Intellectuals and Public Debate.

9 January 2007 at 02:09 | 767 views

"The same order of propaganda is stressed against the Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma that it represents the apotheosis of Siaka Stevens and the old guard of the APC with no evidence to support the albatross they have hung round his neck. As for Charles Margai, his crimes are those condemned by "1984" relating to Trotsky, the renegade member of the Communist Party."

By John Lansana Musa, USA

The persuasive and polite reaction from Andrew Keili and Akindele Decker to Karamoh Kabbah’s recent essay on poverty analysis prompts the following essay on such brilliance of truth-seeking citizens and on rectitude of assertions in public debates as we have entered a tug of arguments between ordinary citizens and party hacks speaking lies.

There is no reason to believe that even candidate Solomon Berewa and that cadre of SLPP rank and file of goodwill, support self-appointed spokesmen and pusillanimous hacks bearing lies and misrepresenting his life and position on issues. The critic of government as we have made it our wont, ensures he knows or must seek to know what obtains in public affairs. We have done so many times against APC regimes and extend it to the existing ruling SLPP. The opportunist cares little about such rectitude save his impetuous reaction to truth-telling.

This leads us to the purport of the present essay in reaction to the fine thoughts of Keili and Decker. In many civilized countries and democratic nations, intellectuals lead the common man to the understanding of the elementary issues of their government. It is this axiom that actuated Professor Robert Dahl to admonish citizens of all nations to be civic competent and for intellectuals both organic and traditional to be able to speak correctly about the issues of their epoch and the past in a manner that makes them reliable surrogates who when they utter something about any subject, there will be no doubt about its truth.

In our own seeming tradition among SOME Sierra Leoneans who are the bane of the present essay, we brush aside this ability or wish to state what is the truth where voters everywhere else frown on it. For instance, when President Ford debated candidate Jimmy Carter during the course of their campaign, the former gravely erred perhaps inadvertently that Poland was not under Soviet domination, he lost the debate and his judgment in foreign affairs was overlooked after that critical hour.

Now imagine a putative leader of Sierra Leone saying Foday Sankoh never held sway on our republic or something less than civic competence. Siaka Stevens was a dictator but he never ruled beyond 17 years. Nor was he the most corrupt in accordance with the consideration of all the records and reports of commissions of inquiry in our nation. The APC ruled in part with intimidation, fear and sometimes injury to opponents but its public offenses are far less in consideration to the crimes of the RUF. These facts elude the gruff sycophant.

In a multiparty democracy, a citizen need not shout that he will NEVER vote for the APC or that that party will never rule again. All he has to do is cast his ballot for the party of his choice. That feeling is foolish because he alone does not decide the election. Such a resolution not to vote for the APC also undermines democracy because in the end, the majority will govern after a free and fair election. In the wake of the APC winning a free and fair election what will the foolish citizen who swears an oath not to be governed by the APC do? Give up his citizenship or take up arms against a constituted government? Seek an overthrow of the duly elected government? Undermine its authority or accept democratic practice that inheres to him when his party loses?

The most foolish of expressions is often made by those who cannot even vote or possess the right to speak of elections in Sierra Leone because they are now citizens of other countries, yet they shout, carp, make noise and are rude trespassers into the affairs of Sierra Leone. Such shameless galling self-confessed carpet baggers neither understand their trespass nor understand they speak only with our privilege about OUR country..

But when a compatriot comes forth here recounting lies or ignorance, and he or she is shown the truth, nihilism results instead of a rejoinder accepting the truth. Imagine such lies in textbooks or by a teacher to pupils in elementary school or secondary and tertiary school. The spectacle is disgraceful. How else can Sierra Leone rely on her citizens living abroad and knowing little or nothing about how to shape their republic when the most errant of them believe LIES are the TRUTH.?

Policy analysts everywhere strive to be right and where they are not sure, they look it up. To detractors unable to so inhere to truth, all statements about political opponents and views of opposition parties are prima facie correct only because they are uttered by those who support the ruling party. But not so, yahoos of our country tell us. A man who cannot recall the correct history of his country or speak truthly about political opponents is not fit in any civilized company. One has either the hub of a memory that possesses the correct information or the ability to ensure that he obtains it when unsure.

Those who recklessly jump into debate with ignorance and lies are anathema to democracy. Imparting correct information is the equivalent of spending time in public libraries as an instrument to be prudent in debate. If the average citizen of Sierra Leone must choose between being advised with LIES by slovenly debaters bearing incorrect information and those who assert truth from the mind or a library, it would be reasonable to assume the liar will be ignored, his mediocrity disparaged as a counterweight to reject. Now it is wanton and crass foolishness to condemn access to libraries.

Jonathan Swift found such characters in one of his travels with a name I cannot pronounce or spell because I read it a long time ago in secondary school. But I can look it up if I choose to say the right aspect of the multiple travels by Lemuel Gulliver. Our detractors will rather lie about what they do not know because they are in haste to shout their TERROR of ERRORS.

