It is quite easily the case that a people’s past goes on to determine their present. You remember the issue of ‘sameness’ we spoke about last week? Well, we see that sameness reflected again this week—and profoundly so, in the case of this opening sentence of ours. We, all people spread worldwide, are in fact quite easily, presently, what our pasts have made us. I believe if we try harder, we will be able to derive a mathematical equation to represent this very universally undeniable fact. And nowhere do we see this narrative of past-makes-present manifest more prominently than in this societal imperative called the law—the chief orchestrator of societies.
Your Personal Law
Because tell me this, fellow co-inhabitants of earth, if—a woman or man as you are—your personal history has been that of constantly being taken advantage of, won’t your present guiding philosophy be this: don’t mess with me!? So much so that every step you take, in every interaction with people you make, you are always on the lookout… Mentally, you are always your own personal constitution, containing your personalised articles of ‘dos and don’ts’, so that every person you encounter, they are to consciously and subconsciously have these rules of yours apply to them. That ‘no-nonsense’ person you are now—that name people have called you behind your back, or sometimes right in front of you… No-nonsense, this present state of affairs of yours, was one borne out of your own personal history of always being at the losing end of human interactions—of being consistently taken advantage of. This is not rocket science, it’s just unapologetically human.
Now imagine that it is not just you, having this history of being taken advantage of, but everyone around you. Imagine that everyone comprising this society of which you form a part shares in this same history of past disadvantage...Won’t all of you, these people, comprising this society or nation of yours, walk about in your present state, always on a lookout, with a no-nonsense attitude, one that screams, ‘don’t mess with us!’ And won’t you, to further safeguard yourselves from the repetition of this history, in your present state, concretise this ‘don’t mess with us’ philosophy in ink, and ascribe to that document sovereignty, and insist upon everyone in this society of yours—leaders and followers alike—uncompromising adherence to this guiding document of yours?
So then, that is exactly what nations do. We all people interspersed worldwide, ours have been a history of being dealt a bad hand—in varying degrees. We have seen fellow human beings spring up in our histories, and like the hungry prophet who claims to be the only one privy to the voice of God—a voice telling him that his hunger can only be quenched upon the purchasing for him, by his congregations, a black car—yes, let’s just go with a ‘black car’… I’ve lost my train of thought; what were we even talking about? Oh yes, yes, I remember now… We all people interspersed worldwide, ours have been a history of being dealt a bad hand—in varying degrees. We have seen fellow human beings spring up in our histories claiming themselves leaders appointed by God Himself to rule over the rest of us—and most often than not, authoritatively so. Such persons have, in our human history, no matter where on the globe we are spread, ended up doing more harm than the good promised. God being a good God, these supposed representatives of Hers on earth have endemically failed marvellously at goodness.
Another example—and permit this lengthy tangent—is the fact that we, humans spread worldwide, have, in our histories, witnessed groups of people outside our various confinements invade our space, and claim for themselves our very lands and livelihoods. We have watched helplessly on—having lost the fight—as they have ruled over us, claiming themselves to have wisdoms and ways of life superior to ours. So an entire race, group, ethnicity of people have had to begrudgingly submit their lives and freedoms to another race, group, or ethnicities of people. So has the history of the entire world around us been.
The modern-day British, in their history, suffered this same fate in the hands of the Romans, the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings, then finally, the Normans. The people of modern-day Greece have suffered this same fate in their history too. City-states of independent groups as they were, they were to commit upon one another, atrocious acts of invasions, conquests, colonisations, and so on. The Spartans had their turn at invasions, the Athenians had theirs, the Thebans had theirs too, the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, continuing the legacy of his father Philip II, conquered and reigned extensively over other city-states. And then there were the invasions by foreign powers like the almighty Persian Empire, hungry for an expansion of its already vast territory. Some of these invasions were unsuccessful, many were successful. It was really the order of the day in Ancient Greece to be poked and prodded.
This is all so reminiscent of something, is it not? It almost hits too close to home, does it not? Does this whole thing not call to mind our own country and continent? Yes, indeed Ghanaians and Africans, we have had our own share of this poking and prodding, from a bunch of people who themselves had suffered this same history of invasions in their pasts—the British, the Portuguese, the Danish, the German, the French, etc. The abused most often become the abuser, do they not?
