Liberia Needs More Than ‘Common Sense’ For Its Reconstruction


Wollor E. Topor, PhD

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 7, 2005


I read the interview with presidential candidate Ambassador George Weah in which he gave emphasis to his ability in using ‘common sense’ in the rebuilding of war-torn Liberia. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, ‘common sense’ is the habit of the first principle.” No one doubts Hon. Weah’s natural logic in developing Liberia. God has seen it fit to endow each creature with talent or power commensurate to its nature. The wonders of His gifts may be glimpsed in the violence of the lion, in the speed of the horse, the strength of the elephant. It was common sense which guided primeval to discover the use of fire. These discoveries were made long before man ever thought of building a school, which provided the cornerstone of progress and civilization.

This paper is not the place to discuss in depth on the essentials of logical reasoning. However, you will agree with me that today’s Liberia is faced with an uncertain future and unless we apply system thinking as an integral part of our lives, the solution today may become the problem tomorrow. In other words, what happened in Liberia during this age of technological advancement and yet there have been human miseries and social disorganization remains a challenge to the best power of national leadership and intellectualism. There is no time to continue experimenting with Liberia.

Ambassador George will also agree with me that ‘common sense’ needs to be trained and sharpened to bring out the fullness of its potentials. That is why he hired coaches and managers who gave him systematized instructions on how to develop his natural talents in soccer and how to use his income effectively. And by practicalizing these advices, he became successful in his soccer career. Without proper instructions, ‘common sense’ is prone to mistakes, leaving the reasoning to “trial and error.” In other words, Liberia today needs a systematic approach in conjunction with Mr. Weah’s ‘practical common sense approach’ in finding solutions to its multifaceted problems. There is more to sitting in the Executive Mansion on January 6, 2006; any leader for that matter should know how to play and dance to the New World Order.

According to Confucius’ definition of knowledge, “When you know a thing and recognize that you know it, and when you do not, to know that you do not know-that is knowledge.” In this sense, the Soccer King and living legend George Weah is knowledgeable because he does not only know what Liberia needs regarding its development but also recognized the fact that he is limited in terms of education. This does not mean one should underplay or deject the significance of education in nation building.
There are bad and good news on the issue of educated elites in the South in general, and particularly Liberia educated elites failing their people. The bad news is that for some reasons intentionally or unintentionally the North has and continues to perpetuate a copycat development models without understanding the interrelated socio-economic conditions of the South. And as long as we continue to rely on western education and their grants and ‘development aids,’ the disease of mental slavery will hardly disappear. We have been brainwashed that no love of self comes first. Because of this inferiority complex set in motion by colonialism, even today no one dare questioned ideas handled down from the West. Our minds are numbed from generation to generation.
To put it differently, right through history, human has created some form of civilizations which have thrived, and in most cases, have declined and then natural death- Liberia is no exception. Why they have perished- that is another story. But one thing that is certain is that there were some failure of resources-human and material. We know of some developing nations with the “petrol dollars” which the governments tried to provide free or subsidize health care, flourishing agriculture, and widespread institutionalization, free education up to university level, etc. However, not all the people enjoy these benefits of the incomes reserved. Moreover, the literacy rates of these countries are still low. This mean to say that money alone does not do the tricks to national development. Education is the greatest resource of any nation.
The good news is that there are sincere seekers who drink from the fountain of knowledge who don’t treat western education as the residual legatee of all the problems in the South, knowing the facts that not everything in these western civilization is working perfectly. In other words, what works well in British may not work well for Liberia- science is not universal. This is to say that, there are people who behave, feel and think Liberian, and intend to use the good aspects of the same western education to cure or decolonize our minds. This is supposed to graduate us from this vicious cycle of hunger, poor health, illiteracy, poverty, etc. Such empowerment is supposed to enable us to exploit our resources at sustainable levels- the principle of ‘it takes steel to cut steel.’ Education is our greatest resource.
This complex process called development does not start with handouts or matter material resources. People are the Alpha and Omega in any development effort and therefore start with the people and ends with the people. There are three key elements of the people that are given great consideration: 1) education-key to see beyond one’s horizon, 2) institutions- are organized, long established relatively permanent ways of satisfying fundamental human needs and interest. 3) Discipline- the way we think, do and behave as a member of society. Without these three or without people, all other resources remain dormant, unexploited, and potential.

There are prosperous societies but with the scantiest basis of natural wealth like the State of Israel. Israel has worked a miracle by turning a desert land into a productive agricultural land. This modern economic growth by Israel is not a mirage in the desert. But a genuine product of great determination and countless sacrifices of its people in building deed a strong and prosperous nation. Could Liberians emanate the examples of Israel? I am of the strong belief that no matter how devastated Liberia is, with a serious commitment on education, institutional development, and discipline we can make it. We may not be like Japan whose development initiatives were smashed in the World War II but was able to work an ‘economic miracle.’ This was so because education, institutions and discipline were still there.

We have plenty of opportunities towards this end as well. From observation and educational quests these three are central problem to Liberia’s development. These are the primary causes of poverty and the war. Therefore, alleviation of poverty depends primarily on the removal of these deficiencies (illiteracy, inadequate institutions and indiscipline). But these cannot be removed overnight. Because national development cannot be ordered nor ‘hiring of people from anywhere’ neither can it be brought. There is a simple reason: national development requires a process of evolution. For instance, a nation does not have educated population in just a relative short period. Philippines with the highest literacy population on the face of the globe (United Nations definition of literacy) went through a gradual process of great subtlety. National Institutions don’t jump; they must gradually evolve to fit the changing circumstances. Stable socio-economic and political institutions must be built to reflect the moral consensus of the Liberian people. And much the same goes for discipline- especially so a society whose identity is not static and as mottled as Liberia’s background.

The evolution of all three (education, institutions and discipline) must be step by step, and the foremost task of development formulation of pro-poor policy to speedily propel this evolution process. All three must become the property of not merely the tiny minority, but of the whole society.