Africans: Like Parrots They Imitate the West?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

In recent times at least, all that Africa does is to copy and imitate others. We flagrantly imitate the western world. Like parrots, we imitate without understanding why. We imitate ideas and ideals so much so we are steadily becoming a shell of our former selves, unknowing and unsure. Who are we? What does it mean to be African? No one seems to know anymore as our humanity and our essence and our way of life is eroding at a rapid pace. What is more miserable than not knowing oneself? Sad too is the fact that there are Africans who don’t want to be thought of as Africans; they don’t want to be seen as behaving like Africans. To be African is to be backward and untouched by the wind and rain of westernization and modernity.

We seem to lack originality. We seem to be afraid of dreaming our own dreams. We lack confidence to chat our own path. We lack the confidence to fashion our own destiny and to actualize our own vision. And so we just follow. We imitate. We copy. Like poodles, we do whatever the west ask of us; and even when we are not asked or forced, we do our best to carry out their wishes; we voluntarily obey.

Our economists and development specialists know that trade liberation is bad for our economy, yet we blindly follow the recommendation of the West and open our continent to the vagaries of globalization. How in the world are we to compete in an open and free market when our industries are still at their infancy? Against whom are we competing? In a continent with miles and miles of forest, we import toothpicks and papers and furniture. In a continent with miles and miles and of arable land, we import food and food related materials. In a continent with all sorts of scholars and universities, we still import such basics as bathing soaps and laundry detergents. Don’t we know that importation drains our foreign exchange reserve which in turn enriches the West?

Even our system of governance is a fake! The West, especially the United States, has made it known that we must embrace and practice democracy. Democracy! What in the world is democracy to an African? Is western-style democracy amenable to the African culture and environment? Does a winner-take-all mentality fit the African way of life? Democracy, democracy, democracy! They barked at us to practice democracy without our leaders and peoples really understanding what it entails; yet, we gleefully acquiesced. See where it has taken us and see what it is making of Africans. We copied and are imitating a system (as is) that has no relevance to the African setting.

Our network of family system (kinship) has guided us through the good and the bad times. We relied on one another. We had a fabulous and viable social contract going. Men were men and women were women and one acted as the anchor for the other. It was complementary. It was good. Today however, we are gradually discarding what we had. We are steadily becoming individualistic because we fancy the way of the West. Some women are all suited up and messed up fighting the “feminist war” claiming they were oppressed and now want the freedom to be on equal footing with men. What nonsense. The negative effects of such nonsense are obvious for all to see. When it comes to shepherding and chaperoning the family, the West has nothing to teach Africans.

There are African men who are afraid to marry African women. The fear and the marital expectation can be paralyzing. The “new rules” surrounding sex and romance, domesticities and future endeavors also discourage some men. In other words, some men are no longer sure what their role and place within the relationship should be. And so they look elsewhere.

In the near future, old-peoples-home (nursing homes) would become the norm as opposed to children taking care of their aged parents. We all know that the West is replete with such holding-cells. But before you know it, Africans will begin to think these cells are chic and necessary and practical and would start dumping their mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles there — sending cards and flowers every so often. And why not; don’t we imitate everything western? Stupidity is not beyond some Africans, you know. What’s more, sixteen and seventeen year old boys and girls would be leaving the sanctity and protection of their parents’ home in search of “freedom” in order to live on their own. The continent would soon start having children pretending to be grownups.

The West has already told us that circumcision is inhumane. They call it body mutilation. Indeed, may be this practice is bad. May be! But why are Africans not telling the West that breast implants, cheek and buttock implants are inhumane and injurious and should therefore be stopped. Why are we not telling the West that liposuctions, nipple and clitoris and scrotum piercing are sadistic? Everything African is bad; everything Western, no matter how horrific, is good and elegant. With time Africans would imitate these, too.

Respect for the elders and the elderly is slowly eroding. In Lagos or Western Nigeria for instance, when was the last time you saw a young man prostrate for an elder or a woman actual knelt for any one? Today, it is mostly about “hi” and “hello” and “how are you” with heads grudgingly bowed, if at all. It seems the elders no longer have a place and a role in our society. In today’s Nigeria, it is mostly about money and power and intimidation; or the appearance of money, power and influence.

