RESPECT: (Noun): The condition of being esteemed or honored.
(Verb): To show regard or consideration for
Iâ€™ll begin this post by expressing my immense dissatisfaction towards the fact that no one has invented a special Nigerian or African dictionary for me to perhaps contrast/compare my stated definition with. I recently read a post by Okechukwu Ofilli â€œHow Respect Is Killing Our Societyâ€ that spoke about the Nigerian ideology of respect, and how it affects us as a society. Not only did I find myself shaking my head rapidly in total agreement, but I also became in a way obsessed with the subject. It got to the point where I had to share some of my thoughts with a friend, as I began to wonder whether I was the only person that felt this way, or if indeed our ideologies towards â€œRespectâ€ are as I would like to call them, flawed. Now to give you the gist of this heated conversation between I and my friend, I of course maintained the stance that with some Nigerians/ Africans, the definition of respect is greatly flawed, while he opposed and stated that respect is really subjective and in order to fully grasp the concept of it, one must examine it objectively.
To help you understand my position, Iâ€™ll begin with this story:
In 2009 I took a trip to Nigeria ( the land of RESPECT ), and it was during that trip that I realized that respect was more of a thing that was said, as opposed to something that was actually done. Upon arriving at the airport, I found the port authorities to be extremely rude and condescending. In an incident that occurred while I was there, an older woman was told to fill out a form by one of the port authorities to which (I believe) she omitted an answer. In response to this older womanâ€™s apparent ignorance, the port authority responded â€œ ah ah, aunty, are you blind? Do you mean to tell me that you didnâ€™t see this part?â€ while she pointed to a page in the form. To better understand how much of an insult this is, imagine it being said in Yoruba, and for those who arenâ€™t Yoruba, imagine Tonto Dikeh or Oge Okoye saying this in a Nollywood film. For those who arenâ€™t familiar with Nollywood, just ask a Nigerian friend to say it in the funkiest/ rudest manner they can â€“ with their accent. Now correct me if Iâ€™m wrong, but according to Nigeriaâ€™s ideas of respect, shouldnâ€™t this younger woman have spoken to this older woman (who looked old enough to be her mother might I add) in a more respectful manner? This isnâ€™t to say that all Nigerian port authorities/ employees are rude, but most of you will agree with me that respect is greatly lacking not only in this environment, but in many institutions that SHOULD practice customer service in Nigeria.
Although in this situation, the younger person was being rude, there are also many situations in which adults take advantage of the fact that they are older and treat the youths with contempt. I can hear the gasp as some of you are taken aback by that statement. YES! I SAID IT. It baffles me how much of a taboo it is for a younger person to say that an older person is being disrespectful. But according to my already stated definition of respect, it is not only possible, but is something that happens very often. Although as youths, we joke around about it, or complain to our friends about how a certain â€œmotherâ€ from church, or how even our family members behaved towards us without consideration, it is in my opinion a serious issue that should be discussed. For those of you that are bothered by my claims, letâ€™s examine this logically. The synonyms associated with the word respect are: salute, honor, consideration, recognition. Now if for example, an individual were to perform an act that contradicts/ nullifies these associated words, it is safe to define that act as dis-respect. Correct? I have heard stories from friends about adults knowing the act they are performing is wrong, but they still go ahead and act on it because our country prohibits us from speaking up against it. Why? Because it is disrespectful; no apology required. This makes me question why the notion of respect is so selfish. Is being respectful getting slapped by your motherâ€™s friendâ€™s cousinâ€™s sister and not being able to say anything about it? As much as it hurts me to bring this up, we hear our parents often stating that other races are different from us because they have no respect. While many of you might agree, I must ask: can respect in the Nigerian/ African community only be experienced by adults, or is it in fact as many of us like to believe- reciprocal?
This same â€œideaâ€ of respect ( and I use the term â€œidea of â€œ specifically) is placed on such a huge merit that as Ofilli briefly mentioned in his blog, some subordinates in Nigeria are unable to call their supervisors/superiors by name. in other words, â€œogaâ€ ( boss) or â€œuncleâ€ are preferred and are considered more respectful â€“ keep in mind that this is a business setting. Now what happens in a situation where the superior makes a mistake and the subordinate attempts to correct him/her? TOTAL DISRESPECT! (Sarcasm). The titles: aunty, uncle, brother, sister, e.t.c are words we often hear (and often get in trouble for) in relation to the portrayal of respect. This brings me to story number two.
TITLE: HOW DARE YOU CALL ME BY MY NAME??!!!! :
I once had a run-in with an older lady who called me out at an event, after I greeted her as politely as I could, but â€œforgotâ€ to call her aunty. Apparently, I was being disrespectful and needed to be reported to my mother- and believe me, she saw it through. Now I have no problem calling an adult â€œauntyâ€ or â€œuncleâ€ but in my defense, I had never called her â€œauntyâ€. Till this day, I still believe it is a case of mistaken identity. My point is why are these titles associated with respect? In other words, if I donâ€™t call you aunty or uncle, does that mean I have no respect for you? Because to be completely truthful, I can call you aunty till His kingdom come and not have an ounce of respect for you. Letâ€™s digress to the story of the port authority.
It is safe to assume that similarly to the rest of us, her upbringing prompted her to add â€œauntyâ€ in the beginning of her insult. Yes, Iâ€™m stretching it a bit. But the point remains: because the word aunty is DEFINED by many as respect, she, as society has instructed her to do felt compelled to put the word â€œauntyâ€ in front of her insult. In essence, we have been taught to kneel down, and prostrate before our elders, but to what use are these actions if weâ€™re still able to say â€œaunty, are you stupid?â€ I mean, does the fact that we used the title â€œauntyâ€ make that individual less stupid, or does it give a touch of respect to our insult? And in this example, it is clear that these titles shouldnâ€™t be used to define respect because if a situation like this were ever to arise, the title only adds sarcasm to the insult. Itâ€™s almost like a subliminal insult behind the â€œqueen-beeâ€ insult.
I would like to believe that by now, most of you at least get where Iâ€™m coming from, but before I end this post, I of course have to reference the opposing side. During my rant to this friend of mine, he interjected by pointing out to me that association is different from definition. In simpler words, the stated titles (aunty, uncle, etc) are simply associated with respect and not used to define respect.
Exhibit A: The titles: love, Hun, sweetheart, sweet, and babe are some of the many titles that we call our friends or even people we associate with. Although these words have a romantic tone to them, they do not define romance. A guy can call his female friends â€œbabeâ€ or â€œloveâ€ but not feel for them romantically because these words serve the purpose of portraying affection. Likewise the titles are ways in which one can portray respect, but they donâ€™t necessarily define respect.
Now what about individuals like the anonymous â€œauntyâ€ who DEFINE respect with these titles? Respect is subjective: in other words, it is in the eye of the beholder? In respecting individuals, one is actually respecting oneâ€™s self. If someone is toÂ disrespectÂ you and you humble yourself by over looking it or handling it in a manner that isnâ€™t too aggressive, that doesnâ€™t necessarily mean you are backing down. It in fact reflects the respect you have for yourself and might even encourage that individual to respect you in the long run.
Well, there you have it! While this post speaks to a wide range of people, I do not believe every adult is disrespectful and I do not condone disrespect. I just believe, as I have already stated that some of our ideologies need to be worked on. If you take it upon yourself to say â€œuncle are you stupidâ€ and you get slapped, please donâ€™t reference me or ask me for advice. LOL! Read, comment, and donâ€™t forget to share. Cheers!!!