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Feature Article of Thursday, 10 January 2013

Columnist: Akwah, Nana

Kwakye-Ofosu and NDC Understanding of Dignity Lacks Clarity

The Meaning of Dignity: Felix Kwakye-Ofosu and NDC Understanding of Dignity Lacks Clarity

I read a news item that featured a statement purported to have been made by Felix Kwakye-Ofosu, a member of the NDC Communication Team that “Nana Akufo-Addo as a person had two choices. The first one was that he succumbs to will of the good people of Ghana and retire in dignity after four decades of invaluable contribution to our democratic process. The second option was that he remains obstinate and retires in absolute ignominy because he has disrespected the mandate of the people of Ghana on two occasions. Unfortunately he has chosen the latter and for that reason he will retire eventually but he will retire in ignominy instead of the dignity that otherwise he would have been deserving of,” Kwakye-Ofosu said on Radio Gold’s political talk show program Alhaji& Alhaji on Saturday, source Joy Online.

When you complain, it automatically makes people cautious. If you complain about how things are so bad in your life and how you’re a victim, you sound like a victim. You will be a victim. You sound like you are full of excuses. You sound like you cannot be trusted, that you will find something to blame your impending failure upon. It will be difficult for others to feel confident about you.

If you complain about others, you sound like a gossip. At best, you are perceived as a paranoid. At worst, you will be seen as a saboteur.

For me the NDC and its Communicators should learn to stop complaining and start doing. NDC must think of solutions more than blame. The NDC must be doer, learn to be problem solver and they will attract others around who are the same. Focus on success and you will get it.

Why are they complaining about the NPP petition to the Supreme Court? Why are they worried of the figures presented to the Supreme Court if there is nothing of substance? Was it not the EC that suggested that the NPP to go to Court? Why worry about “idiots” going to court? The old adage “had I known is always at last is very valid in all human experience. The EC and its collaborators had misjudged and are now reaping the fruits of incorrigibleness.

People want to know that you solve problems! They will gain confidence in you if you see problems and overcome them. That is exactly what Nana Addo had set himself doing.

The NDC/Felix Kwakye-Ofosu must stop wasting their energy on blaming and complaining about the NPP refusal to concede. So like Felix Kwakye-Ofosu who seems to have carved a niche for himself in attacking Nana Addo’s integrity and finds complaining a good choice, I ask him stop for a moment and turn his focus to solutions. They are advised to portray a positive, confident image by thinking of solutions instead of who to blame.

The problem with his submission is a clear departure from what occasioned the action from Nana Addo.

Cheating is indignity. Cheating is ignominious. Cheating is back stabbing. Cheating is a selfish attempt to break the rules, ride for free, and reap the benefits of group life without charging anything to the account. Cheating attempts to avoid the payback required by reciprocity. It is asymmetrical and anti-social. Social organizations typical arrange to punish cheaters. This may be within the rule of law, for example arresting people who steal. Or it may be informal, for example no longer involving people who do not reciprocate favors.

Fair exchange is an important human principle; it holds a community together and forms the basis of broader morality. Both sympathy and cruelty require imagining how your behavior affects the other. The mutual exchange of reciprocity is based on the principle of symmetry interpreted as fair exchange.

As individuals, we are transfixed by keeping account of helpful and hurtful actions; taken into account our own and those of others. We constantly appraise the balance in each account as they accumulate the value of our social exchanges with acquaintances. A simple test for symmetry in exchange is to ask: “would you be willing to swap places” if the exchange is symmetrical, it is a fair deal viewed from either side.

Enough of the diversion let me come back to the main concerns I will like to raise.

What is Kwakye-Ofosu talking about? To keep strong personal relationships never show contempt for other people.

It is in the interest of everyone never to show contempt for a person if you want to continue having a relationship. This is true for all types of relationships. Friends, work, romantic and casual. Disrespect kills relationships.

Get rid of mannerisms that show contempt for others. Never roll you eyes. Never shrug. Never act exasperated when you disagree with someone. Do not turn your back on people and do not ignore people.

