A Tribute for Professor Michael Omolewa on his 80th birthday!
The lives of great men and women are simple and complex at the same time. Simple, because the acts that distinguish such people are easy to point out – kindness, courage, originality, initiative, creativity, energy, commitment etc.
Yet such lives are also complex because what we often see as simple acts are nothing but the summation and result of a series of intentional choices and acts pursued with steadfastness and grit. So it is with the life of professor Michael Omolewa, a life marked by major achievements and distinctions, which when looked at from the present appears simple, but which when subjected to closer examination reveal intense complexities, diversity and richness.
Professor Omolewa is for me the classic example of a humanist scholar turned adult educator and who then went on to enrich his adopted field by bringing the lens of the historical method to bear on his analysis of adult education in Nigeria and beyond. His adoption of adult education as his primary area of research was not fortuitous but was apparently spurred on by a social and egalitarian impulse to use adult education as a tool to open the doors of opportunity, civic participation, engagement and enhanced personal actualisation to millions of Nigerians who had hitherto been excluded by the denial of rights to education. (Incidentally, the early beginnings of adult education in the UK owed its origins to similar noble egalitarian impulses.)
Once on board this adult education train, Mike then devoted his energy to making important contributions to its theory and practice by building on the solid foundations that had been laid by earlier workers such as professors Tomori and Majasan. In his research endeavours, an evidence based historiography was the hallmark of his scholarship, a scholarship that was made all the more endearing by the way it reconciled the need for relevance with the pursuit of depth and breadth in its many outputs.
But Mike Omolewa is not just the outstanding scholar. He is a man of many parts, a man armed and equipped with so many shades of socio-cultural and language registers that he can “code-switch” on a needs basis to converse and engage productively with artisans and architects, with engineers and motor mechanics as well as with agberos and princes in response to evolving situations. In achieving this coup in social engagement and relational excellence, Mike is helped by his self effacing humility and by a huge reservoir of emotional intelligence. He is also a man of great wit and irrepressible humor. In Mike’s company, there is never a dull moment. And moments with him are also enlivened by the spice and charm that the strategic infusion of healthy strains of mischief (remnants from his younger days, I suppose) brings to most encounters with him. I remember working with him in Ghana on the West Coast Literacy project in the early nineties and how he was able to inject the right level of humour at the right moments to keep spirits high and to thus ensure that our mission achieved its set objectives. Ditto when I worked with him on the Real Life Materials Literacy project in the nineties. The same infectious humor coupled with an unquenchable optimism and drive for results were critical elements of the leadership that Mike provided on that project.
Mike is also the consumate diplomat – witness the role he played as leader of the Nigerian delegation at UNESCO and from there to his unforgettable role as chair of UNESCO’s executive board, a role in which he excelled beyond compare.
As he celebrates his 80th birthday today, I wish him well. I wish him many more days of mirth, of health and wellness – and wellness in all its dimensions – religious, spiritual, social, intellectual, economic and physical.
May the humor that distinguishes you perdure and may you find joy in all you do. And may you continue to sparkle and may you stay forever young bathed in the radiance of our creator.
(Onye Nkuzi) 01/04/2021
Chinua Achebe’s skills as a writer, story teller, anthropologist, sociologist and psychologist come across very strongly and beautifully in this short excerpt from Things Falls Apart.
Read it and reflect on the many aspects of life in general and Igbo life that he touches on as you do
“He walked back to his obi to await Ojiugo’s return. And when she returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace. His first two wives ran out in great alarm pleading with him that it was the sacred week.
But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess.
Okonkwo’s neighbours heard his wife crying and sent their voices over the compound walls to ask what was the matter. Some of them came over to see for themselves. It was unheard of to beat somebody during the sacred week.
Before it was dusk Ezeani, who was the priest of the earth goddess, Ani, called on Okonkwo in his obi. Okonkwo brought out kola nut and placed it before the priest,
“Take away your kola nut. I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors.” Okonkwo tried to explain to him what his wife had done, but Ezeani seemed to pay no attention. He held a short staff in his hand which he brought down on the floor to emphasize his points.
