Why all the in­sults?

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

In bye-gone days Nige­ri­ans were held in high es­teem for their dic­tion and com­mand of English, but some­where along the line we threw away all the nat­u­ral res­traint and ci­vil­ity in­her­ent within the lan­guage. Nowa­days Nige­ri­ans al­ways add a sec­ond un­nec­es­sary and in­sult­ing sentence when­ever try­ing to make a point.

We in­sult our­selves with rel­ish and aban­don be­cause quite in­ex­pli­ca­bly we be­lieve that adding in­sults are nec­es­sary in order to be taken se­ri­ously. For ex­am­ple while an English­man would sim­ply ask the ques­tion “didn’t you hear?” the Nige­rian would add “or are you deaf!” This ha­bit­ual sec­ond in­sult­ing sentence com­monly takes the form of either a ques­tion (e.g. “Are you stupid?”), or a state­ment (e.g. “You don’t have sense!”), how­ever quite com­i­cally there are many Nige­ri­ans who don’t even know how to give ad­vice with­out adding an in­sult (e.g. “turn it the other way, mumu!”).

Wikipedia de­fines an in­sult as “an ex­pres­sion, state­ment (or some­times be­hav­iour) which is dis­re­spect­ful or scorn­ful” and may be either in­ten­tional or ac­ci­den­tal, fac­tual or un­true. Although what qual­i­fies as an in­sult is de­ter­mined by both the in­di­vid­ual and the so­cial sit­u­a­tion, gen­er­ally speak­ing peo­ple in­sult oth­ers be­cause they dis­like them, are jeal­ous of them or are in a frus­trated mood which in­cites them to spread of­fence.

As the polity heats up with Senate lead­er­ship court mat­ters, the fall­out from Economic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) in­ves­ti­ga­tions and de­ten­tions, the Abia State gov­er­nor­ship tus­sle, the up­com­ing Edo State elec­tions, and the PDP lead­er­ship cri­sis, the rate and va­ri­ety of in­sults have in­creased dras­ti­cally. Re­gret­tably a whole gen­er­a­tion of Nige­ri­ans has been brought up to be­lieve that in­sult­ing peo­ple is nec­es­sary as an im­pres­sive show of per­sonal power, wit, ver­bal abil­ity, men­tal acu­ity and tough­ness.

So­cial re­search on the other hand sug­gests that hurl­ing in­sults is of­ten an in­di­ca­tion of flawed reasoning con­cern­ing the char­ac­ter or mo­ti­va­tion of oth­ers. For ex­am­ple in a na­tion where mass un­em­ploy­ment, rob­bery, 419, and kid­nap­ping have be­come com­mon place, one would ex­pect gain­ful employment to be com­mended, yet iron­i­cally many Nige­ri­ans are in­sulted on ac­count of their job. Fed­eral Road Safety Corps (FRSC) staff, Ve­hi­cle In­spec­tion Of­fi­cers (VIO), Traf­fic War­dens and Po­lice Of­fi­cers are in­sulted daily be­cause when­ever they stop ve­hi­cles and de­mand par­tic­u­lars, drivers feel that all they want is money.

Mean­while PHCN field-staff who aren’t re­spon­si­ble for epilep­tic power sup­ply, is­su­ing over-in­flated bills, or au­tho­riz­ing mass dis­con­nec­tions rou­tinely re­ceive in­sults if not curses from fed-up con­sumers. Un­de­ni­ably in­sult­ing each other has be­come part of our daily rou­tine. The Nige­rian po­lit­i­cal class has el­e­vated in­sult­ing op­po­nents to an art form and in­te­gral part of their re­sponse to all queries. They just don’t like any­one who thinks dif­fer­ently from them­selves and be­lieve that “po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent” means “en­emy” who doesn’t want you to have your way. Un­able to ar­tic­u­late any sen­si­ble man­i­festo, our politi­cians ig­nore sub­stance, in­sult their op­po­nents and at­tack their char­ac­ter.

Stu­dents of phi­los­o­phy and logic will rec­og­nize this as a well­known form of fal­la­cious ar­gu­ment called “ar­gu­men­tum ad hominem” (ar­gu­ment against the man) which is done to im­press friends and sup­port­ers, and some­times even the peo­ple who are be­ing in­sulted! On many oc­ca­sions in­sults are used as a pre-emp­tive mea­sure in the be­lief that since at­tack is the best form of de­fence, it’s im­por­tant to in­sult your op­po­nents be­fore they in­sult you! Re­searchers use the term “ver­bal dero­ga­tion” to char­ac­ter­ize things peo­ple say that are in­tended to be­lit­tle and of­fend oth­ers.

There is no ex­cuse for our politi­cians to in­volve them­selves in such be­hav­iour be­cause it only in­di­cates their gen­eral poor spirit and ill-na­ture. The role of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers is to lead us to­wards hav­ing a good life, and in­sults can never be a step in the right direc­tion. Any­one accepting po­lit­i­cal of­fice should un­der­stand that opposition and in­sults from un­couth, in­elo­quent in­di­vid­u­als come with the ter­ri­tory. In­stead of re­turn­ing in­sults or worse still en­gag­ing in phys­i­cal com­bat, politi­cians should set an ex­am­ple for so­ci­ety at large by re­ply­ing in a con­trolled man­ner.

They must learn that when in­sulted they should not in­cite pas­sions, but rather act as if what was said didn’t bother them. At the end of the day the pain an in­di­vid­ual feels after be­ing in­sulted is re­ally just a symp­tom of their bloated ego. At some point in time, every­one one of us be­comes the tar­get of in­sult­ing com­ments. It would be nice if we lived in a world with­out in­sults, but since we don’t, our politi­cians should re­al­ize that they can ben­e­fit from lis­ten­ing, be­cause it allows them to gain in­sights into the mind-set of those do­ing the in­sult­ing.

Ex­pect­ing all po­lit­i­cal ac­tors to re­frain from dish­ing out in­sults may not be within the realm of pos­si­bil­ity, but en­cour­ag­ing the more re­fined amongst them to re­frain from us­ing in­sult­ing lan­guage and also to han­dle opposition and in­sults in a civ­i­lized man­ner, will def­i­nitely im­prove the qual­ity of our po­lit­i­cal dis­course and even­tu­ally lead us to a bet­ter so­ci­ety.

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