13.01.2009 Feature Article

Solomon had the right idea!

Solomon had the right idea!
13.01.2009 LISTEN

Many will know some of the tales of King Solomon, biblically reputed to be among the 'wisest' people ever to have lived. His antics and achievements are the stuff of Jewish legend – from winning historical battles to having 700 wives and 300 concubines. My favourite story about Solomon is the one about the two mothers and their babies. One mother slept on her baby and killed it; she couldn't accept the truth and shame of this and wanted to 'steal' the other woman's baby.

The ensuing argument was brought before Solomon, for him to judge. Solomon knew that the baby's real mother would not want any harm to come it, so he asked that the baby be split in two so each woman could get half-a-baby. The real mother, not wanting her baby to be harmed, suggested the baby be given to the other woman instead. Solomon, upon hearing this, had the baby returned to its rightful mother.

The nature and course of true love
There is a profound principle of life subtly laced into this story: if one truly cares for something or someone, one wants the best for that thing or that person – even if 'the best' does not necessarily favour oneself, or meet with one's interests. I have believed in this ideal for most of my adult life and have always tried to 'live by it', but a new dimension of its true meaning became apparent to me after my son – who is now 2 years old – was born. This is despite the immense love I have for my spouse, my siblings, my parents, and my closest friends.

Like any good parent, I find that I always want the best for him, and I would do anything in my power to ensure his well-being – even if by some strange and unfortunate set of circumstances, I find myself 'out of the picture'. Though I have a fair understanding of the complexities and difficulties of life, I would consider it a failure on my part if any harm came to him. For me, this is the nature of true love; it is characterised by a dimension of selflessness that is quite rare and easily forgotten.

Patriotism, poverty, and the quest for betterment
This ideal – of demonstrating real care and concern through actions and behaviours – is a good test of all manner of professed love, including patriotism. The way I see it, if one wants the best for one's country, one is prepared to build, protect and sacrifice, even if one doesn't stand to gain anything directly or personally. If one's true – and sometimes hidden – agenda is to satisfy one's own interests, then it would be unfair for one to claim that one's agenda is the well-being of the country.

If our country matters to us – and it is by no means compulsory that it should – it must feature prominently in our thoughts and manifest in our actions and behaviours. I am not suggesting that our individual interests shouldn't matter – that would be a nonsense. Indeed people without drive, purpose, and ambition usually don't achieve anything of note, but far too often, our improvement of self and quest for betterment are attained at the expense of our motherland.

Various forms of the corruption that plague us essentially distil down to this: we don't seem to care enough for the victims of our actions. Corruption affects many areas of our lives - politics, business, private enterprises, associations, and sometimes even family and friends. Poverty is undoubtedly a cause of such corruption, but greed and selfishness contribute too.

Magnanimity, maturity, and grace
It is relatively easy to love those close to us – that comes naturally. The real challenge is showing this kind of love to others, particularly those who seem different from us. It takes a special ability to love and magnanimity, maturity, and grace to live up to this ideal. It is difficult, because certain aspects of our human nature sometimes get in the way, but it is something we must all aspire to.

Our Nigerian cousins have a proverbial expression that loosely translates as 'a person's true character only becomes evident during tough times'. The time to show what we are made of, and confirm to ourselves and to those around us that we are all that we claim to be, is during testing, challenging, or difficult times. Consider how graceful it is when someone exhibits calm and maturity in the face of obvious provocation. These are leadership qualities that we need to learn from and teach our children.

'By their fruits, ye shall know them'
Ghana needs true patriots who will foster cohesion, develop an all inclusive vision, and create a suitable environment for all of us to thrive. But how do we recognise such people? Using Solomon's example, we can extrapolate by asking a simple question: if Ghana was the baby in Solomon's tale, who among us would be the 'real mothers'? How many of us would be prepared to put the well-being of others before of our own interests?

Fortunately, we do have people among us who are prepared to do things for our collective benefit. They are those people who continue to want the best for Ghana and Ghanaians, even when they don't stand to personally gain from their contributions. They are peace-makers who use conciliatory language. They seek to understand others and other viewpoints. They are confident in their skins, and don't need to belittle or disparage others to feel good. They don't incite hatred among the people, or harbour suspicion and mistrust. They don't push their own agenda at all costs, or throw the toys out of the pram if things don't go their way.

Their intentions and motivations are clear – the greater good – and it manifests in their behaviour and actions. Even though we might aspire to be, we can't all be like these people. Instead, let us seek them out; they are far too few, but they are the glue that bind us together as we seek to reach a higher plateau in our development.