True liberation lies in the lesson. So nations, after this past experience of, among others, being taken advantage of by those in power, naturally had some rethinking to do. These nations, after suffering in the hands of these rulers, immense tyranny, the abuse of power, corruption, the rule of the undeservedly few rich over the many poor, etc… these nations comprising humans—an intelligent form of animal, one capable of change, have since instituted for themselves, national structures that do not allow for the repetition of these gory pasts. In all things, no longer is the will of one person to reign so supreme that it trumps the very existence of the other. In all things, in every aspect of our human existence, there is to be one reigning earthly supreme—and it is the law.
No longer are we to be ‘ruled by law’—no longer is the law to be meted out to us to the exclusion of our leaders, as masters would do to servants. Rather, we are each to coexist under a system of ‘rule of law’, where each and every one of us—the rich, the poor, the ruler, the ruled, are to have the tenets of the law apply to us equally. And that is how you safeguard yourself from abuse. But how do a people reach such a profound state of being? It is their past, and the lesson learnt therefrom—that is how a people get to such revolutionary points. Imagine if, worldwide, the monarchies and rulers of the past had not been fraudulent, and had in fact been appointed by God—the good God, hence had ruled fairly and justly as God would, would these people of the past have found the need to orchestrate such revolutionary change of philosophies that they would reach such a profound point in their lives—a point where the almighty is no longer man or woman, but an abstract set of words?
It comes as no surprise then that this Macedonian intellectual, Aristotle, having learnt under Plato, who had himself studied under Socrates, would engage, much like the rest of his intellectual predecessors, in the rethinking of the society around him. These groups of men were born in an era where their societies were constantly fluctuating between peace and war, prosperity and deteriorations—a period of constant brutalities committed by men upon fellow men, the abuse of power, the rampant dishevelment of society, where the quality of life was always at the brink. Yet they, being human, thus an intelligent type of animal capable of yearning for change and pursuing it, it comes as no shock then that these people would begin to think beyond their ephemeral and mundane existence, and philosophise over a better day—where governance is good, and society flourishes unceasingly.
It should come as no surprise then to have these people of the ancient times gathering around in groups, as some modern Ghanaian men would do over a ‘dame-dame’ game, or the rich ones, at a golf course, and as women would perhaps do at the salon, or the rich ones, at a golf course, and share ideas as to how to make their lives better. Brainstorming is a natural by-product of stormy experiences, isn’t it? So it was for ancient Greece, being then still so backwards that such dialogues and the general participation of statehood was left for men only. So these men, they would gather, and think through their lives—their present state of affairs, and philosophise over a better world. So then, the philosophers were born.
Their impact on ancient Greek lives was immense, so immense that it spread worldwide. And one of such impactful resulting by-products from these endless brainstorm sessions of theirs was that of the concept of the rule of law. There is no magic to it—the rule of law. It was a very natural solution proffered by a people who had suffered a past of bad and unpredictable leaderships. I believe many of our long-forgotten African philosophers, the great thinkers of Black antiquity, came up with this same concept many, many centuries ago—even before these ancient Greek societies sprang up. But how can we even effectively brag about these ancient philosophers of ours and their contribution to this concept of rule of law when we have no written document to prove this? So then, the rule of law, begrudgingly, we join the rest of the world in ascribing to Aristotle…
When you find a good thing, after suffering through a past of bad things only, it behoves you to take care of that thing with your very life. When a nation finds a good thing, after having traversed a stormy history of horrible experiences, it behoves that nation to take care of that thing with their very lives. The present state of affairs as we have it—where the man and woman are afforded peace of mind, sound living; their human rights and dignity respected—has not been ours by default. History tells a completely different story. These state of affairs have been largely fought for with sweat and blood—very literally so. At our wits’ end, histories shows, revolution of thoughts and of being have been fought for and attained. Ensuring the utmost protections of these revolutionary realities, then, really becomes a human imperative.
No nation has come by its freedoms easily—never have they been served us on a silver platter. Maybe—just maybe—the case has been different for the great nation we will be discussing next week. That nation that sits upon this earth as though thrown down by God Himself to be an embodiment of all that is majestic. That nation whose citizenry are the very epitome of greatness. Ghana—the nation we are talking about here is Ghana. Oh what? Why?
[Published in the Business & Financial Times (B&FT) - 23rd September, 2022]