Dreams and the Reality of Politics!

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective

November 28, 2001

Where has it become a crime to dream? Or for that matter, where has it been a crime for holding on to your dreams? I have not heard of nor seen such a place on this earth! Someone went on to suggest, "Dreams are what life is all about." And the truth of the matter is history is not lacking in examples of men who attained to status as the result of having big dreams. If it were not for dreams, individuals like Thomas A. Edison, George Washington Carver, Mahatma Ghandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Nkrumah, Bill Gates and many others who have made valuable contributions to humanity won’t have done so. Had they abandoned their dreams, there would have been no discoveries to extend life as well as our standards of living.

For example, Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich once wrote, "Happiness is found in doing, not merely in possessing." The same is true about dream; it forecasts what will and can be. Hill went further to say, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. …and that man can create anything which he can imagine". In other words, dreamers do not quit," it is those who have nightmares that do.

On a personal level, at an early age, I dreamed of acquiring vast knowledge in HISTORY – especially, the history about the people of African origin. All my life, I have dedicated myself in pursuit of it by reading and engaging in research. Is there something wrong with such a dream? I doubt it!

However, there are those who will have us to believe that dreams are meaningless. Therefore, we should "be real", and should not preoccupy our valuable time with such "endless" exercise. These are the same people who are suggesting that those who have advocated for change in the past, and continued to do so today, should give way in order for a new breed of "young Liberians" to take over the role. This argument is not only ridiculous, it misses the whole purpose of what the struggle for change is all about. Since when in a struggle, time limitation was placed on age or longevity? If it were for age and longevity alone – Nelson Mandela would have been excused for the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC).

This reminds me of a story regarding a young boy who wanted to become a leader without first acquiring the necessary experience of becoming a leader. According to the story, he woke up one morning, went to the Chief Elder of the village to inform him that he had come to become the Chief Zoe of the Zoes, and that it was not necessary for him to go through the required "Rite of Passage" of becoming a MAN to do so. The Chief Elder told the young man, who by the way is called – Guodeh (means in Bassa – "Know it") that there are requirements that one must have fulfilled in order to become Chief Zoe; the first one being, you have to be a Zoe before becoming the Chief.

Guodeh took the approach of the Ancient Cynics who took the Socratic method a step further (in the wrong direction) to argue that virtue was the only good, and that the pursuit of pleasure was not merely a distraction but a form of evil. They became extremely antisocial, very disrespectful of others and displayed great contempt for their fellow humans and what they stood for. Diogenes (born 412 B.C.E. – He is known to have walked through Athens in broad daylight with a lighted lamp looking for a virtuous person) and other Cynics lived as beggars. They had no time for normal human relationships, and they rejected civil duties. They misinterpreted the "Socratic method of argument".

Drawing on this line of argument, Guodeh became cynical. He looked at the oldman for a while and said to him: "Chief Elder, I don’t mean any disrespect - but have you realized that we are living in a different period, which has made it possible for me to know a lot of things than when you were my age, you couldn’t have known?" The Chief Elder agreed. So, Guodeh insisted on meeting the Council of Elders to argue his case.

The following day, Guodeh met the Council of Elders in the "Palaver Hut" (something like a Assembly Hall) to present his case. During the deliberation, Guodeh was asked two questions, which had he answered correctly, would have made the Council of Elders who would have considered him as an elder who has been "reincarnated" (an elder in previous life), and they would have waved some of the requirements. On that day, the following questions were put to him:

1. Do you know what it takes to be considered a person with PATIENCE?
2. What does it require to gain WISDOM?

In response, Guodeh said, "Council of Elders, with all due respect, you’ll know that patience is something that is RELATIVE – it depends on the circumstances. Let me tell you, if I really want something, I would wait, even if it takes forever to get what I want. As for acquiring wisdom, it can be obtained through knowledge. The good thing about wisdom is - I do not have to wait forever to receive it or have to be old to acquire it. All I have to do is – get on the Internet, search the web and I will be able to tell you "anything" that you wish to know, and no amount of experience is required to do so."

Having made his points, the Council of Elders decided to put Guodeh to a test that involved PATIENCE and WISDOM. He accepted the challenge.

