SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: A PRACTICAL LOOK AT HOW PARTS OF CULTURE IMPEDE NIGERIA

In the two installments of the article- “Swimming Against the Tide: How Society determines our behavior and how to buck the trend” we established the fact that society and culture can shape the values, and by extension the behavior of its members.

We then went further to give the technical definitions of each of the Dimensions in Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory and to note the scores of some countries, in the framework we used for the analysis. 

Now I want us to see the practical implications of these for Nigeria.
Where the article mentioned above was basically descriptive this one will be more germane because we will be applying these thoughts in a much more relevant manner.

After applying them we will see why we must deliberately manage culture so we can accomplish what we want in the building of a better society and we will see why we must take very seriously the process of selecting those we allow to lead us.

Beyond the first impression we get when we hear the word “culture” (which usually evokes thoughts of our tribal affiliations) we need to realise there are other vistas the word alludes to and these include-
Domestic Culture, Organizational Culture, Societal Culture, National Culture and so on. 

Now it is imperative that we realize all these different types of culture are set by leadership. 
I cannot underscore the above point enough.

All types of culture are set and determined by leadership.

Think about this for instance; there are tribal practices that are transmitted from generation to generation and very few people ask how those traditions were developed in the first instance. What many have not considered is that much of what we have come to refer to as our culture today is usually the aggregate of the personal preferences of communal leaders from generations past.
One person’s preference for plump women for instance could have been traded to his son who would also trade it to his until it becomes a custom to have fattening rooms where brides are first sent before the marriage is consummated. And these things could happen without recourse to the preference or understanding of the recipients; young men who intend to get married in such communities could just find themselves saying “That’s the way it’s always been here, I don’t know why but I will just have to do what my forebears have done.”
Such people then invariably give in to what society expects of them; expectations that in many cases began with either one or just a handful of people.

It is the same thing with other forms of culture. I have seen dress codes in entire organizations determined by the personal preferences of the Chief Executives. Some people even go as far as deliberately looking and talking like some of these Executives, particularly if they are such as inspire confidence, respect, and admiration in those that follow them.
For this reason more than any other as much as lies within our power we must be deliberate in picking who leads us because it is that choice that will determine which sort of culture will influence us.

In Hofstede’s “Cultural Dimensions Theory” we find 6 Dimensions through which we can assess and understand the impact of a society on the values and behavior of its members. Geert Hofstede delineated the Power Distance Index, the Individualism vs Collectivism Index, the Uncertainty Avoidance Index, the Masculinity vs Femininity Index, the Long-Term Orientation vs Short-Term Orientation Index, and the Indulgence vs Restraint Index as the 6 Dimensions for cross-cultural communication and through which we can measure the effects of societies on their members.
The highest score on each dimension is 120 and the lowest 0.

Now let us take a practical look at how these Dimensions affect us, particularly in Nigeria, and how we can ensure we fight the trend to take us backward.

When I think of the Power Distance Index (PDI) and try to relate it to Nigeria I shake my head at how we have allowed the absence of values set our national culture.
A simple explanation of the PDI is it is an index that measures how the lower members of society expect and accept that power is unevenly distributed. 
It simply assesses how much of a gap there is between social classes and how those that make up the lower reaches of these classes relate to inequality in society.
If the PDI is high then it means that the members of lower classes accept and even actively enforce the fact that there are those that are “superior” to or ahead of them in society, but if the PDI is low then it implies that the members of lower classes reject that those in higher classes are either superior to or ahead of them.

Nigeria has a score of 80 and the U.S has a score of 40 for instance. This is why in Nigeria it is taken for granted that a person who was born before you, or has more money than you do, or has a political position over you, or is your leader at church or work is “superior” to you.
In Western societies with much lower scores such thoughts are unacceptable.
This is why you will find scenarios where a young lady will refer to another person who is old enough to be her mother by her first name (anathema to the average African). 
It is for this reason that you will find the average Yoruba man in Nigeria prostrate when greeting an elder, but the average Westerner will take the elder by his hand in a handshake, look him in the eye and ask “How are you?” sometimes with a tap on the back or on the head.
Having grown up in Nigeria I cannot forget the shock I felt when I first witnessed the above in the United States.
But its the culture. 

Part of the reason why this is so in very practical terms is a variety of reasons top of which is the degree of the sense of entitlement members of a society have.
The level of education, exposure, and mindset concerning the rights of members of a society will determine to a large extent what the score on the PDI will be for varying societies.
In a place where over half of the people live under the poverty line most people will not be as interested in challenging decisions of government as they would be in deifying those who dole out stipends to them to curry favor and votes.
In a place like Nigeria where politicians capitalise on the poverty level to use bags of rice and salt to buy votes the PDI level will be high, but in a place like the United States where the State is required by law to take care of its weaker members there is a greater sense of entitlement and providing basic amenities is not as revered as in places like Nigeria.

Another point here is to realise that most of those societies that are high on the PDI Scale are societies that have equalizers inbuilt in them. By equalizers I mean factors that most establish social equilibrium.
One such equalizer that a country like the U.S has is the fact that it is a nation of immigrants. Anyone who is not a Native American is an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant. Now most Americans know this and are conscious of it so there is a sense of entitlement they have. The thought is something like “why does he have to lord it over me? Afterall we are all equal”

This fact is embodied in the Bill of Rights.
It is part of the Culture.

As we have said previously there are different types of culture and these are all set by leadership. Unfortunately in Nigeria on a national scale we have allowed men of base values who are bereft of honor set the values thus establishing the national culture. It no more is about how much integrity a person has or how knowledgeable a person is, it’s now more like how much money a person has or what position he occupies in government. Not many people seem to be interested in how the person gets the money or the position.

I have witnessed the angst people in a country like the United Kingdom feel when it appears their elected representatives depict an insular attitude or show in any way that they are more privileged than those that elected them to represent them.
I have heard from British voters who vote against a candidate they once voted for because he employed a driver.

One told me “who does he think he is employing a chauffeur to take him around, does he think he is better than the rest of us?”
I have been in the London Subway and seen MPs (Members of Parliament) riding the train. I understand that even the Prime Minister rides the train as well.
I saw David Cameron riding in a 2 or 3 car convoy when he was P.M, just like I saw Gordon Brown before him.

But in Nigeria, because of the national culture as seen in the PDI score not just political office holders, but even those still trying to woo voters to stand behind them, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry, will drive in large convoys terrorising hapless road users.
It is in Nigeria that we can find career politicians who have no relevance and make no contributions outside the corridors of power.
Simplicity is something totally alien to most political officeholders.

Everything is about a show of force.

It’s only animals that behave that way.

If you were nurtured in a society where the PDI score is high and you find that you have the tendency to make much of the hierarchical structure in such societies and boss people around or enforce the social stratification obtainable there you must now realize you need to embrace simplicity while you are in positions of power and authority and buck the trend of oppressive and strongman leadership.
The position is not an end in itself, it is simply a tool for service, and as leaders the people whom we serve must not be made to feel like outsiders or inferior.
That is not the way to effective leadership.

Another dimension Hofstede gave is the Individualism vs Collectivism Index (IDV). This measures in a society the extent of integration by its members into and their involvement in in-groups. 
When the score of a society is high on the IDV scale it means it is individualistic and when it is low it is collectivist.
Most Western countries are individualistic and most African, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries are collectivist.
Nigeria has a score of 30 and this indicates it is a collectivist society.

Collectivist societies have many benefits, but when they are not managed properly can also present problems and disadvantages.

We find that in collectivist societies there is a greater tendency that more consideration is given to tribal affiliations and clannish connections than to most other factors. The challenge is that in most areas of national or community life where the grade is low (indicating it is a collectivist society) merit tends to be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity because clannish thinking is the norm.
In a place like Nigeria where loyalty is more towards tribal and ethnic nationalism than towards many other considerations we find that it is not unusual for people to be asked what their surnames are or where they come from before they get employed or promoted.
This is more often than not the bane of such societies.
Nepotism becomes prevalent, and this more often than not opens the door to corruption.
If you are prone to such bigotry you must deliberately fight it. Most people do not understand the utter evils of tribalism and racism.
We won’t get into that today, but suffice it to say that one must buck that trend if one finds one is clannish.

The next dimension is the Long-Term Orientation vs Short-Term Orientation Index (LTO). As you can see the terms are self-explanatory and highly descriptive. So the questions here are basically about whether the society adopts a long-term or a short-term approach in planning and execution. 
Societies with a high degree in this index (long-term) are pragmatic societies who rather than being uncomfortable with societal change and treating it with suspicion hold to generating innovations in the long term and being pragmatic with problem solving.  Societies with a low degree here (short-term) are normative societies who are mainly traditional and are usually uncomfortable with change.
Such societies tend to be comfortable with what they are used to and do not deliberately institutionalize the pursuit of innovations. 

Imagine China with a score of 118 over 120.

You take a look at all they do and realize they are very long term oriented in their thinking. 
When a Chinese man goes to the West to visit or school he usually is not going there for mere pleasure, more often than not he would be going there to see what knowledge he can gain so he can take back to his country to implement.
The Chinese have a long term plan for virtually every sector of society. 
Looking at China’s rise in science since at least 2002 we see that China is the second largest producer of scientific papers after the United States and 4 factors have been stipulated to favor China’s continued rise and eventual dominance in global science: a large population and human capital base, a labor market favoring academic meritocracy, a large diaspora of Chinese-origin scientists, and a centralized government willing to invest in science.
They invest in science and technology and have a selection process for picking the best potential scientists from their infancy, they then place them in facilities deliberately equipped to groom them to become world class scientists.

It’s the same thing in sports. Take gymnastics for instance- At the London Olympics in the summer of 2012 China came second in the Olympic Table after racking up an astonishing 88 medals- 38 of which were gold. 
An academy called the Ningjin Acrobatics School was founded in 1959 deliberately for the purpose of developing world class gymnasts. Most of the students at the Academy begin as early as 4 years of age and start training with the hope they will be recruited into the national team.

In Nanning there is another sports school that has just one word hung on its walls- “GOLD” 
As a Daily Mail correspondent said “Charges are often taught by rote that their mission in life is to beat the Americans and all-comers to the top of the podium.”

There are many such sports schools and academies in China designed to ensure they keep churning out world class athletes.
 
In basketball China is playing out a 100 year plan for global dominance that has already started producing results half-way into it. The likes of Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue are notable basketball stars in China and the U.S, with Yao Ming in particular, the former 7 foot 7 inch center  for the Houston Rockets being the poster boy for the new wave of Chinese basketball superstars.
In a book titled “Operation Yao Ming”, author Brook Larmer said the Chinese government convinced Yao’s parents, both basketball players and fitness experts, to get married so they would produce a world class athlete. After this Yao was given special treatment to enable him become one of the best basketball players.
It is this concerted effort with a long term agenda that we find consistently in practically everything the Chinese do.

