Three words that reach the heart

Today is sunday which means my favourite day to post. I want to get over all the anger and frustration with what God should or should not have done in my life. Being angry with God is like being angry with the weather – it’s vexation of spirit. To me God is nature or the universe and remains so. Though some friends tell me that my thoughts are contradictory, in my mind everything is harmonious. I know exactly what I want. I’m not confused about anything. I could go to church, sing the hymns and shake hands with the preacher but that doesnt mean I have become a fundamentalist. I call it resilience. I could entertain just about any idea without conclusively accepting it. Being part of a larger community also makes one more humanistic – we just have to agree to disagree.

Last time I heard, my neighbour was praying that Jesus should kill all his enemies and he actually said (verbatim): ‘All my enemies die in Jesus name…die!…die!…die!’ This made me laugh so hard and I figured if not because of the law he will probably ask permission from Jesus and murder them himself. So here we can see the corrupting effect of false religion on the human mind. If Jesus exists in the material world, and if indeed he listened to such prayers we will all be dead by now. Nine out of every ten christian in my country has prayed such prayer before. How will he killing one’s enemies make one’s life better? If one is lazy and ignorant one remains poor and miserable even after all enemies are dead.

As I mentioned earlier I want to draw your attention to three words that reach the heart. These words have proven effect on even the most callous person, provided such a person is actually human. But they are also words that, for the proud in spirit, are difficult to utter. Unfortunately secular education does not teach virtue anymore and it’s sad. They inflate the ego with logic and logic has no reverse gears. So one only needs to keep moving forward. Culture has also evolved in such a way that modesty and politeness especially in men implies a weakness, so now most youths act tough to impress others and it often fails them in the end. The three words which if uttered genuinely, reaches the heart, irrespective of whether the relationship is marital, professional or casual are ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘help me.’ Happy sunday!

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Why do African universities teach Kant as a “moral philosopher?”

Immanuel Kant as a moral philosopher? Please tell me this is a joke. What moral precepts did he contribute to the molding of the African personality, consciousness and existence? Would you label someone who called you an ox, who said you should be driven apart with thrashings a moral philosopher?  Yet this is what Kant said of Black Africans.

Worst still, would you take someone seriously if he wrote voluminously about how married couples should relate to each other when in fact he himself never had the courage to marry? Kant may be a giant in European philosophy, fair enough why shouldn’t he be, but to teach one concept and live the other is unethical.

One enters the department of philosophy in a typical African university and they are teaching Kant, Hegel, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Descartes etc. The irony in all this epistemological blunders is that there are probably more sages in Africa than there are elsewhere. Why not primarily teach the aphorisms of African sages as African philosophy. Wouldn’t that be more plausible and logical and even meritorious to Africa?

The Ethical Flaw in Euthanasia

Those who may not know, euthanasia means mercy killing – to ask to be put to death either because of deteriorating health, abuse, misery or simply despair. Euthanasia is legal in some European countries but not yet in Africa, where there is so much gregariousness. It will be absurd to even speak of such a thing to the most ordinary African.

I must convey a very important observation here. Many people confuse moral laws with legal codes or rather they superimpose legal instruments over moral ones. If something is legal it doesn’t necessarily make it moral. Immoral laws are sometimes passed because there is so much pressure on the judiciary to help solve certain perceived problems. Suppose that a friend feels so much pain as a result of disease or personal misfortune and asks to be put to death, I can never be the one to do it. My solution will be to give him as much help as I can and send him to social welfare or public care home.

My deep mistrust of medical doctors was confirmed recently when they put a woman (alleged to have been sexually abused for over 15 years) to death because she had asked to be killed. I can tell you assuredly that they are murderers though they did it legally. There are serious ethical problems right there especially the fact that every physician swears an oath to try his best to save human lives. The average underprivileged person has had suicidal thoughts at least once in his or her lifetime but those moments are only transitory. The storm soon disappears and life resumes to normality. Therefore, as a society we should not be quick to grant people their wishes. Nobody likes death. When people choose death it’s because they feel rejected, empty and abandoned by humanity and it’s a shame. This is why I think everyone needs to cultivate spirituality because it acts as a ‘shock absorber.’ Spirituality is an attitude and a valuable survival skill. I may not be religious but I don’t joke with my personal spiritual life.