The first assignment involved a man who was in the habit of abusing the mother of anyone he came in contact with. The task for Guodeh was for him to try and convince the man to desist from engaging in his abusive behavior within a week. The second assignment involved a husband and his four wives. Guodeh’s task was to settle a dispute between the husband and three of his wives. The issue had to do with the favoritism the husband showed towards his fourth wife (the youngest of the wives), who because of her beauty, he practically worshiped. As a result, he neglected to fulfill the needs of the other wives. This became a serious problem, so, the neglected wives lodged their complain to the Council of Elders. And since Guodeh had the desire to become a Chief Zoe, the palaver was passed unto him to resolve to the satisfaction of the parties involved within a week’s time

Guodeh left early that morning to visit the village where the man known for cursing everybody’s mother lived. As he was arriving, he overheard noise, which appeared that there was some argument taking place. He finally arrived where a group gathered, and when they saw him, everything came to a halt. He approached them and then introduced himself. After the introduction, he was asked by one of the men engaged in the argument to be the mediator, since he was from that village, and that he had "no interest" in their matter. He agreed! But the other party to the dispute - the man ( the abusive man) whose reason he had gone there in the first place, opposed to having him as the mediator on the grounds that he was a stranger - and no stranger was going to judge a palaver that he was a party to; he then started to curse Guodeh and his mother for getting involve in a business he had nothing to do with.

Guodeh tried reasoning with him, but to no avail. They talked and talked for hours, during which time, he was constantly cursing Guodeh’s mother. At that point, Guodeh’s "cup of patience" ran over; he grabbed the abuser, knocked him to the ground and proceeded to choke him. The town’s people begged him to turn him loose - that he did, but based on the agreement he had with the Council of Elders, he failed the "Test of Patience."

The following day, he went to the village where he had to serve as judge to preside over the dispute between the man and his wives. During that evening everybody assembled in the Palaver Hut to judge the palaver. Everybody was present, except the younger wife (fourth wife). After waiting on her for hours, she finally appeared. When she was entering the Palaver Hut, everybody including Guodeh, the judge, stood up in appreciation of her beauty and the fine apparel and jewelry she had on. Guodeh couldn’t help, he murmured to himself - "No wonder her husband worships her; if I was in his shoes, I would do the same, because she’s surely an Angel." In the end, he sided with the husband on the ground that she was not only beautiful but that she satisfied his needs as well. Therefore, the husband could not be at fault.

After his tasks were completed, he went and met with the Council of Elders and told them of his accomplishments. After listening to him, they told him that he had failed both tests - PATIENCE and WISDOM, therefore, he was not eligible or qualify for the position of Chief Zoe.

Based on the story, what conclusion can we draw from it? The message I personally derived from the story is - the youthfulness and education of a candidate seeking any position are not a sufficient criteria for leadership; experience, which comes along with age, plays an important role in leadership.

Therefore, in deciding on the question of leadership, we must first consider that all who succeed in life at times get off to a bad start, and pass through many heartbreaking struggles before they arrive at their goal. The turning point in the lives of those who succeed usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their "other selves."

In planning to follow one’s dream, a true leader cannot abandon his/her dream or be influenced by those who say he/she is old and has been in the struggle for too long and therefore must give way to a younger person. Popularity is not what an individual is in the struggle for. In fact, longevity plays a role but passion and commitment to a cause make the difference. To achieve any goal in this changing world, one must possess the spirit of great pioneers of the past, whose dreams have given to civilization – everything of value, which today serves as the life-blood of our humanity.

As long as we believe that "no condition is permanent"; and as long as there is breath in our body, we must continue to fight for change to the logical end by exposing injustices and corruption wherever they exist. This should be our commitment and not how young or old one is. Human tragedies cannot be camouflaged or forgotten; age and longevity are relevant to the cause for which we continued to struggle. To erase their significance is to incubate and manufacture division that will lead to more atrocities. Instead, we should prevent past mistakes from being repeated. Because if we don’t, we will run the risk of having generation of people around who cannot remember the horrendous crimes committed against humanity by the likes of Charles Taylor and others.

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