Now let us contrast this with our beloved Nigeria; with a score of 13 over the maximum 120 we have a clear measurement of how ephemeral the decisions we take are and the mindset of impermanence employed by policy makers and “leaders of thought”.
Both at the Federal and State levels we find this same short-termism in practically everything. Billions of naira are spent to undertake and flag off projects by each administration and at the expiration of the tenure we find situations where successor administrations come in and either abandon them completely or go further to dismantle what has already been put in place.
All these at the cost of the taxpayers.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) based in France, had, in a study aimed at ranking the world’s cities most exposed to coastal flooding, revealed that Lagos was at the risk of being submerged in the next 50 years. The sea levels have risen far beyond the projected 20 centimeters especially with the melting of polar caps in the North and South poles, and not much seems to have been done to effect a change in this pattern.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected a conservative rise in ocean levels of 65 cm by the year 2100 and this has since been adjusted to over 100cm. Yet in Nigeria there does not seem to be concrete data on the amount of rainfall that has caused the recent deluges in Lagos and there is insufficient knowledge as to what can catalyze the estimated forecast.
This is just where we find ourselves in Nigeria. Short Term thinking in practically everything.
And it is this sort of mindset that pervades much of our decisions and our decision making process. 

Another Dimension is the Indulgence vs Restraint Index (IND).
This basically measures how much a society invests in pleasure and is comfort driven.
With a score of 84 in Nigeria we come quite high and this is evidenced by the manner in which the average Nigerian spends money and what he or she spends it on.
A society that is given to ostentation and status symbols is prone to throwing money around very easily and throwing that money around on trivialities.
Not many can forget “projects” like FESTAC 77 that added very little value in human capacity development or the building of any other resource.
There are places in Nigeria where it is almost customary to borrow money to host parties that are not for the celebration of any occasion.
People will hire cars, suits, and regalia to put on a show even when there is absolutely no need for that.
When any society has more pleasure spots than learning and development centers it is more the rule than the exception for very little of significance to come out of such a society. In fact it is anomalous for anything of relevance to come out from it, and for this reason we must learn the virtue of temperance, delaying self-gratification. 
In Nigeria the prevalent mindset is one of gratification without production, while strong and virile societies put production before gratification. 
There is much work to do to change this, but it can be done, make no mistake about that. 

The next dimension in the Cultural Dimensions Theory is the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI). This refers to the extent to which members of a culture or society are uncomfortable with unknown or inexplicable circumstances/situations and how their  belief systems and religious/cultural institutions either avoid or handle these situations. It also refers to how a society deals with unexpected outcomes.
Societies that score a high degree in this index have stiff codes of conduct, guidelines, and laws. They rely on the premise that one truth explains everything that exists and there is no room for relativism.
A lower degree in this index shows a society that imposes fewer regulations and is more accepting of divergent thoughts/ideas. 
So what this shows is that countries high in this Index are usually more religious and superstitious than those who are low in it and those who are low in the Index seem to be more liberal and tolerant of divergent views.
Although not as high as a lot of Middle Eastern and Latin American countries Nigeria is nonetheless still marginally high with a score of 55 on the UAI.
Not as high as it once was it would seem a hybrid of liberalization, modernization, and westernization has begun to make its mark as the Nigerian society, though still largely superstitious, is not as superstitious as it used to be. 
Then when we think about how we handle unexpected outcomes we can take the case of the water levels rising and the potential submerging of coastal cities like Lagos as an example. In a place like Nigeria we will have housing development and real estate people building more housing units in the same areas that are flood prone and even building them over water canals and drainage systems. We are likely not to have a care about climate change as everything is in God’s hands and we will somehow be protected from the forecasted submerging.
That is just the mentality we have in a place like Nigeria.
And this is the mentality we must change. 

We can change our country if we will first work on changing ourselves one person at a time. Then we must demand for the right type of leaders to set our culture.

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND (Part II)

We began this series by speaking about the effects of culture on behavior and how to buck the trend if the behavior isn’t favorable.

We spoke about Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory and began to use it as a framework for analysis. We explored the 6 Dimensions and looked at 4 of them with some depth while I promised we would settle on the Power Distance Index, at least a little more than we did the others.

So we will begin this second Instalment by looking at the next Dimension before we settle on the PDI.

Indulgence vs. Restraint Index (IND) is the dimension that measures happiness and whether or not simple joys are fulfilled. It is the extent to which people try to control their appetites, desires and impulses. Indulgence is defined as “a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun,” while Restraint is defined as “a society that controls gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.” 
Indulgence scores are highest in Latin America, parts of Africa, the Anglo world and Nordic Europe; restraint is mostly found in East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Muslim world.
Nigeria’s score here of 84 is really high. 
People in societies classified by a high level of Indulgence generally exhibit a high level of willingness to satisfy their impulses and appetites with regard to their enjoyment of life. They are usually more optimistic about life and put premium on leisure and pleasure and as a result are not restrained from spending money as they please.
This is obviously the basis on which Nigerians were once called the happiest people on earth, but there is a big downside to the score on this dimension. Any society or individual that places gratification ahead of production or leisure ahead of work will stagnate at best and will in all likelihood retrogress in almost unquantifiable proportions.
The fixation on pleasure is what is responsible for the expending of large sums on frivolities and the constant frittering away of the collective patrimony on private and temporary interests rather than capital projects that will benefit the generality of people it is meant for.
In societies and countries like Nigeria that score high on this dimension consumerism and not production is the economic culture that is pervasive. This is very unfortunate because nobody gets rich by spending more than he produces.
So if you are an indigene of or resident in such a society you need to be deliberate in your resolve not to give in to the mentality of indulgence if you want to do anything meaningful with your life.
Temperance (the ability to delay gratification) is a discipline that becomes all the more important for an achiever who lives in any culture high in this dimension.

As we don’t have all the time to do a critical assessment of all 6 dimensions we will select one and use it in an exhaustive analysis of societal behavior, see how it affects us, and how to stop the tide from keeping us at a disadvantage.

Let’s analyze the Power Distance Index-
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal and expresses/evaluates the attitudes of the various cultures in different societies towards these inequalities.
A higher degree of the Power Distance Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established, social classifications on the basis of all indices of power (political power, economic power, religious power etc) are set and these standards are enforced in society, without doubt or reason. 
A lower degree of the Index signifies that the majority questions authority and attempts to distribute power to attain equality.
Such societies are generally more rebellious to authority.
In this dimension, inequality and power are both perceived from and measured by the followers, or the lower level. 

West Africa has an average score of 77, Nigeria in particular has a score of 80, and the Arab world has a score of 80, which means that in all the aforementioned places people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent qualities, centralization is popular, and subordinates expect to be told what to do. In this environment the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. 

While the Power Distance Index shows very high scores for Latin and Asian countries, African areas and the Arab world, the Anglo and Germanic countries, on the other hand, have a lower power distance (only 11 for Austria and 18 for Denmark).
The  United States has a 40 which is low compared to Guatemala (where the power distance is very high at 95) but still much higher than Israel where it is very low (13), so the United States is closer to the middle.
In Europe, power distance tends to be lower in northern countries and higher in southern and eastern parts: for example, 68 in Poland and 57 for Spain vs. 31 for Sweden and 35 for the United Kingdom.

America’s Power Distance Index is what causes it to want to unseat every “dictator” in the Middle East. By viewing the world through their lens they assume they are doing Iraq and all the other Islamic countries there a favor by 
 removing their leaders and instituting a form of government where accountability is given premium.
On the flip side, it becomes clearer why autocracy and tyranny seem to thrive in places like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The Power Distance Index is much higher in places like the aforementioned because the culture is such that a hierarchical structure is very clearly defined.

Note the following statements very carefully:-
This is why the level of respect shown to elders and parents by western youth is inappropriate and even completely unthinkable to others. 
This is why, as far as many others are concerned, western women have very little understanding of and respect for the place and role of their husbands as the heads of their families.
It happens all the time; a young lady addressing people thirty years older than she is, people probably older than her parents, by their first names.
A young man challenging the authority of those that have been placed above him and even getting to the point of fighting them.

Israel has a Power Distance Index of 13. That is very low.
Most analysts and commentators speak favorably of something very common with Israeli culture- the concept of “chutzpah.” 
Chutzpah is audacity, temerity and flagrant boldness. Overriding confidence that does or says things in such a way that is shocking to others. 
Reading a very good book like the “Start Up Nation”, a lot of emphasis is placed on the concept and on how integral it is to the progress Israel has made as a modern state.
Every instruction is questioned to the letter, not for the sake of merely being rebellious but with the understanding that instructions that have no explanations do not help in building systems and processes that can be replicated.
The downside of the authoritarian manner children are raised in Africa to obey without questioning is that morale and initiative are likely to be low, the good thing though is that a measure of discipline and respect for authority is inevitable. However it would be much more productive if people understood how to strike a balance between both.
We must learn not to view all cases of subordinates questioning instructions as attempts to undermine our authority as superiors; no doubt there will always be rebellious people but the demigod status many leaders (political, institutional/organizational, religious, traditional etc) adopt in Africa leads to more rather than less rebellion, and the reason is quite simple really- human nature is such that repression only drives dissent underground where it foments and gains more steam.
But if leaders can engage their subordinates more often in a climate that is devoid of fear and any acrimony it will create the potential for a greater buy-in and thus multiply the loyalty of the subordinates as it increases their commitment to the cause. Good leaders know this, and the great ones have developed consummate skill in applying it.

Take a look again at all the 6 Dimensions and see where you will need to buck the trend.

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND

Different societies, just like different individuals, have different ways they view and relate with the world. It’s the concept of the colored sunglasses at play. 
We tend to view the world not the way it is but the way we are; and it is this view of the world that determines our aspirations, prejudices, and patterns of behavior. It is this view that determines how we interact with our world. 
When we think of the foreign policies of nations and how they interact with other nations it becomes apparent that just like it is a determinant of how individuals interact it also is of how nations interact.
How often have we seen situations like this- 
The United States invades Iraq to “liberate” the country and “enthrone democracy.” Afterwards the U.S President declares “Mission Accomplished”; but except that mission was to throw Iraq into a series of intractable crises that has caused a regression of monumental proportions it is anything but accomplished. 
The above is just one case out of a plethora of interventions that have been a demonstration of Western foreign policy in other climes and cultures. 
The U.S foreign policy in particular is premised on what it believes the rules of engagement with other nations should be. In most cases a determining factor in these rules of engagement is what they think is good for other countries.

This has led to failed attempts by Western countries to impose on others and several of those other countries to adopt what they think will be an improvement on their cultures and methods of administration, and this has produced Asian, African, and Middle Eastern kids who sag their jeans, eat McDonald’s lunches, and listen to the likes of Rick Ross and Jay Z.
This has led to attempts at implementing in Gulf States and Africa a Western brand of democracy, and these attempts are made without recourse to the unique circumstances and conditions of different societies. So we try to copy what was not designed for us and we fail.
We fail because we do not appreciate that the things we try to adopt were tailor made for those we try to copy them from.
We fail because we do not understand that people groups behave differently and this behavior leads us to create models that best suit our uniqueness. What may work for one may not necessarily work for another.

So why do people behave the way they do? Why are certain types of behavior prevalent in certain places and why are these behavior types as well as different perspectives unique to different cultures?

The purpose of this article is to first highlight the fact that culture is a major factor in determining how individuals and nations relate with themselves and others, both positively and negatively. And then we will veer into using this to understand how we can ensure we do not let our immediate environments hinder us from attaining what we have the potential to.

There is an interesting theory propounded  by a man named Geert Hofstede.
He is responsible for what is called the “Cultural Dimensions Theory”; it is a framework for cross-cultural communication and it very expertly describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis. 
The theory proposes six dimensions along which cultural values could be analyzed: individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (strength of social hierarchy), masculinity-femininity (task orientation versus person-orientation), long-term orientation versus short-term orientation,and indulgence versus self-restraint.

