It Is Philosophy, Stupid!

By Ikenga Chronicles November 19, 2019

It Is Philosophy, Stupid!

–By Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh

I am just leaving Vienna Hauptbahnhof. I am here to catch my ICE, which is the German speed-train, back to my base in Frankfurt, after some fruitful seminar in this beautiful European city, located on the banks of the Donau River.

Hauptbahnhof is the German word for “Main Train Station” or Central Station. Every major European city has one. It is an essential arena where men and destinies collide; where aspirations and fates meet, in this great theater that is life.

The architectures of most of these stations, attest to the subtlety of this sublime function, which is most times buried in the haste, with which those it hosts on a daily basis, desire to leave her, to their various destinations.

This train station, like many other European train stations, is a masterpiece of planning and execution. It is an architectural over-indulgence on the positive scale. It is an engineering masterstroke. The amount of thought, planning and science that went into the conception and construction of this train station, is all buried in the belly of an unnoticeable functionality, ease of access, security, interconnection and compenetration of form and function; and the ease with which human elements deploy the materiality of this construct,to attain the ends for, which it was designed.

On this day of days, I noticed that I couldn’t help the goosebumps; which was my biology‘s reaction to the psychological orgasm, which human achievements convoke in me, whenever I reflect on them. The goosebumps this time, celebrated my joy at human ingenuity in service to the common good. My heart was at the same time, being handcuffed by a cross-pollination of intractable sadness and hopelessness, at the architectural insult, and functional atrocity that was the Murtala Muhammed Airport Ikeja, Lagos in my home country, Nigeria.

That airport, in comparison to this ordinary train station, is an architectural treason. It is the crucifixion of aesthetics. It is the Golgotha, where functionality went to be crucified. It is the benediction that myopia pays to tastelessness. It is the capitulation to visionlessness. Tomorrow was not consulted in its planning. History was raped in its naming; as a war criminal lent his name to that airport.

I don’t want to talk about the Enugu airport, which is an apologetic insult to reason. It may have served its colonial purpose. But it’s existence in its present form is testament to the poverty of ideas; and the insipid nature of our collective dreams as a people.

If a train station in Vienna could be more beautiful, functional and user-friendly than all the airports in Nigeria, then the anthropology pursued by these two societies must be radically at variance with each other.

Any thinking mind that steps into the Vienna Hbf, would immediately see an anthropological metaphysic found in societies that have evolved to become human and humane. If the same mind encounters Murtala Muhammed airport, one would immediately see what nihilism and absolute disregard for human life would look like, when captured by an architectural edifice designed to speak dysfunctionality.

Do I need to state that the train was punctual; a testament to serious thinking and planning? I sat on my reserved seat, which was reserved months ago. The train eased out of the station at exactly 11. 15, which was the scheduled time. The train driver would never dream of missing this time or waiting for any “big man” to come take the train, even if he is the Chancellor of Austria. My seat has been bought and paid for and would
never in this life be reassigned to anyone else. These are certainties one is used to, in societies where human life and rights are respected; and where the equality before the law is the highest good. No appeal is made to religion to that effect. It is the law; the ordinance of human reason, which crafted this social set up, where the life and rights of man are the highest values.

As the train took off like a bullet approaching 480 Kilometers an hour, I drifted into a trance.

I saw Nigeria. I visualized the Chaos that is Murtala Muhammed “international” airport; an airport named after a coupist and a war criminal.

I felt like throwing up. I got up from my seat and went into the train’s toilet. It was a sparkling testament to “someone being in charge”. I compared it to what I saw at Murtala Muhammed last time I visited home; I was immediately tamed by shame.

I recoiled. My mind began their normal race of questioning every pedestal of meaning I have ever known; for reasons why we don’t seem to get it right in Nigeria.

Is it because we have a people, who believe that God will do it for them, instead of them planning things and executing it themselves?

I found myself at the portals, interrogating the African predicament!

Why are many African countries not recording substantial progress across board? Why are the simple things that are taken for granted everywhere, unattainable in our firmament?

A great case could be profoundly canvassed, about the damaging ontology of African exploitation by the Arabs and by Europe, as the major pivots of the African predicament, like Walter Rodney and Chinweizu argued. A similar case could be made for the role of biogeography in the origins of the African predicament, just like Jared Diamond did. Bad and visionless leadership could also be fingered as a collaborator and a major factor contributing to the African predicament, as Achebe advocated. No one, would even attempt to exonerate the role of the neocolonial metaphysic, that views Africa as an exploiters game.

These are valid cases. They should be made because they are true.

In spite of all these valid cases, as well as the similar histories of exploitation, China and some Asia economies are in rampaging advance, while most Africa economies are. slumbering in primitive dysfunctionality.

I have come to see that it is not only these factors that are contributory to this sad state of affairs. Evidence points to philosophy or the social metaphysic, to which a society subscribes, as the major propellant that would determine, whether it escapes the gravitational pull of primitive inclinations, and launch itself into the stellar orbits of development, peace, progress and felicity. Or not.

The social philosophy a society patronizes, is the major determinant of its tomorrow.

If an atavistic metaphysic, impregnated by an ignorant fear of the unknown reigns, the society would desiccate. If neotenic masturbations to hangovers of human evolutionary infancy, reigns, the society would be busy murdering her citizens and sacrificing their hearts at the altars of their ignorance, in a ribald bid, to keep the sun in the sky, like the ancient Mayan civilization did in Mesoamerica.

If on the other hand, a climate of sciento-technical rationality pervades an embrace’s conceptual scheme; as the society’s currency of mental operation, men would be landed on the moon; airplanes would be flying like birds eating up distances to deposit us and our aspirations to any point in the globe; diseases would be diagnosed and reined in; life would not be Hobbessian, as to be solitary, nasty, brutish and short. Orwellian inequities would be seldom. Machiavellian manipulative statecraft would not grace our government or install the personnel moderating or directing the sources of our social legitimacy. The law would reign supreme. Human rights would be respected; and man would not be empowered to become wolf to man. Wealth would not be the hoarder’s friends. Prosperity would smile on us. Our poor would be priority because we have a preferential option for the weakest of us.

It is philosophy, stupid!