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The Imperialism Of Western Pop Culture And Its Effects On Nigerian Youths by Emmanuel Oluka.

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Introduction

In this essay, one will understand what pop culture means, and the negative effects western pop culture has on the youths of Nigeria. The essay stimulates the thoughts of the reader on how western pop culture imperialism continues to undermine and challenge the identity of Nigerian youths. The focus of the essay therefore, is to emphasize the effects of this culture on the youths, and also, to deepen knowledge and appreciation of our indigenous culture. It proffers way forward in the end.

But what really is pop culture?

Make no mistake; “popular culture” and “pop culture” will be used interchangeably throughout this essay. Both mean the same thing. It refers to the entirety of behaviours, customs, identities and preferences that are frequently encountered, widely accepted or approved by a people and remain characteristic of a particular society at a given time. A pop culture characteristic of the western world is called a western pop culture. In this case, it is a culture that reflects the everyday lives of the western society. These common pop-culture items are domiciled across the entertainment industry (comprising movies, music, and television), politics, fashion, technology and even food.

Brief Historical Antecedents…

The arrival of British colonizers in Nigeria brought about the romance and imperialism of western popular culture. The coming on board of the colonial masters was premised on western supremacist beliefs. Such supremacy spread via the deliberate stereotypes about our people. They condemned our traditional beliefs and entrenched their social norms, customs, political systems and technologies. The colonial masters achieved this through inaccurate depiction of our people and her culture. This is the fate we suffer today.

How is it promoted?

Since our history is strongly connected to British colonization, one finds that western pop culture continues to flirt with our indigenous identities. Today, the culture enjoys widespread popularity in Nigeria, and it has had a way of constantly influencing our youths and their everyday activities. Admittedly, it is heavily promoted by the mass media, especially in a technological world where the “omnipresent” media constantly brings cultures together. The resultant interactions between our local culture and the western type, culminated in promoting these imperialistic pop cultures. This has made some social critics say that its importation into Nigeria has had some effects on the youths, particularly through cultural imperialism and the stifling of local cultures. This, by extension, constantly threatens and undermines the representation of our youths.

Effects

For instance, the entertainment industry in Nigeria has had constant penetration of western imperialistic pop culture, with mostly negative effects reported on the youths. The industry records overwhelming acceptance amongst these youths, yet, remains indicted for depicting some impressionable concepts inimical to these youths.

A look into Nollywwod shows total dearth of movies with storylines projecting our true identity. “Africa magic” for instance, is condemned in preference for western contents that show excessive violence, use of guns, lewd languages, gangsterism and drug addiction. These remain hallmarks of western popular cultures, and it ends up infringing on the youths’ senses unsought.

The music videos of some Nigeria’s frontline artistes like D’banj, M.I Abaga, Naira Marley, Don Jazzy, Davido, Wizkid, and Flavour, have all exhibited crazy and bizarre dispositions to western fashion and lifestyle. These music videos often feature displays of immoral and suggestive dance moves. There is the ostentatious show of exotic cars, with (video) girls dancing on top of these cars and clad in scanty and penetrative clothes; while of course, caressing these artistes as they all dance to the rhythm of the music. The artistes also waste expensive champagnes even as they smoke their lives out on Indian hemp, to the admiration of these impressionable and gullible youths. Unknown to these artistes sadly, they exert a cult-like influence on the youths, accounting for the distortion of their minds. The result is that, these youths go all out to copy this illicit culture hook, line and sinker.

In another development, much of the dreaded cult activities on campuses surprisingly are influenced by how the youths see western movie characters. That is why the culture of violence, alcoholism and drug abuse is copied from the attitudes and lifestyles the characters portray.

Western pop culture has made Nigerian youths to jettison their local attires and dressing. Indecent dressing becomes the trend. It’s now common place to see young girls walk the streets almost nude. These girls wear micro-mini skirts, bum shorts, short blouses, handless tops and strapless bras. Some even prefer to go braless, making their nipples provocatively pointed. Some, who wouldn’t want their nipples pointed, go ahead to seal them with sellotape. Girls who dress decently are given derogatory names like “Mary Amaka”, “Mgbeke” and the likes. Regrettably, raping of girls and sexual harassment has been on the increase in our society and campuses because of recklessness in dressing.

Young males are also not left out of indecent dressing. They “fry” and dye their hair, while some wear them in dreadlocks with a pair of earrings to boost the swag. You also see them wear big three-quarter shorts that are left hanging below their buttocks, exposing their (dirty) underwear in the process. They call it “sagging” and those who dress this way are called “Marlians”. Sincerely, there’s a problem! There’s a problem because, these cultures were all copied from western music videos and it has found sweeping acceptance amongst the youths to the abandonment of our traditional attires like “Abada”, “Ankara”, “Aso oke” and so on.

I wore my native attire of “caftan” to defend my project in the university and I vividly recall how the chief examiner heavily penalized me for failure to wear suit. Truly, I had no money to buy a suit then, because, the project had already usurped a lot from me financially. The backlash I received that day remains evergreen in mind.

Because of western pop culture infiltration, youths have lost the culture of respect for elders. One day, I witnessed a young girl raise her voice to her mother simply because she was reprimanded for coming home late at night. Guess what? She said she had the right to live her life the way she wanted, since she had turned eighteen. I wasn’t totally surprised because she must have learnt such arrogance from the western movies she had seen. Also, young adults no longer bow, kneel, or prostrate to greet their elders.

Our various native languages also suffer the risk of extinction. During the Christmas festivity, an observation was made that very few young ones who travelled to villages could communicate effectively in their local dialects, even when it’s sure their parents hail from the same village. Only God knows then, how such languages can be preserved.

Way forward and Conclusion

An Igbo adage has it that, “there is never a late time to make a change”. Therefore, deliberate efforts must be made now by all stakeholders to proffer the needed change and way forward to lift our youths out of the effects of these imperialistic western popular cultures.

Since our youths learn mostly from the entertainment industry and because the fastest way of getting any message to them is through the industry, government must adopt urgent measures to control the broadcast of contents that erode our cultural tenets. That said, regulatory government agencies in Nigeria like the National Broadcasting Commission alongside the National Film and Video Censors Board, should rise up to the challenge in this direction. Meanwhile, parents must keep a diagnostic eye on their children in similar regard.

In a related development, Nigerian artistes must begin to communicate with the youths with clarity, purpose and intellectual depth. Most artistes have thrown caution to the wind, because, the content of their songs are hinged on illicit and profane themes that do not reflect our people and culture correctly.  Rather, these artistes should ensure their songs sell our good cultural beliefs not just to the youths but also to the international communities. Their songs must inspire positive messages, virtues and values to the youths.

Also, there should be a systematic revamping of our schools’ curriculum structure mostly at primary and secondary level to project and protect our own indigenous cultures from imperialistic western cultural encroachment.

Parents must begin to communicate with their children during their formative years in their local dialects. These parents must understand it’s not a sign of inferiority complex, but a way to promote and preserve our indigenous culture.

To cap it all, in the words of Lady Gaga, “we must commit to unlearning ‘racialized’ social constructs”. This remains the way to go to save our youths from the effects of western popular culture imperialism.

Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University can be reached via write2oluka@gmail.com