Concerning euthanasia, it speaks worse of the society where it’s accepted than the people who request for it. At many levels, I think life is a gift which must not be wasted.

Definition of Cooporative Humanism

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There are very big societal problems in this world. Has it ever crossed our minds as to why many youths from Europe and even America are trying to join the fight in Syria? Recently a South African girl was arrested at the airport on suspicion of trying to join IS to fight the war in Syria. Why fight anyway? Maybe it’s because sometimes and for most people, war promises long term freedom.

In the modern “me first” world the have-nots and the underprivileged without capital are, forever, wage slaves. But these analyses of class struggle will be for another post. For now, let me start by explaining what is meant by Cooperative Humanism. Bear in mind that humanism itself underpins all moral/ethical rules. We have been practicing humanism for millions of years without actually identifying with it.

Humanism as we know basically, in broad terms, refers to the doctrine that people’s duty is to promote human welfare. But this definition pushes us towards individualistic humanism, because others may argue that if one promotes his/her own welfare it may amount to humanism since he or indeed she is also human. That is pointless. I don’t even side completely with the humanist organisations of today who seem to make the individual the center of the universe; also having their motto as: “Good Without God.”

Our kind of humanism says: “Good is God.” Cooperative Humanism therefore is a concept derived from “conscientious notions.” By this we mean that everyone must be treated as an end and not a means to an end as we already have in this fallen world. Practically, people from all faiths are welcomed to subscribe to the concept. Neither faith nor Atheism nor any form of irreligion is an obstruction to becoming a Cooperative Humanist (CH).

Cooperative Humanism therefore means that every one of us must be rule by our individual consciences (sense of right and wrong) thus leading to the treatment of fellow humans as an end and not a means. This will help us create a kind of communalistic society where everyone lives according to his or her own desires in so far as it promotes, ultimately, the betterment of the larger community (for a desire to be obstructed is a dangerous thing). This is ethical concept is our formula for happiness and by this I hope I have defined Cooperative Humanism. Of course it is by no means comprehensive but at least I believe the reader has gotten the basic idea. Cooperative Humanists abhor greed, loftiness and egoism.

 

Five Principles of Cooperative Humanism.

  1. All actions and or reactions must necessarily spring from love.
  2. Everyone must be treated as an end and not a means.
  3. Happiness is a social state and therefore can only be achieved through suitable cooperation.
  4. Do unto any group what you would expect the group to do unto you.
  5. Unity in diversity but where cooperation is not possible, part peacefully.

N: We shall continue later. Criticisms and contributions are welcome.

 

 

Not All Human Rights Activists Are Humanists

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There is always the tendency for people to think if someone is a human rights activist, he or she is probably chiefly concerned with human welfare and dignity. Activism is not a profession, it actually a calling. There are activists who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

The most notorious dictators in world history were once advocates for human welfare. They fought for the rights of others – either for their freedom, self determination or independence. The psychology here is that they do this in order to prey on the vulnerable, once the vulnerable had been given their freedom. If one knows that one can’t defend, sustain and protect oneself, my best advice is to be part of a larger stronger group. To ask for one’s freedom when one cannot defend and sustain oneself may be like asking for one’s death sentence.

Aside that, a human rights activist must necessarily believe in the basic principles of humanitarianism. We can’t have failed careerist politicians or political activists (leftists or rightists), suddenly transforming into human rights activists. Again, even people with degrees in human rights law are not necessarily people who are concerned with human welfare. To fight for the rights of others is a noble calling, something deeply felt inside.

Greetings, Waving and Handshaking

Sometime ago, while still in university, I had been a member of an organization that seeks to promote the advancement of the youth- especially in the area of social and political reforms. It was an international organization and quiet often there were students who visited my country on exchange programmes. On her visit, a European Lady who was also the president (I think) of her university branch of the organization had expressed frustration upon hearing about modes of greeting and the use of the left hand in Africa – I mean Sub Saharan Africa. The frustration was not only recorded in her voice but also on her face. From my observation she might have actually come into contact with the situation and could not make her brain understand why such rules and indeed while delivering a speech during one of our weekly gatherings, she asked us,

‘If I can use my right hand for anything, why can’t I use the left as well?’

I very much sympathize with her and have therefore taken the time to try to clarify this issue of greetings. The reader should bear in mind that I’m not qualified by certification and I apologize for any historical or chronological blunders with respect to other cultures or the backdrop references I made in this article. I am also aware that there are better informed Africans who could do justice to this topic but I guess they are busy cashing cheques. One thing is clear though – it’s my culture – and it lives on in me.

