Aren't we all Dancers

Of Students and Career Shifts: Aren’t We All Dancers?

Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious

In September 2008, The Killers (a musical band) released one of the most symbolic and controversial pieces in the history of songs. Humans, the music in context, doesn’t only offset the conventional techniques of rhythms; it has expressions that take some level of introspection to decipher. Considering this musical piece, this question, “Are we Humans or are we Dancers?” is arguably the most controversial of all in the song. The meaning of this expression quickly became a subject of argument. After unsuccessful attempts to decipher it, some proposed that the lyrics have no meaning. To some others, Brandon Flowers and his band were too philosophical; they labeled it as some words conceived out of the metaphysical.
All in all, the interpretation of art is subjective. For the sake of this piece, however, let’s examine what humans and dancers connote (this is very much in line with Brandon’s interpretation too).

Humanity and the Resistance to Control: The Aren’t We All Dancers Analogy

While the concept of humanity might not have a specific definition, we have some traits that we have come to recognise as part of that identity. For instance, compassion and emotions of love. Among all of these is an innate resistance to control; humanity does not like to be “under control.” We do not like to act according to a script already determined by family, social class, religion, or a system of government.
This resistance is a fundamental part of our psychology, notably progressive psychology. It’s the same system of thinking that birthed the expression, “Are we humans, or are we dancers”? Brandon Flowers and his band suggested that humanity’s essence is exclusively mutual to the psychology of dancing. Dancers would always move according to a pre-written piece of music. ‘Humans’ is a question of our humanity; whether we are really living our lives to the fullest or just dancing to the tunes of circumstances, peer pressure, or societal standards.

How It Was In The Beginning

Career choice is a big decision in every person’s life; it is a choice that requires some level of knowledge to make. Until recently, most people (especially the young ones in Nigeria) were conscripted into certain professions by societal pressure. For instance, a typical Nigerian kid takes up sciences because his parents envision him as a doctor or an engineer. The average kid (even without his parents’ influence) wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. In the event of inability to meet up to these courses of study’s required standards, young ones, out of depression, resort to the rest of the available courses; “the anyhow courses”. In extreme cases, these individuals (who didn’t make the cutoff) suffer self-esteem problems. All these typical stories are part of a pre-existing social stereotype.

Related post: The Nigerian Education System: The North, the South, and the Brains that Do Not See Growth
The point, however, is not to play the blame game. Of course, the whole rush towards the “professional courses” is not because of the big boys’ grand scheme to create a career dogma. Parents who make their children take up some professions by force are not para-demons bent on making kids unhappy. Everyone wants to have a respectable profession. Society, your parents, your church members all want you to do well in specific careers. After all, who doesn’t want to be successful? However, success in this context is not a function of satisfaction or fulfillment. It is a question of financial prowess. Are you rich; can you take care of your family? Do you have mansions? If we examine the pre-existing circumstances our country was birthed from, you will find out that you may not stand the chance of being educated and wealthy outside those professions.

How It Is Now

In recent years, more people have defied the societal expectations of success and career choices. This defiant move is becoming more and more glaring, as new career paths are making it into the limelight with the advent of technology. With academics now demystified, people no longer need a certificate of the profession to establish themselves in an industry. For instance, in recent times, there has been a new wave of re-orientation of what tech. We no longer see technology in the light of screwdrivers, wires, and machines alone, but also in the light of software developers, AI engineers, data scientists, and programmers. Young Nigerians have successfully ridden on this wave to creating innovation; see Paystack, Flutterwave, CowryWise, Blood Bank, etc.

The success of people who had ventured into these erstwhile uncharted lands has encouraged more and more young ones to venture off the “conventional career paths”. You know, there are success stories of people who dropped out to chase their dreams of making it big in another field totally unrelated to their initial area of study. The resulting effect of this is that more people have started challenging the societal status quo on this matter, especially considering the dwindling prospects of financial prosperity in the “professional courses” and academia.

Aren’t We All Still Dancers?

The shift in perspective towards career and career success is a necessary occurrence, especially if we consider the global market and technology trajectory. In most cases, students realise this need for change at later stages of their education, and they go for it. You’ll see medical students shifting towards technology and law students making waves in sales and marketing. The University of Ibadan has quite some individuals that are solid examples. However, this shift in interest begs these questions; are these changes in trajectory as a result of passion? What exactly drives our passion? Are there young ones who are driven by a passion for change? Are we sure we aren’t following the same dogma that we claim to fight against? You know, follow the money gang? Are we really humans, or are we just dancers to the drums of capitalism?

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