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In Pursuit of Dignity Series – Episode 2: Human Dignity and the Gatemen

In our maiden episode, we dared greatly to explore the idea of how leadership may conjure colourful images of power and dominance. Dominance that can sometimes become an instrument of destruction rather than of impact and for good. I highly recommend that you read Episode 1, if you haven’t, (http://ex8.ad9.mywebsitetransfer.com/episode-1-purple-squirrels-and-the-dark-lord/) as it will provide a good context for today’s episode. I write episode 2 in honour of my former work colleague and friend Edward Kyei-Baffour who died exactly a year ago whiles at work. May your gentle soul continue to rest in peace my friend, everything indeed must change.

In episode 2, the adventure is to understand dignity and how we may have ended up with the notion of leadership as one of totalitarianism. We will explore leadership through the eyes of history with the view of restoring the idea that each human being is in the nature of God, deserving respect and dignity and any person who claims to be a leader without understanding the fundamental idea of Universal Basic Respect perhaps resides on an icy island as a frozen caveman.

So where do we begin? Cartoons. Lol. Let us start with ‘Angry Birds’. Uh huh, Angry Birds Movie 2, on the frozen island of the eagles where Zeta is king. Zeta is a purple eagle who plans to destroy both Birds Island and Piggy Island so she can claim them and rebuild them as her paradise. According to Zeta, she works hard and deserves it but more importantly, in her words, “I am putting myself first.” The question to be asked is that, do ‘leaders’ ever get to put themselves first?

Leadership is a complex, almost mysterious subject which has generated interest dating as far back as human history can show. To explore the subject a bit more, let us start from the beginning; to the first nation state, Ancient Egypt. King Narmer, the fierce catfish, the unifier of Kemet and builder of the first Nation state. Narmer is recorded to have unified the country peacefully at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – 2613 BCE). Upper and Lower Egypt were distinct states and civilizations, each group going about their business, in their small corners, as we like to say. Narmer had succeeded, for the first time in the record of human existence, to form a Nation State. All people along the Nile had been united as one people bound by a single culture and under one authority, Narmer.

Horus the fighter, Hor-Aha, is widely recognized as the second Pharaoh, followed by King Djer, by which time, Egyptian civilization was well defined and effectively running under the Pharaoh who at the time was literally a god among men. The interesting thing to note is that the second Pharaoh is named after an Egyptian deity, Horus. Horus is depicted as a falcon-headed man, wearing a red and a white crown as a symbol of kingship over the entire kingdom of Egypt.

The myth of Horus is intriguing, it is literally the story of the first immaculate conception and the detour is worth entertaining. It was believed Horus was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis, which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish. Isis magically resurrected Osiris and his resurrected being, without a phallus, knew Isis and they begat a divine son, Horus (Funny, I know). Horus became the salvation, the son who fought Set, the uncle who had jealously killed Osiris, his father.

The pharaoh was therefore a god among men who had to be worshipped as an extension of the gods. The worship was in exchange for the ‘goodness’ he engineers by sacrificing himself. He had absolute and complete authority both in life and death as a man appointed by the gods for the good of mankind (or so they thought). The underlying assumption of giving him absolute power was the trust that he was chosen by the gods and was always going to seek the good of society even at the pains of death. The Pharaoh who served well, left legacies (that could only be a feat of the gods) even deserved more worship both alive and in death.

The concept of ‘divine rights to rule’ had been born and yet the underlying assumption was that the Pharaoh was an instrument of the gods, so molded that, he sought nothing of himself but sacrificed his very life for the good of the society. If the society therefore trusted the Pharaoh to be of a god nature, his worship was unlimited. Records show that when King Djer, the third pharaoh died, about 569 retainers were sacrificed to go and worship him even in death. 569 lives are estimated to have been killed to accompany one man in his death because he deserved to be trusted with life, even in death.

Nobody therefore could have rights, except for what Pharaoh said was right. Why? Because the gods had revealed the righteous path to his chosen. (Hallelujah, Amen, Lol). This divine right of kings and rulers lasted for many generations. It evolved into different variations but had no real challenge until a threat of a civil war led to the beginning of a new order and thinking with the Great Charter, Magna Carta, the Charter of English liberties granted by King John on June 15, 1215. The idea of individual rights of ‘free men’ had been born. Rights of men which were inalienable, not subject to the whim (or better, the direction of the gods, solely received by the ruler).

The existence of rights in modern day civility is conclusively determined as inalienable. The word ‘inalienable’ is a word first known in usage in the early 1600s. Prior to this time, kings got their power from gods, reinforced by the most predominate religious belief and imposed through the brute force of their soldiers but Martin Luther, the German monk, was about to change everything, forever.

The Protestant Reformation and its ethics theory was the foundation of the modern world. Luther’s popular ’95 Theses’ nailed to a church door in 1517 changed how the world viewed absolute power. Christianity was changing forever, and ideas of absolutism which anchored the notion of unlimited power and ‘divine rights’ were being questioned. Culture was finding a suitable replacement for the idea of divine right of the Crown. The use of force by which the crown enforced its edicts were equally being questioned.

Sometime between 1642 and 1651, the English began to question the divine right of monarchs which led to the English Civil War (The Great Rebellion) fought between Charles I and Parliament led by Oliver Cromwell. The interesting fact is that Charles I, the absolute monarch and one who was thought to have the divine right to rule, was tried and executed by Members of Parliament.

The seemingly innocent disputations of Martin Luther pinned on October 31, 1517 had seeded the idea of universal divine right of all men to God, equality of all men to merit grace, and had questioned the Pope’s right to pardon and to sell indulgence. All men were thus equal before God, all fully given capability by God Himself for the functioning and effective running of society. The idea was simple but significantly transformational: All men are in the image of God and after the likeness of God, who is the source of all, thus all men deserve respect and dignity equally.

