Anomie

Apologies, it’s been a while. I enjoyed almost two months of R&R at home in sunny old London (😉), now I’m back in Lagos and thinking about next steps.
Adulting wahala aside, I find myself in a bit of a state. Something like anomie if truth be told. Harking back to my law undergraduate days, specifically Criminology, anomie describes how I’m feeling perfectly. Summarily put, anomie was a concept popularized by the French nineteenth century sociologist Émile Durkheim, where there is a disconnect between individuals and social norms. In his book “Suicide” he cited anomie as one of the social causes for suicide, typified by swift changes in societal values and standards resulting in a feeling of alienation and purposelessness. Durkheim posited that anomie often happens when the economy of a society experiences drastic positive or negative changes, leading to a gap between a society’s ideologies and what was actually attainable in everyday life. The ultimate result of all this is the creation of moral deregulation and the erosion of legitimate ambitions. Fascinating, right?
Okay, let me stop speaking grammar for you. Essentially anomie is where there values we claim to hold like honesty, kindness, integrity, chastity, hard work and justice, has nothing to do with our day-to-day lives. It is that awareness that leads to deviant or self-regarding behavior. I see Durkheim’s theory of anomie all over Nigeria, though not in reference to suicide. Economically, we see that legitimate opportunities to make money are scarce. Graduates can spend up to seven years trying to get their first job. We see that nepotism and corruption rule the day. We see that the government is not able to provide basic so that fuels a “hustle” mentality where anything goes. You are justified in almost anything you need to do to change your fortunes. And so alongside these facts of life we see the rise of the runs girls, 419, area boys, crooked public officials and opportunistic swindlers.
Even within a non-economic context we a similar state of anomie. Cheating and the casual use of people is rampant; both men and women trying to simultaneously have their cake and eat it. Many conducting themselves defensively and with a total disregard of the dignity of another human being, fueled by the mandate to “be smart” or “shine your eye” or “this is Nigeria” or more honestly “why not?”. 
I always find it a surreal moment to go to church and look around into the faces of the married men who hit on you, the people who conned you yet feel no remorse. A play running for hours every Sunday, piety lasting until the curtain falls. You could almost choke on the fumes of hypocrisy rolling off the congregation dressed to the nines to oppress their peers. 
Undoubtedly, Nigeria is experiencing anomie and the consequences are palpable. I guess the question stands, when did this period of change happen? When did we leave our old values behind? Certainly the Nigeria of my parents’ youth and the Nigeria of mine are entirely different realities. 
But the scariest thought of all is not that we forgot our values somewhere along the way, but rather that they never existed at all.

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