Man O Man
Cornelius Olukunle Ewuoso Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
‘How do you define man?’ was the question I asked a 15 year old girl. ‘Man is not a goat or a dog or sheep or any of those four legged animals’, she replied. I am not asking for ‘what man is not’, but ‘what he is’. But at least, ‘I know what he is not’ which is important, she retorted. Knowing what he is not is not enough, if we can’t tell what he is. A number of undesirable consequences would result if an attempt is not made to define ‘what man is’. Amongst other things, he would be mistaken for a bundle of emotions, passions, non-reflective being, for an object to be used and then dumped, if we do not make clear what man is.
But then, what is man? How is he different from other animals? What makes him unique? What makes him not just an object to be used as a means to an end? The oldest definition which comes to mind is that ‘man is a rational animal’. He is an ‘animal’, however not any kind of animal but a rational animal. His rationality is what makes unique and different from other animals. Man himself, is made up of two parts, irrational part and the rational part. His irrational part is what he shares in common with lower beasts and animals. It houses his emotions, passions, pleasures etc. while his rational part is what makes him different and unique. It is the ‘house of reason’. It is because of this that man is not considered as a bundle of emotions or passions but, an ‘intelligent being’. The activity of reason specifically characterises his human nature. It is what makes him human. What this means is that man’s excellence consists in using his rational faculty, that is, man’s excellence lies in the use of his rational faculty to control his emotions and passions. A happy or successful man is one who is able to consistently and continually put his passions and emotions under the control of reason. It is within this analysis that I want to carefully consider a certain article by Damola Awoyokun published in the Sunday Gaurdian Newspaper of 27 December 2009.
The argument which this author advanced carelessly in the article is quite easy to understand and needs no analyst or commentator to explain it to us. However, the author must be lauded for the astounding revelations one finds in this short piece. Women who would stop at nothing to make sure struggling men are pulled down from the heights. Yes, the revelations were astounding and outstanding. His article was equally enriching. Amongst other things, it teaches us that we have to be careful of women, they are dangerous. Don’t be fooled by their innocent looks. Some of them are not as innocent as they appear. ‘Think twice when a woman approaches you to ask for a favour’. If a woman could seduce a ‘poor’ Adam in the garden, certainly ‘rich’ Tiger woods or Ashley Cole would definitely not be a problem. If a woman could seduce Adam ‘just to get him to disobey God’, seducing Tiger Woods or Ashley Cole for their ‘money’, which is immeasurable compared to what God is in himself, would definitely not be a problem.
Seducing men is just their trade mark. But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all of them, however, quite a number of them. The media knows this all too well now such that many advertisements are replete with seductive women. Even a product that is not connected with women, must have a woman in its picture. I went out one day to get a DVD player and on the pack, there was a woman carrying the player; then I asked myself, how are these two things connected? This is the age of seduction and who are the predators? Women; and the victims? Helpless and careless men. Thus we must thank Awoyokun for making to confirm our suspicions about these daughters of Eve.
Just as much as we would like to keep on praising this young chaff for the astounding revelations, we must, however, exercise caution lest we join him in making man what he is not, that is, a bundle of emotions. The opening phrase of his article says it all, FOLLOW YOUR ENERGIES. Energy in this same is understood as emotions, sex drives, pleasures and passions. There seem to be nothing wrong with this phrase when considered from a long distance, but a closer examination would immediately show that there are several things wrong it. Amongst other things, it reduces man to an irrational animal, a dog or a beast. And all these campaigns that men should be careful with the way they relate with women would have been in futility. We would understand this shortly.
I have made the extra effort to put his argument in this syllogism; ‘Great men in history were men who were able to follow their energies’(emotions, pleasures, passions etc). ‘Sex energy’ is ‘one of the oldest resources’ which human beings have available to blow their own minds and journey further into the limitless world of possibilities. This drive is still valid today. ‘All men who desire to be great must follow their energies, particularly their sexual energy’. Tiger Woods is following his drive, thus he would be great. However, he (Tiger Woods) is being hounded by the Media for attempting to be great; for following his sexual energy. This is unfair; it is unjust. No one should be hounded by the Media or law if he or she is able to coordinate his private life and their public in a fearful symmetry. Rather, people should be encouraged to achieve this great feat.
Emotions, pleasures and passions belong to the lower of the human person, his irrational part. His irrational part is what shares in common with beasts, lower animals, dogs etc. Thus, any attempt to ask man to FOLLOW HIS PASSIONS AND PLEASURES, is an attempt to ask him become a beast or a dog. This is a careless statement which lacks critical reflection since it makes to reduce man to a mere animal which is inconsistent with man’s excellence, the use of his rational faculty. But once man has been reduced to dog, then he would immediately become an object that could be used as a means to an end since he no longer enjoys the dignity or the uniqueness which is accorded to him by virtue of his rational faculty. He would no longer be taken for ‘who he is’, but for ‘what he could be used for’. I think this is the mistake which a certain ideology which is being promoted in the academia and in public spaces, under the name ‘enlightened self-interest’ equally makes. This ideology, though outside the scope of this article, teaches that “we ought to help others, if doing so would bring ‘considerable benefits’ to us”. What this means is that once my gestures toward you would bring me no benefits, then I may not help. Helping the other person thus becomes a means of achieving personal ends, not because man ‘in himself’ ought to be helped for ‘who he is’ and not what helping him would bring us. He has ‘dignity’; he has ‘worth’ and he is a rational being, not a mere object.
Awoyokun equally did something interesting. He mentioned certain names of people whom he believed became great because they followed their sex drives. He mentioned names like Marquis de Sade, Sartre, Jean Rousseau, Albert Camus, Einstein, St Augustine, Monsignor Pedro Martins, Mozart, Garcia Marquez, Bertolt Brecht, Iris Murdoch, Fidel Castro, Kinsley Amis. But this lacks truism, thus it is false. In fact, this is either a careless reading of history or an ignorance of history. I wonder if he actually studied the lives and works of any of these men, because if he did, then he would have asked whether these men are considered great because they followed their sex drive or because they saw how unproductive a bestial or animalistic life could be. Again, here, a question mark is put on whether he actually studied history or took the study of history seriously, while in school. A student who either fails to study history or take the study of history seriously would only end up an incautious sycophant.
Students are thus encouraged to take the study of history seriously. Our schools would do well to emphasize the study of history in their curriculum. This is what happens when the study of history is de-emphasize; people would begin to confuse details or be oblivious of it. Certainly, these men are not ‘world acclaimed’ because they followed their drives but because ‘they lived by’ or are making genuine effort to live by the ‘rule of reason’, which is the excellence of man. A careful study of the lives and works of these great men would immediately prove this point. St Augustine, Albert Camus, Jean Rousseau all saw the heights of passions, experienced its destructive powers lived at its unproductive peak but wished they had never tasted from it.
Thus, if Tiger Woods is being hounded today by the media and the law ‘not because’ he is attempting to be great, but because he has chosen to live like an animal which is unacceptable and would be unproductive. Animals especially dogs, are known for their infidelity. Tiger Woods is being treated in the media like an animal because of his infidelity to his spouse. If following your sex drives would make you great, then we would have no problem with paedophiles, necrophiliacs, incestuous men, since these are forms of sexual drives. But this is not the case. We consider it animalistic and bestial to involve in such sexual behaviours. We consider such life unproductive that thus discourage people from living such life. Man is great only when he lives by the rule of that most excellent faculty in him, his rational faculty. This is what makes him happy; this is what would make him great.