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.

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.