Features/Spotlight

Myth, misconceptions and facts of Left-handedness

Supreme Desk
25 April 2022 9:26 AM GMT
Myth, misconceptions and facts of Left-handedness
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In some instances, left-handers face discrimination and they are, somewhat, considered “unlucky’’ while some parents force many of them to use the right hand, especially for eating and collecting things from other people.

In many societies, especially in Africa, people view left handedness as odd, unusual segment of the population and as such, they face prejudice, embarrassment and, even insult.

Imagine if Adesola were right handed and he passes a plate to his mother with his left hand, the result of that action is better left imagined because the action is intended.

But here we have a child born a lefty and he considers he does right by using his left hand to carry out activities; observers ask if the society should frown at that irrespective of cultures and beliefs?

The use of left hand for domestic activities in both a right-handed and left-handed is considered to be disrespectful and broadly disapproved in many cultures, especially in Nigeria, which observers raise concern about.

Among the Yoruba in the south-western part of Nigeria for instance, people pride themselves as a people with rich culture, tradition and social identity.

Accompanying this cultural identity are so many customs, religious beliefs, superstitions and taboos; and one of such taboos is left-handedness.

In a world where the usual is normal, criticism and questions arise when the unusual happens.

When a child is born and starts to use the left hand, many questions come up. Is this child normal? Is this a sign of something evil? Or will the child become undisciplined?

In some societies, lefties or "Southpaws'' are linked to witchcraft or considered strange members of the society viewed with suspicions.

In some instances, left-handers face discrimination and they are, somewhat, considered "unlucky'' while some parents force many of them to use the right hand, especially for eating and collecting things from other people.

However, psychologists say parents and guardians ought to know that children have no power over certain things about their creation left-handedness, inclusive.

This assertion notwithstanding, Malam Haroon Abdullah, a Muslim cleric, insists that Islam prohibits certain actions to be performed with the left hand and there are no shortcuts to it.

"It's not a sin to be left-handed in Islam, but there are some things you have to do with your right hand.

"Islam prohibits making use of the left hand for certain things such as eating and drinking, so it's a dicey thing as it is but the place of Islam is very clear about this.

"Islam is a religion that embraces customs and ethics of every tribe that promotes the moral life of the community and it must be adhered to.

"If a community detests the use of left hand to do certain things such as giving people things with left hand, one should observe.

"It is detestable (makruh) to offer things to people with the use of left hands and a parent should encourage the child to use right hands, but if it affects the persons intellectual growth, it's good to leave the child,'' he notes.

But a lefty, Mr Oluwasola Akindayini, a baker, says being a left-handed does not mean he is disrespectful in any way.

"Being a left-hander is a blessing and I don't feel bad being a left hander. I feel it makes me unique; it's very wrong to change a lefty to be right-hander.

"I had experienced a kind of stigma when I was young. I was told to do things with my right hand, even to give people money. I remember being slapped for giving a woman, money with the left hand.

"My parents wanted to change me but they eventually understood that this was beyond my making and they made peace with it,'' he explains.

Corroborating Akindayini, Mr Michael Chidubem, a biochemistry student of the University of Ilorin, says attempting to change a left-hander could have negative effects.

"It's not right, especially at young age, because the child will spend more time changing to right hand rather than putting the brain to better use, using left hand is a unconscious act and the child doesn't have any control of it.

"When someone reminds me, especially in restaurant, by saying how do you eat with left hand I usually reply by saying also how do you eat with right hand.

"It's not what I have power over, it's how I am, it's not really my doing, God created me like this,'' he explains.

In his view, Oluwbukola Akanni, a journalist, who used her left hand initially and voluntarily changed to her right hand, says she was conscious of her decision.

"Growing up I drew, I wrote with my left hand and luckily for me my parents didn't try to change that.

"I guess going to school and seeing other people do things differently was a changing point for me, so I became more conscious about it, as we speak I can use both hands,'' she says.

Dr Ogabi Osigwe, a neurologist explains that "those that function with their left hands have no power or control over such thing; it is how they are wired, the motor portion of one side of the brain controls the movements of the opposite side of the body''.

In recognition of the position of left-handers whose population is estimated at 10 per cent of the world population, International Left-Handers Day is celebrated on every Aug. 13.

It is an international day inaugurated by Dean Campbell, founder of the Lefthanders International in 1976 to celebrate the differences and distinctiveness of left handed individuals and their uniqueness.

With this, left-handedness has been recognised as a unique trait. Left-handers are not forced to be right-handers and their creativity, uniqueness and ability to do things in their own way have been recognised.

On International Left-Handers Day, many left-handed friendly products are launched, and awareness of the advantages and disadvantages are spread.

All in all, psychologists have found out that lefties are smarter, have better memories and they can remember the exact dates of events; play video and other games better with better understanding of art.

They also observe that lefties have some disadvantages, including being more worried about mistakes they could make and their concern when they are challenged or criticised which may stimulate anger among them.

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