Now, I will crave your indulgence and ask that you please follow me as this article is extremely important in understanding your behavior and how to change the trajectory if it is heading the wrong way. I will do my utmost to ensure it is not technical and that it is easy to understand.
Let’s run through each of these six dimensions-

Power Distance Index (PDI) deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal and thus it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.
Power Distance Index is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions, organizations, communities, societies, and countries expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”
So the PDI is essentially the way different societies cope with inequality.  We will explain this in full detail and use it as a framework for understanding the subject matter of this discourse later.

Individualism vs. Collectivism Index (IDV) explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.” 
The core objective of this dimension is the measurement of the degree of interdependence a society maintains over its members.
Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only cover nuclear families and relate an individual to his/her immediate family. This dimension evaluates whether people’s self-image is measured in terms of “I” or “we.” 
 Collectivism on the other hand describes a society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and even go beyond those to bind kinsmen into in-groups. Now these in-groups place a very high premium on loyalty, this loyalty overrides even societal rules and regulations and leads to a position where each member is required to take care of and support each other when a conflict arises with another group.
In collectivist societies offense leads to shame and loss of face, while employer/employee relationships tend to be viewed in moral terms just like in family settings. Then the hiring and promotion of individuals in the workplace tend to take into account the nature and composition of the employee’s in-group as well as his position in it. 
So it is not uncommon to see within collectivist societies that the families and communities a person is a part of are taken into account on an equal footing with his qualifications.
The danger here is that a clannish mentality or paradigm might be deployed where it should not and this would lead to nepotism and not meritocracy.

North America and Europe can be considered as individualistic with relatively high scores (an 80 for Canada and 91 points for the United States show they are highly individualistic societies). In contrast, Asia, Africa and Latin America have strongly collectivist values: Colombia scores only 13 points on the IDV scale and Indonesia 14. Nigeria with 30 points is more individualistic and is not as collectivist as Guatemala with 6 points, yet is far more collectivist than Western countries.

When we see this scale it becomes clear to us that some societies are more community oriented than others while others are more individualistic.

We understand for example how Nigerians have a tendency to shift their loyalties to their ethnic nationalities and how this trend must be deliberately fought against and resisted if significant progress will be made in any society, community, family or organization.
We also see how behavior patterns vary and how these can affect how people interface with each other. Think about marriage for instance.
A man who picks a bride from a Northern European or North American culture is not likely to have the same level of scrutiny and invasion of privacy as one who picks a bride from the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America. In the same vein the person who picks a wife from a more collectivist society is more likely to have access to a communal social support system than one who picks a wife from a more individualistic society. They are more likely to have more people empathizing with and supporting them than the couple from a more individualistic culture.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)  is defined as “a society’s tolerance for ambiguity.” It measures how people either embrace or avert something unexpected or unknown; it evaluates the extent to which societies either accept or repel from an occurrence or event that is not consistent with the status quo. The question here would be something like this- “since we cannot know the future in certain terms should we try to control the future or should we just go with the flow and sing ‘Que. sera sera, whatever will be will be..?'”
So this refers to the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown circumstances/situations and have created beliefs and institutions in a bid to either avoid or handle them.
As one writer has put it “Societies that score a high degree in this index opt for stiff codes of behavior, guidelines, laws, and generally rely on absolute Truth, or the belief that one lone Truth dictates everything and people know what it is. A lower degree in this index shows more acceptance of differing thoughts/ideas. Society tends to impose fewer regulations, ambiguity is more accustomed to, and the environment is more free-flowing.”
Uncertainty avoidance scores are the highest in Latin American countries, Southern and Eastern Europe countries, Japan, and certain parts of Africa. Nigeria scores a 55 on the UAI scale, but the results are much lower for Anglo and Nordic countries.
So this explains why a country like Nigeria is not that open to divergent ideas that are not in consonance with the prevalent moral thought and traditions.
This shows us why Western European and North American countries are more pliant in their belief systems and are not as religious as Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.

Masculinity vs. Femininity Index (MAS) defines masculinity as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success,” while femininity refers to  “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” People in the respective societies tend to display different values. 
A high score on this dimension is referred to as masculine while a low score is referred to as feminine.
A high score indicates that the society is driven by hard work, competition, achievements, and success- and success will be defined by who comes out tops or is best placed through school and up to the organizations he/she works in.  A low score indicates that what is most important in that society is quality of life and care for others. 
In feminine societies, both men and women are primed to share modest and caring views. But in more masculine societies, women are more emphatic and competitive, even though less emphatic than men. Invariably, in masculine societies people still recognize a gap between male and female values.
The fundamental difference in both societies is what motivates people between wanting to be the best at what you do (masculinity) and liking what you do (femininity)
Masculinity is extremely low in Nordic countries. Norway scores 8 and Sweden only 5. In contrast, Masculinity is very high in Japan (95), and in European countries like Hungary, Austria and Switzerland influenced by German culture. In the Anglo world, masculinity scores are relatively high with 66 for the United Kingdom for example. Latin countries present contrasting scores: for example Venezuela has a 73-point score whereas Chile’s is only 28. Africa is generally high, and Nigeria’s score on this scale is 60; this makes it a masculine society. And such a society is work oriented with a requirement for managers to be assertive, firm, and decisive because the emphasis is on competition and performance. 

Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation Index (LTO) evaluates the connection of the past with the present and assesses how past practices influence future actions or challenges. 
This dimension evaluates how every culture must maintain links with its past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future. A lower degree in this index (short-term) points at normative societies where traditions are honored and kept, mostly to the detriment of innovations. Societies with a high degree in this index (long-term) are pragmatic societies who instead of holding societal change with suspicion in the way the normative societies do view the ability to adapt and be pragmatic in problem-solving as a necessity. They plan in advance and mostly engage in a tactic called “reverse problem-solving” by anticipating future challenges and developing solutions to them even before they come up.
Traditions are usually only of as much value to them as how much they help the society evolve and develop contextually and circumstantially.
Research has shown that a poor country that is short-term oriented usually has little to no economic development, while long-term oriented countries continue to develop.
High long term orientation scores are typically found in East Asia, with China having 118, Hong Kong 96 and Japan 88. They are moderate in Eastern and Western Europe, and low in many parts of the Muslim world, Africa and Latin America. 

Nigeria has an abysmal score of 13 which shows it is normative with a high inclination to tradition and a small propensity to save and plan for the future.
Think about that, with a score of 13 it is now perfectly understandable why a whole country with over 180 million citizens does not have accurate data to plan with. With a rating like that on such a critical score it is now understandable when one sees the amount of mediocrity that has pervaded the different strata of leadership in Nigeria, and it is apparent that short-termism  is something to fight against if you are a Nigerian that wants to buck the trend.

We will continue this in another Instalment.

See you then.

WHAT HATE SPEECH IS NOT

WHAT HATE SPEECH IS NOT

This will be a very simple and straight to the point kind of article.
Considering that this Blog is essentially a life class module we will delve into something that is a bit discordant even though it affects all who are Nigerians reading this.

The most important resource on earth is the human resource. As difficult as it is to deal with many human beings anyone who has a passion for and has worked in the field of human resource management and capacity building for any length of time will acquiesce to the fact that the most fulfilling thing on earth is making deposits in people and seeing them come good.
It is knowing you have actually been instrumental in the transformation of another individual.

 I have been involved professionally in human resource development for at least 15 years and I have had the opportunity to meet all sorts of people from all kinds of backgrounds. There are difficult ones, but there are many more good people. In fact, I can authoritatively state that there are good people from everywhere.
I have personally witnessed them.

For this reason I find people who are bigoted very parochial. Having grown up in the South-West Nigerian mega city of Lagos I have a lot of Yoruba friends and know a good proportion of Muslims, including from the North of Nigeria, although I am indigenously Igbo and a Christian from the South-East of Nigeria.
Understanding what I know now about the average human being I consider
anyone who judges a person on the basis of what he cannot change a malevolent and divisive bigot.

No decent or reasonable person castigates a person over what he or she cannot change.
It is for this reason that the most myopic and disgusting people are racists, tribalists, misogynists and the like.
All those that use social stratification and differences in social phenomena to quell their insecurities by claiming false superiority are the most base of humanity.

YOU DO NOT JUDGE OR CONDEMN ANYONE, ESPECIALLY OVER WHAT A PERSON CANNOT CHANGE…
And these include Race, Tribe, Gender, Physical Deformities and so on.

Although I have not added religion or “sexual orientation” to that list I believe nobody has the right to condemn anyone else over anything at all, including the aforementioned two. 
But the reason I have not put them in the category above is not because people should be condemned for either of them but because I believe religion and sexual orientation are both personal choices (I know some will not agree with me and if a person feels a homosexual urge or other form of sexual perversion like sexual attractions to children, animals or corpses it is pure perversion and can be handled should they choose to have it handled) and a person can change either.

I will get back to the above later.

Having pointed out my disdain for those who are critical of others for the sake of it, and those who antagonize others over what they cannot change I want to make a very clear point here- I do criticise. 

But what I criticise is institutions. 
Unfortunately there are those who think it is hate speech to do so.

On his return from an extended medical leave in the United Kingdom the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, was rushed on set to read the Riot Act to millions of Nigerians who eagerly waited some sort of communication from their President. He came on and true to script (the script of some individuals and not the script of the masses) admonished Nigerians to toe the path of unity and promised that those who questioned this path would be summarily dealt with.
He understandably said Nigeria’s unity was non-negotiable.
No reasonable Nigerian would expect him to say anything less, but considering the intensity of the acrimonious tide that has bathed the country thus far it would have been advisable to have drawn a distinction between “negotiable” and “debatable”.

The Federal Government seems to have placed a blanket ban on any sort of speech that is critical to the government of the country as well as anything it views to be even remotely inimical to the unity of the country.
There are some who also share the view that any sort of criticism (whether constructive or destructive) against the government or against any institution is “hate speech”.

I earlier said I criticize institutions. 
Institutions do not mean only government. Let me explain.

I criticise the contradictions and extremist tendencies of religions when they put people’s lives or their way of life at risk, for instance like some elements in Islam, but I acknowledge there are many very good people who are Muslims. 
I will NEVER condemn anyone merely for the faith he chooses to practice, particularly when it does not affect the liberties of others.

I support people’s rights to their actions (as long as they harm no other person) although I may not support some of those actions. For instance, while I respect people’s rights to their sexual preference and will never condemn anyone on that basis I still will never support any such lifestyle.
Anyone has the right to find his/her sexual satisfaction in anything as long as it does not disturb another.
I will not begrudge you that right although I am convinced it is NOT a right but a wrong.
Just because it might be legal doesn’t make it moral.
I believe there is a moral code put in the conscience of every human being to guide him in the right direction.
Borrowing a leaf from God I respect people’s rights to their lifestyles although I might not approve of that lifestyle.
A person has a right to be an atheist or freethinker, a homosexual or bisexual, or any other thing they might want but I also have a right not to support that lifestyle.
Like I said earlier, God respects people’s rights and this is why He will not impose Himself on anyone. He wants everyone to know Him and willingly follow Him and although He knows not everyone will He still will not compel anyone to.
But the fact that He will allow people make up their minds to go to hell if they choose to does not mean He supports or endorses anyone going to hell. It is not His wish. But be that as it may it is still the way He works.
I like that style and have adopted it.
I will love people the way God loves them and always strive to make a distinction between the act and the actor.