Rolling your eyes when your opponent or partner has something to say is a key indicator for disconnect in the future. If you do this, stop it and never do it again. Listen and respect the other person’s point of view. Respect them as a man or woman. Respect them as a person.

If you consistently show contempt for people other than associates, it is an indicator for disconnect in the future. How do you treat people that you deal with every day? Are you impatient? Are you disrespectful? Stop treating other people rudely and your own relationships will improve.

Do not impugn on others “dignity” and think that the aggrieved person/group will accept to have a meaningful relationship.

Felix Kwakye-Ofosu understands of “Dignity” and “Ignominy” for me is weird. Dignity, the quality of worth and honor essential to every person- establishes basic entitlements that are the inalienable birthright of every human. It is our inherent authority. We are worthy simply for the reason that we exist. Dignity is the threshold level of status required to meet basic human needs. It establishes the basic grounds of humanity.

On the contrary, the converse which is Indignity refer to trespassing into the territory established by dignity which border on the essence of insult, humiliation, and the root of anger, shame, and hate.

This trespass is the basic tool of tyranny, oppression, and coercion. All of history is about the quest for dignity. We are worthy simply because we are alive; it is a cruel injustice to deny someone their inalienable worth. Dignity is the congruence between the respect we demonstrate and the inherent authority of each person.

On the other hand we feel shame (ignominy) when we think poorly of ourselves. Shame is the emotion that encourages us to do our best. When we are ashamed we may feel vulnerable and even helpless. Shame reflects a decrease in stature while pride is the emotion reflecting an increase in stature. You feel bad because you have not lived up to your own standards. You may feel humiliation. Examine both your standards and your behavior to decide what has to change in the future. One does not have to blame himself overly. What is required of us is to examine the responsibility you have assigned to yourself.

Notwithstanding what I have stated above, Nana Addo had not fallen short of his standard or principle, so what is ignominious about his failure to concede defeat? The problem with the NDC and its supports lies in their inability to desist from confirmation bias or biases.

Shame is closely related to, but distinct from guilt. While shame is a failure to meet your own standards of behavior, guilt is a failure to meet other's standards of behavior. Shame tell us “you have not done your best” guilt tell us “you have harmed another, you have not been compassionate, you have ignored the golden rule,” which is the exact instance we find ourselves presently. Shame is personal, while guilt is public. Shame is “I am bad” while guilt is “I did something bad”. Shame reflects on the “human being”, and guilt reflects on the “human doing”. The NDC has failed to observe the “golden rule”.

Dignity, nobility, honor, etc., all of these are complex abstract nouns on which we situate great importance without really fully knowing what they mean. Despite the fact that we all have a vague grasp of what they entail, to put them into words is exceedingly hard – and it is even more out of the question to try and live by them when we can't even define them.

Dignity in particular is a difficult one and is perhaps even less clearly defined than the others like it. We all want to be dignified and to keep our dignity “unbroken” but what does this mean?

To define Dignity just type: dignity into Google then what you get is a result from the dictionary saying 'the state or quality of being worthy or honor or respect'. Seeing as I have already pointed out that honor itself is somewhat difficult to define this doesn't immediately make things clear (and particularly as honor is then listed as a synonym). Respect for sure is a more easy term to understand but then at the same time it is something that is quite a broad definition.

We might respect a politician for instance for their orating prowess, but is Johnson Asiedu Nketia dignified? Most would argue not.

The second definition that comes up is 'a composed or serious manner or style'. So in other words this is someone who manages to hold themselves together and who remains 'serious'. Serious is something we can take lightly as arguably you could be dignified and still have a sense of humor, but if we merge these two definitions into someone who is worthy of respect due to managing to remain composed then we are somewhere close to revealing the true meaning of dignity.

It will be educative to see and understand how Dignity Is Different from Honor. If someone is honorable then how is this different from dignity? Well, someone who has great honor will act from a moral code that they take seriously. Honor originally comes from chivalry and Bushido and is a code of the warrior – and what keeps them loyal to their cause and prevents them from becoming a mischief maker or a cheat or a scoundrel.

Someone who has honor then is willing to put themselves second to what they perceive to be the greater good or a higher purpose, and would similarly put themselves out of their way to remain true to their word. Such are the qualities Nana Addo has demonstrated both dignity and honor.

