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Measuring goodness

July 31, 2009

Generally speaking the Russians who make the news are the morally dubious kind—oligarchs, spooks, kleptocrats and so on. But there are good people in Russia too, and when they are good they are very very good indeed. Only a place with history as terrible as Russia’s can gestate this sort of goodness. It isn’t that people in the West are incapable of it; they simply don’t often face the challenges and moral opportunities required to reach it. (On versions of goodness) [1]

This measure of goodness, though rightly explained, is based on the conventional and convenient. Suggesting that there are other measures of what a decent society ought to be. Can one who doesn’t contend with monopolists, plundering politicians and their cronies (like we have to in Nigeria) be content with a placid life?

True, the moment makes the person. Then again, it shows through what prism heroism is being viewed. A society short on the basics of life, much less civility, rule of law and an environment open to expanding the range of socio-economic and political choices, makes good people stick out like a sore thumb. This is why moral dubiousness makes the news.

To say only environments that present “the challenges and moral opportunities required to reach this sort of goodness” is unique to Russia is a hard pill to swallow. While defending human rights violation brings out the best in people, there are other human rights been denied in the West.

So what version of goodness is found in Africa? Africans, denied of their freedom, be it social, economic or political, by a few big men, either join the bandwagon, resort to cynicism (that motive force behind the self-fulfilling prophecy that good people are extinct) or take flight. Nonetheless, there are good people. Alas, most make-do while a few attempt to mend.

But the misuse of economic goods isn’t characteristic of politicians only. The West is reeling from the unbridled greed of some alchemists of finance. These chose to wheel and deal without the slightest consideration of the moral import of their actions – Bernie made off with a bundle while regulators twiddled their thumbs. Surely, self-restraint in consideration for the common good counts as civility. It certainly demands more than helping the odd old lady across the street. To me the gist of the piece is objectively relayed, but subjectively motivated; like every journalistic work – mine included?


[1] From Bagehot’s notebook, Economist.com, July 17th 2009

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 31, 2009 3:26 pm

    There seems to be interesting coicidences between Chicago in the United States and Ibadan city in Nigeria
    Chicago is the Capital of mid west America and Ibadan the political capital of south west Nigeria.
    Chicago was crucial to the development of jazz music in the United States and Ibadan highlife music in Nigeria. Interestingly one of the highlife greats in Ibadan was known as Roy Chicago.

    Frank ~Lloyd Wright and Demas Nwoko in Chicago and Ibadan respectively have both been described as defining an entirely new architectural identity for their respective countries.

    Chicago is the home of the skyscraper and Ibadan is the Nigerian home of the Skyscraper (Cocoa House).

    In Chicago, you have the Loyola University, whereas in Ibadan you have the Loyola College.

    Chicago and Ibadan, have the newspaper houses, the Chicago Tribune, and the publishers of the Tribune Group of newspapers respectively and they are both the largest newspaper houses in Chicago and Ibadan.

    In Chicago, you had Enrico Fermi, credited with winning the Second World War for the U.S. president Harry S. Truman and relatedly in Ibadan, you had Obafemi Awolowo described as the Chief Strategist of the Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon during the Nigerian Civil War.

    In Chicago you have Oprah Winfrey described as the most powerful American Woman and in Ibadan we have Folake Solanke described as Nigeria’s most powerful woman. They were both born on the 29th day of the mohth. Winfrey on January 29 1954 and Solanke on 29th March 1932. They have both been associated with broadcasting. The are both pioneers, Oprah Winfrey first African-American Woman Billionaire and Folake Solanke Nigerian’s First Lady Senior Advocate of Nigeria and first non-Caucasian president of Zonta International (with headquarters in Chicago).

    James Abram Garfield, classicist, lawyer and president of the United States who was assissinated got his nomination as presidential candidate in Chicago and relatedly, James Ajibola Ige, classicist, lawyer and one time Nigerian presidential aspirant also assasinated lost his nomination for post of presidential candidate in Ibadan.

    Walt Disney creator of Laugh-o-Grams, studied at the Chicago Art Academy and coincidentally Solomon Iguanre, Artistic Director and co-creator of Laffomania organisation, studied at the Theater Arts Department, University of Ibadan. Disney and Iguanre are both cartoonists, comedy writers .

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