OUR editorial today is dedicated to an imaginary letter from parents intensely concerned about the fundamental ideas their children, who just completed tertiary education, have been taught. In sum, university graduates must hold firmly to the principles of reason and individualism - despite what they have been taught in their classes.
Dear Kofi and Ama:
First, we want to congratulate you on completing university. We know that you both worked very hard over the past four years.
Second, there are some dangers we want to warn you against. Ironically, these dangers lie in the very ideas you have been taught in your university classes. We know, from having worked in the universities ourselves, that two broad themes dominated most of your courses: that human reason is unreliable and dispensable, and that the individual should be subordinate to the collective. For example, in psychology you were undoubtedly taught that free will is an illusion, and that your life is ruled by your unconscious feelings. In sociology, you were taught that you are the passive product of social conditioning. In history, you were taught about the greatness of Western culture, technology and thought, slavery, colonialism, the struggle for independence and the countless coups – the very things that combine to entrench the African's psychological handicap that you are doomed ab origine, ab initio ab ovo usque ad mala (from beginning to end) - that collective inferiority complex which makes you ignore the worth of the self. In literature, you were taught that the African is doomed to lead a hopeless and tragic life in an incomprehensible universe. In economics, you were taught that the needs of society supersede the rights of the individual. You were given decades of statistics on how dependent your country's economy is on the benevolence of western donors. You were not told about the individuals who broke down the barriers of adversity and prejudices to become role models that you have to emulate. In politics, you were taught that multiparty democracy enhances equality and freedom of speech underlines this. You were also taught that democratic accountability is not about how you as an individual must account for your readiness to utilise the dividends of a liberal atmosphere, but rather individual rights are arbitrary assertions made by the people in power. In philosophy, you were taught that one cannot know anything with certainty, and that all moral values are nothing more than subjective, unsupportable preferences. At the deepest level, you were taught that there is nothing sacred in this world, not even your own mind.
If you want to lead a successful life, our most urgent advice to you is to reject your professors' assaults on reason and individualism. It is your capacity to reason that is your most sacred possession. It is reason that is your means of knowledge and your means of living a human - rather than an animal - form of existence. It is the rational thinking of specific individuals that has made possible every step of man's progression from the swamps to the stars. It is your reasoning mind that enables you to be objective and independent - to determine what is true and to repudiate any “social influences” you judge to be wrong. It is only your rational faculty that makes you an individual, and not a mindless, interchangeable member of the herd. To give up reason is to surrender your life to the beliefs, and the dictates, of others. It is to declare that you do not know how to live - and must be dependent, cognitively and practically, on those who claim they do. Pursue your career on the principle of individualism, the principle that the individual is sovereign and has an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In Ghana, virtue must not mean to consist of self-negation, but of self-assertion - not of collective servitude, but of individual achievement.
So, Kofi and Ama, as you start out on your careers and your adult lives, we urge you to hold two ideas as absolutes, never to be breached or compromised: that reason is your means of knowing reality. But, don't for once think that individualism cannot be pursued alongside religion. Even in the bland of individualism – America – religion has for centuries remained the bulwark of self-discipline and moral aptitude. These are the principles that will enable you, if you embrace them consistently, to live productive and happy lives. Love, Mama and Papa