Aberrations of Idealism, the State and the Sanctity of Life

Aberrations of Idealism, the State and the Sanctity of Life

Thursday, March 16, 2023 3:01 pm

Ademola Araoye

By Ademola Araoye

A major paradox is inherent in the powerful concept of the state as the dominant organizing principle of human society. The state is rooted in a social contract to relieve humanity of the dangers posed by the original ungovernable state of human nature. The compact is a check on the proclivities of Homo sapiens to thrive at the expense of the weakest in the environment. That contract however terminates at the borders of the state emanating from it. Outside the frontiers of the state that has ensued from the contract, it is a jungle out there. The idea of the state thus derives from a freely given agreement from a people to allow the controlled collective entity to rein in the dark side like a man. The quid pro quo is the facilitation of an enabling environment for the ascendance of the best values of humanity. Governance, culminating through the centuries from incremental empowerment of society in the management of state affairs, has resulted from increasing frustration with conventional principles of governing. Governing, motorized by the centrality of state coercion, is thus an antiquated holdover from the past. Governance in the digital age is regulated by universal protocols and norms underpinned by an emerging global society as enforcers of the new sensibilities, values, and norms that are integral to emerging principles of unlimited participation of the individual in national affairs. It is a universal code. Therefore, in the evolved shrunken global setting where the furthermost distances are only a click apart, no state has absolute control over policies relating to the protection of the inalienable rights of humanity within its territory. Meanwhile, governing as conventionally understood and practised is more associated with the prominent use of force for compliance within the state, the modern state that is. Governing in this manner offends the essential tenets of the minimal deployment of coercion in the management of human affairs. Coercion is thus outmoded in the post-modern era. The continued violation of the fundamentals of the post-modern state would now seem to be the exclusive preserve of mechanical creations and late presences in the Westphalian firmament- the post-colonial state. But the global eagled eye uncle is watching.

The paradox of the state vis-a-vis the people lies in the coercive nature of the classic state. The state often ominously acquires the very dark side of humanity it was created to mitigate. The early Westphalian modern state is associated with a monistic pivot of social control to suppress the free expression of the autonomy of the human spirit to thrive. The challenge is that the contortions of the state that have developed over time often take on a life of their own,also often without any guardrails to keep it from derailing from the terms of the social contract. In many instances, the protocols and norms imposed by the state contradict the assumed end of the social organizational contrivance (the state) as a mechanism devoted to the advancement of the good of humanity. Accordingly, they repudiate the tenets of liberalism that are implicit in the social contract. In a liberal order, the good of the individual and constituent communities, including nationalities, is the end of the state.  Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on the rights of the individual, and groups, liberty, consent of the governed, political equality and equality before the law. The ultimate purpose of liberal order-through law, economic structure, education, social relations and political construction –is to promote the welfare of the individual. These are the fundamentals underpinning a liberal Constitutional Order. In the realms of ideas, the predominant global sensibility is respect for the sanctity of human life, the rights of the individual and the right of the communion of a group of individuals.

At the polar end of the spectrum is fascism. In this social order, the individual, and by implication, the constituent nationalities, is merely instrumental to the higher good of the transcendental state. Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often races above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. Fascism thus upends the very essence of the social contract and disregards the centrality of humanity in state affairs. Yet still, fascism is actualized through a human agency operating directed by a formal ideology. The ideology always glorifies the state. These activities or political praxis that alienate the people are undertaken under the guise of protecting the interests of the state. It is effectively state capture by a minority that is often glued together by the promotion of individual economic interests. Their high-sounding pronouncements are always inclined to dress up their selfish, immoral violence against the people who are fleeced. The individual agencies are defined by their social existence and consciousness as privileged elites determined to sustain their unfair, illegitimate and partisan access to the commonwealth. This abominable existence is integral to the informal codes subsisting between them. It is a form of state capture; a stranglehold of a minority elite over the destiny of the vast majority. The classical definition of state capture refers to the way formal procedures (such as laws and social norms), informal protocols and government bureaucracy are manipulated by state functionaries, government officials, state-backed companies, private companies or private individuals, to influence state policies and laws in their favour. Often, they act in direct violation of the law. In a fascist dispensation state, capture by very few individuals is rationalized as required for the longevity of the state and the survival of the mythical nation. These contentious interests are perceived to be greater than the interests of the most oppressed individuals and groups who are disaffected and effectively alienated from the state and the national process. They however remain the recipients of the consequences of state capture by a nebulous minority coalition directly in charge of the affairs of the state and society. They pose a threat to the longevity of the very state that they conveniently propagate.

Containing the dangerous slide of the state to a monstrous fascist organization that declares itself as an end is one of the single most definitive responsibilities of the citizen. This is especially so in the third millennium and the era of the diminishing potency of sovereignty when public governance, in contradistinction from conventional governing, is pulling the fang out of the state. It is a struggle for the triumph of the essentially human expressed in the perpetual search for equity, justice, fairness and the transcendence of all imperatives of humanity and the human will at all levels over the impositions of the state. Some have observed that fascism derives its parasitic strength from the inertia and civic apathy of the citizen. Permanent robust citizen engagement is therefore required as a bulwark to check the aggrandizement of a collection of dare-the-devil citizens or a perfidious coalition of individuals and groups within the state establishment manipulating national institutions for personal or partisan gain. The illegitimate gains of their daredevilry is at the expense, often horrific, of the whole body politic. It is the most volatile cocktail for social upheaval as Africa has adequately exemplified.

