“When a needle falls into a deep well, many people will look into the well, but few will be ready to go down after it.” – African proverb
In ancient times when warring was common among nations, strategists always advised that it was not efficient to attack a nation whose citizens were highly ethical. The reasons being that “the loyalties of such citizens are hard to shake, their allegiance to their leaders is fanatical, and what they usually call their spiritual integrity cannot be violated by duress”. Such a people have a state of mind that is hard to enslave and so they will fight and fight back, using whatever is at their disposal to frustrate the attacker in a bid to save their nation and their identity.
Such an understanding meant many warmongers resorted to the use of propaganda at and within nations they intended to attack in order to weaken their steadfastness. Likewise, many leaders who wanted to make their nations strong worked on improving the ethicality of their citizens before they embarked on massive programmes and policies. Interestingly, many modern strategists in both the private and public sectors have assumed the reverse when counselling their clients. They focus on investing in programmes and policies without first investing in the esteem of their people.
We need to understand that the self-esteem of a people is a major factor in progress and greatness. It is not only a physical trait, but has a deeper spiritual dynamism. When people esteem themselves poorly, they tend to be highly unethical and self-destructive. They tend to visualise life as a fixed-size cake of which they have to grab the biggest portion through any means necessary. And they measure life on a pain-pleasure scale – focusing their energies on ensuring they avoid pain, no matter the cost to wider society. For such persons, the meaning of progress is the extent to which they can screw the system. They do not even pause to think about the impact of their choices.
What is scarier about all this is the notion that the greater majority of humans measure their lives and the solidity of their convictions by the standards of other people they hold in high esteem. They do not even know why they even hold those people in that light in the first place. All they know is that those are people to look up to. Sadly, often these ‘esteemed people’ continually use censure to subvert the creative or existential ideals of those who look up to them so that they will always be on top. They do this knowing that the average person would need something like superhuman strength of spirit to dismiss censure from those he or she respects. In short, oppressors will always ensure they are on the hill of advantage.
This ‘brutalizing power’ of putting others down is what inspired Bob Marley to sing “none but ourselves can free our minds”. His experiences had taught him that it takes a fearless mind to break the grim reality of oppression constantly being meted out by a system created to put some at the top. It is one of the most elemental truths of our humanity, and one of those most difficult to put into practice – since those who are poorly esteemed do not often know themselves as such. Their minds have been controlled for so long they do not realise most of what they do has to do with seeking an approval which, of course, is very tentative and fleeting at best. They do not notice that the closer they get to the target point, the higher the standards gets. It is a skewed system.
We know life was tweaked into a competitive mission by some unknowns long ago. We know that is not the way it should be, yet we do not want to change it. In fact, anyone who points out the skewedness of the system is labelled a destructive force. But we need to change this. That is why the first task of any nation-builder is to create an environment wherein the citizens think themselves capable of being noble and spiritual. The leader’s first duty is to inspire people to rise above their animalistic reactions to life. When you can exalt the esteem of the citizens’ lot, they become patriotic and make your work a lot easier. Leadership is an ethical campaign.
To be highly-esteemed is such an important spiritual dynamic, not knowing about it cripples many individuals. Too often, we tend to accept our strengths but focus on our weaknesses – hoping that somehow they will be reduced by the attention we are giving them. To esteem a people, we need to focus not on their weakness but their potential and the opportunities which can come out of harnessing the power within. We need to make people aware of the power they have within them, and task them to use it for the greater good. This will involve unlearning our ideals and learning about new views in life. The process will build all of us up, and the synergetic output will bring about great progress in our nation.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]