“Listen to me,” he said when Okonkwo had spoken. “You are not a stranger in Umuofia. You know as well as I do that our forefathers ordained that before we plant any crops in the earth we should observe a week in which a man does not say a harsh word to his neighbour. We live in peace with our fellows to honour our great goddess of the earth without whose blessing our crops will not grow. You have committed a great evil.” He brought down his staff heavily on the floor. “Your wife was at fault, but even if you came into your obi and found her lover on top of her, you would still have committed a great evil to beat her.” His staff came down again. “The evil you have done can ruin the whole clan. The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase, and we shall all perish.” His tone now changed from anger to command. “You will bring to the shrine of Ani tomorrow one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth and a hundred cowries.” He rose and left the hut. (Culled from Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Chapter 4).
The passage documents gender based violence and the patriarchy that underlies it. (Recall mention of Okonkwo’s first two wives).
It also brings out Okonkwo’s flawed character, a flaw that culminates in his eventual demise. (Okonkwo is deaf to all appeals to rein in his wife beating rage once he unleashes it. Obduracy is a vice. Okonkwo’s hubris destroys him in the end. Notice that the assault on Ojiugo is also premeditated and thus has all the elements of what in law is described as “mens rea”. It is also made worse by the fact that the beating took place during a period when all forms of violence were not allowed in the community. This strategy of “peace corridors and periods” is one that played a vital role in fostering forgiveness, peace building and eventually social cohesion in precolonial Igbo society. And Achebe does well to remind of this
The passage also brings out the communalism that is a major feature of precolonial Igbo society. Neighbors are worried and tried to intervene to get Okonkwo to call off his fist rage but Okonkwo ignored them.
The passage also allows us a peek into Igbo religious world view and of the different gods that populate it. We learn of “ani” (ala in Owerre) the earth goddess, who overseas farming and productivity. But beyond this, this peek introduces to the vital element of connectivity that links events and people and how one person’s transgression can endanger the entire community and clan. In an interconnected universe, negative vibes in one realm can produce far reaching ripples in some other domains. Wife bashing could pose a serious threat to food security.
And the priest of Ani, armed with his ofo, shows that when one has offended the gods, one’s kolanut, an offering and token of peace can be rejected. But the gods are also not implacable! With the right level of restitution, wrongs can be righted and written off and balance restored. Finally, the universe of the gods in Igbo world view accommodates both sexes in its pantheon! Here, the Igbos are clearly ahead of some of the current dominant religions of the world.
Great piece of writing. Great economy of words, right level of narrative tension and all of these are combined to deliver an engaging and revealing tale.
After only a cursory glance online at initial teacher training courses, one recurring selling point immediately stands out: “Learn by doing!” As one website succinctly put it,
[Because] CELTA training is based on experiential learning, or “learning by doing”, teaching practice (TP) is at the heart of the course.
And who am I to argue? As a CELTA trainer myself, I have witnessed firsthand the value of teaching practice and reflection. Lately however, I have been pondering the experiential learning of the trainees, not when they are actually teaching, but when they are receiving input sessions from the trainers.
So ingrained in ELT is the value of experiential learning that, as trainers, we are constantly demonstrating activities, employing ELT classroom management strategies, and in general getting our trainees to ‘be the students’. And I get this. ELT trainers are first and foremost EFL teachers, so it is only…
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The successful inauguration ceremonies yesterday in the USA after weeks of turbulence and mayhem prompts these quick reflections on the importance of institutions in governance, alternation and social stability. They extend my earlier musings on institutions and are essentially intended to make the case for all and sundry to abandon short term expediency driven thinking and support citizen efforts and coalitions focused on institution building and strengthening. Sustainable development depends on strong institutions. SDG 16 clearly makes this case.