The insidious corrosion of the values implicit in the social contract underpinning statehood has imported horrific consequential implications for societies. Rather than serve as an instrument for the well-being of humanity, these distortions advance purposes that are directly opposite to the intent of the social compact. In these and seemingly in most cases, the state is conveniently touted as having transmuted itself from the service of its humanity to servicing itself as the immutable end of social striving for progress and development. The state becomes a dangerous unfeeling insensitive abstraction promoted by well-heeled scoundrels in the name of dubious patriotism. In this scenario, everything is fixed and immovable. Nothing is negotiable. When the state becomes a non-negotiable end in itself, it poses a threat to its longevity through the assured alienation of the people. Mass alienation and disaffect widen chasms inherent in all human societies. It breeds conflict. The phenomenon of conflict is present in all phases of human development.  The birth, rise and decline, including the death of states, are associated with conflict and war. Conflicts associated with post-colonial African states are partly traceable to a web of complex factors. Those conflicts motorized by mass alienation from the state have a more disastrous impact on the state and society. Preeminent among the factors instigating hot wars is the idea that the post-colonial African state, mostly a mechanically contrived entity in the service of external forces and with tangential relevance in the scheme of global affairs, is a non-negotiable end to itself. Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroun, Casamance, Guinea Bissau, Liberia (the old arc of conflict in West Africa) and Somalia the list continues. Even Ethiopia has not been immune from this rule.  The hallmark of a bogus equation of the state to a nation is the permanent tensions that characterize the national process. It comes to a seasonal head in electoral cycles. Elections are designed as a ruse to camouflage the reality of deep antagonisms in relations among the constituent nationalities of the faux nation. The existential fragility is exposed in tribal wars. Elections, essentially unruly wild contestations among the member’s nebulous coalition, become predictable seasons of ritual bloodletting. It is not a contest of divergent worldviews or contesting ideologies. The so-called political parties are mere vessels for the satiation of personal ambition, greed and all villainous partisan intentions. All parties are mere factions of the same perfidious coalition.  The mythical nation is a pretentious claim belied by horrendous quotidian realities that must constantly be rationalized by the establishment (state and the coalition of cronies) and its irrepressible megaphones. The conduct of rowdy and sham elections doesn’t alter the noxious fundamentals nor validate the credentials of a state titling in dangerous dilapidation. So, the world is not deceived by pretensions of democratic feigning marked by a counter-culture of intolerance, violence, impunity and holistic national absurdity.

Democracy is the universally validated mechanism institutionalized for equilibrating the management of diversity and divergent or contrasting ideological viewpoints within a polity. A discourse governed by democratic principles provides the way forward. Democratic culture entails constant conversations and vigorous interactions among stakeholders to distil the common good out of the contestation of interests. The process must be genuine. Ensuing political settlements must reflect new equilibrating balances. Yet in states whose operations repudiate the liberalism entrenched in the social contract, various malignancies emerge. Democracies of fascist inclinations evolve. These aberrations reflect a malignancy that includes the corruption of all the substantive tenets of democratic culture. The sham of periodic procedural elections is equated with democratic practice. Rule of law goes into the gutters while the judicial process is compromised. State coercion is accentuated. Coercion replaces civil engagement. The acrid smell of death floats across the territory. Ultimately, the sanctity of life is debased. The very essence of the liberal state is irreparably repudiated. The state loses its minimalist raison d’etre. The difficult end goal of elections in this anorexic setting is to conjure fundamental contentions to disappear. In the false hysteria of vacuous victory and resignation to losses, this often happens but only momentarily. No privileged elite is allowed to instigate class suicide of the status quo. Meanwhile, the electoral pretend abracadabra of the nebulous coalition leaves the ghostly apparition dangling in the air. Its presence is haunting. These are representations of democracies of fascist inclinations. The state is above all else! Die staatuberalles! This is common in the One Party State (OPS), One Man State (OMS) and similar variants that run on the pernicious premise of the state as an end in itself.

This challenge of the mindless propagation of the aberrations of the idealism of the transcendental supra-state, in the particular multi-national state, has to be constructively managed to safeguard the original intendment of the social contract. The state emanating from the compact must be constantly and permanently assured as instrumental to the unimpeded expression of the autonomy of the human spirit. The sovereignty of constituent peoples of a state is inalienable. Sovereignty permanently lies with the people. The difference between stable political systems from unstable, anarchical and chaotic ones is the institutional capacity to constantly strike a balance or equilibrate the system in a manner to protect the aggregation of the well-being of all, individuals and identities, who are trapped within its territorial confines. The state is not an end in itself. The human will remain irrepressible in the face of assaults by rogue states that claim to end in themselves. The graveyard of such institutional and human folly is massive. The Third Reich, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union among others come to mind. The most devastating threat however is the potentially catastrophic human cost of the not-ineluctable folly of men. Nigerians must not be victims of these aberrations of idealism.


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