It is a common saying that one cannot run away from one’s shadow -it follows you everywhere you go and you can do absolutely nothing about it. This popular saying is typical of our existence as humans and the prevailing situations and events that unfold around us each day. As the day goes by, events unfold and we just can’t do anything about them, hence we live with them for we are bound by them. They are the events that characterise our time!
One may have wondered why Eliot, an American-born writer who later migrated to Britain would have made such statement. We don’t know but we can only speculate! Was it that life in England was no different from what he experienced in America? We can’t answer this question as we can’t tell whether he made this statement before or after moving to England. But one thing was evident in that statement: that there were events which were happening both in England and America or even in the life of Eliot within and without which characterised that time and were beyond his control, hence the statement; ”for we are bound by that”. Indeed he may have been helpless!
To prove how invaluable this statement is, it is crystal clear that in our world today, certain events are also taking place which are definitely beyond the control of us all. They may not be exactly the same as what Elliot observed then but they are similar in that we are helpless before them and they are events of our time.
In our world today, war has become inevitable. Outbreaks of wars and fighting between countries, groups and even religious organizations are no news. Man has been deceived to believe that the best way to settle dispute is through war. This is unreasoning! Since a dispute-free co-existence is not possible, it only means that a war-free co-existence is not guaranteed either. Greed and desire to acquire everything is the order of the day. Quest for power, money and fame is leading to the violation of the fundamental right of the other person. No wonder the economist said that “man’s desire is insatiable”
Lack of respect and understanding for our cultural differences abounds. This has hindered good international relationship and global unity. This has grown to a level where even if one naturalises in another country as a citizen, he is still treated as a stranger and he does not enjoy “all” the benefits due him as a citizen of that country. Could it be one thing Elliot suffered when the junior common at Oxford proposed a motion that they abhorred the Americanization of Oxford? No answer. It is even worse as the same applies even in an individual’s home country where freedom is not really what it sounds to be, and where in practice, marginalization and violation of fundamental human rights is evident.
As one thing leads to another, so does war lead to famine. People are displaced, farmlands are destroyed and store houses are burnt down. And there sets in hunger and starvation. People suffer malnutrition and become susceptible to disease. Epidemics are recorded taking the lives of many in thousands and millions.
Our leaders are nonchalant and instead of being democrats, they become autocrats, a situation predominant in most African countries. They loot public funds and make vain promises.
White elephant projects are initiated without ever being executed. Democracy is a theoretical concept and never practicable. Rule of law is preached but just like George Orwell of Animal Farm said; “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”: some people are actually above the law. Two persons are put in a prison for the same offence, one does not spend five minutes and is out while the other spends his lifetime and is never out. Maybe one of his uncles is not a top government official I guess. In Nigeria today, admission into university is no longer based on how much stuff you have “upstairs” but how much you have in your pocket. Wickedness and evil is evident!
No wonder George Carlin of America called it “the paradox of life”. It is indeed a paradox! He said: “the paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings with shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrower viewpoints, more degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgement, we have multiplied our possession but reduced our value, we have larger things but not better things, we rush but don’t wait.”. Then we ask “why is it that way?” the simple answer is that it is our time, what makes us who we are – humans and we can’t escape it except we don’t want to be humans anymore!
This trend has never made life easy for man. Among many other negative effects it has on man is limiting man’s intellectual and emotional abilities. This is evident in our behaviour i.e. the way we think, reason and understand things and even solve problems. We lack the courage to express ourselves and the zeal to carry out projects beneficial to mankind. Why? Because our emotions are down! We have been deranged so that we act on instinct at some point and sometimes when we think, we think below our standards as human beings-higher animals. Our hearts leaped as we heard the bombshell, our homes and loved ones were lost and our future became blurred. Then we sought for the company of drugs and alcohols to console ourselves but then, we did more harm than good. She lost her self esteem as she was a victim of rape. Then she said to herself “nothing good can come out of me anymore”. Then our reasoning, thinking, emotions came below average and we were limited because “our time and its characteristic events” were simply inevitable.
However, education has a part to play. Though it cannot eliminate the inevitable events of our time, it can help us escape from the negative effects of our time (The intellectual and emotional limitations of our time) and even reduce some of the events of our time. Yes! But the question is, how? It must be made clear that education here refers to both formal and informal forms of education so long as there is a passage of information from one person to another. Through education, we are taught the scientific approach towards problem solving. We are taught to first identify the problem, produce a hypothesis, collect some data, carry out an experiment, do some analysis and draw a conclusion based on that. This does not only help us solve problems but also develops our thinking capacity and we learn new things hence we reason and think beyond our limitations. This is done both in and out of the four walls of a school.
Through well planned curricular and extracurricular activities in school, we learn many things that expose our potentials and natural endowment thus we break out from the bondage of looking down on ourselves to achieving great things as our mindset changes. We develop rational reasoning and are able to express ourselves better because our self esteem has been developed on realising who we are. We become better prepared to handle the challenges of life. These enable us to rise up and challenge certain things going wrong in the society without fear.
Furthermore, through awareness and enlightenment programmes, we are made to realise some of the lifestyles we lived that were detrimental to our health, intellect and emotions. We
acquire jobs whether skilled or unskilled and are able to fend for ourselves and family instead of dying of hunger and starvation. Because we now know better, we cure the disease of ignorance and seek better ways of conflict resolution than war. We begin to understand the benefit of peaceful co-existence and believe me. we become intellectually and emotionally balanced under this atmosphere.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that education is the weapon needed to fight the war of intellectual and emotional limitations that our time places on us whether formal or informal and encourage us all to embrace it so that even though we cannot live best, we can try to live better.
References: 1) T.s Elliot on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot, 2) George Orwell, animal farm,longman group limited 1945, 3) opinion, http://www.graphic.com.gh/features/page.php?news=22695