incidents; all culprits have lost touch with a fundamental value – the sanctity of human life.
I understand that there may be other factors such as emotional pressure, financial hardship and a host of others that might seem to trigger such actions. The fact however remains that these other factors are merely accessory; the real cause has to do with our fundamental beliefs, our value system. It therefore goes without saying that if we are serious about meaningful change and sustainable development; we must start with a deliberate and systematic process of value reorientation.
No quick fix will get the job done; we must start from the foundation – our individual family units. The educational institutions, religious institutions, mass media and other agents of socialisation are only supposed to build on the foundation that has been laid by the family. Parents must commit themselves to a comprehensive process of child training that will help their children imbibe sound ethical principles.
If children are trained up in the right way, they will not become a menace as adults. This might seem farfetched but nothing less will yield lasting results. How else do we raise a new generation of refined, cultivated and civilized human beings if not by entrenching a new mindset in the younger generation? We're not giving up on the Old Guard but we're investing more in children and youths. This way, we can be sure that there are better days ahead even though today may seem dark and dreary. God bless Nigeria.
A passionate believer in the New Nigeria, Philip Amiola is a teacher, writer and campaigner of empowerment. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter @Dermatoglyphics.