The fight between the Protestants and Catholics led to the Glorious Revolution and the Declaration of Rights was passed in 1688. After the ‘Glorious Revolution’ no one ruler could ever usurp the rights of the people: The word and notion of the dignity of humans as inalienable had been christened and chiseled in history forever, never to be given up, ever again.

The sad reality however was that, during this shift of ideologies from totalitarianism to civil liberties, the great empire that seeded this idea of divine right had been largely disintegrated and were being shipped as property. The African had been dehumanized and was being sold as a slave. The relics of Africa’s leadership culture bears cunning resemblance with the Kemet civilization; worship the leader without question because the leader had inherited the divine right from the gods (The trade of election prophecies is long known in history. Ooops, Lol).

It appears we haven’t quite made the turn to a full construct of ‘all men bear the image of God’ deserving of dignity and equal rights. And talking about faith, that which ought to have become our salvation, was used to entrench slavery and colonialization and to draw us further from collegial partnership. The African was expected to be led, modeled after the pattern of the slave masters, why? Because the colonizers, yet again, had become our lords with the divine right to rule us. And this has unfortunately become the posturing of many leaders in Africa who tacitly see themselves as better than all others.

The African had therefore become the classic, ‘Marginal man’. Caught in aspiration and desires of wanting to be like the slave master but in reality, he was engineered to the toil of servitude. The sociological idea of the marginal man says, “The marginal man… is one whom fate had condemned to live in two societies and in two, not merely different but antagonistic cultures… his mind is the crucible in which two different and refractory cultures may be said to melt and, either wholly or in part, fuse.[1]

It thus seems the new African leader has to hold unto all forms of power as he struggles to reconcile the hustle of the ordinary man in contradiction to the lordship of the elite. He has to jealously guard the power he has tasted because somewhere in his mind, there is but only one “House Nigger”. All others (down there) are condemned to the toil of the field. Many leaders have thus ended up as gatemen, with no inclination to sacrifice for the good of the society or at least to view the ordinary man as his equal.

The untrained leader without compassion ascends the white horse, a pathway to escape the heat of the plantation and so he must by all means ‘care-take’ in the interest of his own comfort. He must elect to hide in plain sight, as the taskmaster, seeking refuge from the scourge of the ‘master’s whip’. Blind obedience had been born, everyone was conditioned to protect themselves as an institutionalization of the vestiges of colonization, a creation of a deep sense of loss of identity, an identity so lost that it can hardly respect another of its kind and by that loss of identity, we destroy and kill many daily as leaders.

Leaders have turned their team they ordinarily should collaborate with as Glenn in Eagle’s Island (Angry Birds again, lol), or so it seems, subject to Zeta’s pursuit of putting herself first. Whenever we find courage to question, we get threatened in Zeta’s voice: “Wait a minute. Wait. Wait. Wait. Were they not scared? Okay. Oh, okay, okay. Here’s what we gonna do. I want y’all to take all of those ice balls and fill them up with – Ha, ha – Molten lava.”

We have all been cowered to worship at the feet of dark lords who feed off our fear. We have almost become automated to the abuse, frozen our courage and sacrificed the virtue of good judgement. Our time is owned, Master-Servant Relationship we call it these days. I will leave that for episode 3 where I will explore Solomon’s advice for us not to associate or make friends with hot-tempered and easily angered people[2] but let us pause and recount a scene in Angry Birds where Zeta’s plan to fill ice balls with molten lava had failed, this is how she interacts with her ‘ruled’, after she had come up with the plan, enforced it through threat of punishment and yet the plan fails. Glenn asks for two weeks to figure out a new plan:

Zeta: “Two weeks? Two weeks. Huh. Okay, okay, you know what? I’m doing that thing again. That thing, you know, like where I’m not quite sure I heard what I think I heard. Hey, skinny, sassy face! Did you hear “two weeks,” or did you hear “tomorrow”?

Skinny face (Name given by Zeta): “Um, Uh, I heard “tomorrow”?

Zeta: “Fat Dude”

Fat Dude (Yet again, name given by Zeta): “Uh. Definitely what you said?”

Zeta: “Okay, you know what I’m goanna do? I am goanna call my old engineer, Steve. And you know what? You’re a lot like him. (Steve’s phone rings without answering) “Oh, yeah. I had to discipline Steve. (Locked in an ice prison) so, what was that that you had said to me?

Glenn: (In fear), “tomorrow”?

Zeta: “That’s what I thought you said. See, everybody happy now. (All laughs awkwardly.)

Let us all laugh awkwardly yet remember that whenever we are confronted by a Zeta we have an opportunity to affirm to ourselves that we are in the image and likeness of God Himself by whose divine right all men are equitably graced.  We shall explore the idea Master-Servant Relationship in episode 3 to the end that all is an economic battle that is underpinned by a system of trust and so Mr. Angry leader, remember your power hinges on trust and your trust is weaning fast.

If you forget everything about today’s episode, please remember that until we are conscious of the fact that we are in the image and likeness of God not subject to worshiping any human, we shall be enslaved by men who have only put themselves first. My name is Yaw Sompa and I believe dignity is possible for all of humanity. I am a lawyer who is sold to protecting the Environment, Societal harmony, and good Governance.

[1] Park, Robert Ezra. “Human migration and the marginal man.” American Journal of Sociology (1928)

[2] Proverbs 22:24-25

Yaw Sompa

Author Yaw Sompa

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