It is said, for genius, that the average person really uses only a tiny fraction of his/her brain power. I find that applies as much to the processes of daily life: people are thinking less and less and instead believing more and more: not just religious doctrines but political propaganda too.

After Boko Haram had been terrorizing Nigeria and its adjoining countries for over five years, I found out that the average university-educated Nigerian had no idea what the phrase “boko haram” meant. Instead of finding out, they just parroted whatever Western media told them it meant. The first time I heard a Nigerian with a doctorate degree announce to a gathering that the meaning of Boko Haram was “Western Education is forbidden,” I let it ride. The second time, it came from a lady whose intellect I held in very high esteem; but because she was known to have a rather bad case of “West-o-philia,” I took her on.

“Boko Haram” is a phrase made up of just two words: “book” and “haram,” I pointed out. Now, I asked her, which of those two words referred to “western?” She made no answer, so I explained:

“Boko” is a Hausa corruption of “book.” It is another version of “bookuru,” the derogatory word that Hausas used to sneer at bookish learning. And “haram” is borrowed from the Arabic word “haraam” (which means an abomination). So, which of those two words implied “western”?  The lady replied lamely that it was what the media said.

Our unquestioning acceptance of whatever issues from Western “authority” is one reason why falsehood and propaganda are swamping us in the guise of “news.”

One thinking person in that gathering wondered out aloud why the media injected “western” in their interpretation of “boko haraam.”

Easy, I said. Western society likes to position itself as a special target of Islam, in part because that gives the USA and NATO excuse to keep up pressure on Islam. Boko Haram thugs are misguided (albeit no more so than Christian fanatics) but they are indiscriminate anarchists rather than haters of West, or any other cardinal point.

Indeed, although Hausa is a bit more advanced than other Nigerian languages in sophistication, it remains the essentially oral language of a simple people, just like Igbo (my native language) and Yoruba, etc. Most African languages developed in an unwritten form (until European colonists brought their script and alphabets). Languages that develop solely from oral traditions have to be simple and their vocabularies compact—because you can only carry so much in your head.

For that reason many African languages lack words for those things that are strictly abstract, such as the cardinal points (east, west, north, and south). I’ve forgotten most of the Hausa I learned in boyhood, but I doubt that it has a word for “western” any more than other African languages. (For “west,” Igbo uses the phrase “the place where the sun sets.”) Even the geopolitical term “North,” introduced by the British to describe Hausaland in relationship to the rest of Nigeria, is inadequately rendered by Igbo as “Ugwu Awusa,” which means “Uphill in Hausaland.” It takes a little thought to realize that this is a poor translation since Northern Nigeria is not really at higher elevation than the Southern regions. Northern Nigerians refer to their region as “Arewa” but I suspect it connotes their collective ethnic heritage rather than geographic direction.

Similarly, the Igbo expression for “heaven” (another pure abstraction) is “elu-igwe” or, literally, “the top of the sky! For hell it is “oku-mmuo” or the devil’s fire (which is closer in concept). While the two concept, heaven and hell, have definite denotations in christian mythology, their connotation is totally abstract.

Everything emanating from Western media these days must be taken “cum grano salis” (to use the Latin caveat, “with a grain of salt”). Most Westerners insist to me that Russia (or, North Korea these days) is a terrible threat to the West, to the world—until I ask them to name on country that Russia (or Korea) has invaded since the USSR fell in 1986. They think a bit, then smile sheepishly as I point out that the USA and NATO have invaded and scattered eleven countries since 1986, murdering several leaders of those countries.

Or take those who insist that “Terrorists hate and envy us because we are the richest and most advanced nation.” I point out that the Scandinavian countries have a higher standard of living and a better quality of life than the USA. Why do the “terrorists leave them alone and target the USA? Most Americans close their eyes to the fact that the bloody and rapacious rampage of the US & NATO (with 25 million Middle easterners expelled as refugees from their homes since “9/11”) is more than enough to ignite a furious backlash.