April 15, 2015 By Oswald Hanciles
“The mind is as difficult to control as the wind, but, it can be controlled, through practice, with dispassion……For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” – Bhagavad-Gita
Over the past sixteen years, I have been developing my idea of ‘The Missing Ingredient’. It is that man can learn to become conscious of his thoughts, and consciously control his emotions – to consciously veer away from negative emotions to positive emotions; to consciously prevent ill health or cure himself; to consciously project highly survival thoughts into his community. Observing people in 37 years of my post-university experience in several West African countries have got me to the conclusion that what is not largely known by most of the ‘governing elite’ in West Africa, and, certainly is not practiced by 99% of the governing elite, is conscious emotional control. And, this absence explains the paradox of most of West Africa – a rich continent in terms of natural resources, but, with beggarly poor people.
Over the past couple of months, as I watch unfolding events in the public space in my country, I get amused and paradoxically alarmed as to how uncontrolled emotionalism by the governing elite is holding sway. With potentially dangerous ramifications!! I feel a grave sense of responsibility to write on ‘The Missing Ingredient’ again; and, I hope, develop a book on it; in the hope that it could be injected into our formal and informal educational systems – before we continue down the drains again; before we probably go up in flames again in our part of the world.
Sierra Leone: example of ‘The Missing Ingredient’ not yet found…..
Most of Africa’s almost intractable problems today are not because of lack of marketable wealth, or, even too much of a dearth of intellectual resources, but, the lack of ‘emotional control’ among the governing elite.
Sierra Leone has always had abundant marketable natural resource. About two hundred years ago, Sierra Leone had a head start in having highly qualified manpower to usher the country into modernity – a hundred years ahead of most other African countries. Yet, some forty years after the 1960s Independence Era in Africa, Sierra Leone was a beggarly nation. So, what happened? The ‘Missing Ingredient’: the largely unknown variable in the developmental equation in Africa; a ‘lack of emotional control’. Emotions like anger, lust, greed….are natural in the human species; but, so also is the capacity to control these emotions. There are also other dangerous emotions like racial or ethnic prejudice.
Learning how to control negative emotions is not automatic. It can be learned – through ‘osmosis-like’ manner; through a child growing up with an emotionally-controlled parent. There are schools around the world that frown upon uncontrolled emotions, so, people are taught how to bottle their emotions.
Most of the lettered religions deplore negative emotions – especially anger. Christianity states that anger is a “sin”. In one of the Hadiths of the Prophet Mohamed, the Prophet is quoted as saying the worst human vice is anger. There are other emotions like envy, jealousy, harshness….
Egoism – a potential incendiary emotion
One of the worst emotional vices is egotism or egoism. Egotism is that thought in a human being that makes him (or, her) thinks he is superior to others – because of more money, better education, more contacts with powerful people, more beauty or handsomeness, more physical strength, etc. Egotism flows on a gradient though – there are those who are mildly egoistical, and those who are highly egoistical.
Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler was an excessively egoistical man. His egoism got him to spawn the spurious idea of an ‘Aryan Superior Race’ – and to rationalize the demonization of Jews. Driven by egoism, Hitler sought to ‘gobble up’ other ‘lesser’ European nations; and, eventually, to conquer the whole world. The fallout of Hitler’s egoistical streak was six million Jews murdered in nauseously grotesque circumstances; and about 45 million people dead in the Second World War.
Next door to us in Liberia was another classical egoistical leader, Master-Sergeant Samuel Kanyan Doe. Doe’s egoism would almost always vacillate to another apparently complementary emotion of egoism: anger. Doe and 16 other non-commission officers shot their way into power – bludgeoning to death Rev. William R. Tolbert, the last of the Americo-Liberian presidents in 1980. Within one year, Doe had murdered 13 of the other soldiers who took power with him. One of them, General Thomas Quiwonkpa, escaped – after Doe had rigged the 1985 election in which he morphed into a civilian president. Quiwonkpa successfully invaded Liberia in 1985, and toppled Doe. The coup was overturned. Doe unleashed a genocidal attack against Quiwonkpa’s tribe’s people, the Gio-Mano. Hundreds, if not thousands of them, were brutally murdered; their heads chopped off; burned or buried alive. By 1986, Doe was apparently thought, and spoke as if, he was invincible and inviolable.
