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The Power of Ideas


By: Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai  
 Published April 26th, 2011

An assemblage of images often builds up in the mind directing action or advocating that one desists from action. We are often inundated by opinion or beliefs, which push for expression in a book, in an essay or an article.

Ideas could be idealistic or realistic. Seekers after enlightenment frequently deal with the power of ideas, the power of love, the power of hatred and the power of shame.

The crowning glory of ideas is when a school of thought crystallizes as a result of the accumulation of the welter of thoughts that have clustered in the mind of the thinker.

Political thought, philosophical ideas, logical thinking have shaped statecraft, organized societies, institutions and universally acceptable behaviour. These thought forms have also led to hegemony, war-mongering, state arrogance, punitive actions, imperial attitudes and oppressive governance.

For example, a” a programme of nationalist socialism determined the main lines of political theory by which such a programme must be supported, which meant complete control of the national economy by the government in the national interest. Marxism regarded politics as determined by the economy.”

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This was why Hitler put fascist political philosophy as an exalted form of his political idealism. He set the rigid standards of expected duties to the fatherland, devotion and discipline.

Positive ideas lead to peaceful co-existence among states. Negative ideas, breed evil thoughts that lead to international conflicts, civil wars and destruction of cities in pursuit of ideological beliefs. Germany and other hegemonic states have shown these traits.

Adam Smith, Ricardo, Owen and other free enterprise thinkers have affected the way some Western societies have been run in the last two hundred years.

The ideas of Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, V.I. Lenin, and Mao Tse Dong have created the philosophical underpinnings of socialist societies.

The Abrahamic religious beliefs and later Christian Biblical commandments and precepts as well as Islamic teachings and way of life have influenced man’s thinking and behaviour.

Also, Taoism, Zoroastrianism Rosicrucian practices, Eck, Voodooist occultism and other forms of religious movements ((some not quite divine) have adherents.

Politically, we have seen the dastardly influence of Nazi and fascist ideology, which set Europe on fire from 1939- 1945, which wrecked havoc on European states and changed the course of human progress.

The hegemonic ideology manifests when racism is fuelled by irredentism, false superior consciousness, self-centeredness and state arrogance.

History has recorded the fact that those states that have faithfully adopted war as an instrument of national policy, have failed to accomplish initially set goals at civilizing other people or successfully exporting their way of life to other climes.

Policy-makers in such states are gripped by the sinister idea that they know what is good for other people and so their own will must be imposed on other nations. This idea is unnatural and always leads to ignominious defeat, loss of lives, destruction of cities and wastefulness.

Those who extolled these unwholesome ideas later gallivant the globe glibly defending their ergregarious blunders.

The most heinous of idea is the idea of war. Those who have ever initiated,supported or caused wars to be fought have been documented in human history as war-mongers. Historians, who are acquainted with the history of human misery often, recount what happened in wars with distaste and regrets. Where is man’s civilization in the face of repeated carnage, which is documented in history books down the ages?

There are many ideas that have ruled the Universe. The most important is the idea of the love of God the idea of salvation, the idea of dying, the idea of universal brotherhood of man and the idea of oppression of fellow human beings through slavery, colonialism, imperial pretensions of royalty that demands loyalty from the dispossessed and the idea of birthright.

There has always been the idea of resistance against evil, which often leads to revolutions, civil wars and strives. Political and economic ideas, which are aimed at governing a people, must be workable and widely acceptable to the people, otherwise, there will be tumult within the various enlightened groups.

Social systems like feudalism, capitalism, socialism are regulatory ideas that seek to run societies according to the ideology, which they propagate. There have been debates about the suitability or the lack of it, as to which system is more suitable in governing social humans.

I have lived and studied under the three systems. I have had the opportunity to evaluate the inherent advantages and disadvantages of these political ideologies.

The ideologies are instruments in the hands of the politically well organized group using the military, the police and the courts. The invention of political philosophy led to the identification of social classes, the establishment of political institutions, and the evolution of political ideals.

Ideas forge knowledge, which according to Plotinus “has three degrees, opinion. science, illumination. The instrument of the first is sense, of the second dialectics, of the third intuition”

Opinion may be incompetent, if the logic of the matter is flawed. Science subjects ideas to rigorous scrutiny. Intuitive knowledge may be divinely induced or satanically whispered by demons. When a person thinks deeply about a subject, he or she is bound to come up with profound ideas.

Human intelligence was at its peak when William F. Church published his “Study in the Evolution of Ideas” (Cambridge Mass, 1941) He reviewed Constitutional thought in 17th century France.

W.H Greenleaf examined “Two traditions of English Political Thought (1500- 1700) in his Order, Empiricism and Politics (New York, 1964).

The Social and Political Ideas of Some Great Thinkers of the Sixteen and Seventeenth Century, were drawn in verse in a 1926 London publication edited by F.J Hearnshaw. C. H. Mcllwain published a treatise on “The Growth of Political Thought in the West, from the Greeks to the End of the Middle Ages” (New York, 1932).

Nigerian politicians and our leaders would have benefitted from these advanced political ideas, as veritable instruments for political governance, instead of relying heavily on rigging elections and stepping into office either by hook or crook.

The danger of getting to office and not being able to govern is that time is wasted on gaieties and social festivities, reading speeches written by others and the obvious inability to articulate policies and rigourously implement them.

The failure of the Nigerian academic community can be gleaned from their inability to generate socio-economic ideas that have social relevance to our development. One reads papers suffused with outlandish ideas. Some academics, for whatever reasons, abstain from national debates. Their promotion-target papers serve that purpose, after which serious attrition of dormant brain cells begin to gain acceleration towards the obvious end.

Reports are conflicting as to the credibility of the 2011 elections in Nigeria. It looks as if the more you look, the less you see. I personally believe that the elections were well-conducted, but belief can be disproved by hard evidence, which must replace speculations.

The authority to govern is weakened inexorably by the nagging thought of a stolen mandate. There will be “no lack of critics, who will view a stolen mandate with contempt as having no reality outside of an empty name” Prolegomena, section 3 (Kelsey’s translation)

Like a Loofah, news of real events as they happened during the Nigerian elections is climbing out into the public domain. Some snooker players are alleged to have not played by the rules.

There are those, who have been ordained by the Oracles, in the height of night and are waiting to take their seats in the highest Councils of the land.

This is not surprising going by our chequered history of chance happenings, of leaders popping up and of rigged elections brazenly authenticated by learned judges! What is painful are the assurances, which permitted hopes that we have learnt our lessons and that all will be well.

The idea of rigged elections does not lift up the authority of government but diminishes it, in every material particular. Well-rhymed poems will soon by written by poets, essayists, activists, political mal-contents, with venom and utmost hatred, contradicting the election results, but to no avail.

Obviously, the power of ideas is enormous but the power of prophecy is awesome. Those, who have rigged elections or caused elections to be rigged on their behalf, the guilt shall come upon you in their fullness. Because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments…your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you……( Isaiah Ch 17 : 9- 15).

I am undertaking a sociological study of a people, who have, in the last fifty years, learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.



Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai, a Writer and Academic, is the President of Proposed Afemai University, Fugar, Edo State, Nigeria.






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