Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Ideal Ideals

(Welcome again to Pangolo Junction, where our three friends are standing round looking at the bar's rather faded picture of the Nigerian coat of arms.)

Zack (shaking his head): Honestly! You would think that
Philo would show more respect for our national symbols and replace this picture. Why have it here at all if he can't be bothered to maintain it?

Max: Perhaps he put it up here when he opened the bar many years ago, when all Nigerians were much more patriotic than they are now... but he simply forgot to take it down.

Nat: Apart from the fact that it is faded, how do you know it was so long ago?

Max: Well, look at the motto.

Nat (reading aloud): "Unity and Faith". So?

Zack (contemptuously): Don't you know anything? The motto was changed in the early eighties to "Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress"!

Nat (shrugging and walking over to a nearby table): Was it? Do I really care?

Zack (following him and expostulating): How can you not care? This is the national motto – the mission statement of Nigeria! This is what is supposed to inspire you from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep at night!

Nat (settling himself into a nearby chair): Well then, as far as I'm concerned, it's a dismal failure. The fact that I don't even remember the motto tells you a lot about its ability to inspire.

Max (seating himself down as well): And it's not only Nat that's uninspired by the motto – just look at the state of things today! Unity? When we're constantly hearing about riots and ethnic clashes? Faith? In Nigeria? When everyone either wants to check out or form their own separate state?

Zack: You're missing the point, Max. The motto is supposed to set out the ideals that we should aspire to live by. An ideal doesn't have to be met – it is just something to point us in the right direction. The important thing is that we should be progressing toward meeting those ideals, not that we should actually meet them.

Max (cupping his hands round his mouth as if to amplify his voice): Hello? Zack? Are you there? Did you hear what I just said? When you hear stories of ethnic clashes, militia activity and massive corruption, does that make you think we are progressing towards meeting those ideals in the motto?

Zack (lamely): Well... uh... it's a good idea to have the ideals in place just in case we eventually have a decent leader to take us in that direction... (looks at the sceptical faces of Max and Nat) All right, all right! What new motto would you propose?

Nat: What about "No Condition Is Permanent"?

Max: Or "In Chop-Chop We Trust"?

Nat: Or "Monkey Dey Work, Baboon Dey Chop"?

Max: Or "My Tribe Is Better Than Your Tribe"

Nat: Or "Up Super Eagles!"?

Max: Or "I Am A Patriot – I Buy Goods Imported By Nigerians Only"?

Nat: Or "Only God Can Save Nigeria"?

(While all this is going on, Zack looks on with amusement. When Max and Zack have finished. Zack keeps on looking on for a few seconds.)

Zack: All right, now that you both have finished with your foolishness, I have a proposition. Let's create a new motto ourselves by each of us contributing an ideal that we think would be suitable for Nigeria to strive towards.

Nat: That's sounds like a interesting idea.

Max: Yes, I'm bored enough to be excited by the prospect.

Zack: I'll go first. If I had to suggest one ideal, it would be Reason.

Nat: Why?

Zack: It's obvious. Reason is the cornerstone upon which leaders make good decisions. It's the process whereby you can sift through a mass of raw data, make logical deductions and come up with a plan of action designed to help you achieve a particular goal. If as a leader you can't make the right plans and right decisions, then it's impossible to lead your nation and its citizens to greater prosperity.

And it's not only an ideal that leaders should live by – Reason should also be something that all citizens should adopt in making their decisions too. So instead of voting for someone on the basis of ethnicity even though we know that he is a corrupt rogue and will steal our money once he gets into power, we will apply Reason and instead choose the honest person who will more likely deliver the material prosperity that we want.

Max: I don't agree with your last example... I might apply Reason in coming to a decision to vote for the corrupt rogue from my ethnic group if I know that he will give me a cut of his 'earnings'.

Nat: Come on, Max. You know that you will definitely be in the minority, since such a rogue cannot possibly steal enough to satisfy the majority of people.

Max: It's also a very tough ideal for Nigerians to live up to. Imagine a passenger and bus conductor being asked to apply Reason in peaceably resolving a dispute. Where's the fun in that? They could be instead be engaging in a much more satisfying fight in which they tear each other's clothes to shreds and inflict bodily harm on each other.

Zack: OK, Max, when you have finished displaying your embarrassing area-boy tendencies, let's hear what you would add to this motto.

Max: It's obvious, really – I propose Freedom as an ideal that not only Nigerians but all human beings should strive for.

Zack: Freedom? To do anything? Including lying, stealing and killing?

Max: Come on, Brother Zachariah, why do you want me to spell these things out like this? Of course I mean responsible freedom in which you do whatever you want as long as you do not curtail someone else's freedom. It's a great idea to strive for this, because there is nothing in life that is as good as being free to make your own decisions. There's nothing as sweet as being financially independent of people who would otherwise use their power to force you to do things that would make you unhappy.

