Before I pour my mind on this particular subject. I would like you all to know that, I am equally talking to myself. Like we all know every man is born with an element of pride and ego in him. You may not agree with me, but that’s the truth. However, how we manage it is what makes a difference.
A few years ago, while living with my younger ones, I started supporting them in paying their bills with my little earnings as a hustling student at age 18 and that was after I had left home. Suddenly, they felt the need to title me “brother” (a show of respect from younger siblings”. I declined. Yes, I seriously declined it. I understood it’s part of our African culture, but it never resonated with me. All I requested was to be called my name “Eteobong or Fred”. Yes, "Eteobong" is my village native name. They insisted on calling me “Brother”. My mother usually beat them for failing to title me “brother”, but I retaliated by warning anyone who adds that prefix to my name and they will not receive my support as a result. Till date, my younger siblings call me “Fred or Eteobong” just as I have always wanted and little did I know that I will find myself settled in a country where such practice of just calling people by their first name is a norm. It is ironic to think that I sometimes struggle when my superiors at my job cautioned me not to address them as Sir, Ma, Mr, etc, including my direct manager. It became a serious issue, but now I have learnt.
However, I still support my younger ones enormously till date with their tuition, rent, upkeep and allowances etc, but the interesting part is that I never allowed them to do anything for me in return. By so doing, I feel honored and blessed by God as I understand that It takes humility to do that. To all prospective and current men-tees, you can also attest to the fact that I strongly resent you addressing me with a prefix “Sir, bros, brother or Mr etc”. Giving me a title doesn’t connote respect. You can title me, yet still disrespect me by not adhering to the advice or instructions I offer as my help. Worst case scenario is not keeping appointment times and schedules.These I consider to be disrespectful and hypocritical. That doesn’t mean I call other elders by their names, I don't. For me personally, it is one way to subdue any pride in me. The reason why I insist those titles/prefix be eliminated when relating with me is to create or encourage a cordial rapport, equality and free flow of communication between myself and subordinates.Hence, this will optimize productivity even in the midst of obvious tension and so many other advantages.
The African cultural belief on this subject has proven to be ineffective. Instead, it has dis-integrated and subdued our youthful potentials. This African cultural practice has racked up the growing youth over the years, which inadvertently has contributed to destroying our economy and developmental growth.
A typical family elder who can barely afford a meal for himself or tuition for his children will expect strangers or his village youth to accord him titles like “chief, Mr, brother, Uncle, daddy” etc. Apparently, the saying that “respect is earned” is completely lost as a result of pride in our society and because the cultural belief imposes on the youth a compulsory sense of respect on the basis of age.
Pride in our motherland has become infectious and transferable. A junior staff who was ill-treated by his or her boss will find himself or herself acting in the same vain when putting in a similar position. Hence, the system suffers and the deterioration continues.
Because of all these prideful thinking, superiors cannot own up to their mistakes or encourage the young ones. Hence the subordinates are always at the receiving end of back-lashing.
To the African youths who are compelled to exhibit these hypocritical acts can not afford to show some practical respect anymore, for instance by assisting the elder to carry their load when necessary or stand up from a seat for an elder to sit etc, in return for some heartfelt prayers of blessings from an elder which we were told helps a growing child to go far in life. This is what I was taught and groomed to be.
I urge you to guard yourself and heart against destructive pride . To you reading, assess your pride level, be sensitive to who you exhibit that pride towards. Pride and hypocrisy work hand in gloves, so watch out for them. I wish you peace as you refuse to judge me in this piece.