Institutions are as strong as the degree of immersion of its operators in their key norms and tenets, the socialization of these operators and the larger society into accepting the utility of such norms, the interlocks and interpenetration of their supporting networks and the quality of the enculturation of a critical mass of society of its key ethos and beliefs. The absence of all these explains the sad and repeated and repeating cases of institutional failures in Nigeria. The presence of these explains why Trump could not get the army to violate its oath. Poorly locked down norms and weak norm enculturation among a critical mass of stakeholders also can explain the vagaries, abuses and somersaults in some countries with huge GDPs but febrile and feeble institutions.
An important read!
- Recent events in our world are making us painfully aware that the institutions on which our societies are built are under threat. On-going efforts in a number of countries around the world, including attempts at muzzling the press, gimmicks by a president to delegitimize the outcome of an electoral process, the hijacking of parliaments in some countries, the use of deadly force against peaceful demonstrators and efforts at voter suppression all point to the dangers that society and institutions are increasingly facing in our modern world.
- Furthermore, the rising incidences of insecurity, poverty, hunger, injustice, systemic racism and gender-based violence, just to mention a few, are not fortuitous, but are rather signals that the institutions that are or were meant to guard against such are no longer functioning at their optimal levels. Ditto for failures in public procurement, declining standards in the regularity and quality of urban basic services and in collapsing municipal functions.
- The institutions that are meant to ensure that these services are provided or which were designed to protect our freedoms are now either becoming increasingly moribund or experiencing severe existential threats or are being exposed to severe bashing and or subversion, some subtle and some, frontal, brutal and unrelenting.
- The phenomenon of institutional bashing appears to be spreading all over the world from Asia, North America, South America, Europe to Africa, and if current happenings in God’s own country are anything to go by, would be seem to be gathering momentum and exercising a strong fascination for an increasing group of persons, converts and democracy iconoclasts.
- The aberrations mentioned above produce effects that lead to democratic backsliding, a backsliding that could then set off a vicious cycle of institutional weakening with deleterious impacts on a broad range of other institutions and this with major multiplier effects and compounded negative externalities and a number of social malaises.
- If these malaises can be blamed on weakening of institutions, what then are institutions? These non-random musings are prompted by a genuine desire to explore the concept of institutions, to unearth its meaning and the key assumptions that populate its vast and ever-expanding literature.
- These ramblings are structured thus – they start with an examination of the meaning of institutions and then move on to a consideration of the functions of institutions in society. From here, focus then shifts to threats to institutions and the ramblings end on what responsible citizens can do to check the attack on institutions.
- One needs to acknowledge from the outset that the literature in the area poses major challenges and which unless navigated with caution could represent conceptual landmines that stand in the way of shared understanding. Taking a leaf from North, all scholars in the field talk of rules of the game but most of the literature is quite fuzzy when it comes to giving concrete examples. For some, family is an institution, for some others, marriage. For some, Governance is an institution, for some others the constitution and the system of election are. People like me in search of clarity could thus be wrong-footed in this maze of definitional unclarity and inadequacies.
- Perhaps scholars need to come together to speedily address and resolve this unclarity. In such an effort, the definitions of sociologists, economists and administrators must be assisted to find common grounds both in content and in examples that they provide.
- For now, one can work with the following definition – Institutions are the formal and informal rules and norms that organize social, political and economic relations (North, 1990). Institutions are ‘the underlying rules of the game’. They are not the same as organizations.
- Organizations are ‘groups of individuals bound by a common purpose’. Organizations are shaped by institutions and, in turn, influence how institutions change. Some social scientists view organizations as the material expressions of institutions. Some see social groups such as government bodies, tribes and families as institutions. Some identify ‘primary’ or ‘meta’ institutions to be the family, government, economy, education and religion. North, 1990: 3, 5; Harper et al., 2012: 15.
- Key features of institutions are the following – They are brought to life by people and organizations (North, 1990; Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
They provide a relatively predictable structure for everyday social, economic and political life. Institutions shape people’s incentives (or calculations of returns from their actions) and behavior. They establish a predictable, though not necessarily efficient or uncontested structure for human interaction (North, 1990: 6).
Some argue institutions shape but do not necessarily always determine behavior (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 9).
