Feature Article of Monday, 23 April 2012Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina Freedom is such an abstract idea it is very difficult for those who have not experienced tyranny and oppression to, sometimes, conceptualise its value. Obviously, it did not come as a surprise when most of the people who read my last article: ‘Who said we need a leader like Gaddafi?’ missed the basic theme of the piece – freedom. However, I will try and give it a second shot, because it is import that my fellow travellers get to sing from the same hymn sheet if we are to make any meaningful strides as a nation.
What came across as I ploughed through the comments was that they are all, without doubt, Pan Africanist. And for that reason alone I wouldn’t hesitate to quote from their patron saint Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He said, and I quote: ‘We prefer self government now with danger to servitude in tranquillity.’ It is clear that Nkrumah understood the notion of freedom better than his current crop of followers. He made that quote, if they care to know, as a rebuttal to a bunch of out of touch people who argued that the then Gold Coast was not ready for independence, and I couldn’t agree with him more on this one.
Freedom is a broad concept with many branches and facets: freedom of self-determination, freedom of speech, economic freedom, freedom of religion etc. These are all built on a single foundation and they function in unison like a building sitting on four pillars. A physical damage to one of the pillars will compromise the structural integrity of the whole edifice, which will cause it to collapse if not repaired. Obviously, we all have our individual freedom as part of a larger society. However, our liberty to exercise that freedom terminates where someone’s begins. That is why any self-respecting person with a spine will resist when his liberties are breached. Freedom is the backbone of every modern society, and you don’t mess with it – it is sacred.
In all my life I am yet to find anyone who can put a price on human life. And I want to put a direct question to those who made a mince meat out of my piece whether they can put a price on human life? Of course, they can’t. But Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, said ‘the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ The life of a patriot is precious so is the life of a tyrant. But the concept of liberty and freedom is so dear it needs to be purchased and protected, according to Jefferson, with the blood of those who value it more and those who seek to undermine it. That is why a person like Gaddafi who undermines liberty and freedom of the human spirit must be removed.
There are those who want to compromise freedom in the interest of progress. Progress at any price? That kind of freedom will be built on a false foundation and it will come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Besides, the question is whose freedom should be sacrificed on the altar of progress? What is the value of providing someone with an art gallery, but the price is gouging out his eyes. Will they be happy if theirs were sacrificed or that of their family? There is a proverb in the Akan dialect, which I will put very crudely. It says that when you are devouring the fingers of a monkey you should pause and have a look at your own.
Furthermore, I will recommend that they watch the film ‘A man for all seasons’, written by Robert Bolt. It is a very old film, and if they can’t get it they should just google the transcript and read it. It is about Thomas More, the man who wrote the classic book Utopia. He was tried for treason and beheaded in the Tower of London in 1535. In the film Thomas More decides that he will die rather than lie or betray his faith.
In one memorable scene he was arguing with a particularly ambitious, vicious and witch-hunting prosecutor. And Thomas said to this hungry prosecutor who will stop at nothing. ‘You would break the law to punish the Devil, won’t you? And the prosecutor answered back saying, break it! I would cut down! I would cut down every law in England if I could do that – if I could capture him.’ And More said, ‘you would, won’t you? And when the last law was down and the Devil turned on you where would you hide now all the laws being flat. The moral of the above is anybody who compromises the law should know that he is making a rod for his own back. And you have to look at all the ramifications of your actions when it comes to other peoples liberty.
Gaddafi’s idea of setting up a common currency for Africa backed by his largest stock of gold reserves in the world is, perhaps, what has dulled the thinking processes of most wild eyed liberals. Having gold in abundance is not what makes a country rich. If that is the case Spain would have been the richest country in the world, because of the colossal amount of precious metal that poured into the country from the New World. The wealth of nations is determined by the level of productivity backed by technological knowhow and the dependability of their laws, and not the precious metals that back their currency.
Lastly, this is what I will part with. There is a virtue in every villain – if you want to see such drama go and interview the mother of a serial killer. The fact that he did some good all around the continent doesn’t excuse his sanguinary escapades during his 42 years in power. He financed the ANC; so be it. On the other hand, know that if there was no Gaddafi, there would have been somebody to step in his shoes, because the ANC would have looked somewhere else for support.
Sometimes, our obsession with imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, cultural imperialism and what have you is blinding our ability to analyse geo-political issues objectively. Yes, NATO helped the Libyans to overthrow him. Yes, they will now have access to the Libyan oil. But the fact still remains that they helped the people to obtain the freedom denied them for 42 years. We don’t need new crop of leaders who will come and oppress the people for their place in history. We have already experienced enough of that in our history. This is my advice; when it comes to the issues of freedom. Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus. Think for yourself, and remember the golden rule do unto others what you expect others to do unto you.
Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr. London firstname.lastname@example.org