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26.01.2006 Feature Article

All Is Vanity

All Is Vanity
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When on January 4th, 2006 the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered his massive stroke and was consequently put in a medical coma by the neurosurgeons, I found myself questioning what life on this planet is really worth. Sharon has always been a powerful and controversial figure. From his days as a General in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to his days as the Minister of Defense, he had been a man one could not gloss over. His courage in battle and the personal risk he was so willing to bear in the defense of his country during the Six-day War between the Israelis and the Arabs made him a hero amongst Israelis. He is a forceful figure. And his word could not be taken lightly by anyone, for he was so willing to back up those words with action.

When he assumed power after defeating Ehud Barak in the polls, he stated clearly that Yasser Arafat was someone he was not going to enter into any negotiations with. For he saw Arafat as not truly interested in peace. And true to his word he didn't negotiate with Arafat. In fact, he eventually placed Arafat under house arrest for over a year when he instructed the IDF to occupy his Ramallah mansion. The only time Arafat was let out was when he was flown to France for a medical emergency, for which he never came out of. Sharon only started talking to the Palestinians when they had chosen Mahmood Abbas as Arafat's replacement. Against international protests, he built a barrier to divide Israelis and the Palestinians with the goal that it would curtail to an extent the Intifada with its concomitant suicide bombings. Again, against popular opinion and amidst strong opposition by his own Likhud Party, Sharon single-handedly decided to withdraw Israel from Gaza and handed it over to the Palestinians.

But today, tough-talking and action-man Sharon barely clings to life. He has tubes going through almost all orifices on his body to support the life he has. He's very lucky he has access to advanced medical treatment otherwise he would have by now been the late prime minister. The sort of cerebral hemorrhage he had was one that could easily kill anyone. But again, there he lies! The man whose word could send mothers wailing for their dear little now requires help in other to stay alive! His prognosis is said to be so bad there's no way he could go back to his office as Prime Minister. How sad!

This whole incidence tells me but one thing…that man is nothing! He is a fool that boasts, threatens, and shouts! That “All is vanity”, says the Preacher – Ecclesiastes 1:2. Vanity of vanities, that's what life, is! Your power won't save you when hit by a heart attack. Your life savings won't save you when hit by an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. Your braggadocio antics are of no use, when death knocks and beckons at the door. What then? What need we do? What is the value of life once we have it? I have come to the conclusion that life's value is only in the positive influence we impart on each other and in service to our Creator. The value of life is in the comforting words we give to the sorrowful; in the uplifting words we give to the down-hearted; in the cold water we fetch for the thirsty; in the pennies or pesewas we give to the poor; in the service we render to society, etc. These, we can only do when we render ourselves vulnerable to the Spirit of God. For in ourselves alone, our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9.

When we forget our mortality we become demigods. We begin to talk and demand that others acknowledge us, for we think ourselves more important than we truly are. We believe a lie that without us society can't move forward – that we are indispensable. We believe that we are the sole repository of knowledge, intelligence, and morality. Then as demagogues we create a sycophantic following; a blasphemous worship of another man, a cult, and become a threat to society. As demigods dissension is suppressed with the tools of war. Blood might even be shed for differences of opinion. But now, here lies Ariel Sharon! This is not to say that Sharon became a demigod or employed demagoguery but it's to make the point that we, Ghanaians, always need to keep in our minds that we are nothing, but mortals, that life can be fleeting so we ought to change our ways and means and our approach to things.

Why is there so much hatred in Ghana? Why are we becoming so intolerant of opposing views? Why must people who disagree with us be worth a beating and physical assault? Why so much threats and spewing of venom in the system? Why? Why? Why?

The political system we have in Ghana is called MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY. It's multiparty because there's more than one political party. It's a democracy because we accept dissenting views. Why must one man kidnap and control a whole party, and thousands of people see it as 'no big deal'? Why must we turn a national party into a cult? Why must we offer our conscience for sale and let one man control what we perceive and think? It's wrong! “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.” – Ansel Adams. Why so much hate in our system? Why the hatred for our own duly-elected President? I've read a lot of President Kufuor's speeches and most of his ministers', and before God, they're almost all reconciliatory, an appeal for us to unite, an appeal for peace, etc, etc. The President hardly ever responds to the threats and name-calling he's constantly subjected to and the same people who do the name-calling accuse him of dividing the nation. I've wondered why they hate President Kufuor so much. He's not shot anyone nor commanded anyone to be shot. He's not stripped our mothers and sisters naked on the streets. Our fathers have not been caned and given identification haircuts. He's not assaulted his political opponents. He has not being charged with embezzlement of State funds. In fact, he's gotten our debts cleared. Why do they hate him so much? Oooh! Personal interests! Eureka! Some people are not getting what they used to get for free. Some people are not enjoying for free what they used to enjoy. That explains it!

Bill Clinton suffered similar hatred at the hands of the right wing conservative Republican Party. Even out of office for over 5 years, the neo-cons can still not get over Clinton. And it's for the same reason. When Clinton was in power the Republicans could not have their own way with things. So they detested him. The Republicans, like our own opposition party in Ghana, think they have the Divine ordination to rule the country. Hence, they just can't understand why someone who is not from their fold must be allowed to govern – they feel they have an entitlement to the highest office of the land.

I can't wait for the day President Kufuor's term of office would be over! I can't wait to see him as a private citizen. Maybe that would get the hatred to dwindle. But oh well…I won't put my head on it. It's most likely going to be that whoever replaces him, so long as he's not one of theirs, will 'enjoy' their palpable hatred. This hatred stems from one man. One man only!

But why must we let one man's inherent hatred for everything that is good in our country, infect us all? Why is it that in Ghana the culprit is the one who cries and shouts the loudest? What happened to the victims? Is it the case of the victims offering free forgiveness but the culprit still having no true repentance and still angry at everyone else but himself?

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true” – Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Hatred, avarice, love of power, and jealousy are the things that will destroy Ghana if we don't put an end to them. A few years ago, in our sister country Nigeria, ruled a military General – Sani Abacha. He thought he was tough, and so acted tough. He jailed his detractors including Obasanjo, murdered dissenters like Ken Saro-Wiwa, siphoned billions of the country's money to his Swiss bank accounts, moved to legitimize his illegitimate government by adopting his good friend's method – metamorphosing from military dictatorship to constitutional rule. Until he was stopped in his tracks by a microscopic clot in his coronary arteries. In a few minutes to hours, Nigeria's strongman, Sani Abacha, laid lifeless! Ready to face his Creator in the Judgment! Life is vanity!

All, indeed, is Vanity. Tough tactics did not save Abacha's life. Yet, many years since his death, some still have not learned. Life is truly fleeting, and we ought to calm down a bit sometimes. We ought to remember our mortality when we are issuing out threats to our fellow human beings. We ought to remember “that every idle word” whether they be insults at elders and leaders we “shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” – Matthew 12:36. In effect there's only one true source of morality, there's only one true source of justice, there's only one true owner of vengeance…and that's the LORD God. Any man who ascribes these roles to himself is basically committing blasphemy. LORD, make us to know our end, and the measure of our days, what it is; that we may know how frail we are – Psalm 39:4 (paraphrased). Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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