They lead to enduring patterns of behavior over time but they also change. Institutions are constantly being reformed through people’s actions (Giddens, 1984). Institutional change structures the way societies evolve (North, 1990: 3). However, institutionalized behaviors can be hard to change.
They produce positive or negative development outcomes. This depends on the kinds of relations and behaviors that institutions enable, and the outcomes for the enjoyment of rights and allocation of resources in society (Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
Institutions are both formal and informal. Formal institutions include the written constitution, laws, policies, rights and regulations enforced by official authorities. Informal institutions are (the usually unwritten) social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour (Leftwich & Sen, 2010; Berman, 2013). Development practitioners have tended to prioritise formal institutions, viewing informal ones as separate and often detrimental to development outcomes (Unsworth, 2010).
- In practice, formal and informal rules and norms can be complementary, competing or overlapping (Jütting et al., 2007: 36; Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17). Whether they are relatively more strong/weak or inclusive/discriminatory is likely to depend on context (Unsworth, 2010). In some cases, informal institutions undermine formal ones; in others they substitute for them (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17; Jütting et al., 2007: 35-36). Informal social norms often shape the design and implementation of formal state institutions (Migdal, 2001; Jütting et al., 2007: 7).
- Let us note the following – Institutions should not be mistaken with buildings or physical structures. They rather refer to a set or series of rules, practices and procedures which govern the smooth functioning of societies. Institutions involve rules and norms, but some of these rules and norms are almost imperceptible and rely on a series of layered conventions and assumptions to maintain order and harmony in society. Concerning the link between development interventions and institutions, DFID argues that development interventions are more likely to succeed if they promote improvements at the wider level of institutions. (Without institutional reform, for instance, poverty alleviation programmes can fail – a basic truth that explains the glaring failures and indeed the poverty of most of poverty alleviation programmes in a number of third world economies).
- Family, marriage, government, banks, religious organizations, social clubs, parliaments, schools etc are all institutions. One can argue a certain biologism when examining institutions and their functions. Marriage as institution, for instance, functions to ensure social stability, reproduction and production. Places of religious worship function as defenders of morals, morality and social ethics.
- The age grade system in Igbo society is an example of a social institution that is society specific. The KKK is not an institution but an organization but the rules and norms of white supremacy and racial privilege on which it is built and sustained are aspects of an institution of systemic racism.
- The police and the criminal justice system are institutions designed to save society from anarchy, the rule of brute force and to ensure the protection of the weak.
- Banks, investment houses, the stock exchange are all institutions meant to sustain economic growth by ensuring greater predictability and protection in financial dealings and flows. The civil society, the industrial unions, the town associations are all institutions all designed to permit greater citizenship participation and ownership.
- In the domains of governance and politics, one comes across a vast array of institutions, each with a number of functions and some with overlapping functions, rules and norms Some scholars have isolated three sets of political institutions – these are the State, Rule of law and institutions that make for accountability.
- The state is defined as a structure that holds the monopoly of legitimate violence. In this view, the state represents a concentration of power and capacity for enforcement. The modern state is impersonal, best run on merit and talent and by an efficient bureaucracy. Rule of law represents an institution that allows for the power of the state to be held in check. According to Fukuyama, the rule of law is a constraint on the executive and embedded in a separate independent judiciary.
- The last in the tripod of political institutions are accountability mechanisms that cover issues such as procedural and moral accountability and responsibility.
- We can also say in a wider conception of institution that the judiciary is an institution, so are the legislature and the executive and these three need to be kept separate in good governance is to survive and thrive. The press is an institution, sometimes even called the fourth estate of the realm and is also vital for good governance.
- These four institutions must be kept separate to preserve societies from the menace of tyrants and dictators.
- Institutions thus have functions in society –
They operate to safeguard society.
They make for normalcy and for ensuring that all keep within agreed and often unwritten norms
They define expectations, responsibility and establish accountability based on agreed division of labor. Institutions are interlinked such that one weakness in one can lead to weakness in another and in several others. While some are society specific, some have rules and norms that are universal.