My reservations and dislike are channelled towards institutions, lifestyles and systems, NEVER towards people.

I criticise atheism because it is a godless and soulless contraption that will spawn more tinder for hell. Although I consider that they are deluded and blind to the Truth I still love atheists and it is my desire to do what I can to help deliver them from the fires of perdition.

I love humanity, but I hate all things that attempt to deride and pervert humanity.
I hate oppression, injustice, deception, perversion, nepotism, inequity and all the evils I have elucidated above.
Especially when they are institutionalized. 

I will speak against them.
That is NOT hate speech….

I will speak about and demand better conditions of living and the need for everyone to come together and have a meeting to arrive at a unanimous decision for our collective destiny.
That is not hate speech.

I read a beautiful article by one Tayo Oke in a Nigerian daily (Punch Newspapers. September 5th, 2017) and I will put up some excerpts from it-

“The ruling elites in this country, with the quiescence of the mainstream media, fearful of the rising tide of demand for devolution of powers, have done the law-abiding citizens of this great country a great disservice by conflating legitimate political agitation, and ‘hate speech’…the Ministry of Information and Culture has since been airing advertisements on the horrors of ‘hate speech’…the premise upon which this benevolent ‘public information’ effort is based is seriously flawed, and is potentially dangerous. It is like a landlord who chooses to evict (rather than talk to) a recalcitrant tenant loaded with a gallon of petrol and a match in his hand.
What happens next to that house does not even bear thinking about for all concerned…..
Nigeria’s nationality question is not one of territory, but one of governability. It will remain (so) until it is resolved through a Sovereign National Conference of all ethnic affiliations, at the end of which the people would have spoken. 
That said, I am conscious of the fact that although it may well be shared by millions of others in the country, this is only one person’s view being set out here.
 It is equally important to acknowledge the fact that there may well be other equally large number of people with an interest in maintaining the status quo under the guise of ‘protecting Nigeria’s unity’. Others, still may wish to recreate their own latter day version of the Berlin Conference (the partitioning and slicing up of Nigeria into independent entities) here and now. If this is so, we need to hear the argument in either of these directions so it can be debunked. We cannot maintain Nigeria’s unity by stifling the voices of dissent, and hiding behind the nebulous epithet of ‘hate speech’…When a speech challenges authority and the status quo we baulk and sniff at its audacity and ‘divisiveness’. Why? Because that takes us into the realm of power and politics; the exclusive preserve of the ruling elites, or, so they think…
Contestation of ideas and controversy over who gets what, where and when do not amount to ‘hate speech’; it is the bread and butter of modern democratic politics. By putting a blanket ban on ‘hate speech’, the Nigerian establishment may be gathering for dinner on a powder keg. Apart from that, there is no gainsaying that any attempt to silence dissent would simply drive it underground. The police and other security agencies have been ordered to be on the lookout for perpetrators of ‘hate speech’…
For those who wish to use this to muzzle the quest for devolution of power in this country, I only wish they would heed Victor Hugo’s timeless aphorism: ‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.'”

THE CONCEPT OF DEJA VU (Part 2)

THE CONCEPT OF DEJA VU (Part II): OTHER “EXPLANATIONS”

We began this series on understanding the phenomenon of Deja Vu by pointing out the various potential explanations I heard a group of people giving over this phenomenon. 

We first defined Deja Vu, and one of the definitions we gave of it was- “…a feeling of familiarity that is brought about after the sensation that a person has been through the exact same sequence of things he is presently passing through.” And in the first installment we saw how the concepts of Monism and Pluralism fail to explain Deja Vu, because the best way to understand the world is through a dualist perspective. 
Another explanation proffered for the occurrence of Deja Vu in that group talk was the “Multiverse Theory”. 
Let us just give a brief overview of the multiverse thesis- from www.allaboutscience.org:-

“The multiverse concept is founded upon the idea that what we have hitherto considered to be ‘the universe’ is but a small component of a vast assemblage of universes. According to the multiverse thesis, each universe may differ with regards to their physical laws, in such a way that all conceivable constants and laws are represented in a universe somewhere. The hypothesis is intimately associated with the so-called Anthropic Principle, which states that our own existence acts as a selection principle determining which properties of the universe we can observe. That is to say, any observed properties of the universe which may at first seem to be astonishingly improbable can only be seen in their true perspective after we realize that other properties couldn’t be observed by us, since we can only observe properties of the universe which are conducive to our own existence. The Anthropic Principle is thus used by many people, often in conjunction with the Multiverse principle, to show why we shouldn’t be surprised at the astonishingly improbable fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life…”

Let me pick it up from here. 
So the multiverse theory basically states that the universe we all live in is just one of many other universes, and all the things we observe in our universe are a result of a selection principle that makes us only able to take note of phenomena that apply to us as human beings. The implication is that there is really nothing that is ruled out because even if we are able to thoroughly explore this universe in which we belong we still will never know all there is to know because there are other universes running concurrently.

Now, the interesting little twist the people in that discussion group put into this was the thought that the multiverse was a number of many different universes all running simultaneously with different versions of the same individual existing and living parallel lives all at the same time. By way of illustration, let’s assume you are Mr. A and you obviously live on planet Earth in the Milky Way galaxy which is one of many galaxies in our universe, according to this theory you will have as many equivalents (different versions of you) as there are universes, and each version of you will be living out his life in a different and specific universe at the very same time. All of these supposed versions are connected in some way.
So they try to explain Deja Vu as recalling in your universe something that had happened to another version of you in another universe.

This sounds pretty nice and mystical except for some apparent flaws in that argument.

One of such flaws would of course be that as a scientific construct it falls flat against basic scientific procedure.

The same article continues- 
“Without a scientifically rigorous means by which such a multiverse concept can be tested, verified and falsified, the idea remains as but a conjecture — a fudge factor invoked merely to evade the apparent design of our cosmos. In addition, the idea suffers from a number of scientific difficulties and problems — but a handful of which are discussed herein. 
Whereas one knows that one universe exists, one does not — nor can — know whether more than one universe exists. Once observers exist in universe A, the theory of general relativity indicates that the space-time envelope of that universe can never overlap the space-time envelope of any other possibly existing universe. In other words, even if God made ten universes, we would forever lack the scientific means to detect any universe besides our own. The sample size of universes therefore is limited to one. Thus, the only rational option is that there exists only one universe and that God exquisitely designed the universe for the benefit of mankind.”

The scientific means to detect parallel universes does not exist so such a thought will remain at the level of speculation.

But I find that an even more rudimentary flaw in this argument is this- it will not be possible for different versions of an individual to live at the same time in different universes while having the same experiences happening simultaneously and still be able to have the memory of a certain experience that has happened to an equivalent in another universe. Strictly following the multiverse logic this argument will defeat itself because since you cannot have a memory of something that is either yet to happen or is presently happening it will make no sense to imply that a version of Mr. A would have done something in a parallel universe before another version of Mr. A does it in another universe if they are both meant to be occurring at the same time.
So, if we rule out the multiverse theory as being responsible for Deja Vu could there be other explanations?

Someone else came up with an intelligent presentation of what he believed was responsible for the Deja Vu phenomenon- Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.
According to Wikipedia “Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is a chronic disorder of the nervous system characterized by recurrent, unprovoked focal seizures that originate in the temporal lobe of the brain and last about one or two minutes. TLE is the most common form of epilepsy with focal seizures. People with TLE may experience simple partial seizures that only affect the temporal lobe or complex partial seizures that spread to other regions of the brain.”

One type of TLE is classified into simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures and among other things symptoms of simple partial seizures include amnesia and déjà Vu according to them.
Now all these sound nice and scientific but for one thing. 
I will explain what that thing is-
Arthur Funkhouser (PhD) has done over a period of years an in-depth study of and an extensive research into the concept of deja vu and made some interesting observations and classifications. 
Funkhouser states that there are three forms of déjà vu: déjà vecu, déjà senti, and déjà visite. 
“Déjà vecu is most similar to the widely acknowledged definition of déjà vu. It is the feeling that the present scenario has been experienced in the past – the details are identical and it is possible to predict what will happen next. While in the midst of déjà vecu, the detail of the experience is astounding, and the person is conscious that the present scenario conforms to their memory of it. Déjà senti is best described as an act of reminiscing, triggered by a thought or a voice. It is distinguished from déjà vecu by the following: 1. it is primarily a mental occurrence, 2. there are no existing precognitive aspects where the person has the ability to foretell an action and 3. it often times escapes the person’s memory afterwards.  Déjà visite, unlike the other forms of déjà, is overtly physical or geographical. The experience is associated with a location, familiar inanimate objects, or a particular situation. Commonly it is experienced as the feeling of a location seeming familiar, despite the fact that it is, in the present, a new experience. Furthermore, Funkhouser adds to the phenomena of déjà vu by mentioning that it is possible to experience the interplay of all three forms of déjà vu and other phenomena exist, which closely resemble this synthesis.”

Now, the most common type of deja Vu among the three listed by Funkhouser is déjà vecu. This one in addition to producing an awareness that the present being experienced has occurred previously also makes the person passing through the experience able to predict exactly what next would happen.
And this is where the flaw in the Temporal Lobe Epilepsy explanation shows up. 
How does a seizure, any type of seizure or mental/physiological condition,  enable a person predict, most times in the exact sequence, the nature and order of things that are about to follow?
In these cases we see they are not mere prognostications but actually predictions.
It just makes no sense to claim any physical or psychological ailment could be responsible for the ability of a human to foretell a set of actions or phenomena in the exact sequence especially when they have absolutely no or very little control over them.

And so I now offer my thoughts on what is responsible for the phenomenon of deja Vu.

Man is a very interesting creature. He transcends every other creature and even those that do not believe in Intelligent Design and the supernatural will readily assent to the fact that human beings are in a different class of being to animals in several respects.
Although materialists might scoff at this even when they clearly do not have the answers it is apparent that man has a deeper dimension of existence and reality than do animals.
Man is essentially a spirit being, he has a soul and he lives in a body. In the soul there lie the mind, emotions and willpower, but these are faculties that belong to the human spirit, and it is the human spirit that is the real man.
As a result of this all human beings, whether they know it or not, exist in a spiritual realm. It is the physical body that exists in time and changes with time, but time in and of itself does not change the human spirit; this is because the human spirit exists in a realm without calibration. The human spirit exists in the realm of eternity. As a result of this there are things the human spirit knows and information it is privy to that the human mind has no access to.
In fact, through my experiences and the studies I have done I have come to the conclusion that just like the body carries the DNA that carries the coding of everything in a person’s past with regard to where he is from the human spirit has a coding as a result of its connection with the unseen world that has everything in a person’s future and where he is going to.
In fact a portion of the Bible clearly highlights this-

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” 
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New International Version)

The “human heart” the above scripture speaks of is the human spirit. The implication of this is everything that has to do with my future is coded in my spirit.
Now I am convinced that what we call déjà Vu is an occasional glimpse into what has already been deposited in the human spirit concerning certain things that are yet to happen. They seem to have happened because in eternity there is no past, present, or future; there is no five years ago or five years later in the spiritual realm. Invariably everything is an endless sea of “now”, so the human spirit has the tendency to treat everything as now. But when it occurs we have a feeling that this has happened before, because in a sense it already has.
So phenomena like these occur as windows are opened connecting  and the human spirit to the human mind and transmitting thoughts from the former to the latter.

This is what I am convinced is the explanation of the phenomenon of deja Vu. 

