The decline and fall of civil behaviour (1)

When I first came to Lagos in 1973, I was impressed with the standard of public conduct. Then, I saw young folks in crowded bus stood up for elderly men and women to sit down. Such public show of courtesy was common, and obviously expected in those good old days. That sort of thing is a rarity in our cities today. We are now living in a different generation.
Something strange has hit our world! And it is symptomatic of the palpable failure of leadership which has continued unabated. I began to notice the decline of civil conduct in the wake of the
rural- urban sprawl that followed the oil boom of the ‘70s through the ‘80s. Back then, Nigeria had just one national television station, the NTA. Then, came satellite TV and the internet. The world became a global village, a titanic clash of civilizations is still on-going as a result of this dramatic fusion of cultures and values. This, indeed is a new universe entirely. The old world is dead with its Victorian civility.
Today, the world is under the influence of a very powerful, three screen technology-the GSM phone, television set and the computer(internet). We have never experienced this kind of massive flood of information at the touch of a button. Live images come right in your palm through a touch phone. Local standard is giving way to global standards, culture and values are changing by the minute, taking new shapes and meanings. Fashion can now go stale in 24 hours. What is courteous and proper in India, may look odd, even quaint or funny in Britian, the USA and Nigeria.
Young folks may yield a bus seat to a senior citizen in rural Nigeria; kids elsewhere may not readily do so. Different strokes for different people. Youth see television images from other countries and become confused, not knowing which values to live by. How do we rescue a world under siege from decadent cultures that come through the channel of the air waves. Somebody, help me. My moral sensibility is taking a beating. The world is going upside down.
Today, in the streets of our cities, disorder is the order of the day. We are assaulted by a reign of chaos. Courtesy, decency, respect for each other, almost everything we call civility is ignored in our daily interaction. Even, lying is part of our phone culture. Someone near you in Ikeja, Lagos is responding to a caller, but he’d openly claim to be speaking from Victoria island. I guess most people do that without qualms; it’s a phone attitude. Because we can lie on phone and feel normal, we tell lies in almost every other thing and not feel ashamed.
Time there was when you couldn’t swear in public, these days commuters in public bus abuse each other, and make insulting gestures at the slightest provocation. Tempers now flare easily because everyone is living on the edge in our highly tensed society. The menace of noise pollution from ubiquitous electricity generators has its own negative impact on the nerves. Then, everyday at dawn, sometimes as early as 5am, you’re woken up by roving preachers
who shout fire and brimstone massages to warn you of impending doom. Soon, you are on the roads to face almost endless honking from bus drivers.
We must constantly remind ourselves that we still live in law-ordered societies. The unwritten rules of public behavior, an integral part of our culture is still there. It doesn’t change. What has changed is that people in this age tend to have a rebellious attitude because of unrestrained exposure to decadent cultures that have no regard for order or civil conduct. The influx of uncontrolled broadcast of offensive materials to our country from foreign broadcast outlets through the internet, satellite television, and the movies is choking our people. We cannot divest this from the contempt our youth and other impressionable demographics now have for our cultural values and moral ethics. Young people in this country think whatever comes from abroad, the USA especially, is hip and should be imitated if they are to stay current.
Every society sets its standard of behavior through time- tested code of ethics and morality. People are expected to live by those ethos, and when they err, are sanctioned swiftly by extant civil laws. This is how a people’s moral health is preserved. A society’s morality and ethics are imperiled when people are not bound by effective laws that regulate their conduct. This is the essence of having the police and other law enforcement agencies.
If a hot-blooded youth knows he cannot molest a young girl and get away with it, our ladies will be safe from potential rapists. If a young girl knows she must dress responsibly to avoid attracting predatory young men who might assault her sexually, society will be better for it. There are certain standards of public behavior that have been wiped out of our cultural rule books, with far-reaching negative consequences for the moral health of our nation.
Let’s stop here today. We’d continue the conversation next week. We must find a way to redeem our nation. And believe strongly our youth have a big role to play in this moral rearmament.



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