People from all walks of life greet to acknowledge each other’s presence and to show courtesy. The mode of greeting depends on the particular culture of the people who have met. The Chinese usually greet by bowing slightly forward, lowering their head to show respect but for the Americans, hi is usually enough. Our custom is simple: (seniority in age or financial status naturally does not matter) it is a question of who first saw or who met whom. If I come to your house, I greet and you respond. After responding to a greeting, the host then proceeds to say ‘welcome’ and the visitor will intend answer. This is usually followed by the object of the visit. In tribes such as the Ewe of north – eastern Ghana, greeting goes beyond simple ‘Good morning’. It is expected that you inquire about spouses and children and sometimes other relatives.

Men usually greet by shaking or raising the right hand towards the other person( if in a distance) but a woman is expected to greet by placing both hands near her abdomen and lowering herself like in the ‘Chinese way’ to show respect but not bowing. However when greeting or shaking hands in a group, the visitor simply ignores the statuses of the people and also those he knew personally and starts from left to right. This is a non-discriminatory way of showing courtesy and ensures that one’s palm is directly facing the subsequent person in the group. Naturally, there is a strong bond among people of the same family, clan or tribe so these rules may not always apply. After greeting his hosts, a visitor will be given a chair to sit on and the group will intern come round to greet and then the flaw is open by eldest person for the object of the visit to be announced. Greeting, giving, pointing, waving, shaking or receiving with the left hand is considered to be rude and disrespectful – unless the other hand is occupied, even that, it must be followed with apologetic word or gestures. Of course nobody will arrest you for using the left hand but if you want the particular tribe or these days the nation as a whole to identify with you, to respect you or to come to your aid, you had better play by the rules. As a foreigner, you will be pardoned several times until it becomes obvious that you are disregarding the custom. In Europe, America or the Far East I’m sure people don’t greet with their left hand even if they were left-handed. I stand to be corrected though.

Ghanaians or Africans for that matter appreciate visits very much and handshaking or greetings are more frequent on visits than on any other occasion. I remember when I was little boy and it was announced that President Bill Clinton was visiting Ghana, the school children nearby were all made to line up from the Airport to the Castle on the d-day. We waved our little flags when he finally arrived and he himself admitted that he had never seen such warm affection. Ghanaians have no objections to unannounced visits. In fact the test of a true and sincere friendship is seen in unannounced visits especially at odd times. People sometimes ask their partners to sleep in the hall in order to make way for a friend who had turn up unexpectedly in mid-night.

So far I have been serving the reader with snacks and juices, I will now turn my attention to the main meal – the object of the discussion – the question of why not the left hand?

We associate filth, disrespect, shame, disgrace, vice and all the negative things you could think of to the left hand. Moreover, the emphasis placed on the use of the right hand is not peculiar to African Culture. People all over the world intuitively use the right hand perhaps because it has a slightly anatomical advantage or for some other reason. If you are having a conversation with someone and you sense that he has been entirely honest or realistic, you say to him, ‘you are right’. However if you feel that he has been entirely dishonest or that he is trying to manipulate you, ‘you say he has a sinister motive.’ The word sinister is of Latin origin and it means ‘left’. A good Christian who obeys all the commandments and lives a Christ-like lifestyle is said to righteous. In ancient Catholic books of liturgy, the priest is advised to ascent the altar by taking the first step with his right leg and Christ himself said that after his crucifixion he will rise and ascend into heaven and sit on the right hand side of God, the Father. I hope by now the reader gets the bigger picture and sees where we Africans branched off.

Needless to say, if you ever travel to Africa, there is no need to be nervous about prescribed modes of greetings. Nobody will lynch you. These days Africa is changing rapidly, and is also increasingly being ‘Americanized’ so city dwellers or ‘the western educated’ usually don’t spent much time on elaborate greetings except during special occasions. When you meet people, a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ (with a smile) is usually enough and don’t hesitate to ask the right people if you are not sure about something. I heard so many years ago, of the most incredible story of an anthropologist who came to Africa and saw a few unscrupulous Africans eating mangoes on a tree. Astonished, he quickly took out his diary and wrote that Africans live in family groups on mango trees.