MORALIZING FOR THE MINORITIES,


Hello folks  sorry I have been away for the last few weeks. The piece today is the text of a speech I delivered at my Advanced Oral Communication class a few weeks ago. I felt I had to share it in the hope that  someone may learn something from it. I hope you don’t mind my declarative tone and you just enjoy the piece                                          
Some two thousand years ago a man stood before a court, head bowed, hands chained like a common criminal, His offence? That he had dared to be different, teaching a different set of beliefs from what everyone in his era was used to. His messages were stirring, nothing like anybody in his time period ever heard before. Some prominent people who felt his teachings were not what their ancestors handed over to them had managed to raise a crowd of people against him. “Crucify him! Crucify him!! the mammoth crowd who had come to witness the trial screamed at the top of their lungs, drowning out the lone voice of reason who tried to ask the simple but pertinent question “But what offense has he committed worthy of this kind of punishment?”
Now many, if not all of you, know the story I’m talking about, and we all condemn that rabble that threw away their sense of reasoning, and allowed themselves to be used by a group of people with a vendetta, to condemn an innocent man to death. But do we not do the same things? Or to paraphrase that popular quote, are we blameless of this kind of behaviour enough to be the first to cast the stone at these people?”
   Man is a social animal, he thrives on the relationships he has with the other members of his species. He would rather attempt to fit it than to become a pariah.  Therefore for him, it is cool to be part of the crowd, he doesn’t want to be a deviant,   deviants are easy to recognize, those patients you see in mental hospital and asylums for example are there because they have deviated from the norm. Those people you see in prisons? Deviants. , Those young people who through no fault of their own are left forgotten in orphanages? Deviants.  Because of this reason, he rushes to embrace what he thinks is normal behaviour, what he sees the majority of people doing. That is where culture comes in, or rather if he wants to be more philosophical, he calls it religion In his quest to identify with the popular culture, he has forgotten that what is “culture” today was once also the idea of someone who  saw a different way of doing something and thus when he sees a fellow  of his species not following the well worn path of culture, or toeing the path of his own religion, either because he has seen something different or maybe even due to no fault of that other person,  it is an affront to the sensibilities  of our man of culture  and thus like the rambling crowd in our short story he is  enjoined to shout “crucify him! Crucify him!!”  It is the convenient function that the majority has taken it upon themselves to legislate the morality of people in the minority but they must find an excuse to do so, so they wear the one size fits all toga called “culture” or the robe called religion, and they are good to go. There are plenty of examples that come to mind, the law criminalizing Homosexuality in Nigeria is one of them, but the less said about that the better.
   Every time we switch to the `realist’ way of thinking about the difference between us and the next person, thinking that our group, or religion or whatever’s  way of representing and making sense of reality can be the only  true one; so all others are necessarily wrong. We are actually missing out on a whole lot of things that would make our lives richer and our experiences broader. When we take it upon ourselves to legislate the morality of a minority group because we happen to find ourselves in the majority, we are like the river who thinks it is so big that it can reject the small streams that feed it. Such a river will become stagnant and eventually dry up.  When we decide to have such a narrow minded and utilitarian view of the world, we are missing the fact that all the things we use to define how other people should live their lives are mere man made values and that if we were stripped to the essential characteristics of our existence as human beings, we are not much different from the pariahs, we have taken it upon ourselves to condemn
    If there is one thing I want us all to take away from my message today, it is that even though the majority has absolute power (at least it says that is what democracy says), they don’t always have a sense of fairness and justice. Therefore we are confronted with two options, the utilitarian worldview which for example which needlessly saw numerous generations of twins die needlessly in Calabar before the coming of Mary Slessor, or the “live and let live philosophy,” that  allow “others” who are different  to live their live and find their expressions.   It is perfectly natural to not like someone, the human is genetically wired to distinguish something (or someone) that is good for him, from something that is bad, that cannot be negotiated but according to popular linguist and scholar, Noam Chomsky: “ If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. And then before I humbly leave this stage, I will point you to the golden words of Ansel Adams:
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
  So what do you choose?  Utilitarianism or freedom of expression?  Thank you

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