For the record of Leoneneters,I say the following with humility and I must do so: This subscriber has a personal library rich in all Sierra Leonean books, papers, public records and anything else he needs dating back to the colonial period from the present. It is even silly to think anyone needs a library to think or reply to inanities wrought on this forum by ignorant men of no purpose. Additionally, owning a library or going to one does not guarantee brilliance in debate or ability to articulate an argument because you must first know the issues and understand the elements of logic to be debated before supplying your reply or rejoinder with proof from your own head or the works of others where you are not the expert.

If my daughter asks me some thing I already know, I inform her about it. If not, she must go forth to the library. Our detractors will supply anything that comes to mind for fear a public library will injure them. This is elementary to say but we must say it for the befuddled detractors who think because they FORGOT or DO NOT KNOW anything primary, secondary and tertiary education MAY have taught them that approaches knowledge on their country. For them, one has to reach a library to answer them in their infinite ignorance.

There is hope of course that Ministers of Lies are few and the public either ignores them or frowns quietly on their inveterate excuses for ignorance. In passing, we admit that there is a corpus of SLPP intellectuals and analysts who always bear the truth and correctly assess what our government does right or wrongly. They neither escape their spleens for not knowing something. Theirs is the purview every citizen must strive for. But sycophants and toads know neither truth nor boundary for their propagation of lies and disdainful ignorance. In the end, Sierra Leoneans must choose to inveigh those that tell lies in public affairs and those who rise against such propaganda. As William Butler Yeats beckons us in a stanza of that immortal poem - The Second Coming:

“The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

The question that looms is this: Whose side are you on? The ignorant with passionate intensity or those who bear civic competence?

It is refreshing too to see a traditional intellectual such as Shek Sesay and organic intellectuals such as Andrew Keili and Akindele Decker interpose the question of truthfully debating matters of government. Many others on this forum and others yet on other fora do not intervene because of the apprehension of being attacked by yahoos. Others yet more inclined to truth do not intervene because of the shock of seeing educated Sierra Leoneans falling below the touchstone of rectitude in argument to the point where it is unnecessary to even call attention to these quintessential educated rebels.

But must the rest of us strive to challenge those who want to lead us backwards at any cost, opportunity and malice without fear of their rudeness, patent misconduct and outright lies. Let me illustrate the point I am advocating with the role of Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel "1984". In Orwell’s novel, Winston Smith, stands adroitly against the corrupt reality of his world. The most poignant parts relating to the debate on this forum about SLPP propaganda and biased impartation of public information are the following statements culled from "1984".

The history of our country is plain about the proportion of corrupt politicians in every ruling party as evidenced by Reports of Commissions of Inquiry dating to 1968 by the ruling party of that era. But today, we hear some of our most avid propagandists stressing only APC corruption with the intention of ignoring the past and the present state of affairs. There is hardly a Sierra Leonean today who has not condemned APC corruption of antecedent administrations. Neither is there a Sierra Leonean who claims Siaka Stevens is the mirror of a leader to behold. But the Stevens albatross is bandied around like a scarlet letter to inveigh anyone who dares question the present government. Even irresponsible carpetbaggers actively indulge with unmitigated gall.

Thus we read in 1984 on such measures as the lies we have been treated to:

"The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth." (Page 78)

Next, we variously hear that the APC ruled Sierra Leone for 32 years, 40 years, 30 years and 27 years with the requisite intent to propagate the dark stewardship of the APC in which many SLPP members importunely conjoined into a longer period of suffering in order to mislead the unknowing public. In this regard Orwell writes,

“The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.” (Page 221).

Orwell goes farther to assert on this measure more thoroughly:

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed...” (Page 223)

The same order of propaganda is stressed against the Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma that it represents the apotheosis of Siaka Stevens and the old guard of the APC with no evidence to support the albatross they have hung round his neck. As for Charles Margai, his crimes are those condemned by "1984" relating to Trotsky, the renegade member of the Communist Party. If you leave on principled grounds or for what ever reason, you are tarred and featured with capital crimes. The detractors of a dissident or a renegade mar the constitutional rights of such men or women and if the United Nations and human rights organizations were not watching over their shoulders, Margai might meet a fate irreconcilable with remaining unlocked in prison.

The danger we often ignore and the one that lends strength to fend off those who insult us for straightening lies is this from Orwell’s 1984:

"And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became the truth." (Page 37).

In light of these latter-day-propagandists behaving in lockstep with Winston Smith of Orwell’s 1984, in the Ministry of Truth, where he exercised control over all media, he employed all means in the Records Department, to doctors historical records in order to comply with the Party’s version of the past.

Accordingly, the thing to keep in mind the next time you see naked allegations by any political party hack on this forum whether that propagandist is SLPP, APC or PMDC is the term by Orwell relating to that dirty trick of lying about opponents by weak unreasoning persons:
“The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.”

After reading this, watch the purveyors of lies leap forward in knee-jerk reaction with their indecorous weapons of choice - rudeness, uncouth behavior and more lies to cover their previous lies. They never TIRE and we shall never RELENT to save the rest of us from lies passing as truth. The shame klies in their persistence they hope will cower us. But not this veritable free citizen.

Photo: Dr. Siaka Probyn Stevens, founder of the APC.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Leonenet (UMBC), a Sierra Leonean online public forum. We are grateful to both Mr. Musa and Leonenet for the opportunity to reproduce it here.