Custom, Traits And Generalising
Traits make an individual who he is; traits also may define a whole group of people. The Advanced Learners Dictionary in explanation of the word trait says that the American’s distinguishing characteristics or traits are his energy and generosity. That is an American summed up in two words, which means that a country made up of different individuals who may behave differently at some times may be known to possess one glaring quality that makes you to think ‘typical of them’
Why it is possible
There is custom, for example. Customs and tradition form the habits of a people; the practice of tradition makes us who we are; we are so proud of our way of life that we feel safe in it. We want to continue to teach our children what we have learned from our forebears because experiences have not proved to us that are set ways are wrong.
Taking the question of classing a whole people as ‘terrible’, ‘nice’ or whatever may be the opinion we have formed of them, we may look higher up or naturally and consider temperament. Temperament makes it possible that a whole continent of people can exhibit similar behavior. Temperament is said to show in mankind in four major ways namely the sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic. The Germanic people are said to have the choleric temperament which makes them a people who are ready for action. Germanic are a group of whom Germany is only one of the countries.
There are people or several countries whose people are said to remain in the childhood state or sanguine period because of their environment which makes the whole region a rather carefree people. A people’s temperament is said to form as a result of heredity, environment and their even their diet.
But how would people who have never visited this country or met any Nigerians describe the Nigerian? His opinion may be that they are corrupt, thieves or pretenders because those attributes are what he reads or hears of us. And it is funny that the leaders of the major ethnic groups only appear to rise in arms and quarrel with themselves when the issue has a political tone.
We feel terrible when an unbecoming behaviour is ascribed to us and we want to go on the war path when we are criticized as a people but we should remember that we form opinion by association; for example, if I come across two different people of the same ethnic group and who have related cordially to me, I would want to be friends with more people from that group.
I think that what the leaders of the ethnic groups should do when their people are lumped together as utterly evil, thieves, discriminators of other tribes or described in other unacceptable words should be to examine the event that led to the uproar instead of going on the warpath.