Monday, September 03, 2007


Framing the Africans

Does this article about Nigeria sound familiar?

Religion ... provides a rich repertoire of the distorting influences of emotionally-laden words in communication. Adherents of the new Pentecostal churches springing up everywhere in the country consider the increasing number of churches as evidence of "Holy Ghost anointing." Critics are likely to consider the phenomenon as the invasion of Christianity by "meretricious charlatans."

A woman who has a strong conviction towards a definite system of religious beliefs is "a fanatic" to those who disapprove of her religiosity, and "a sister in Christ" to those who approve of it. An ardent church-goer may be described as "a prayer warrior" by members of her church, and as a "frustrated hypocrite" by a free thinker. In the same vein, a pastor might exhort his congregation to be 'strong in faith,' whereas a philosophy lecturer would advise his students to avoid being "shackled by a hackneyed creed."

In all these cases, the emotive meanings of the expressions hamper clear thinking on religious matters. Religion plays a key role in the lives of most Nigerians. This being the case, the religious uprisings in the country are pointers to the emotional well-spring of religion and the degree of influence it has over many people. Only a determined effort at a dispassionate examination of religion, most especially with regard to the truth value of religious claims, can lessen the danger inherent in religious disagreements. Emotions, generally speaking, make people act effectively. Consequently, anger, love, anxiety and others fall into the category of action-stimulating emotions. Any speech or piece of writing which contains a lot of emotionally-charged expressions can induce people to act in a manner contrary to the dictates of reason or in a manner that might surprise them later. ...

Because of the danger which emotive speeches pose to human civilization, we must be constantly on our guard against those rabble-rousers who employ emotionally charged words in political campaigns. All of us must be ready to shun the so-called "political juggernauts" who habitually overuse emotionally-laden expressions in their speeches. It is sad that many of our highly respected politicians are unable to reason calmly and objectively on most issues of vital concern to the people. They are so used to thinking in emotionally-coloured words that they find it extremely difficult to think any other way.

The best we can do in such circumstances is to remind ourselves that language has several uses, and apply the necessary caution whenever we listen to those whose stock-in-trade is of the character of a salesman.
I'd call that "well said."

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