- Institutional development is a complex process which draws from and build on local realities. The dynamics of institutional change are complex. Creating institutional change is a slow difficult process and some times involves changes in cultural beliefs, norms and assumptions. Such change can often meet with resistance. For this reason, it is important from the outset to establish the development outcomes of any proposed institutional change.
- It is critical to distinguish between the organizational changes and the changes in the wider institutional framework needed to achieve these outcomes. Organizational problems are usually visible and tangible while those to do with institutions may be invisible but determine how people operate in society.
- Institutional interventions (those that deal with institutional problems) can be divided into two areas: policy reform and improved service delivery. Organizational interventions, on the other hand, can be at three levels: structure, systems and human resources
- Successful interventions (be these at organizational or institutional levels) require the active participation of all the stakeholders in diagnosing the problems to be tackled and deciding on the actions to be taken. They also require the following i) Accessing important sources of information and research material to inform both the institutional and organizational appraisal ii) Identifying the key people in implementing the intervention along with their roles and responsibilities. iii) Designing an effective strategy and programme for implementation of the planned intervention, and taking action if a programme becomes stalled and iv) Putting effective evaluation and monitoring systems in place so that there will be clear evidence that the goals of the intervention have been achieved.
- Threats to the solidity to democracy that these three institutions contribute to begin to surface when topics like benevolent dictatorships, authoritarian modernizers and well-meaning authoritarianism are allowed to creep into the public discourse.
- Tyrants are very fond of such notions and they encourage the uptake of discourse that promote and justify them to creep and seep into the public domain. Things like benevolent dictatorships and authoritarian modernization are unsustainable and their presence in public discourse should be seen as red flags.
- For one thing, models inspired by such notions eventually build the cult of the strong man, and such a strong man is usually insensitive to and non-receptive of feedback.
- Such developments are red flags, and once these begin to appear, institutions come under threat – both in terms of solidity and stability
- Essentially such institutions are concerned with making power responsible and ensure that decisions taken by the executive serve the common good
- The rule of law therefore represents norms of justice that are applicable to all without exception
- Standard orthodoxy holds that social progress depends on the solidity of institutional arrangements
- Some development theorists have argued that development is impossible in the absence of strong institutions, that institutions safeguard development and make them sustainable.
- Some others have also argued that you do not really need institutions for development to occur, that institutions involve too many transaction costs and that development, any way, brings institutions in its wake. The questions that then emerges is a chicken and egg one – which came before the other. A related and often ignored question is that of the trade-offs involved.
- Each one of these two possible views implies a view of development – both in terms of its social drivers, the role of people participation in it and the whole question of sustainability. Though views on development may vary and clash, there is a strong consensus among development practitioners on the role of good governance in promoting development.
- Such an emerging consensus is now leading scholars and practitioners to devote more and more time to understanding those institutions that combine to enable societies to have all the benefits of good governance.
- Good governance is about public service that is efficient, effective, responsive, transparent, accountable, consensus oriented and participatory. These qualities of Governance all add up to contribute to society’s social capital. Social capital forms the structure on which most other capitals – economic, financial, knowledge, intellectual, legal – are built
- Tyrants and dictators whether of the left or from the right are the greatest threats to the stability of social institutions, and thus to good governance and ultimately to the sanctity and the rights of the citizen. A system of checks, balances and rules are usually put in place to keep such institutions functional and thriving. Dictators and tyrants do their best to undermine the functioning of such institutions.
- They try to do this by undermining and weakening institutions through a number of egregious acts that threaten and eventually undermine and subvert such institutions. They do or try to do through several strategies viz
• They de-legitimize such institutions. They trivialize such institutions
• They underfund such institutions.
• They influence and corrupt the leadership of key societal institutions
- Other antics include the attack and demoralization of the judiciary and legislative institutions.
• Parliament is bought over with generous and its members are seduced to soil their hands with generous gifts.
• Anti-corruption agencies are converted to instruments for personal vengeance and attacks against opponents.
• The corruption of anti-corruption agencies is a major feature of the demise of institutions
- Other institution bashing moves include the following:
• some Institutions become co-opted as willing hatchet persons whose primary assignments and ultimate deliverable is the discrediting and eventual drowning of existing institutions.
