Meism: A definitive exposition of a Liberian socio-political phenomenon

Reading time 5 min.

Capitalism Socialism Communism: These are all socio-political systems of varied origins that espouse different methodologies practiced in nations the world over. In Liberia we have our own unique system, “MEISM”. “Me what?” you may ask; “MEISM, I reply!” the socio-political methodology of the almighty ME.

All Liberians are to some extent practitioners of this doctrine; this is easy to understand considering that we are brainwashed, excuse me, educated in its tenets from an early age (from cradle to grave actually!). We learn at home, in our schools and in everyday interaction; from city to village, literate and illiterate Liberians learn and practice MEISM.

Just imagine a mealtime in a typical Liberian home: When the food is dished out (“serve or distribute food after cooking,” for our foreign friends), PAPA has a special set of dishes, “Breaking Plates”. Mama and everyone else make do with a set of cheap plastic bowls. That is the first clue to the essential tenets of MEISM, PAPA is first always.

Let’s continue our investigation by looking into the contents of the two sets of dishes. Papa’s Bowls: Spare ribs, pig’s feet, three fleshy pieces of chicken, a ¼ pound of beef, dried bush meat, cow tongue and skin, fish, crabs, crawfish, rice, fufu and some plantain. Mama’s Bowl: 1 fish head, two chicken’s feet and a ratty tattered looking piece of cowskin. Everybody else: Chicken feet (chicken toes more likely) and some watery soup or gravy.

You name it, Papa’s got it = MEISM.

You (Mama and everybody else) basically hope that PAPA (the glutton) a.k.a. MR. Me, doesn’t eat all of his food; so that you can eat his “take-plate” or have something for a cold-bowl breakfast. For a young child that is the first application of the principles of MEISM in his or her life; PAPA, Mr. ME, always comes first, especially when it’s time to eat. The second application usually comes when you are old enough to be sent on various errands or when you can do certain chores. A true African child will remember, “John come take off your PAPA’s shoes”, or “Musu come scratch your PAPA’s head”.

Imagine yourself playing or just visiting at a friend’s house a block or two away, when you suddenly hear your name, “John oh! I say, John oh!” (Liberians and certain other West African Nations all have an OH! AH! Or some other exclamatory sound somewhere on their birth certificate in invisible ink). You rush home out of breath wondering what you’ve done again, only for Mr. Me to inform you that he’s thirsty so “YOU MUST” go get him a glass of cold water from the kitchen.

At this point you start to question certain things in your life. The first question you ask yourself is, “why didn’t he just go to the kitchen and get the water, instead of walking to the front door and straining his vocal chords?” The answer, young Buddha, is MEISM. AT this point in life if you have a younger sibling or relative you start applying the principles of MEISM yourself, “Musu Oh! Musu Oh! Come in my room and give me that book from my bedside table.” all the while relaxing doing your toenails or whatever on your bed.

By the time a typical Liberian enters the second decade of life they are fervent proponents of MEISM. Don’t think so? Follow this scenario.

A young Liberian still living with his or her parents gets good paying job earning X amount of dollars per month. Upon receipt of their first paycheck what does he or she usually do?

 Buy a gold chain, ring(s), bracelet(s), etc… that resembles something only a drugged out rapper would wear.

 Buy a cell phone for himself or herself and another for their significant other, before going to tear up the town.

 Move out as quickly as possible.

 Give half of the paycheck to his or her parents and promise to contribute a certain amount each month to household expenses.

If you chose A. you really know what MEISM is all about. B. MEISM, does not have any romantic tendencies, nor room for two. C. You are a true MEIST D. Maybe in another country, but definitely not in MEIST Liberia. As you can see so far, Meism in Liberia is more than an ideology, it is a way of life. A way of life that has blessed our country with an infrastructure second to none in the world, a selfless and patriotic populace, successive governments dedicated to the welfare of the Liberian leaders – oops – I meant people, and a rich tradition of politicians who firmly believe in listening to what Liberians really want.

Now let’s switch this around, and parallel MEIST Liberia with your society, how different are they really? Not much I think. MEISM was originally a jab at a former unlamented contemporary African leader, analyzing how he ran his country and was unconsciously affecting an entire society, with his choice of ME FIRST. Now it’s an indictment of our society as a whole, how we’ve become so wrapped up in our imported values, forgetting our history and culture. How many of your Father or Mother’s friends do you call Uncle or Aunty? Why then this new MEIST trend? Think about it.

I leave you with this, think about your name or anyone’s or anything’s name and wonder how that very name affects their existence and define who or what they are. Agree or disagree email me at

The Other Afrik  The Other Afrik is an alternative and multi-faceted information source from Afrik-News' panel of experts. Contributions include : opinions, reviews, essays, satires, research, culture and entertainment news, interviews, news, information, info, opinion, africa, african-american, europe, united states, international, caribbean, america, middle east, black, France, U.K.
Zubin Cooper
Zubin Cooper is a media professional and is an avid follower and proponent of African culture and its impact on new media. A self proclaimed bon vivant, born in Monrovia, Liberia and currently living in Monrovia, Liberia, not far from the beach, Zubin has lived in the US, Spain, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and visited many other African and European nations. Zubin is currently involved in the running of omuahtee AFRICA media, an African Media company and in the execution of different projects. He’s filmed, co-produced and participated in many projects most centered on his beloved continent in the West African sub-region. He believes that media professionals, Journalists and filmmakers are modern day Griots; living historians and storytellers with a duty to record and share what they see, hear and believe.
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