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How to Create a National Character
THE CREATION/ BIRTHING OF A NATIONAL CHARACTER
As Nigeria celebrates her 50th anniversary as a self governing nation, Nigeria, like many other African nations ponder what social formula could be employed to create a positive national character.
This article attempts to examine how this elusive national attribute has been successfully achieved in other countries.
There are a variety of mechanisms used in the Western world to create a national character. In developed nations, the chief mechanisms for delivering this mass orientation include: Radio, Television, Newspapers, Cinematography, popular/classical music, popular/classic literature.
The two most versatile and powerful of these instruments are without any question Television and the Cinema. This is why television and cinema remain the most potent and powerful tools for advertising within the world of commerce and industry worldwide.
Television is invasive and its impact upon our lives is without question immediate and enduring.
Western democracies therefore use Television and Cinema’s persuasive appeal to create national characters. Britain used the Cinemas massively, during the difficult years of the Second World War. It was used to keep the nation’s morale up. It was used to keep the entire population informed about the progress of the war. It was used to teach British communities about civil defence strategies and initiatives.
Radio was also used at this time to inform people about government strategies relating to food rationing. The strategies mothers could use to provide nutritious and balanced diets for their families, using ingredients rationed out to women, was also relayed to households via radio and cinemas.
Television became prevalent in Britain after the war years. TV was massively used by government to help/encourage households to put the war years behind them and get back to their feet
No aspect of social life, needed to evolve Britain into a sophisticated nation state was left untouched.
In short, ever since the 2nd world war, Western democracies have recognised the enormous ability of television to shape and mould society. It has used this awareness to great advantage. TV is used today to disseminate information very quickly all around the various parts of the UK. This information may relate to a missing child, a national disaster, a man hunt for a dangerous criminal, or a chemical leak that poses a danger and needs to be brought to people’s awareness very quickly.
TV awards in western societies occur annually. These awards, celebrates citizens, who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life. Award such as: “Most useful invention of the year”, encourages scientific design and innovation. “Teacher of the year” award, celebrates the teacher that has most impacted the lives of pupils or even parents within a school community. “The Brave heart of Britain Award”, celebrates individuals who (in a given national crisis) heroically rescued injured people or aborted a huge loss of life.
The unsung heroes of various neighbourhoods also receive awards. This could be a gentleman, who organises sporting activities for youngsters during the school holidays, or it may be the altruistic granny who teaches young girls how to bake bread and crochet in the church hall, during the long summer holidays, so as to keep these teenagers amused and occupied; rather than out and about roaming the streets. The boy’s Scout teacher and First aid teacher in English villages are often celebrated and applauded at these national award ceremonies.
Television is also used in the West to brand countries, so that they are perceived by the rest of the world as desirable holiday destinations. Hollywood and the Walt Disney theme parks have indeed perfected this art. The Caribbean Islands make their seaside resort come across as the most alluring in the world. Spain has in recent years so branded itself as a warm haven, with miles of unspoilt white sandy beaches. The truth is that many East European countries, such as Bulgaria have truly beautiful seaside resorts that equals or even better that of Spain, but they have not keyed into the importance of national branding and so do not attract the number or calibre of clients that the likes of Spain, Dubai or the Bahamas attract.
Television and Cinema is also subtly used to speak of a country’s dynamic socio- political and economic might. American movies tell us that the USA is a big, virile economic giant.
Music and comedy aired on TV help western democracies celebrate life, laugh at themselves or the peculiar habits or mannerisms of other nationals. The music of the Beatles characterised Britain of the early/mid sixties.
Elvis Presley, Diana Ross and the Supremes, all kept popular American teenage culture alive, all over the world in the sixties and seventies.
All in all, TV and Cinema remain unrivalled in creating mass cultures not only nationally but also internationally. TV and cinema have indeed helped to make the world a smaller place. We know so much more about each other’s way of life and culture because of what we see on television.
The West spends huge sums of money within the TV and film industry, because it recognises that it is hugely important to create a positive vision that society needs to aspire to.
The Bible tells us that a people often perish for lack of vision…….
When one thinks of France you think of perfumes, haute couture, cheese and wines. Germany reminds you of Mercedes Benz and BMW, whilst Switzerland, reminds one of international banking and chocolates.
Similarly, Nigeria should remind people of: breath taking beaches, colourful fabrics, stunning beautiful landscapes, glistening leather bags, sleek service and Hospitality. Nigeria is capable of reminding everyone of exotic dishes, warm friendships, enchanting gospel music and joy for living that is unalloyed. In other words, Nigeria should bring to mind, a country smack in the heart of Africa, which pull you back, because of its alluring beauty. These concepts can be woven into Nigeria’s music, literature and drama and presented to her populace as visionary goals to aspire to.
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