In his 12-volume magnum opus called “A Study of History”, published between 1934 and 1962, historian Arnold Toynbee explored the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations and arrived at a sobering conclusion: great civilisations are not murdered. Rather, they take their own lives. What applies to civilisations also applies to nations.
Roman Civilisation, epitomised by the Roman Empire, covered as many as 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million square miles) at the height of its glory in 390. But it had been destroyed within by over-expansion, inner contradictions and poor leadership before Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455. The empire had shrunk to almost zero by 476.
On how civilisation takes their own lives, which Arnold Toynbee alluded to, Dr Ben Carson provides relatable factors that attention must be paid to at all times. According to him, if you want to destroy the civilisation of a nation, there are three ways to do it: destroy the family structure, destroy education and lower the integrity of role models and references.
He added that in order to destroy the family, you should just undermine the role of the mother so that she feels ashamed of being a housewife. “To destroy education, give no importance to the teacher and lower his place in the society so that the students despise him. Besides, to lower the role models, undermine the scholars, doubt them until no one listens to them or follows them. For, when a conscious mother disappears, a dedicated teacher vanishes and there is a downfall of role models, who will teach youngsters values?”
These three destroyers of civilisation are prominent in Nigeria today as many young ones are lacking in values. It is even difficult to separate the right from the wrong as almost everyone appears to be wallowing utter heedlessness. Young adults don’t listen to their elders again as they take inspiration from the deviants in the virtual space. Anyone with a social media handle can spew nonsense and before long, he will be entitled to foment trouble and create ‘wahala’, with the online hordes defending the indefensible.
Women are increasingly becoming ashamed of being called housewives. There is a stiff competition to be financially independent – with the mindset of putting men in their place. The traditional role of mothers as home builders would even be questioned by some feminists and their sympathisers that neither of the parents has more role than the other in that regard. That the two parents are responsible for child upbringing is a truth that doesn’t water down the primary role of the home-maker.
Then, education has been relegated by the society to the extent that many people think money matters most and “education is a scam”. Educators at secondary and tertiary education levels have become underrated to the extent that students now beat teachers and lecturers. It used to be parents who beat teachers on behalf of their children.
Besides, the scholars, who should be considered role models, are undermined by the society and the aura of reverence that used to surround them has been replaced with contempt. How many people listen to scholars any longer? It is the social misfits, drop outs, ragamuffins and those who promote negativity on the social media that command many followers.
Conversely, developing a nation or building a fractured civilisation requires work from the scratch, the family level. If the institution of marriage is respected and individual families are empowered to raise functionally educated and socially responsible young adults, the effects would positively rub on the society. The family structure has to be upheld and parents must consciously discharge their parental responsibilities.
Then, education should be sustained so that people can be formed, informed, reformed and transformed because without education, the society is doomed. This is why the rise or fall of a nation is contingent upon the seriousness with which its citizens take education.
Lastly, the position of role models, the scholars and the sages, should be protected so that by virtue of the honour they are accorded, young ones will have people to look up to. The survival of civilisation and the development of nations all depend on the family, education and the scholars. Education remains the heartbeat of development and on no occasion should its import be undermined the way we do in Nigeria.