THE CONCEPT OF DEJA VU: MONISM, PLURALISM, AND DUALISM

Deja Vu is a French term, which literally means “already seen”. It is the phenomenon of having the strong inkling that something you are currently experiencing has already been experienced before. It is a feeling of familiarity that is brought about after the sensation that a person has been through the exact same sequence of things he is presently passing through. 

Some of you reading this right now might have been in a situation for example where you found yourself maybe at a restaurant you had never been to before yet recognizing to the last detail everything that took place including the guy ordering food in a red shirt accompanied by the lady with a yellow tank top and brown hair and you said to yourself “Wait a second, this has happened before. I have been here before”.
It probably is not the same as above that happened to you but you might have been through a similar situation where you felt that this was familiar.

I almost see someone nodding her head in acknowledgment.

So let’s talk about this phenomenon and see how we can explain it as there are obviously people who have questions on it. 

I was directed to and saw an interesting post on the phenomenon of Deja Vu, and I saw several people in their comments to the original article speculating on what could be the explanation behind it.
Some spoke about Monism and Pluralism, while others suggested it was the “Multiverse Theory” that is most appropriate in explaining it. Yet another introduced the possibility of the person who has such occurrences being a sufferer of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). 

I looked with interest at the variety of potential explanations they each put forward and told myself it would be good to unpack these and see what they all mean. 
I will break the unveiling of this concept and its nature into installments and will run it as a series.

This will be the first installment. 

So, let us start by taking a look  at the first suggested explanation for Deja Vu- “Monism and Pluralism”

Monism is the metaphysical and theological view that all is one, that there are no fundamental divisions, and that a unified set of laws underlie all of nature. Monism denies a distinction between body and soul, matter and spirit, and object and subject.
Everything according to the monist has one source, and for most of them it is the mind. Metaphysical thoughts like “mind over matter” and the “law of attraction” are largely monist thoughts.

Pluralism at the other extreme sees life as being a result of a multiplicity of factors. Religions like Hinduism that offer a plethora of gods for each circumstance and situation are patterned after pluralist thought.
In Epistemology “pluralism is the claim that there are several conflicting but still true descriptions of the world, and that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life”.
We see that this train of thought is popular with traditionalists and adherents of polytheistic religions.

In Ethics, pluralism is “the supposition that there are many independent sources of value and that there is no single truth, even in moral matters.” What is right for one does not have to be right for the other.
Invariably what this means is that Pluralism is essentially the same as Relativism when it comes to Ethics.
Let me break down what that means. It literally means that nothing is right or wrong as there are no absolutes. Everything is right and wrong and both concepts are relative to who is asking, the situation in which he finds himself and what he stands to gain.
It is then neither right nor is it wrong to take another person’s spouse as yours as truth is relative. If it feels good then just do it.

I will gloss over the confusion in those patterns of thought.

The best way to understand life and existence is through a dualist perspective. 
Dualism, in it’s moral sense, has been defined as the belief of the conflict between the benevolent and the malevolent. It simply implies that there are two moral opposites at work. 
The dualist perspective distinguishes between good and evil, spirit and matter, and soul/spirit and body.

Think of spirit and matter for a second.
In the book of Genesis there are two words used in the creation process. The first Aramaic word used in the creation process is the word “Bara”; that word shows up throughout the first chapter in Genesis and is what is used for practically everything created, including man in chapter 1:27.
It means to “create” or make out of nothing tangible.
So we see that man was created in the first chapter, but when we look at the second chapter we see that the Bible records that man was then formed out of the dust of the earth (chapter 2:7).
When a casual observer takes a look at the creation story he assumes there is a contradiction as it looks as though man was created twice. 
There is no contradiction, yet man was created twice. 
Understand that two different words were used.
The second word is the Aramaic word “Asah” and it means to make out of pre-existing material. This is the word defined as “formed” in chapter 2:7.

God first created from and in the intangible realm, and then made in the tangible physical realm. He formed in the tangible realm what He first created in the intangible.
Everything we see exists in two dimensions- the tangible and the intangible. 
God first created things in the intangible 4th dimensional world before manifesting the things He created in the tangible 3 dimensional world we live in. 
And that is the pattern God uses with everything He does. Remember the following statement- GOD FINISHES EVERYTHING BEFORE HE STARTS IT.  
Everything is created twice. 
It is first created in the spiritual realm before it is created physically,  just like the translating of a script to a movie; the script is first conceived and written, after it is ended then it begins.
There is an invisible and intangible world, this invisible world has a higher level of traffic than the tangible and physical world in which we live. 
Some people scoff at suggestions like these but it does not change the fact that there are many more things that exist that cannot be seen than there are that can. 

On a handkerchief or face towel exists more bacteria than there are human beings in most major and densely populated cities yet it was only recently equipment was developed to pick up on those previously invisible beings we now call bacteria, germs, viruses and microbes. 
A man could be sick with a fever and be vibrating with intensity and people would not know what was wrong with him, but it would be those almost invisible beings that would be responsible for the issue. 
There is a spirit world and there is a physical world. Spirits exist and since life abhors vacuum everyone at some point or the other is under the influence of the invisible. 
The Holy Spirit can take control of people and function through them, and evil spirits/demons can also take control of people and function through them. People tend to manifest the characteristics of what spirit is in control of them.  Demons in control of people is a bit like a car whose driver has been kidnapped and thrown into the trunk by a violent criminal who then begins to drive the car very roughly in his bid to evade law enforcement.
The car will take on the nature and characteristics of the driver.
Being driven by a responsible person the car will stop at traffic lights and stop signs and will keep within the speed limit, but when a drunk, a junkie, or an erratic person takes control of the same car it literally becomes a dangerous weapon that can put everyone at risk.
The same car but different characteristics with different drivers.
The same way it is with human beings. People are like cars being driven by different drivers, some cars being driven by several different drivers at different times.

This is not to put every errant behavior or act on the activities of demons but to point out that they do exist as do other spirits like angels. They exist and exercise different levels of influence over the physical world. This is what dualism is about.

Yet dualism in its purest form (or absolute dualism) does not explain the supremacy of God over the devil.
In the context of the problem of evil, evil is not the opposite of good, rather it is just the absence of good. Evil has no existence in itself anymore than darkness exists in itself. Darkness is not as much an independent phenomenon as it is the absence of light. 
Where there is no light there is darkness, and where there is no good there is evil.

C.S Lewis referred to evil as a parasite, this is because he viewed evil as something that cannot exist without good to provide it with existence. That is a very good way of looking at it.
Absolute dualism is not a proper representation of what exists between God and the devil, this is because if we consider the law of equals and opposites we realize that for something to have an opposite it must first have an equal. God and Satan (aka Lucifer) are not opposites; this is because God has no equal, thus no opposite. 
A more appropriate comparison would be between Michael the archangel, rather than God, and Lucifer the devil.
So the dualism I subscribe to is not Absolute Dualism but Limited Dualism- the type of dualism where the devil attempts to frustrate God’s plan but only because of the Freewill given by God and the duration He allows it last for. 
Monism and Pluralism do not explain the concept of Deja Vu; it is actually Dualism that does and in subsequent articles we will understand just how this works.
We will continue this series in the next installment. You do not want to miss it for anything.  

THE MONASTIC CYCLE (Part II)

THE MONASTIC CYCLE (Part II)

I had finished writing and had a few days earlier posted the first installment of the Monastic Cycle before I got into an interesting conversation that led to the writing of the second. 
I was speaking with a friend of mine, an economist and senior lecturer in a private university of repute, and we were discussing the article when the terms “economy of salvation” came up. I had never thought of such a construct before; so I sat back to listen to him as he told me how the concept of the Monastic Cycle I had brought up fit into the science of economics.
Among several other things he said, he said to me- “Suffering is what scarcity is in economics.  Scarcity determines value and it is for this reason that need is essential in seeking God.”

I immediately understood what he meant as I had done some research previously on human nature and why it was that we only turned to God in our times of need. That was the basis for the article on the Monastic Cycle in the first place. 
The need makes us seek God and along with the material benefits that seeking Him brings there is order, meaning, and some sort of structure that is added to our lives. 
However, for most humans there is a tendency to turn away from Him the moment we assume we have achieved or attained the comfort, convenience, or relief that made us turn to Him from the onset.

That turning away brings considerable tragedy, disadvantages and pain for the whole community and society that does so. It has implications for the lives of those who do.

I once heard a person recount a story he heard from someone many years ago. Many decades ago in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, that “someone”, a missionary was preaching in a village marketplace; he held up a Book and said to the people- “This is God’s Book!” Then he explained to the people how it would affect every area of their lives. After he spoke, and the crowd dispersed, a man walked up to him and told him the story of his tribe. His ancestors had had a Book they lived by and it produced unprecedented prosperity in their land far west of the great mountains; but one thing led to another and complacency entered. His forebears were then driven from their lands and in a perilous crossing over the mountains to the east they lost the Book.
Generations later the tribe did not know how to live anymore as they had lost the Book that was a compass for every area of their lives.
The man then told the missionary that two weeks prior to their meeting an old lady from his tribe had a dream of a foreigner standing in a village marketplace and holding up the Book. She saw in her dream that if the elders sent someone on that particular day he would meet the foreigner. So the man looked at the missionary and asked a simple question- “Will you bring God’s Book to my tribe so that we will know how to live again?”

In this second part of the “Monastic Cycle” we will take a historical journey through the annals of time and see that there is a common tragedy among different people groups throughout the various epochs in history; the tragedy of losing God’s Book and forgetting how to live. We will see records that clearly reveal that when a critical mass of people have this Book and apply what it teaches in their lives, a nation is transformed; in like manner whenever a critical number of people abandon this Book and stop applying it in their personal lives, that nation begins to destroy itself. 

According to Americans for Divorce Reform the divorce rate in the U.S is one of the highest in the world with 43 % of first marriages ending in separation or divorce within fifteen years. America is said to have more than two million inmates incarcerated in prison- the highest per capita in the world. I will not speak much of its alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, and pornography epidemics.
Interestingly, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, more than 84 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. 
The apparent contradiction in this is resolved when we consider the results of a 2002 poll by the Barna Group of Ventura, California which shows that only 7 percent of adults aged eighteen to thirty-five make moral choices based on the Bible.
In Western Europe the situation is worse; according to the European Values Study only 21 percent of Europeans say religion is “very important” to them and just 15 percent attend a place of worship once a week. I would wager that a great number of these people that attend a place of worship are likely to be from both Sub-Saharan and North Africa. Europeans increasingly view a belief in God and the concept of religion as an irritant and an impediment to progress. 

But it was not always like this. We saw in the first part of this series (Monastic Cycle part I) that Gordon Cosby, the founding pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington D.C, noted a pattern as he studied the evolution of religious orders. Like we said in the first part-
“First, an idealist attracts people with a strong sense of devotion. The devotees then form a community. Usually there are certain behavioral traits  that become prevalent in most of such communities. One of such traits is discipline- hence the strict rules of founders of orders like Benedict and Ignatius.
 Disciplined groups tend to prosper, this is because discipline creates industry and industry produces wealth, but that very success ultimately undermines the group’s commitment and leads to self-indulgence, and at this point the movement begins to fall apart. 
All these happen and then someone comes along to revive the spirit of idealism. After this happens the cycle starts over again.”

