By Osmund Agbo
If your life goal is to get-rich-quick, just take my candid advice and come up with a business idea with the premise that the average Joe you meet everyday in the streets is unapologetically stupid; because he likely is. By no means, don’t even bother feeling any kind of shame about the immorality of exploiting a fellow human being. Joe wouldn’t know and may not give a hoot, even if he does.
I woke up this morning reflecting on two news items which I came across in the past few days. One was a New York Times special on Tucker Carlson, an American television personality with Fox News, owned by the legendary Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation. Another, Ralph Uwazurike, the renegade who for many years ago pushed the Biafran secessionist agenda with his group called The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). These two individuals live thousands of miles apart, yet their stories have an eerie similarity that is too difficult to ignore.
Tucker Carlson weaponizes his viewers’ fears and grievances to create what the Times called the most successful racist show in the history of cable news. He is known to be very economical with the truth, but his viewers probably do not know any better or don’t let the truth get in the way of what they would love to hear.
Ralph Uwazurike is the leader of MASSOB, who once claimed that he hand-picked Nnamdi Kanu and appointed him director of Radio Biafra in London, has finally ditched the Biafra Project. It’s no secret that MNK stole his thunder. Having struggled to reinvent himself and his group unsuccessfully, he allegedly opted to cash out instead. A good businessman weighs his options and then follows through, hoping to make the most profit out of the deal. That is what many believed that the man from Okwe, Imo state did.
Tucker and Ralph followed the same time-tested business script of preying on people’s ignorance, stoking fears and then cashing out. They started from a humble beginning but had gone on to build a flourishing empire of fraud. Of course, they are dangerous but that’s only if you know. Their thousands of followers or even millions in Tucker’s case may seriously beg to differ. Tucker’s show is sowing the seed of hatred and racism in America whereas in the name of fighting for freedom, Uwazurike had led scores of young Igbo men to their early grave.
Truth is a virtue, knowledge is power and yet, in a world where the ignorant and stupid are the silent majority, the educated and wise are increasingly being isolated. In today’s world, they have become more or less social outcasts.
Have you ever wondered why the people with the most Twitter following are not the nerds at MIT or the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan monks. No. It’s the so called social media influencers, most of whom did not even graduate from high school. They are the ones that set the trend and dictate the tone on a whole lot of issues, social or otherwise, in this complex world we live in. Even the university professors with all the grey hairs of knowledge are not immune to their overbearing influence. It’s been said that the average man is not very smart but I will leave that to psychologists and developmental experts to argue that one out. What remains undisputable is that humans are more emotional than rational creatures which is why most people are easily taken advantage of or why we let “evil men come into the society and poison it.”, apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Or maybe human behavior is influenced by other considerations that have nothing to do with our intelligence or lack of it. In his book, “Atomic Habits” James Clear wrote, “Humans are herd animals”. We want to fit in, develop bonds with others and hope to earn their respect. We crave for the approval of our peers. He went on to say that “False beliefs can be useful in a social sense even if they are not useful in a factual sense…. When we have to choose between the two, people often select friends and family over facts”.
Many years after the Eastern House of Assembly sitting in Enugu passed the law to abrogate the Osu caste system on March 20, 1956, the law is still being observed in the breach. It doesn’t matter that many Christian faithful and even some adherents of traditional African religion acknowledge that its practice is one sin too many, against God Almighty. There is still serious foot dragging when it comes to giving out our children and wards in marriages to anyone tainted by such a social stigma.
Becoming separated from the tribe of people or worse still, being cast out is like facing a death sentence. Pushing it even a notch further, a certain man once explained that, “we don’t always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.” Being socially accepted in the broader human society has proven to be more sought after than the pursuit of truth and Justice. I have encountered a lot of people in White America who hated Trump and were happy that he lost the election but dare not admit it to their circle of friends.
Even when we hold the above assertion to be the truth, there is still a sense in the idea that exploiting the ignorance of the silent majority is the most unsung hero of rag-to-riches stories. Now you too can take that to the bank. All that is needed is to do away with whatever is left of your conscience first.
Knowledge experts often talk about different kinds of intelligence. Crystallized intelligence involves the knowledge and skills we acquire throughout life while fluid intelligence is all about our ability to reason, problem-solve and make sense of abstract information. One may argue that age might help out with the former but not with the later where most are lacking big time.
The burden of the wise is that he feels compelled to solve all the problems in a world that gives no care about getting things right. While trying to do the right thing, he is looked upon as either being too idealistic or completely detached from reality and so becomes socially isolated. The ignorant does not have to suffer any of this. In fact, he maintains a peaceful and healthy relationship with his society, living his best life ever. Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is the burden of the wise.
Dr. Agbo, a Public Affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: [email protected]