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Age, authority and why Africans wear suits

May 21st, 2007 Posted in Fashion, General, Politics, Technology, Travel

Respect is deeply rooted in African cultures. We’re taught to refer to anyone who is older than us as “auntie” or ‘uncle”, regardless of whether they are even related to you. In the past it was understood that your “uncle” or “auntie” had years of experience and knowledge over you; that translated into respect and authority. When an elder spoke you didn’t argue or question him/her. You, as the younger person, were regulated to taking the elder person on their word. But somewhere along the line that authority model has become one of Africa’s biggest problems. More and more, as we are inundated with information at a younger age, we begin to question authority. Soon a “Because I said so” is not enough in the household. We begin to ask that people prove themselves before we respect them and grant authority. In societies which are individual-centered technology’s effect on the relationship between the older and younger generations is not as drastic; but in African societies where respect for your elders, to this day, is ingrained in all facets of our lives, the barrage of information has created a serious rift between the generations. There is a large communication gap between the older Africans who are used to age and respect-based authority and the younger Africans who are beginning to ask a lot of questions about our current society. In various African communities it’s a standoff of sorts between the older generation who still remember pre-independence Africa and are insistent on the idea of a 3-piece suit and the authority they should get because of it, and a younger generation who believes that the suit doesn’t make the man, the man makes the suit. Unfortunately our understanding on respect and authority is caught between multiple worlds. And that is reflected in the bureaucracy that stunts many African nations’ growth. How do we maintain our values and traditions of respect and authority and use our knowledge to rid ourselves of the practices that are preventing us from moving forward?

  • http://africaincorp.blogspot.com Frederic N’sienie

    That is very much true, now who is going to be the first to go Tchienigbanani on them, for those that do know Thienignanai is a bright young man in Ivorian Foklore that came out of his mother belly Three month before he was due. He came out the belly walking and talking, he did not wait too long to address everyone around him with authority and strenght going against the social order ( asking for a children to remain humble and submitted when facing elders/older folks) Tchienigbanani would maintain his insolent/disrespectful/rebelious stance.
    For sorcerers ( TIA)he would reveal himself well versed in the arts so the old guard that like to murder ( Nowadays they will kill you politically,socially,financially B4 they resort to the dark arts) slaughters the bright stars that are given to each generations, so that their jaded/incompetent/out-skilled/power hungry/control-freak/creatively-dead/whiteman-fearing( for some good readon) person can retain the wealth/power/influence/status-quo/priviledges they enjoy.
    If it means selling slaves ( they did it) killing true revolutionnaries ( R.I.P Sankara,Lumumba,Biko,Cabral,Unknown renegade, they did too)selling their country’s wealth ( they do it )silencing their youth ( they do it on a daily)disregarding their youth opinion and insight on the basis that they are too young to have a brain of their own ( they gladly do it )

    to come back to Tchienigbanani, he would go on a mission throughout the land spreading, by his actions and speeches ,the new spirit of freedom,creativity and boldness. He will succesfully defeat all the retarded leaders/societies/communities that would try to stop him and his message.

    who is going to be the Tchienigbanani of this generation and how does plan to manifest his/her Tchienigbanitude is the one million dollar question.
    Africa’s youth is impatiently waiting for earth-shattering opinions/actions/demeanors coming from another youth like themselves.
    Again and again people like Douk Saga,Drogba,Etoo,Jay-Z,Lebron,Soro,2Face, are names that come back again and again in the discussion of young people accross the continent.
    They do not care for Idi amin,Mobutu,Houephouet,Gbagbo,Alassane,Bedie,Wade.

    They live in new days that require new methods, they can offer their reflections and should do so since the 20 year old would be around much longer than the 70 years old and would in charge of the society destiny for the next 50 years preparing the terrain for the next generation, that if the old guard does not squezze the life out of them.

  • http://www.annansi.com Kofi

    Frederic,
    A great synopsis of how I feel at times. Thanks fro sharing the story of Tchienigbanani with us. The energy and fresh ideas of the youth are important in any society’s growth. We just have to figure out how to communicate that to the old guard without them taking it personally.

  • http://www.ijebudrums.blogspot.com remi

    Some elders seek to hang on to respect without investing in acquiring the wisdom that should convey respect-ability. On the other hand, some youth think that they are excused from heritage responsibilities because of knowledge obtained in cargo-cult adoption of foreign cultures. Asians appear to have a healthy balance. In particular, the Japanese ethos of “western technique (technology), Asian spirit (culture)” has helped to manage inter-generational and inter-national conflicts. Asian youth respect their elders for effectively managing their world. Asian elders can trust their youth to respect and look after them.

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