At the moment in our lives seemingly defined by war and natural disaster, a small asterisk of peace must now be added to the history books. But, as with most examples of negotiated peace, the Kumasi Protocols are incomplete and inadequate. “There are no provisions for any kind of justice mechanism in the 2012 peace accord.

Someone with dignity however is likely to have these qualities too, however here the focus is much more on how a person is perceived by others. In fact an honorable act might be to lose one's dignity – to see themselves humiliated in order that they might save someone else. Honor then is something personal, whereas dignity is more in the eye of the beholder.

As we look to the future, sustainable peace in our democracy, alongside probity, accountability and transparency will not occur unless the perpetrators of vote massaging, colluding, conspiracy, rigging and vote buying are brought to justice. We cannot simply ignore the past and proclaim the present to be a new beginning. As a country, we will never find peace unless justice is achieved.

My question for Felix Kwakye-Ofosu does he possess a shade of dignity he is preaching about? Is Felix Kwakye-Ofosu not engaging in confirmation bias? The NDC confirmation bias is their tendency to only seek out information that conforms to their pre-existing view points, and subsequently ignore information that goes against them.

Nana Addo is a dignified person. He is someone who is seen to be cool and collected in a crisis and who doesn't beg or make a mockery of himself. Someone dignified is someone who wouldn't dress up as a clown to get a cheap laugh but would sooner use a witty retort (though someone with great dignity might manage to poke fun at themselves and even act foolish while not damaging their own respect). Someone dignified similarly is the sort of person who would not cry in front of others so as to avoid upsetting them.

In his Letter from Birmingham City Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. discussed the relationship between peace and justice in the context of the civil rights movement: “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

The bottom line of all the brouhaha stem from our insidious quest to hold sway over others no matter the pain that we inflict on the person integrity.

Our desire for dignity resides deep within us, defining our common humanity. If our capacity for indignity is our lowest common denominator, then our yearning for dignity is our highest. And if indignity tears relationships apart, then dignity can put them back together again. Our ignorance of all things related to dignity—how to claim our own and how to honor it in others, has contributed to, many of the conflicts we see in the world today.

This is as true in the boardroom and in the bedroom, as it is in politics and international relations. It is true for all human interaction. If we are to evolve as a species, there is no greater need than to learn how to treat each other and ourselves with dignity. It is the glue that could holds us all together. And it doesn’t stop there.

Not only does dignity make for good human relationships, it does something perhaps far more important than we think it creates the conditions for our mutual growth and development. It is a distraction to have to defend oneself from indignity. It takes up our time and uses up our precious energy. The power of dignity, on the other hand, only expands with use. The more we give, the more we get.

There is no greater leadership challenge than to lead with dignity, helping us all to understand what it feels like to be honored and valued and to feel the incalculable benefits that come from experiencing it. The leadership challenge is at all levels—for those in the world of politics, business, education, religion, to everyday leadership in our personal lives.

We must recognize that Peace will not blossom anywhere without dignity. There is no such thing as democracy without dignity, or can there be genuine peace if people are suffering indignities.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. writing from jail had this to say: “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. … Injustice must be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance; the human connection is the first thing to go. On the other hand, when people treat each others with dignity, they feel their worth is recognized, creating lasting and meaningful relationships. Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity. While a desire for dignity is universal, knowing how to honor it in ourselves and others is not the issue but it is of great consequence.

Last but not least, feeling dignity’s power—both by honoring it and locating our own inner source of it—sets us up for one of humanities greatest gifts—the experience of being in relationship with others in a way that brings out the best in one another, allowing us to become more of what we are capable of being.

The words Martin Luther King also are relevant to our inner battle with tribalism and our ethno-centric tendencies. Make no mistake: We all are tribalistic. That is, we all have tribalistic attitudes and tendencies that we must learn to unlearn — tribalism is not about whom we are but rather how we act.

What is undignified when seeking justice? True peace is dignified when there is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and legal guarantee which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities, and the just distribution of benefits and burdens.

Whether dignity is a good thing or not is of course a matter open to discussion

NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE NO JUSTICE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS

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