On April 22, 2020, a video surfaced on Twitter NG. It was one of a Zambian family where the father was seen berating his eldest son for wanton neglect of his studies. Apparently, in a school for which the father pays $21,000, the son had failed five of his nine courses. Nobody knows the frequency of that payment, but it can be gathered that the man does pay $21,000.
While he engaged his son in a slap marathon - or slap-athon, if you will - he complained about certain things. Apparently, he makes photocopies of study materials for his son and makes the best efforts to help his child. The context of that, nobody knows but the effort is there.
On the other hand, the son who offers nine courses was absent for two exams, had three unsatisfactory results, one satisfactory, one credit (Geography) and one distinction in Music. Since the video went viral on Twitter NG, it's become a game of memes, gifs, comic takes and hot takes - both the reasonable and unreasonable.
Some feel the son might be sending his father a message by excelling in music while intentionally failing in most other fields. A few people feel that the son should have made an effort to at least pass in other fields even if he would excel in music as the zenith of his result. Others feel the boy is just dull. All takes make sense, but most people are not looking at the reality of thing.
There are different perspectives to this conversation. Over-simplification is the problem with social media. The father was acting as an African parent who wants to see his child succeed with the security of education. The son failed in almost every field asides music - in fact, the was absent from two examinations.
The African parent and education
Guys, the African parent has an obsession with education. To them, the best way to excel in life is to go to school. To them, even if your success will not be automatic, you will have an edge in life. While parents have since relaxed their strictness as regards schooling/education after seeing other children excel in the arts and in sports, it hasn't always been this way.
In the past, parents would literally beat their children into school and force them away from a passion for the arts or sports. This is a complicated conversation; the parents that raised us grew in a society where education was paramount and where education afforded people a better life. As human beings, our ideals are ingrained in us by values society feed us with.
For that reason, our parents came from a different reality. In their defence, most of them are not rich and they cannot afford to see you waste your life and youth on a dream that might or might not materialize. If they were rich, they would afford to see you waste your youth and then get your life back on track with your trust fund at 30 or 35.
For most people - even the rich ones - foundations for a good life are best laid with decisions you make from age 16 till you turn 30. Asides that, underdeveloped African systems kill dreams in sports and the arts more than they make. The reality of it is that, 80% percent of people who pursue a career in the arts or sports fail before they even get out.
In Nigeria for example, a career in the Nigerian Football League is not the pinnacle any parent will want for their kids. It's not like America where the system exists to nurture your talent from the ground up and give you a chance to make it. Even in America, the significant chunk of those who pursue a career in the arts and sports fail - it's a worse success rate than in the startup sphere.
Prospects have been better in recent years, but the numbers have not significantly improved. For that reason, parents prefer the security of education. Make no mistake, education is by no means a guarantee for success either. But you'll be better off with a University certificate after a failed attempt at a career in the arts or sports than without one.
Parents want that security for their children. If a child doesn't succeed, he/she could rely on the parent for too long. Sometimes too, it's about the optics and parental ego than the success of the child. Parents love to brag about their children and their success. Thus, it's sometimes what they push their children to do is about how positively or negatively it reflects on their ability as parents.
That said, you can't separate the place of the love-based, genuine will to give a child the right tools to succeed from the vain need to see a child succeed for the optics. They're never mutually exclusive and they will never be. In the end, the only thing that usually matters is the happiness of the child.
Happiness of the child
The question should sometimes be whether the child can deal with consequences of a failure from a risque career choice in the arts or sports. However, the truth is that most people under the age of 21 are not equipped to make logical decisions. They think on passion and they can be very neurotic.
When I was in 400L studying Law, I was 19. I almost quit in my first semester because I wanted to pursue a career in music production and push my start-up. If I had done it at the time, I would have regretted it. I still don't use my Law degree, but I am better off with that certificate than without it. Ryan Leslie is a graduate of Harvard University.
His music is now sold to his core fan base, but he doesn't have a lot of success as he did in the 2000s. However, he is better off that most forgotten producers because he has a University degree. Back to the Zambian $21,000, nobody knows what really happened, but one thing we shouldn't do is judge either party harshly.
The son was visibly bratty for wasting $21,000. He didn't even attend some of his examinations for Christ's sake. Even the greatest critics of the father would have lost their minds had their child wasted their time, money and effort like that. But on the other hand, that could also be the son sending a message to his father in what he deems the best way possible.
In the end, he got hot slaps.
First, why does corporeal punishment exist?
In Legal Jurisprudence, there is a school of Law called Positivism. Its lead proponent is John Austin and he postulates that the fear of punishment is why people obey the Law. He heavily subscribes to the concept of punishment in Law because he sees punishment as a deterrent that reduces the commission of offences.
In the same vein, corporeal punishment exists on the concept of pain or ridicule. In its ordinary state, it is also built on the concept of fear. Corporeal punishment is a deterrent that aims to prevent the normalization of bad behaviour in children. The aim is to make a child fear corporeal punishment after tasting the pain and ridicule that comes with it.
Even if the Zambian son was really dull and the father was the most aggressive person in the world, there is a point to be made for his outburst. Either physical punishment is right or wrong or scars people psychologically or not, it is a normalized way of correction in Africa and amongst black people generally.
You won't take it out easily - Twitter rants are also unlikely to end the normalization of 'beating' as a means of correction in a heartbeat. Either you plead a case of mental/psychological scars from now till tomorrow, the first instinct of most African parents is to spank or smack a bratty child. For that reason, the father reacted the way he thought right.