Certain aspects of the western culture are good and may be copied. Nevertheless, it is shocking to see some Africans abandon, in whole scale, their Africanness. This rejection manifests itself in several ways, but more so in the pervasiveness of separation and divorces. That some couples are getting divorced in high numbers should not be a surprise to any discerning African. But consciously or unconsciously most of us act as if we don’t know; or we simply don’t want to talk about it because divorce is a “white man’s burden.” Without wrapping it in politically correct language, the truth is that, the vast majority of Nigerians/Africans living in this country are confused and depressed and mostly unhappy — more so the women who are more likely to live afar from and disparage Africanism.

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Anonymous April 23, 2010 - 4:25 am

I didn’t realize that this article was about white men 0_0 It seemed to be talking about the cultural overshadowing of the west over African culture. This is not a matter of African racial majority, it’s about everything else that is changing, because these changes are no longer being made by the hand of the white man alone.

Catherine April 17, 2007 - 2:33 pm

Why come here to the west at all? Why not stay in your african country if this is the way you and other Africans truly feel?. I am not being mean spirited here…I am simply stating that I read your articles and you seem to have a problem with the western culture..especially the United States…Could I come to Nigeria and tell them how to run their government system..or would they allow african american, to change their thought processes as it relates to their given cultures..I don't honestly think that they would…Mr. Abidde, did you become an american citizen?..And I do hope that you will answer. As I stated before..I am not being mean spirited…but if you are residing in a western country why did you leave Africa..Nigeria? Answer me this…some african women..have been glad to escape your country of Nigeria…let us discuss female genital mutilation..we all know that this is a terrible practice. Many african women escaped to the "west" to avoid this malicious atrocity. The so called "terrible west" has become a safe haven for some of Nigerian's women. When you talk about the should tell the whole picture. I don't think that you are being fair or accurate to the "west". Sure, as with any nation, we are not perfect but we have allowed many African immigrants into our country..That is more than I can say for "Mother Africa"

dagogo September 25, 2006 - 6:08 pm

Yabe,by far your weakest piece,further weakened by the bit about democracy.Maybe this quote from Middleton Murry will help you:at a certain level of general culture with social and economic combinations certain values impose themselves…there is nothing farther from democracy currently practiced in Nigeria today,it is monocratic barbarism.The other issue is your portrayal of Africa in static,unchanging terms.Trouling…

awouba August 10, 2006 - 1:03 am

Oh no!I could not disagree more.Remember the so called WEST was just like us about a hundred years ago.They were plagued with poverty,infectious diseases,wars and hunger etc.They managed to overcome these.And the children took care of their parents.But development neccessitates the pursuit of wealth which leads to greed and selfishness.Thabo Mbeki decried this in his last speech at the Mandela Foundation.This has happened in every society that has overcome these vices.Our main focus now in AFRICA is poverty eradication and all its consequences,so I don't think we are copying the WEST but only following an evolutionary path to seek that proverbial happiness.

chichi August 9, 2006 - 6:37 pm

you have some good arguments, but might you be a bit too hash on women? What about the men who are loosing their africanness, you see more men marrying outside their culture than you do women? Women's right is not a bad thing. it does not mean that we loose respect for the men. Men have to stop being so insecure around strong women. Being a strong woman does not mean that we are any less a woman.

Reply August 9, 2006 - 6:31 pm

Most of your comments are true. But I feel you should also focus on the good parts of Western culture we have also accumulated like the education system. This has made Nigerians some of the most learned people in the world. I must sound like a parrot when I repeat that not all feminism is bad. Women are learning to depend on themselves to help their families out. In the past the male provided everything, now the burden is shared by both men and women. It is not necessarily a bad thing – unless men are afraid woment will soon surpass them in their capacity as breadwinners and subsequently shift the status quo in the favor of women. It is happening in the UK and the US. It may happen in Africa. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But then again, I am female so my opinion is one-sided. I love your write-up…something we should all ponder…what makes us who we are?

Ini Udoh August 9, 2006 - 2:41 pm

I truly appreciate this article…I'm not sure when it was posted, but it is very exact. Everything you mention is just to the point and it is something I have wanted to express to my fellow nigerians abroad, particularly the younger generation. It is simply too bad to become diluted!

Anonymous August 9, 2006 - 11:12 am

My broda, May God continue to bless you as you have bluntly spoken the truth that many of us refuse to face up to.

BIGFEST August 9, 2006 - 10:15 am

When the virus of inferiority complex takes over a group of people,they are bound to dehumanise themselves by following stupidly the foreign ways of life.Some africans are infested with this virus which ultimately will result to our total foolishness in the eyes of the white man.This is another form our self-induced colonialism.


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