In England in the time of John Wesley (1703-1791), the Monastic Cycle was at the bottom phase and English society desperately needed that idealist who would lead the upsurge. The wealthy elite who were products of the revivals that ensued out of the practice of the principles enunciated by the Bible from pulpits of yore had grown complacent and over time had become impervious to the needs of the less privileged. There was no advocate for the poor and the oppressed. There was terrible hunger in the land. The weak and the young succumbed to epidemics of tuberculosis, diphtheria, and cholera. Children of the poor, from as early as the ages of four and five, went working in factories and mines, often working for more than twelve hours a day in hazardous conditions. In textile factories little children were scalped while crawling under big machines to pick up loose cotton; several fell into the machinery and died.
In the mines, children hauled large baskets of coal on their backs. Because animals cost too much to replace owners used small children to work the coal mines. Businessmen took advantage of the poor to build their empires and the Church of England did nothing.

It was against this backdrop that John Wesley emerged.

While studying at Oxford he became disenchanted with what he saw. The disconnect between the Church and society, the low morals and the unbridled cruelty, and the complacency of the clergy. Being a clergyman himself he felt a need to reform those practices and aspects of Church culture that were not in consonance with what he read in the Bible. He felt the need to help make the adjustments that would see to it that the Book produced the transformation in society he knew it could.
Having been rejected by members of the Establishment he began to reach out to thousands of people. As he was not given the opportunity to share in church buildings he went out in open squares and fields, preaching and making converts by the thousands. From them he trained over ten thousand small group leaders and with them discipled the larger body of new believers; they were taught accountability, honesty, leadership, godliness, the value of hard work, and love and respect for one another among other things.
His work led to the emergence of a middle class that moved the economy of England and also produced new innovations and products that led to the transformation of society. 
An example of John Wesley’s work was a businessman named Samuel Plimsoll who constantly witnessed the sinking of merchant ships and the subsequent drowning of hundreds of sailors and employees as a consequence of the overloading of the vessels. Most of these merchants were fond of this because they made huge insurance claims and maximized their “losses” in order to make humongous recoveries. 
To combat this Plimsoll created a device, since called the “Plimsoll Mark”, which marked a line on the ship to indicate a safe loading level. 
Other examples of the Wesleyan Reformation include Florence Nightingale who developed the modern nursing profession, and Elizabeth Fry, who led the reformation of the prison system.
William and Catherine Booth picked up Wesley’s legacy, and having been directly influenced by his writings and teachings they went on to found the Salvation Army, an organization that has done arguably the most work for the poor. 
As the reforms that John Wesley produced from the Bible worked in England many of the nation’s elite watched in trepidation as the French Revolution (1789-1799) saw the massive uprising that led to the killings of members of the upper class constituted by members of the French monarchy, it’s nobles, and the corrupt priests who had used religion as a tool of subversion. The movements led by the Wesleys prevented the same outcome from occurring in England. 

Earlier, it was a similar position Martin Luther found Germany in. Things had gotten to the bottom, there was a massive wave of corruption and the rot that was a characteristic of the Dark Ages saw to it that there was complete spiritual and academic illiteracy among the masses. The nobles and priests had exclusive authority and the people were kept under perpetual servitude by keeping them ignorant and separating them from truth. 
Luther was a young man in 16th Century Saxony who entered a monastery of Augustinian hermits while hoping to find salvation for his soul. After trying everything he could he felt all the more lost as he soon found that no amount of works would soothe the guilt he bore. As he heeded the advice of the leader of the Order of hermits in the monastery he began to search the Scriptures himself. While on a trip to Rome after being sent on an errand by his abbot he came to the “very gates of heaven” as Rome was then called; while there he opted to do more penance by walking on his knees up the stairs as he was instructed; the tradition was that a person could receive a fifteen year reprieve from “purgatory” if he did this. It was as he did this he heard a voice that said to him “The just shall live by faith”, he realized this was a portion of scripture he had seen in the Book of Romans, this scripture made such a deep impression on him after he heard this voice speak it to his heart that he got up from there and walked away.

While in Rome he was further burdened by the licentiousness and greed that was a normal occurrence in the behavior of the priests who supposedly stayed at the “very gates of heaven.” He was completely appalled by what he saw and this first led him to seek personal reformation. Six years after his ordination into the priesthood of the Catholic Church and being a professor at the University in Wittenberg he had a personal conversion experience; he felt the power of God’s Word and His Spirit in such a profound way that he immediately went out to start preaching that salvation was a gift from God and was to be received by faith, it was nothing to be earned.
In 1517, Martin Luther went out to write his famous “ninety nine theses” that addressed issues of repentance, forgiveness of sin, and the greed and worldliness of the church hierarchy. What followed was a storm that took the world apart and caused total transformation as the Monastic Cycle took its course. 

As Luther translated the Bible into common language and spread it in the hands of the masses there was mass education as people learned to read and write. They soon found that as they could read the Bible they could also decipher Arithmetics, read Architecture and write Poetry. It is not coincidental that the Reformation practically coincided with that period in history called the Enlightenment.
The Reformers launched reading programs across Germany and other parts of Europe. People were taught to read the Bible and could thus read other things like political pamphlets, news, and books on everything from Geography to Geometry. All kinds of information was then deployed, and this led to the spread of innovations and the release of creative energies. 

As Loren Cunningham noted about the renaissance in Germany at this time, “This changed all of history. Before this, there was no generally rich country on earth. Kings and tyrants were individually wealthy. A few aristocrats were wealthy. But not the common people. Individual potential exploded after the people were empowered by the concept of the priesthood of all believers. And as people learned to read, unprecedented numbers began to use their minds ever more broadly, coming up with ideas that created wealth and changed the lives of many. A middle class blossomed, and whole nations became wealthy after a significant number of people applied the Word of God in their lives. The gaining of new knowledge began to pick up speed. For centuries Europe had actually lagged behind the Middle East and Far East in creative development. They forgot much of their inheritance from Greece and Rome, while the Islamic world happily absorbed it and built on it. The Arabs invented the numbers we all use and the concept of zero; the Chinese had many inventions before the West, including paper and gunpowder. But these innovations soon paled in comparison to bright, new discoveries coming out of Europe. ”

Mariano Grondona, a professor of government at the Law Faculty of the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, made a remarkable statement in an article “A Cultural Typology of Economic Development” in the book “Culture Matters” after many years of painstaking research.
In listing his discoveries he said no country was a developed nation before the 1600s, neither in the East nor in the West: “It was the Protestant Reformation that first produced economic development in northern Europe and North America.” He then added that today the rate of economic growth in Protestant countries had declined in part because of the cooling of religious fervor.

We find that the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the Bible as a whole in society are not limited to the economy or educational sector.
In the United States Common Law there are Bible verses certain things are premised on, according to David Burton, constitutional expert, political historian, and author of “The Jefferson Lies” and “God in the Constitution”, John 8:10 was the basis for which a person became constitutionally empowered to stand before his accusers, while Proverbs 18:17 was the basis for the concept of cross-examination in Common Law. 

We find that the Monastic Cycle played a role through the history of practically all developed nations, and we can also trace the dire straits most of such countries found themselves in to the last few phases of the same Cycle, the point at which they turned their backs on the very factors that paved the foundations of their greatness. 

LEADERSHIP SERIES- THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL (Part II)

Leadership

LEADERSHIP SERIES
(THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL- PART II)

When we take a look at the disciples of Jesus we notice that He didn’t go in search of those with the most impressive CVs. In fact it would seem that He deliberately went for those who had very obvious defects. There was something that attracted Him to deficient and weak people, He would rather be involved in the making of others than celebrate finished products. 
This is quite different from the kind of “leadership” many chief executives and socio-political leaders are involved in giving. If you have ever been involved in human resource development in any capacity whatsoever, whether as the pastor of a church, as the team leader in a unit at your workplace, or as a teacher who is genuinely interested in the lives of the students you teach you  would have had first hand knowledge of how arduous it is to train or develop people.
The easier things to do would be to avoid “raw material” and go for the “finished products.” 

Jesus did neither.

He knew that the most profound treasures were hidden under huge volumes of dross and dirt. He knew that the treasure in the human resource was no different and as long as there was a longing for change in the heart of man and a predilection to work towards it there would be nothing that could hinder transformation from manifesting.
So He picked His twelve and did not pick men who had no reason or desire to be helped. 

It would seem to the untrained eye that He had a bunch of very unpromising recruits; men who would ordinarily not be considered by most of us for such a sensitive task even though most of us are very much like the same men. 

Consider Matthew (also known as Levi) the tax collector. Matthew essentially had a franchise to collect taxes, some of which he most likely kept for himself, while remitting the remainder to the Roman authorities to help support their pagan system. Tax collectors were so hated by the populace that calling a person a tax collector (or publican) by way of insult was considered one of the most derogatory and demeaning invectives.
By rabbinic custom Matthew could never enter the temple, never give testimony in court, and never be forgiven for his sins. No God-fearing Jews would have anything to do with him. That was how much of a traitor he was considered to be.
Yet Jesus picked this outcast among Jews as one of His twelve disciples, and Matthew had the privilege of writing one of the four gospels. 

We could easily imagine why Jesus could be tagged a renegade and trouble maker by some people when we see how He recruited insurgents like James and John the sons of Zebedee to fit into His core circle of twelve apostles. These were people that were known as “the Boanerges”, and the “sons of thunder.”
A little glimpse into the background to all these would explain the mindset and prevailing orthodoxy under which these men operated. 
The Roman Empire ruled over much of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
One of the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, Judaea was a land of ancient traditions and religious fervor and decades of Roman rule were causing ever more resentment among the indigenous people. 
During the first century, Rome had dominion over Israel.  In 63 BC, after the Romans invaded and conquered Jerusalem, in order to keep control over the Galilean and Judean peoples, Julius Caesar and the Senate installed Herod as king. He became one of Caesar Augustus’ favorite military leaders, and was admired by the new emperor because of his immense development program. He undertook several projects successfully and had administrative acumen that endeared him to the Roman authorities.  
Not only did Herod expand the Temple in Jerusalem to be more grandiose and Hellenistic-Roman in style, but he also imposed a sacrifice that the priests would give on behalf of Rome and the emperor.  

Additionally, Herod had whole cities named to give reverence to Caesar as well as imperial temples and fortresses to reinforce Roman control.  The great building campaigns were not possible without taxing the peoples of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea greatly; leaving the majority in poverty.  Not only were they required to pay taxes to the Empire, but they continued to function as a “temple-state” and were also required to pay the customary tithes and sacrifices of the Jewish religion.  There was an intense offense against the Romans that was the product of being forced into idolatry along with the difficult economic reality they imposed on them.
As one writer stated:
“The demand for tribute to Rome and taxes to Herod imposed on them in addition to the willful tithes and offerings to the Temple and priesthood dramatically escalated the economic pressures on peasant producers, whose livelihood was perennially marginal at best.  After decades of multiple demands from multiple layers of rulers many village families fell increasingly into debt and were faced with loss of their family inheritance of land.  The impoverishment of families led to the disintegration of village communities, the fundamental social form of such an agrarian society…”

 The Jews responded in various ways to the rule of Rome and the appointed governors and client-kings.
 The first response saw some Jews, as in the case of the Sadducean priestly order and the Herodian dynasty, live in compromise and subservience to the Empire, implementing the Romans’ wishes and playing the classic Uncle Tom role; this was deliberately designed to secure their place in the scheme of things and maintain the status quo. These people effectively sabotaged all efforts of their kith and kin to attain redemption from the Romans and in return they were rewarded with positions and the perks of office that came with them. 
The second kind of response from another group of Jews was a basic acceptance of Roman rule, with an implied readiness to challenge the Empire when Roman injustice became too much to bear. This “challenge”  was usually carried out as nonviolent subversion and protests.  
The third response was a total and complete rejection, though nonviolent, of Roman rule.  
The fourth way that Jews responded to this circumstance was embodied by the Zealots in violent rejection of Rome, this would lead to the eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
 It is in this fourth category you would find James and John “the sons of thunder.”