He might have been wrong - he probably was wrong, but the reality is the reality and it's not Twitter NG where hypocrites prefer bubbles. Asides the issue of mental scars that Twitter NG loves banging on about, corporeal punishment of a child can become counter-productive as a corrective measure. If beating or physical punishment becomes regular, the child could grow accustomed to it, take the punishment and still go back to what led him there in the first place.
The situation of the Zambian Father and his son doesn't seem like one beating or forced schooling can solve.
Second, compromise and communication
If the son truly wants music, his tactic was always going to be counter-productive. The parent spent a load of money on you to see you succeed, and you intentionally wasted it - that's irresponsible, even for a teenager. But at the same time, the father might also be a difficult person who would not have taken lightly to his son telling him he wants to be a musician/artist.
If the son is really trying to send a message, then the father must be sensitive enough to want to listen. If that means seeking a mediator or therapist to make the son talk, then so be it. Even if the son is not trying to send a message and he is really dull, a conversation might make more sense than corporeal punishment or beating.
Even if the parent will prefer his child to complete school, there are ways to support what makes his child happy and get the safety net of education he wants for his child. For example, my parents are not the greatest beaters, but I did get beat the most out of my siblings. But even at that, I don't think my Dad beat me more than five times in my lifetime - one was really bad because I was a premium brat.
My mom never touched me after I turned five. Even before I was five, the only time I remember getting beat by my mom, I tore my singlet while trying to imitate Hulk Hogan. She had warned me, but I still tore the singlet... oops. My Dad was more a practical talker about the reasons you should or shouldn't do this or that.
Back to how communication could help the Zambian family, my Dad knew I didn't want to go to Law School. In fact, I didn't tell him when forms came out - he found out himself. We argued and came to a confrontation. This was after he sent me out of the house.
About three mornings later, he came to me and told me, "You need to finish what you started. I know you don't want it, but take the final step. You might like it." I went to Law school - even know I knew Law Practice would never be my thing. I enjoyed every minute of it and I like the fact that I have that certificate.
Sometimes, communication is good. However, you can't suddenly demonize parents for the concept of beating or physical punishment because you suddenly got woke. I didn't get beaten or emotionally abused, but I have personality issues - I'm not perfect. While there is a thin line between abuse and corporeal punishment - even when they're different - not all forms of corporeal punishment equate physical abuse.
The thin line between abuse and corporeal punishment
It seems a lot of Nigerian Millennials and generation Zers have grown accustomed to blaming all their personality issues on mental health issues from the corporeal punishment they suffered as a child. Guys, there are people who genuinely suffered abuse and suffer the consequences of corporeal punishment.
The major difference between corporeal punishment or slaps and abuse is regularity and severity. That said, I do admit that a lot of people did get beaten regularly for even the simplest offences.
I also admit that a lot of people have genuinely had their lives shaped by these punishments, but a lot of people are wrong to blame their negative life traits on being beaten. Yes, we are products of our background and upbringing, but we are also products of society - outside our families and society also shapes us.
A lot of people grew up in dreamy backgrounds, yet they are rapists, cheats, corrupt, impatient and more bad things. Equally, a lot of people got corporeal punishment and they are not as problematic. Even for those who got corporeal punishment, it might not be the reason for personality issues, negative character traits and bad temperament.
If a person was abused emotionally or physically, it will definitely cause personality issues, negative character traits, terrible judgement, bad instinct and bad temperament. Some people who were beaten are even better off some people who were emotionally abused.
There is also a place for some Millennials and Generation Zers who have no sense of responsibility in these conversations. They would rather blame their parents for beating them without accepting responsibility for what got them them or even verify the origin of their problems. We need to stop demonizing parents - most of them made mistakes, but there is no rule book to parenting.
A lot of parents did the best they could. As human beings, they were imperfect and some of them negatively impacted their kids, but there is also a place for the kid to make an effort to overcome the effects of bad parenting that choosing to live in it. It can be hard to break free, but more often than not, mental slavery is a choice. You can't blame your parents - even the bad ones - for every misstep.
The assumption of Nigerian millennials and generation zers on the tenets of parenting
I pray a lot of my fellow Millennials and the Generation Zers grow up to be good parents. I hope their Twitter values equate some impeccable understanding of theoretical parenting. I hope a lot of the people currently blaming their parents have a spotless record of parenting - I hope they don't realize the negative effects of society over the growth of a child, even with good parenting.
I hope they remain in a bubble and never get to see their children blame them too. But then, I also hope they realize that while there are lots of bad parents, most parents did the best they could and you can't blame all the negativity in your life on parenting.
For the emotionally scarred people from bad parenting, I genuinely pray the rain of mercy falls on you and all your pain become bearable. I hope you see the sun and get happy. I hope you are able to walk in the dark and not get afraid. I pray you don't get afraid to love and be loved back. I pray that it doesn't scar you to live life.
I pray that life becomes more bearable for you. I pray your pain doesn't define your life. I hope you are able to find genuine happiness and the power to forgive your parents. I hope you then become a good parent that contributes children who are impenetrable by the negative effects of society. I hope one day, you shall smile and be happy.
For the Millennials and Generation Zers with no sense of responsibility and those who want to blame their parents and corporeal punishment for all the bad traits and negativity in their life, shout-out to you.
We blame the cameraman
The treat of today and yesterday was dished out to us by the cameraman - the Zambian man's wife. That's when happens when you have no boundaries and your life is excessively determined by social media relevance. Our microwave generation keeps growing to have no boundaries with our obsession with video recordings.
It's gotten worse from recording pointless videos to mark imaginary clout-based registers at events instead of enjoying the show to recording pointless things - even personal things that should never be on social media. As a people, we need to have boundaries.