I can remember calling my friend uncivilized because he asked for my help in performing a particular task with his new Samsung Galaxy Tab. Of course, it was part of a huge joke, but I meant what I said.

I was too sure of myself; it never occurred to me that I needed to look up that word in the dictionary. ‘It was no crank view,” I had thought. The fact that he (my friend) grew up in the countryside, with little or no exposure to advanced technology was just enough to call him uncivilized. Subsequent years I would laugh at my reasoning after learning the different meanings attributed to that word.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of English (8th ed.) defines ‘uncivilized’ as, ‘Not behaving in a way that is acceptable according to social and moral standards.’ According to the said dictionary, ‘uncivilized’ also means, ‘Not having developed a modern culture or way of life.’ While the second definition hints a bit to what I have always thought ‘uncivilized’ to mean, the first brings another wonderful meaning. From these definitions, suffice it to say that being civilized also has a lot to do with manner or character, and not just a subject of modernity (if really it is).

The Nigerian academic, Professor Emenike Ndu made a nice distinction between civilization and modernity when he wrote:          

My point here is that it is possible to have an environment with all the modern artifacts which practical science has invented and still not have a civilized environment. This is to say that these artifacts — good concrete buildings, motor cars, phones, television and other things that make life comfortable and enjoyable are signs of modernity and not civilization…I conclude then that modernity is physical, civilization is moral. (Ndu, 2016).

From the forgoing, it becomes clear that one can live in a technologically advanced society and still be uncivilized. It can also be inferred that we’ve all acted like uncivilized people at one point in time, notwithstanding that we live in advanced societies.

To start with, consider the scene in our social media and online opinion platforms where uncivilized acts of all sort play out. Think about how language is used to besmirch. In Nigeria, it’s no strange thing that hate speeches on social media have become commonplace.  Just few weeks to the 2019 general election which is slated for February, the war has already begun on the social media. Little things are being set in place, words are spoken and soon actions will be taken. We really don’t have to continue this way!

Moreover, think of the level to which fraud has increased with the advent of the internet. Think of the activities of internet fraudsters or ‘yahoo boys’ as they are best known in Nigeria. If the internet which is a product of modernity or technological advancement creates more routes for the perpetration of crime, should we rather pray to live like the primitive man? Should we say technology is an enemy of civilization? Well, I don’t think so. What we need is good morals. It’s quite unfortunate that everyone has got an excuse for every unscrupulous act. For this group of people the excuse, I think, has always been the failed government, failed leadership. Of course, there is no cogent alibi for crime.

One cannot overlook how our laws are becoming lax, losing their grip on the common citizen. Think of how people get away with crime. Think of how laws are being manipulated. The innocent ones are apprehended, while the wrongdoers dance with unbroken steps to the rhythm of impunity. Can we still call our society, which is equipped with all modern artifacts, civilized? The Norwegian sociologist, Nil Christie, would write, ‘The way in which a society delivers pain to its wrongdoers is the measure of civilization.’ Going by the aforesaid, can we still boast of a civilized society?

Furthermore, think of the numerous protests we’ve had in our educational system. These protests most times are against fallen standards and failed system. A question then arises, ‘in what way are the said protesters contributing to the said education standards?’ what of those who want to get it by all means, damn the consequence? How well has examination malpractice contributed to the system?

Lastly, consider the nasty acts we portray towards those who share different religious views.

A clear indication of how uncivilized we are! A civilized individual should understand that it is impossible for everyone to reason the same way, hold the same opinion or believe the same thing. A civilized person should be able to interact fairly with those who share opposing religious views, what the American writer and journalist, Janiah Adams would call “seeing the bigger picture.’ It seems impossible, right? I don’t think so!

It’s true that we feel better than our primitive fathers. It’s also true that we feel better than those who dwell in the remote areas, who have never laid their hands on a smart phone, laptop or desktop. Congratulations to us! But can we feel the same way about our morals? To be civilized is to be morally equipped.



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