To think that even after their three years of close proximity to Jesus while He walked on the earth they would still be asking if the aim of His death and resurrection was to lead the final insurrection against Rome that would overthrow it and put Israel in its place was astounding.
He was patient and simply told them it was not in their place to know what times and seasons God had set in His power.

Of course we realize He did not leave them the same way He met them. He was patient to guide them through their misguided notions and obstinacy. He had spent three years teaching them and pointing them towards a superior ideology that was extra-natural, the ideology of the Kingdom of God. Even after all these they were still asking at His resurrection “Will you now restore the Kingdom (authority) to Israel?” (Acts :6)

These were examples of the human raw material He had to work with.

It is completely superfluous to speak about the likes of Judas Iscariot whose penchant for avarice Jesus already knew sufficient about before selecting him to be part of the twelve.
There was Thomas who is the poster boy for incertitude and skepticism. 
There was of course Peter who was noted for his impetuousness, instability, and garrulousness.
These were just some of the other members of the group of twelve whose individual dispositions were equally dismal.

I cannot but imagine the dreary outlook a person who took a cursory glance at this bunch would feel, especially when one considers that it was these same men that would be the custodians of divine secrets. 
It was on these men that all hope for the advancement of the Kingdom of God would lie. 
Jesus did not just take a casual glance at them, He took a long look and saw potential that many of us would not see.
This is the way God sees- He sees the possibility in every “impossibility.” He sees the finished product in the primal matter of the human resource.

It is this same perspective that sets the genuinely strong apart from those that have some indices of power and thus think they are strong.
True strength is measured by how the “strong” treat the weak. 
There are human beings who imbibed this same mindset through history, and it was this mentality that made them strong in the eyes of God.
The one who is genuinely strong is the one that protects the weak. 
The one who is genuinely strong is not the one who is willing to trample on others in order to look like something he is not, he is the one who wants to make men.
He is the one who is committed to making heroes out of zeroes.

This is the kind of leadership we must all aspire to give, and the sort of leader we must all strive to be.

CLASS DIVISION, SOCIAL STRATIFICATION, AND GOD’s POSITION (Part 2)

You may choose to judge me or disregard my thoughts, but I do not believe in evolution as it is postulated by materialists, secularists and humanists. I am a creationist because I have seen more than ample evidence of the existence of God and His work. The concept of evolution as it is propagated is not consistent with what I have seen and experienced of the Divine record and expression.

Now, I have mentioned this for two major reasons. The first is that there is another extreme on this spectrum. We have seen that the first extreme has to do with the spread of enmity and hatred through the stratification of society on the basis of individual differences; we have seen how extremely myopic, distasteful, and gross is the behavior of tribalists, racists, misogynists, and every other misguided element that claims superiority over another on the basis of some social difference. If you have ever been discriminated against or been the object of ridicule and scorn because of a basic difference you have from others then you will understand how it is; that is the first extreme, and the other extreme is that one adopted by several people who call themselves Liberals. This extreme is the first reason for which I have said the above. 

This extreme they have adopted is the one that seeks to completely abolish all differences and embrace the concept of All-Inclusiveness. Humanists among them espouse the absolute pre-eminence of humanity in the universal order, and as such believe that human beings are superior to everything- including God, if He exists. For them there are no absolutes, there is no right or wrong, everybody’s right and wrong is relative so you cannot say anything is certain in moral terms since there is really no objective standard for measurement. Thus they expect and demand that everyone, irrespective of their beliefs and practices, as long as they do not “harm anyone” (physically and immediately speaking) be allowed and even encouraged to live as they please. By so doing there is a social and legal corridor opened for the spread of all kinds of perversion, and by so doing all the things that were once considered as not in line with propriety are increasingly being accepted and considered as appropriate.

The second reason I have said this is to highlight the complete evil of the Humanist concept of Relativism.
Relativism is the concept that viewpoints and perspectives have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, rather their importance, relevance, and value are only relative, and subjective according to differences in individual perception and consideration.
When understood as “moral relativism”, the term is often used in the context of moral principles, where principles and ethics are regarded as applicable in only a limited context. The term, relativism, often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, and that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture.
Relativism, as a denial of absolute truth, leads to moral license and a denial of the possibility of sin and of God; it constitutes a denial of the capacity of the human mind and reason to arrive at truth.

Have we paused in an attempt to understand the implications of such a mindset? Can we relate to the import of this kind of perspective?

The implication is that nothing is right or wrong anymore. Wrong is relative and, for now at least, can only be absolute when it immediately infringes on the rights of another. So this perspective posits for instance that nothing is wrong with a female being sexually attracted to another female as long as it is mutual and does not “affect” a third party; never mind that third party observers can be thrown into an internal conflict of identity when exposed to an environment like this; never mind that children that grow up in such environments are not given the opportunity to be nurtured in the natural order. 

I will divert a bit and then tie in what I am saying with where we are headed. I will first speak about this natural order. In this context the natural order is a family started by a man and a woman; if man and man or woman and woman were natural they would be able to produce their offspring. A basic law of nature is procreation. A basic characteristic of the natural system, and any other system for that matter, is that it is self-propagating. This is why you will find a mango or orange tree that does not produce fruit as unnatural. If it does not produce fruit it will not produce seeds. If it does not produce seed and have the ability and environment to duplicate itself then it is unnatural.
I have learned to obey health laws and so I have along with exercise adopted the act of eating fruits occasionally. One of the days I was having a serving of fruits in my hotel room during one of the conferences  I was speaking in I got thinking about the seedless apples and grapes I was eating and where they came from. So I decided to read up and saw that many fruits today do not come from seeds, rather they come from cuttings. This is true of grapes, blueberries, apples, cherries, and most other fruits designed and prepared scientifically. How it works is that a piece of a vine or branch is cut off, dipped in rooting hormone and after it sucks up the chemical is placed in dirt moistened lightly, it is in this process that roots and leaves form. So because they come from cuttings, new grapevines and other fruits are essentially clones of the vine and trees they were cut from.
Seedless fruits are clones and man-made; God designed nature and put in it the ability to procreate and sustain itself to a degree.

At this point I will state that there is no justification for hating another person on the basis of social distinctions and differences. A person’s sexual desire for another person of the same gender might be a perversion but should not be a reason to hate him or her; the person should be separated from that act in the same way that a patient is separated from the illness. The hatred should be for the disease and not for the sick person. Nobody has a right to hate a person on the basis of his sexual orientation, race, religion, or any other distinctive. We must be very clear about that.
Then again we must not attempt to explain away a terminal illness and make such excuses as “I was born this way”; a child with a congenital heart defect was born that way but that does not make it acceptable to dismiss the condition and accept it as a way of life, especially when something can be done to correct it.

The natural order has variety ingrained in it. By way of illustration think about a pen and a piece of paper, a chair and a table, or a spoon and bowl; the strength is imbued in the variety of the objects. There is very little a pen and a pen can accomplish as a pen cannot write on another pen, a chair and a chair will not give the level of comfort and convenience that a chair and table will provide, and a spoon and a spoon will be useless as it will be awkward while eating to use a spoon to scoop food out of another spoon. In the same way God created black and white (and every race in between), male and female, the varieties in language, and several other distinctions. 
Yet we must note that it was not every distinction that was created by God.
Like there are man made fruits that are genetically engineered and unnatural there are also lifestyles and belief systems that are unnatural.

The reason I now speak about this dimension is that there are people who are completely against every form of discrimination, and I support that, but the way they intend to go about it is the abolition of classes and divisions and the adoption of equality across board. I will use the term “division” in a more positive sense than it is used normally. I am using it as a synonym for distinction rather than an expression of rancor and animosity. 
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines division as “: something that physically divides or separates something else”. So, in this sense the abolition of division is not only a futile task, it is also an incorrect one. 
Some attempt to pursue Inclusiveness  and completely cancel distinctions when appealing for it. This is the driving logic behind the prevalent genre of human rights activists that encompasses the pseudo feminists, liberals, atheists, gay rights activists, pro-life activists, and every other group that fits into their frame of reference.
The mantra is “Equality for All”. And many fail to understand this very simple point- Different choices produce different consequences, and while we may determine our choices we cannot determine the consequences of our choices.
It is for this reason that “Equality for All” will never work…people will never make the same choices.
Historically there is a prevalence of poverty, violence, repression and backwardness that follows a particular religion; not regulating that religion and opening the doors of a secular society to people that espouse it is a choice made by the political class in Europe, the consequences are being seen in Germany and around many parts of Europe where pockets of such Islamists have taken root.
A woman can do what she chooses to do with her body and have unprotected sex with multiple partners, but when the consequence becomes an unwanted pregnancy she cannot in all good conscience kill an unborn child and deny him/her the right to live…the same right granted her. She cannot in all GOOD CONSCIENCE

In the United States the Democratic Party is known for its official position against every form of discrimination, so all minorities find solace in its fold. There are political groups, socio-economic groups, and many of the civil liberties organizations that have those who want to equalize all classes; people that advocate freedom in sexual orientation, people that advocate equality of the sexes, people that advocate freedom of worship, and then those that insist on the “freedom” not to worship (usually by the imposition of atheism), along with many other different groups, find their way into them. 
Usually there is a kindred spirit that binds all these disparate and distinct groups together- the fight against discrimination. That is okay but if it goes beyond that into the abolition of division then what the person is attempting is an abrogation of the divine order. 

There is a difference between division and discrimination and we must realize that division does not have to lead to discrimination. 

There are two things I will say in summary about this- the first is that there are divinely ordained divisions and it is these that serve as the foundation of the natural order. Not accepting racial inequality is not the same thing as not accepting a different sexual orientation. Not accepting domestic abuse is not the same thing as not accepting that a woman does not have the right to kill another human being just because he/she has the misfortune of being in her womb. Not accepting that a person should die for his religious beliefs is not the same thing as not accepting that people should believe in a Supreme Being.
Nobody has a right to force his own interpretation of life down another person’s throat. No human being has the exclusive preserve to arbitrarily determine right and wrong. Only God does.
I know God is the center of the universal order. He is the ultimate Absolute and His perspective is what determines standards of life, humanity, and existence. What He says is right is right and what He says is wrong is wrong. 

The second thing I will say is there is a divinely constituted reward system and this system is based on equity and not equality.

What is consistent with the character of God when it concerns blessings, productivity, and reward is equity not equality. This is why He is a God of justice.
A Work and Reward system is premised on Equity.
All the parables used to describe the workings of the Kingdom delineate this work and reward system. An example is:-

“There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. 
But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’ But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’ When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done. The first said, ‘Master I doubled your money.’ He said, ‘Good servant!’ Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’ The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’ He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’ The next servant said, ‘Master, here’s your money safe and sound. I kept it in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.’ He said, ‘You’re right that I don’t suffer fools gladly- and you’ve acted the fool! Why didn’t you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?’ Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’ They said, ‘But Master, he already has double…’ He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.'”