I think that Nigeria's leaders should also strive to ensure that people exercise their freedom responsibly. In addition, the leaders should strive to exercise their freedom responsibly – they shouldn't use their powers to start poking their noses into each Nigerian's personal business.

Zack: I know your motivation behind this. You don't want the government to discourage young girls from dressing indecently. Well if they go round encouraging fornication, adultery and other forms of immorality, it's no longer their personal business!

Max (rolling his eyes): Kai Zack - you're a real attack dog when it comes to this matter! Well, at least let's agree that the government should protect its citizens from having their freedoms infringed by thieves, fraudsters and murderers even though you feel it should still be free to go sniffing round the wardrobes of young girls.

Nat: I see another problem with your Freedom ideal. Look at how Nigeria is – most people have grown up in a culture where they are told to do this or that. Such people aren't used to independence – they would be lost if you told them that they had the freedom to do what they wanted... like battery chickens set free in the wild after a lifetime of being cooped up.

Max: Well, that's why this is an ideal! Of course people will have problems initially... but surely a society where people are able to act relatively independently is more sustainable than one where people depend on heavily on centralised sources? Imagine the strain on the centralised source... what happens if it is not available or it runs out of resources? This is why we have to move people away from the dependency mentality and towards the idea of Freedom.

But what about you – what is your contribution to our motto?

Nat: For me, it could only be one thing – Innovation.

Zack: Now why am I not surprised to hear that? Could it be because you've once proposed the crazy idea of using
large plastic sheets to capture rain?

Nat: Well, you can say what you like – but without Innovation, we would probably still be in caves eating raw meat and dying of disease before we were thirty. Innovation is the engine of progress – it is what causes us to find solutions to the problems that are thrown up by our changing environment. And since we cannot escape change, if we cannot deal with it successfully then we are doomed.

In fact, we seem as a nation to be terribly afraid of change. Instead of embracing it and welcoming the opportunity to apply yet more Innovation, we shrink away and seek refuge in traditions that become creakier with the passage of time. We should try to be more open-minded and adventurous instead so that we don't miss out on discoveries that could enrich the culture we are so desperate to preserve!

Max: You can talk as much as you want about the need to innovate, but it's harder for people whose are surviving from day to day to adopt the kind of risk-taking behaviour that you're prescribing. Why should they, when making a big mistake will be absolutely catastrophic for them?

Nat: Well Max, as you yourself have said, this is just an ideal. It's not realistic to expect risk-taking behaviour from people who just managing to survive. But the beauty of the Innovation ideal is that it only needs a critical set of people to embrace it. I'm talking about people in charge of organisations, people who are influential in society – once they are able to get people to adopt the innovative ideas and programs they come up with, the benefits to all will follow.

Zack: So we should throw away our old ideas, huh? What happens if the new ideas are worse than the old?

Nat: Well of course, there's Innovation, and there's change for change's sake. The difference is that with Innovation, you will still apply Reason (gestures to Zack) in deciding whether or not to go ahead with the change so that the chances of making such a mistake are reduced. And of course, being able to adopt Innovation relies on you having the Freedom (gestures to Max) to do so. So it seems that there is some degree of interrelationship between our ideals.

Zack (reclining in his chair): Hmm... "Reason, Freedom, Innovation"... I like it.

Max: Excuse me? You mean "Freedom, Reason, Innovation"!

Nat: What are you talking about? It should be "Innovation, Reason, Freedom"!

(As Max, Nat and Zack squabble over their new 'motto', our view of the scene fades to black.)



3 Comments:

  • Gosh! It's so hard to please human beings...they finally settled on the ideals, but now they are arguing over which one is more important...lol

    In my own opinion, an ideal for Nigerians would be patriotism....especially now that so many people have lost hope in it.
    If Nigerians were to live up to patriotism (love or devotion to one's country), don't you think other good things will follow?

    By Blogger Nilla, At January 15, 2007 1:43 pm  

  • Ah! I forgot to say something...
    ...here it is...
    Great as usual :-)

    By Blogger Nilla, At January 15, 2007 1:49 pm  

  • You're right that if people are devoted to their country, then they'll do things that would be in their countries interest.

    I'm afraid that it's very difficult to inspire this kind of devotion, especially where there's no obvious reason to be devoted. I think that 'Nigeria' is too vague an idea for people to feel attached too... there aren't enough representative symbols, practices and concepts for people to relate to in the same way that there are for culture (language, food, customs) and religion (songs, ritual, doctrines).

    But hey - I'm sure our three friends will do proper justice to the concept of patriotism in a future episode of PJ... :)

    By Blogger Atala Wala Wala, At January 17, 2007 5:44 pm  

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