One of the many things I’ve come to realise through my experiences here in the U.S, is that many of the problems plaguing Nigeria, and indeed most of the African continent, are not just Nigerian problems or African problems. At their most fundamental level, they are all Black problems.
Elements of these issues can be seen in all the black races here. African Americans while different culturally, exhibit many of the same tendencies when it comes to money. As do Haitians, and even some non-black races who live reasonably close to the poverty line.
As such, I used to think that a lot of these tendencies and preferences that push us towards corruption and so on, were primarily the result of moving from a position of poverty, to one of riches – and that a lot of these things happen because people are set in a poverty-stricken mindset and so react opportunistically towards the possibility of having more money.
Certainly there is something to that theory, and it may explain why some poor people begin to flaunt and revel in their newfound wealth, when raised to positions of financial power. But no other race does it quite like we do, and none so commonly across the board. We buy new cars, new houses, expensive jewelry and watches… It is often so flamboyant, that one can tell when a black man has acquired a huge sum of money, on sight.
The question is why? Is it because we like spending money, or because we like looking like we have money, or perhaps because we like the attention and adoration that a rich man gets? I believe that the answer lies in all of these, yet in none of these on their own.
From what I’ve seen in the NBA players, the stereotypical pimps, other black U.S stereotypes, and our own African politicians, the answer lies in immediate gratification.
Wherever you go in the world, you will find that black people maintain some constants in their stereotypes. Hip, flashy, big, strong, powerful… Yet, when it comes to work ethic, you find lazy being the stereotype here, hardworking there… and it flips back and forth. In Nigeria though, I’d never heard of a work ethic stereotype, but it was obvious that the less financially stable were harder workers.
Again, this may be explained away by necessity. Except that here in the U.S, black people are predominantly poorer, but have the “lazy” stereotype. Thus making “necessity” an insufficient argument.
For argument’s sake, I assume that a stereotype represents predominant behaviour.
But what does make this variability in stereotype understandable, is a strong preference for immediate gratification! Because tons of money in the bank does not give immediate gratification, gratification comes from spending it; and making investments does not give immediate gratification, gratification comes in the long term.
The common methods by which wealth is made sustainable, are all processes that provide little to no immediate returns… and so the rich black man is left with the least sustainable options if he wants to invest and be gratified.
Things like buying land to resell and building flats to rent. Things that require saving up to do, and incur fees to maintain. Things that essentially are more difficult to do if you have a constant desire for gratification drawing on your finances. Thereby making sustainable financial wealth a harder target to reach.
Of course harder to reach does not mean unattainable, and is no excuse for the type of behaviour that we see. But it certainly offers a theory for why such behaviour pervades all classes of black society. It could explain why even the richer black people in our societies, continue to succumb to the temptations of corruption:-
The forward-thinkers stealing to invest, because they are spending their honest money indulging themselves, and the common man stealing because he sees his situation as an opportunity to grab as much as he can before it’s too late: With a meagre few ever crossing the barriers of sustainable wealth honestly.
This theory lends itself to many other applications in the black man problem sphere, but I’ll save those for next time. For now, you may consider this theory of immediate gratification, and see if it jives with you. I’d love to hear what you think.