• The police and other law enforcement agencies are perverted.
• organs of government, especially the judiciary are bought over and soon begin to deliver judgements that put their whole integrity and the credibility of their judgments in doubt.
- As these processes are unleashed on an indifferent or tolerant society, one begins to notice that the strong man who arrived as a liberator and reformer is gradually morphing into a tyrant. Most times, this strong man/woman rides in on a wave of public disenchantment with existing social stasis which he exploits to wrest extra-judiciary and legislative powers. He or she demonizes the leaders of institutions that they cannot buy over. Suddenly elections are decided by the courts and judges appointed by the strongman/woman. Soon justices, judges and magistrates court the friendship of their strong man/woman who eventually curtails their powers and tenure according to his/her whims and pleasures
- The strong man/woman unleashes a campaign of harassment and terror against such any institutional leadership that is bold enough to speak out. The strong meddles, pesters and slowly and subtly hijacks the organs and institutions of the state and converts these to attack dogs, rottweilers and agents of terror
- He perverts, through a series of accretions, the ethos and functioning of some institutions. The long-term objective is the hijack and personalization of Institutions of the state.
- New structures with hazily defined functions but limited accountability to the public are soon spawned. Constitutional provisions are ignored or spurned. A gradual attack on civil liberties with the complicity of an emasculated and perverted judiciary soon commences and pucks up speed. Civil society and the press are muzzled. Laws limiting freedom of expression and are rushed through to legitimize new and emergent forms of illegitimacy
- Soon a new norm, corrupt in intention, warped in its formulation and odious in its outcomes starts being installed. Decency is dismantled progressively and existing institutions soon begin to lose their internal autonomy. The structure and composition of some state institutions are soon changed by such usurpers. When institutions are forced and rushed through such changes, they begin to lose their credibility in the eyes of the public. They also become weaker. Weak institutions allow for further weakening and social abuse.
- Because institutions are organically linked and exist in some form of hierarchy, a weakening of one institution transmits some weakening to other institutions engaged in similar civic protection functions. For example, a weak legislative invariably leads to a weak judiciary, which in turn leads to a weakening of institution concerned with the protection of civil liberties
- One of the greatest threats to the autonomy of institutions is their personalization by such power usurpers. Features of such usurpation and perversion/hijack of functions of public institutions is their use to settle personal scores and not for the service of the people. Sadly, such selfish exploitation of the functions of public institutions is accompanied by the acquiescence of the public in the loss and suspension of personal liberties. The justification and rationalization of this loss of personal freedoms is usually done by invoking the idea that this is being done for a superior public good.
- Strong ambitious individuals are a threat to institutions of state. Insensitive individuals are the worst enemies of institution. Dictators hate institutions. Institution bashers hate institutions. Tyrants work to weaken institutions. Such persons can achieve these feats because of the lethargy and indifference of the public.
- The dismantling of institutions thrives in a situation where the public is lethargic Institution dismantling thrives in an atmosphere of stakeholder and citizen indifference. Africa has had more than its fair share of such institution dismantlers. In this regard, a reading of Michela Wrong’s “In the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz; living on the brink of disaster in Mobutu’s Congo” is most revealing and instructive. Mobutu was the institution dismantler par excellence.
- Often times, such dismantling is done in slow imperceptible stages such that by the time the public wakes up, a lot has been lost and is difficult to pull back. Such usurpers usually sell themselves to a gullible public as messiahs who have come to redeem society and restore its sanity. A cult of the person is carefully cultivated such the strong individual is easily allowed to usurp functions and roles that are not his/hers.
- Selfish individualism and an absence of social cohesion breeds anomie and criticism which then encourage institution dismantles of rashness and further knavery. Civic timorousness encourages usurper temerity. Fela said it well -“I no wan die”, “Papa dey for house”, “I wan enjoy” – are all attitudes which lead to societal indifference.
