WHY DON’T WE THINK (A LITTLE BIT OF NIGERIA’ S SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY) BY AYO SOGUNRO (www.ayosogunro.blogspot.com) THINKING? DON’T WE ALL? That’s the mistake we all make. Man is a rational animal, isn’t he? The fallacy of the 19th century. Man is not a rational animal; he’s only an animal capable of being rational. A being with volitional consciousness, he can choose to think or not to, that’s the difference between him and animals, animals have no choice of thought, man has a choice, he may think or disregard the thought process. TWO GROUPS Therefore, we have those who chose to think, or the rational, and those who don’t—the majority. And in this age of democracy, the majority carry the vote. And this guarantees that it is the few rational who are deemed irrational, unreasonable, absurd, foolish, nonsensical, and other epithets which actually mean one thing: why don’t you act as everybody else acts? WE ALL THINK Yes, once in a while, when we struggle out of our natural mental lethargy. We do ask questions like ‘why?’, and ‘does it make sense?’ sometimes, and when we do this we are trying to be rational, we are thinking. However, there remains another level of thought which we should struggle to achieve and when we get there, life will become so unimaginably easier. Most people instead do not bother to reason out things until they face a crisis, which is usually too late, rather they live their lives succumbing to forces and influences from their family, from society, from their peer groups, and not least of all, from their religion. THE REASONABLE MAN We can all be rational. A long process but worth the effort. We should stop allowing others to live our lives, stop allowing our minds to be suppressed by other people’s ideologies; we should start believing in the capability of our mind to guide our actions. For too long we’ve tried to separate our body from our mind, and our mind from our spirit. Most people rely on their physical strength--their body, or on their looks-- still their body, or cater only to their instinct and appetite without thought as to the consequences. These people are soon easily subdued by the person who uses the head; the moral of The Hare and the Tortoise. Other people rely only on their feelings, their spirit, they fall in love because they feel it, and they hate a thing because they don’t feel comfortable with it. They use their heart, they are ruled by emotions, by passions, and not by their head, they follow their heart, they hate logic, they emphasize belief, faith, and close their eyes to reality, like the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand; and they always live to repent it. MMM… Is the reasonable fellow therefore a cold, calculating person? Absolutely. He looks before he leaps, and when he leaps without looking, it is because he has thought it to be the better option, he does not accept things at face value and he is not bothered by the fact that everyone else does so. He questions a thing before accepting it and if he does not questions it, it is because he has found it to be better than existing situations. He is an objective person, the favourite of the law courts, he does not allow sentiments to cloud his judgement or popular beliefs to shake his convictions, he is a person who does not fake reality, and does not fool himself about his own self or about others. A reasonable person is not the normal person, he is the person who will not take things as they are and let the whole world plead with or threaten him he will not budge until his convictions are satisfied. IS THIS PRACTICAL AT ALL? Sadly enough, the world in which we live crucifies its thinkers and only deifies or glorify them when they are safely gone. Ask any ordinary Christian or Muslim if he will be comfortable if the founder of his religion was to live with him at home and you will be surprised that your answer will be a fervent negative. That is why over two thousand four hundred years ago, Socrates, ‘the wisest man on earth’ was executed by the Athenian public, people just can’t stand an attitude which shows reason or knowledge; since they don’t believe in themselves in the first place, they are naturally suspicious of anyone who claims to be a thinker. This is not limited to religion and philosophy alone. In every sphere of life from our childhood we are thought to accept, not to question: the curious child is silenced with a ‘just do it’, the zealous student is stopped with a ‘stop asking silly questions’, the new worker is told ‘that’s the way it is done here’, the social crusader is answered with a ‘that’s just the way it is.’ So what chance is there for the man who wants to use his mind to survive, instead of following the madding crowd? He has every chance. Because when he thinks, he can make use of his mind to enlighten those who do not make use of theirs, he can create and he can produce. Ideas don’t just drop out of the sky; they are born out of thought. You can look an opportunity in the face and never know, until you begin to stimulate your brain cells and no matter how much prayer or fasting you partake in, ‘faith is simply dead without mental work’. The truth is that, contrary to religious notions, God gave man a mind to enable him survive, He gave animals various features for them to adapt to earth conditions, and they had no choice about it, they always act instinctively, but the beauty of man’s creation is that he was given Choice and this separates him from animals. Man’s weapon of warfare, his mind, was not given to him to make use of compulsorily, he could choose…between good or evil, in other words, he could choose to think or not to think, and when he thinks he could choose good, or evil. Most of the times we think not doing anything means sitting on the fence, but in reality when you fail to make use of your mind, you are choosing not to make use of it. THOUGHT: AS A MEANS OF ACADEMIC REFORM It is not merely a student’s duty to learn from the teacher, but to reason out what he is teaching, which gives the effect that when he is not making sense the student can quickly spot it out and, if permitted, show him the error, and if he is making sense the student can get a quicker grasp of it than a person who is merely listening. An average student learns and reproduces averagely, an excellent student reproduces excellently, but an exceptional student is not bothered about reproducing, he goes all out and formulates, if his theory or reasoning matches the one handed down by lecturers, all well and good, if it does not, too bad. The problem we have as students today is that often times when we know our lecturers are on the wrong track, we choose to follow them and conform to the norm for the sake of our G.P. or degree. This kind of attitude is what makes it easier later in life to just follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing rather than stand up for what is right. And these goes on, we tend to do what others expect of us than what we expect of ourselves. Lunacy has been described as doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results. A phrase which describes our academic situation. Students are not encouraged to think, and their natural tendencies are lost or sacrificed to the altar of a certificate, all that is required and instructed is ‘do what your teacher says’ and the fact that the teachers’ sayings have not gotten us anywhere is ignored. This goes on year in year out, students graduate and don’t get jobs, not because there are no jobs, but because the jobs available are for people who think, except, of course, if it is a job in a government ministry. And even where there are no jobs, students with minds will know how to create them. A LOOK AROUND The average Nigerian is a great thinker—when it comes to money matters, i.e. how to get as much possible money while doing as little work, mental or physical, as possible. A situation which a true thinker recognises as a contradiction, for the creation of resources requires exertion of physical and, or mental energy. Since thought is devoted to little else, our entire social, political, and religious structure is full of contradictions and ironies. People stay in relationships which do them no good and great harm all because if they don’t society will frown, a man slaves for a woman who spends the money and still nags him day and night and never gives him peace of mind—till he’s dead. Politicians who did harm in the past will stand for election and win. It is only in Nigeria that a military dictator who annulled a free and fair election will still think of contesting on a civilian platform. Where else but Nigeria will a president who is subject to the votes of the citizens flout the wishes of such citizens and still win a second term election? A man goes to work on Monday, embezzles until Friday, drinks his lights out on Saturday and still goes to thank a God he did not consider throughout on Sunday. It is only in a non-thinking society that this happens. A society where immediately after a church or jumat service, a worshipper who gets stepped on accidentally will unleash a stream of curses on the offender without regard that he has just espoused brotherly love at his place of worship. CONCLUSION? I have highlighted my grief and I hardly expect to be understood; except by people who are intelligent enough to think for themselves, these are the people I have in mind anyway. The problem here is not so much as in lack of the capacity to think, but the fear of making use of the mind due to unfavourable repercussions from the teeming majority, but like I said, everything is a matter of choice, to conform or not to conform, and nobody can be compelled against his wish. ‘Reason accepts no commandments’ says Ayn Rand, so you can choose to think—or not to think.