Then, students in the University of Liberia staged a demonstration against Doe on their campus, at the same time Doe was addressing a joint-session of the legislative houses of Liberia, with members of the diplomatic community present. The students held on their head a coffin which they claimed had Doe’s corpse in it….. The Chief of Defence Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia then moved towards Doe and whispered in Doe’s ear, apparently telling him about the student demonstration going on just across the road from where Doe was on live radio and television. Doe visibly tensed. Doe moved off script, and ordered his military to use maximum force to stop the student demonstration; then, he rained abuses on his former adviser, once a university professor, Dr. Amos Sawyer, who he accused of being behind the student demonstration – on live national TV!!
The egoistical Doe was sure that his minority ethnic group, the Krahns (about 5% of Liberia’s population) was strong enough to dominate and control all the other ethnic groups in the country because of their superior training in warfare. In just about five years, Doe had squandered the tremendous goodwill he earned after ending 130 years of oligarchic Americo-Liberian rule, and being hailed as a “liberator” by all the indigenous tribes of Liberia. Even after Doe had been cornered in the Executive Mansion in 1990, he refused to make a honourable exit from the country, and clung on to power until he was captured, and disgracefully butchered in front of camera by a rebel leader, Prince Johnson….
Emotional Intelligence and ‘The Missing Ingredient’
What I write about here is a relatively new concept in the West (And, I am sure, unknown to most of the governing elite in Sierra Leone who have gotten educated imbibing European/American thoughts). In the article, “Emotional intelligence through the Bhagavad-Gita”, we are taught that what I term as ‘The Missing Ingredient’ is now famous in the West as “Emotional Intelligence”. “…… EI (Emotional Intelligence) which has been popularized by Goleman can be traced down to David Wechsler, who, as early as in 1940 said that intelligence does not denote just the cognitive abilities of a person but the non-cognitive abilities as well. This idea was again put forward by Howard Gardner in 1983 when he brought forth the multiple intelligence theory and said that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are as important as the traditional concept of intelligence which focused on the cognitive skills alone. In 1990, Mayer and Salovey introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence as a distinct form of intelligence which can be measured and evaluated……
The writer continues on ‘EI’: “……..Though the field of emotional intelligence is a fairly new one – the word ‘emotional intelligence’ itself was coined first and used in literary writing by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 (Cherniss, 2000). The concept has caught on like wild fire as it explains and provides evidence on how people with a good IQ sometimes fail and those who were school dropouts and considered stupid go on to become the most successful ones in their fields (Goleman, 1996). Thus, the world has woken up to the fact that intellectual and cognitive abilities alone do not help a person, but it is his emotional intelligence – an ability to understand and control his emotions and that of others for the best possible results – that makes him a complete man and takes him on the path of success….”. (Source: Emotional intelligence through the Bhagavad-Gita Gayathri, N. VIT University, Tamilnadu, India (firstname.lastname@example.org); Meenakshi, K. VIT University, Tamilnadu, India (email@example.com); International Journal of Research Studies in Psychology; 2012 June, Volume 1).
Egoistical Leaders and Masses Versed in Emotional Manipulation
That “him” is singular; but, it can be generic; can be for a nation. The write argues that Emotional Intelligence can be upped through lessons from the Bhagavad-Gita which I open this article with. I kindly ask that those who read this piece read it several times. After all, what the Ebola War has taught us (which Foday Sankoh’s ‘Rebel War’ should have taught us, if we are an Emotionally Intelligent people) is that within Sierra Leone we are all in a tiny boat in the middle of an ocean – we either row together, or, sink together; and we certainly cannot sit in that boat and watch others punch holes in the boat. Over the past thirty years working and living in Liberia, Nigeria, and home here in Sierra Leone, I have been amazed as to how the elite would use the ‘weapon’ of emotions to gain power – but, once in power, how the masses would use the same weapon of emotions to get a few crumbs from the elite, and, together, elite and masses would collaborate to make a complete mess of good governance, yielding stagnation, retrogression, even war. Such rare knowledge in this Column could mean escape from poverty for Salone, sustainable prosperity, peace…or War!!