By Wasiu Owolabi

Society in Its Essence: Knowledge and Man’s Characteristics

I am inspired to write this piece, not because I want to, but because I need to. It is quite pertinent to clarify some misconceptions of the true meaning of society in its essence.

It is true that people are different–from different ethnic groups in terms of race, religion, nation and culture. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the fact that we are humans!

The order in our world today is being driven, to some extent, towards embracing each other despite ethnic differences in order to strive for our common interest which is none other than harmonious existence–peace.

Over the years, we have learnt to live with each other in the same society regardless of our beliefs, though there is still conflict of interest between some ethnic groups over power while some are fighting for survival. Yet, we are still humans who cannot survive without each other. We are socio-political animals.

The primary criteria that connotes recognition of a human being are name, origin and occupation. These will reveal, at least, who you are, what you do and from where you originate. Say for instance, that I travel to another country, the information needed, with which I will be recognized is my name and what I do; then from where I come. My response in this situation will most likely be: I am Wasiu Owolabi, an educator and entrepreneur from Nigeria. Hence, I’ll be recognized as ‘Wasiu Owolabi, a Nigerian educator and entrepreneur’ before being seen as Yoruba or Muslim educator and entrepreneur respectively. Regardless of the tribe I belong to, the religion I believe in, my native language or my opinions and mode of speech. I’m from an English-speaking nation, Nigeria.

Now, I shall briskly address a pressing issue in knowledge. You would agree with me that knowledge is wide; it comes from different scholars of different nations speaking different languages. Human beings thrive on knowledge acquired from various educational sources, including individuals of different backgrounds and spoken languages. Rene Descartes, for instance, was a French philosopher, yet we study his philosophy of mind—cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). His postulata were written in French, but later translated to English and perhaps, other languages. Likewise others, they wrote their opinions in the languages they understood, and through research, we are able to understand and criticize their works.

What I’m driving at–in the above paragraph–is that your nation, belief or language should not be the standard that will devalue your opinion; it should be criticized based on reason, how logical it is!

Further, it is to be noted that devising a topic for an opinion, is not a walk in the park. Topics or subjects are indicated in some speeches or writings to reveal the scope of the matter. For instance, if I choose a topic that reads ‘Our Unseen Enemies: A Microbiological Experiment’, a reader should be able to discern that the discussion will revolve around Microbiology and not Sociology. Its discourse will be different from, say, ‘Our Unseen Enemies: A Religious Perspective’ which one should be able to cognize that the discussion will revolve around religious doctrines.

Whether or not is it religious, moral, political, social, economical, linguistic, etc., should it be reasonable, then knowledge is knowledge and of valuable stance. If a scholar writes in German, Spanish, English or even Arabic, it does not connote his belief. If the language is translated and the content understood, what then could make the opinion anti-social or unacceptable? Of course, it is only reason, not language; not religion; not background.

Also, society is made up of morals, politics, languages, religions and cultures in which persons are engrossed. A writer or speaker is a person in the society that probably has these characteristics from which he can adopt opinions. There is no way his social characteristics and experiences will not reflect in his works. So, it is pretty much reasonable to criticize his opinions or actions rather than attacking the person, thereby entangling or confounding yourself in argumentum ad hominem. That is simply illogical and fanatical. Your action will, all the more, become dumbfounded and irrational if you attack because the person belongs to an ethnic group defers from yours.

Complying with someone’s view, accepting a religious belief and moral conduct, reading someone’s write-up, understanding a foreign language, acquiring knowledge, having an occupation and associating with others are not mandatory–they are only necessary. However, having a name and belonging to a society are important because dissociation from the society is improbable and renders a person vulnerable in all ramifications. One must bite off the task of sociability. If you are doubting this assertion, then try isolating yourself from the society and live in a world of no humans; then prove to us how you won’t bite the dust!

Conclusively, I’ve exposed and gave opinions on various issues: diversified ethnic groups; peace as people’s common interests; conflict of interest amidst socio-political animals; the criteria for human recognition; the logical value of knowledge to humanity; discernment of the scope of a discourse; reflection of a writer’s social characteristics and experiences in his works; rational critique of opinions rather than attacking the person; and the relevance of a society to an individual. Nevertheless, I wish to include, in this pause, a notion that goes thus: find solution with smile, aviode problems with silence, and seek harmony with tolerance and apology.

• Cause paused. ~OWO



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