- Responsible citizens must all unite to resist the dismantling of institutions of democracy. They must overcome divisions that usurpers try to exploit. The common divisions that such usurpers appeal to are those of Creed and Breed. Such usurpers also appeal to Greed existing in society to recruit an army of followers who they use to advance their selfish and socially destructive purposes.
- Andrew Marantz in an article in the New Yorker of November 16 2020 identifies the key risks that institutional violators and power grabbers who I prefer to describe as progressive institutional rapists pose to democracy. Marantz goes on to describe how the actions of such persons can lead to the norms and rules of institutions growing weaker over years or decades without people noticing. He also points out that there often are decisive moments of contestation and confusion that such violators and authoritarian power grabbers stoke and exploit to steal power and damage institutions. Maurice Latey, in Tyranny, A Study in the Abuse of Power makes similar observations.
- When institutions are destroyed or perverted, the destroyer becomes stronger and the larger society gets weaker following the rapid loss of freedoms – society must therefore come together to challenge, resist and pushback. Your personal freedoms and liberties depend on such resistance as these institutions are the bulwarks for the defense of personal freedoms.
- Options for resisting such erosions of the protective power of institutions include strategic non-violent activism and civil resistance for security, rights and access. John Lewis’ concept of good trouble should inspire all civil rights defenders here, whether these be individuals protesting the perversion and conversion of agencies and institutions for citizen protection to instruments of citizen persecution, extortion and exploitation. Good trouble is a good way to protect those institutions that were meant to protect us from abuse. Silence is not an option.
- Acquiescing in the dismantling of such protective institutions therefore amounts to selling your liberty and freedom. Rights and freedoms must be defended.
Noel Ihebuzor 18/11/2020
Useful sources on institutions
DFID Guidelines on Promoting Institutional and Organisational Development (2003a) provide an overview of institutions and institutional change.
Leftwich and Sen (2010) define institutions and their policy implications for donors.
Giddens (1984) explores the role of structure and institutions in society.
Harper et al. (2012) explain different understandings of institutions.
Helmke and Levitsky (2004) summarise the literature on informal institutions.
Jütting et al. (2007) summarise key issues on informal institutions and development.
North (1990) provides a seminal definition of institutions and institutional change.
Unsworth (2010) explores the interaction of formal and informal institutions. – « Inclusive institutions on the development agenda, How institutions shape development outcomes »
TLC = Tender Loving Care =
Slow soft touches
gentle all over
until one sinks slowly
into liberating relaxation
complete unwinding follows breathing changes
deep and slow
deep and shallow
rapid and brief
brief and rapid
soon muscles, body
and tone relax,
Today’s first reading on Wisdom struck a deep chord in me. It was not so much in its listing of the benefits of Wisdom or in its presentation of Wisdom as a woman as in the fact that the readings challenged one to reflect deeper on the true meaning and indicators of Wisdom.
What then is wisdom? Is it knowledge? Is it accumulated knowledge? Is it applied knowledge used for problem solving purposes? Is it intelligence, good sense, proper discernment, ability to navigate moral and social dilemmas, pragmatism, context dependent decision making, love of God born from fatalism, accommodation of neighbour driven by instrumental transactional considerations?
What then is this wisdom? Is it cognitive intelligence with a strong lacing of emotional intelligence? How would Igbo, my mother tongue help in getting me to the conceptual clarity that I seek? The Igbos have the following words that relate in some way or the other to the word WISDOM. They are Ako, Uche, Izu, Amamihe, Mmuta, Nwota, Echiche oma….. Which of these best translates wisdom? Or is wisdom nothing else but the breath of God’s spirit blowing in us and showing us the way to true and enduring values and choices?
I do not have answer but I can identify the absence of Wisdom whenever I come across it. The absence of Wisdom manifests itself by its lack of humility, by the presence of hubris caused by hamartia, by arrogance, by pride, by gross insensitivity, insolence, absence of empathy and emotional intelligence and excessive self focus. These vices were part of Donald Trump’s undoing – a reality which reminds us that victory is always in the long run with those who possess wisdom and who seek after her. Theirs shall be the fruits promised in Galatians 5: 22-23.