Luke 19:12-26 (Message Translation)

Reading the above passage it becomes clearer that faithfulness, commitment and consistency will determine reward, and where rewards are not equal it becomes immediately apparent that some form of class is automatically established. As long as there is equity there will be a class system.
For this reason stratification cannot be expunged. It is part of the original design. God also stratifies and classifies. What He does not do, and what we should not do, is discriminate.

Yet, God does not stratify like man does; and His stratification certainly does not give room for anyone to gloat or boast. 
“For who regards you as superior or what sets you apart as special? What do you have that you did not receive [from another]? And if in fact you received it [from God or someone else], why do you boast as if you had not received it but had gained it by yourself]?”
1 Corinthians 4:7 (Amplified Translation)

Culture has been defined as “the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another.” God has a culture. This culture is adopted by everyone that puts faith in Him through Jesus Christ.
We will call this culture “Kingdom Culture.”
God acknowledges different cultures- and even uses certain parts of them. This is because all cultures have some redemptive value. 
While there are diabolical practices that have infiltrated different socio-cultural groups most of these groups still retain some elements of the Kingdom culture.
For example, there are cultures that might have a pattern of disloyalty in them even as they have an ingrained respect for elders. There are some other cultures that have an inordinate desire for money with greed an albatross for them, yet these same cultures have the virtues of courage and diligence woven into the fabric of their lifestyles. 
My point is that God understands diversity and does not intend to destroy it; instead He intends to use it.
He has redeemed people from the fallen aspects of their culture. He has redeemed people from every nation.

“And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
Because You were slain and with your Blood You purchased for God persons
From every tribe, and language, and people, and nation'”
Revelation 5:9 (New International Version)

He delivered people of all nations and cultures from bondage and He expects them to maintain their diversity in order to be instruments He will use to redeem others in the same cultural groups from bondages similar to what they were held by.

This brings me to tribalism…especially tribalism in church. Tribalism is the twin sister of Racism.
I remember a White American professional I was speaking to who made a matter-of-fact statement, he said, “The most segregated time of the week in the United States is a Sunday morning.”
 
Very true. Very tragic.
This is a result of racism. Stratification that God did not design and Classification He did not intend.
He created Races, He did not create Racism…the Fall of man created that.
He created Tribes, He did not create Tribalism…the Fall of man created that; and the most deplorable thing is when people who should know better are at the vanguard of this travesty.

God created different tribes. These tribes are ethne (plural for ethnos, which means “nation”). And from these ethne He created a new ethnos, a new nation, one that draws from all the people groups in existence.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”
1 Peter 2:9 (New International Version)

I will speak about a very disturbing trend I have seen make its way into the national consciousness of countries like Nigeria- tribalism in Church.
The church is a nation. Just like the Ashanti, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Efik, Zulu, Xhosa, Native American, Arab, and many other nations of the earth. 
If you have given your heart to Him then you are part of this new nation and it is your responsibility to not only live by the dictates of the Kingdom Culture but also to express it and show by your behavior how it supersedes the one you were carved out from. You are meant to transcend the elements of that culture not consistent with the Kingdom Culture you have been redeemed into.

Yet in Nigeria, I see people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ who have more loyalty to their clannish attachments than they have to Jesus and His people. These people will sell a Kingdom cause out without blinking an eyelid when it conflicts with their primordial tribal affiliations. They will deliberately undermine even God’s people to push petty clannish agendas. Their Christianity is a farce and mimicry…they have no understanding of the covenant. 

“That which divides us is of the world, and we are not of this world.”

If people who claim to follow Jesus do not understand the above statement how can the world be helped?
The Church is meant to live through the template the world will see and be inspired to live above Racism and Tribalism. 

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life– and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Romans 12:1-2 (Message Translation)

This is part of the essence of God’s stratification- variety. 
So, let us not attempt to destroy the natural order that God has created by, on one hand, destroying all distinctions, and on the other hand creating and upholding other distinctions He has absolutely nothing to do with.

CLASS DIVISION, SOCIAL STRATIFICATION, AND GOD’S POSITION (part 1)

Segregation, Inequality

CULTURE, ETHNOCENTRISM, TRIBALISM, SOCIAL SEGREGATION, AND GOD’S POSITION

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is in being superior to your former self.”- Hemingway

As a social scientist I like to study human behavior, as well as the theories that seek to explain them. One of such theories is the conjecture referred to as Social Stratification. 
In sociology, social stratification is a concept involving the “classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions … a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions.”
Stratification is the relative social position of persons within a social group, category, geographical location or social unit. It is a system of social classification that unfortunately serves for many as a basis for discrimination.

This theory is premised largely on Socio-economic conditions but the truth of the matter remains that wealth and social status are not the only indices upon which the division of society is made.

There is something intrinsic in human beings that makes us get a false sense of worth by thinking we are superior to others. There is a mentality deeply embedded in the psyche of many human beings that produces discrimination. The default paradigm for most people seems to be the conception that personal value is determined by the number or the type of indices of stratification in which one has an “advantage” over others.
The ensuing consequence is that people are now stratified on the basis of every discernible distinction and variation.
If a sense of superiority is not postulated on the basis of Socio-economic considerations like wealth and social status it will be argued on the basis of gender, or other factors like educational qualifications, race, or some less consequential things like physical features and attributes. 

It is tragic and highly regrettable that even religion is one of such social variables used for discrimination.

There are several others. It would seem that every possible variation in the human race is used to stratify people.
Let me break this down and give some illustrations.

On the average, many people measure their success and value on the basis of how much they earn compared to others. If Mr. A has a higher income than Mr. B, or has a bigger car, or bigger house, or lives in a nicer neighborhood, the tendency will be for Mr. A to feel he is superior to Mr. B. 
If he went to an Ivy League School in a place like the United States he would be “superior” to the one that went to a State College or Community College in the States who naturally would feel he is “superior” to someone educated in Nigeria for instance.
Then even in Nigeria the Private or Federal University graduate would feel in a different class from the product of the State University, who would in turn feel like he is ahead of the person who went to a Polytechnic, who of course would feel he is on a pedestal beyond the reach of the person who went to a College of Education.

Think about stratification and discrimination on the basis of gender. How many times have we seen cultures and communities that deliberately put women under? In many communities and cultures in several countries women are treated as possessions, they are flogged like animals and treated even worse than that in many cases. 
There are still communities in countries in Asia for example where widows are either buried with their dead husbands or killed through immolation or strangling. It is suggested that such women should be killed in order to keep their husbands company, and serve them in the afterlife.

Think about other forms of stratification. 
Unfortunately, there are many people who profess a creed or religion in and through which they believe themselves to be superior to others. The average Jew believes himself to be superior to others, he sets himself apart not as much because he is interested in seeking God or a higher purpose to life as he is in not associating with men of lower stock. The radical Muslim straps a bomb on himself or picks an AK 47 rifle and walks into a restaurant to kill “infidels” he is sure are hell-bound even as he is confident he is going to some kind of paradise.
The Catholic looks derisively at the Protestant and is confident his Block Rosary makes him more of a Christian and that he is more broad minded than the Protestant, who is in turn convinced every Catholic is an idol worshipper. 

Think about the catastrophic consequences of stratification and discrimination on the basis of race.
The evils of racial segregation are well profiled. Slave Trade and ownership in the U.S, the Americas, and Europe was the height of man’s abominable inhumanity to his fellow man. The South of the United States has produced monstrosities like the Ku Klux Klan which made it a project to eliminate minorities, and the African American response to this saw organizations like the Nation of Islam, and characters like Malcolm X with his message on “all white men being devils” step into the limelight.
The white Apartheid government of South Africa committed reprehensible acts against native and indigenous blacks and arrogated to themselves the right to govern the multiplicity of races that eventually made up the multi-ethnic South African society. And govern they did…with brute force and criminal ferocity. 

We have heard about the complex caste system in India, the four different classes that make up the varna classification system and then there are the Dalits that don’t even feature in that system. They are not in any class as it were.  The class at the top of the chain in the Hindu caste system are the Brahmins who are supposedly “priestly people”, then directly under them you would have those that are supposedly predestined to be warriors, rulers, and administrators, these are called Kshatriyas. 
The next class under this would be the Vaishyas  who are artisans, tradesmen and merchants. Then the last on the spectrum are the Shudras, these are those that make up the laboring class and are the last considered on the varna classification list. 

Then there are the Dalits who have no class and no caste. They don’t even make the grade. They are literally outcasts and are off the scale totally.
An example of the Brahmins would be the Bengali people, while an example of the Dalits would be the Sangli people. 
These people don’t mix as Dalit literally means “untouchable”. 

So, people are already defined by others before they are conceived. Defined by others and having their destinies set by others. Set on the basis of their skin color or caste system or some other primordial consideration. 

I see that two major evil consequences of stratification not managed properly are a hindering of potential and an inability to take initiative. The reason for this is quite simple…
Whenever you allow anyone classify you the fact is you have given him a right to cancel you.
If you allow people fix you into a category you would also have ensured they determine the way you think and behave. This is because there are pre-conceived notions of what people in a certain category can think, believe, do, and aspire to.
For instance, if you are just a black man you will likely act in the way people who are merely black men behave. You would live within the framework of the stereotype and the “generally accepted” code of conduct expected of black men.  
If you are just a sexy looking girl, you will likely behave in the way that ladies who are merely sexy looking girls behave. You will most likely give into using your body to gain some sort of significance or relevance because you would have given into the mindset of those who like to objectify women.

There is a very popular religion which has a factor in its belief system that best exemplifies this. This factor is called “kismet”. It simply means “Fate”. Invariably, there are some born to be poor; they are designed to, according to this belief system, remain as the dregs of society and thus their aspirations are already set by society…this is what has produced the Almajiri system in Northern Nigeria. 

The tragedy of the human situation is that there will always be indices for segmentation in human behavior and history. This is inevitable.
And the truth of the matter is segregation in its entirety is not a product of man’s rebellion. Man’s rebellion indubitably exacerbated segregation and stratification, but even without it there still would never have been a classless society.

There is no point in time when there will be an equal system, on earth or in heaven, which gives people equal rewards for various levels of effort.
I believe in God, and I believe in the Heaven He created. I have studied the Bible and everything I see leaves me in no doubt that the Kingdom of God is premised on a reward system. A reward system based on equity.
I make bold to say that even God does not reward or bless on the basis of equality, instead He rewards and blesses on the basis of equity.
The principle is EQUITY not EQUALITY.

There will never be a time when everyone will be rewarded equally. If this ever happens it will make nonsense of incentives. 
Equity is justice and fairness. Not everyone will make equal contributions in life, so not everyone will receive equal results.

This is why communism will always be utopian. 

It never was, and never will be practicable that everyone in a society will be on an equal footing. We see the practical out-workings of this utopia in the satirical masterpiece by George Orwell, “The Animal Farm”. It is a literary composition written to express the prevailing circumstances before, during, and immediately after the Communist Revolution in Russia. If you have read it you will remember all the commandments that were initially given to the animals on the Farm, the first being “All animals are equal.” 
After Napoleon took over at the death of Old Major that commandment was surreptitiously changed, and it became, “All animals are equal…but some are more equal than others.”
This is the contradiction of the Communist ideology and its mode of production.

There is a fundamental part of human existence and the human constitution that ensures not everyone will receive the same output. This is simply because input will never cut across board.

We will continue this series