One very interesting thing I learned during my time in Lagos is the results of a survey that the Nigerians like to publicize. The World Values Survey, publicized in 2003, found the Nigerians to be top on their list of 65 surveyed countries for the happiness of their people. "The survey is a worldwide investigation of socio-cultural and political change conducted about every four years by an international network of social scientists. It includes questions about how happy people are and how satisfied they are with their lives." That's from a BBC article about the results: here's the link to the article.
There's plenty of other stuff on the web about this survey as well. But when people hear about all the violence and kidnappings and killings, etc. etc. that goes on in Nigeria, it's difficult to reconcile that with the world's happiest people. And when a spoiled and pampered American such as myself sees how most Nigerians live -- the desperate poverty and unhygenic and difficult living conditions, it's hard to believe that they could be happy with their lives. Here's more from that BBC article:
"Nigeria has the highest percentage of happy people followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico, while Russia, Armenia and Romania have the fewest. But factors that make people happy may vary from one country to the next with personal success and self-expression being seen as the most important in the US, while in Japan, fulfilling the expectations of family and society is valued more highly. The survey appears to confirm the old adage that money cannot buy happiness. The researchers for World Values Survey described the desire for material goods as "a happiness suppressant". They say happiness levels have remained virtually the same in industrialised countries since World War II, although incomes have risen considerably."
Another article (http://www.transnational.org/forum/power/2004/01.01_NigeriaHappiness.html)
quotes Nigerians saying why they are happy:
"Peter puts it down to God and music. "We have a great religious faith. Whether we are Christians like us or Muslims as in the north, we all believe ardently that God is looking after us. We believe in being our brother's keeper". Ele is perhaps more perceptive, "people smile at you because that is the way they deal with the awful stress in their poverty stricken life. I can take you to people in the village who are hungry, who are not happy, and God is just in their lives to give them solace. One reason why many of us are happy is that we don't ask for much. If God gives us food we easily become happy. We are not greedy. Gloria said, "You see it in how we move. It's a movement inside us and in society. We feel full of music and love of God. Her friend, the business woman, added, "We Nigerians look after each other. If I know you and you are hungry or ill I will try and help". The engineer said: "It was in our old tribal traditions and religion built on that. Have you ever seen such a religious people?"
It's definitely something to think about. Oh yes, where did the US fall in the happiness survey? 16th place.