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like the Romans

Should we always act like the Romans? On conformity

“When in Rome, do like the Romans do.”

If there is anything I take after my father – well, apart from his talkative ability, it’s the hatred for this expression. It makes him talk more when you say it.

The validity of this statement loses its value to me when people use it as an excuse to join the crowd. It is more like a statement of convenience to me.

Stella, 25, my childhood friend was asked to do a traditional rite at her home-town. Amongst others, an advantage was that you would not be chased out of your parents’ home if you got pregnant out of wedlock. Stella did it and when I expressed shock, she went with the convenient rule. I can only imagine the peaceful protest that would have made the papers if they had asked for her first child as a burnt offering. People want to act like the Romans when it is convenient for them.

Mr. Jonas, 56, my headteacher at St. Andrews College as of the year 2003, came to the assembly ground one day and narrated how he had witnessed a roadside robbery. According to him, one of the thieves passed by him making threats to knock him out if he tried to stop him.

The robbers had left a deep injury on the victim’s face. The victim was reported to have been dragging her bags with them and they injured her to weaken her. That story left so much anger in my head. How can a crowd watch people rob a person and do nothing? “It was a very terrifying experience for that woman. She should have hidden her purse properly,” was all he said. People only act like the Romans to hide under indifference.

“Most men are cheats, it’s a normal thing. A woman should not leave her husband’s home when he cheats,” Hannah,35, tells me. I can’t blame her. She had been searching for the right one and when she didn’t get that, she settled for less. Society puts the man first when issues like this arise. I’m sorry but I don’t need a feminist to tell me that this is simply unfair.

“It’s different when a woman cheats. It affects the children.” Philip said to me before we had the last fight. I think the last one he dropped that cut my waist beads were “It’s a man’s world.” As I laugh at my reaction, I wonder why I blamed Philip for that mindset. He is only living in denial. He knows the truth but he chooses to follow what society says. People only act like the Romans to shy away from the ugly truth that might cost them a lot.

With the notion that money is hard to make, a lot of people have adopted the double hustle tactic – in both good and bad ways. The “use what you have to get what you want” ideology is a trend that has stuck with us for a very long time. Although the statement has supposed to mean an avalanche of exchanges, the convenient allegory has been employed in pursuit of fast money.

“You are a beautiful girl, you should read for your exams. You know what to do and you would get an A,” Bole reports her lecturer to me quoting his exact words. This is one of the reasons why most girls have chosen not to work hard anymore.

They feel their problems would be solved by a “slide to open” process. This has encouraged laziness and a drop in discipline among youths. “Money rules the world” is the most valuable trend in the world right now. People only act like the Romans when it suits their way of life.

Notwithstanding, acting like the Romans can be positive when it brings productivity. There are laws that we conform to that have served as prerequisites for an order – laws against murder, theft, and other social crimes.

See also: “She is the breadwinner.” That’ what they say naively.

Ifunanya Mbakogu

Ifunanya Mbakogu is a professional editor and proofreader with a bachelor's degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin. Drawing from a solid level of interpersonal and analytic skills, she is able to present societal issues and matters arising in engaging ways. She is an Editor at Talku Talku.

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