The Path of Hope

Front Cover of THE PATH OF HOPERather than merely establishing a goal to be recognized for excellence, Tansian University identifies some specific areas in which the university should focus – and underscores them with well-crafted “imperatives” that clearly define the objectives. Attainment of those objectives, outlined in the imperatives, entails continued enhancement across a broad spectrum of clearly articulated acidic and related endeavours, with the envisioned “top 10” recognition being a welcome by-product.

Tansian University is now in its pedestal of “creating a culture of excellence.” Initiated in 1997 by Very Rev. Msgr. Prof. John Bosco Akam, it represents his diligent work and vision. The Father Founder/Chancellor devoted more than six years to examining various aspects of the university and study benchmark institutions before formally unveiling in 1999 the results of his study and making underlying recommendations.

The Father Founder/Chancellor has enthusiastically embraced Vision 2020, noting its prominently in his January 31, 2008 matriculation address and on numerous subsequent occasions. More than just noting it, however, he has put into action his resolve to achieve the aspirations reflected in Vision 2020 planning and articulation. He has elected to focus initially on four areas that are embedded in the original imperatives, plus one imperative:

Elevate the colleges
Improve graduate and staff programs
Diversity and globalization
Improve space, focusing at the permanent site

To ensure that attainment of excellence remains a guiding light concerning the university’s directions and actions, the Founder/Chancellor has had a number of consultations with experts of some of the best Universities in the world – Oxford and Cambridge Universities in Great Britain and Harvard in the U.S. He had equally left no stone unturned in his quest to ensure adequate welfare packages for both staff and students.

Every commencement day speaker worth his or her salt has got to say, one way or another, “The future is in your hands. Today the torch passes from one generation to the next.” This in itself is not new. I heard the same thing when I was a teenager. But it meant something different when I heard it. It really was just commencement day rhetoric back then. Nowadays it means something different.

Nowadays it means something like this. My generation and my parents’ generation and their parents’ have really screwed things up here, and that’s no joke. I can’t even bring myself to look at the latest World Watch Institute estimate of how much time we have left to turn this around before we head down a slide from which no recovery is possible. It was about 40 years the last time I DID have the nerve to look, and that was several years ago.

What does this figure mean? It doesn’t man human extinction in forty years. It means we have 40 years to find a new path for ourselves, and if we let those 40 years go to waste and just go on the way we are, the momentum that is carrying us forward to extinction will be too great to overcome. So that date is not the end of it all, it’s just the point of no return. Irreversible.
So when people tell you now that it’s all up to you they really mean “if you can’t find what we were unable to find and our parents were unable to find and their parents were unable to find (which is another way for us to go), then you may very well live to see the extinction of the human race. “I’m sure those in Tansian University haven’t failed to notice what a monstrous copout this is.

Oh yes, we – your parents and their parents and their parents – have screwed up the world royally, and we admit it!! But if YOU don’t find a way to FIX what WE’VE done, then it will be YOUR fault! Not OUR fault, because we have an excuse. We were just dumb and greedy. And because WE’VE been dumb and greedy, YOU’RE going to have to be smart and self-sacrificing. Got that? An anonymous puts it in a nutshell: “By being in the younger generation, I have to save the world before I can even begin to think of building a life for myself, or there will be nothing to build my life on.” Your parents didn’t have to save the world before building a life for themselves. Maybe it would’ve been a good idea – but they didn’t HAVE to. So they didn’t.

You, the students of Tansian University HAVE to, because if you don’t as an anonymous says, there will be nothing LEFT to build your life ON. So that’s the deal. Forget about having fun. Forget about taking up some career just because it happens to appeal to you. Forget about getting the good things in life that your parents have. Forget about the six-figure salary. Forget about the limousines and other flashy things. Forget about the 8000 square foot house. Those things are okay for people like E. statement Gates and Steve Jobs and Donald Trump and Steve Case, because they belong to the same old, unregenerate generation as your parents. They can AFFORD to be dumb and greedy. They don’t HAVE to save the world first. YOU DO. Is it any wonder that an anonymous feels cheated?

When he speaks of being cheated, an anonymous unconsciously brings into play the language of games. I mean that an anonymous dimly recognizes that a game IS being played with him, and I’d like to take a few minutes to examine the game that’s being played with him – and with you when people tell you that “it’s all up to you.”

In his book, The Book: or, The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts examines the notion of the “double-bind.” “A person, “he writes, “is put in a double-bind by a command or request that contains a concealed contradiction. ‘Stop being self-conscious!’ ‘Try to relax…’ Society, as we now have it, pulls this tick on every child from earliest infancy. In the first place, the child is taught that he is responsible, that he is a free agent, an independent origin of thoughts and actions. He accepts this make –believe for the very reason that it is not true. He can’t help accepting it, just as he can’t help accepting membership in the community where he was born. He has no way of resisting this kind of social indoctrination. It is constantly reinforced with reward and punishments. It is built into the basic structure of the language he is learning… We befuddle our children hopelessly because we as adults were once so befuddled, and, remaining so; do not understand the game we are playing.”

I hope students will leave Tansian University today with a better understanding of the game that is being played with them including a well defined moral character. “The child,” Watts says, “is taught that he is responsible, that e is a free agent, an independent origin of thoughts and actions. “This is what you’re hearing when people of an older generation say, “It’s up to you.” You might say that this is HALF of the game. They themselves were told, “It’s all up to you,” when they were your age. But if you watch them in action, you’ll see very clearly that they don’t act as if it were all up to them. They act as if it were all up to SOMEONE ELSE. They were taught, just as you were, that they are responsible, that they are free agents, but they know perfectly well that this is make-believe. SOMEONE ELSE is responsible for saving the world. SOMEONE ELSE is a free agent CAPABLE of saving the world. It may not come to mind immediately who this SOMEONE ELSE is, but you’ll certainly recognize it when you hear it.

Who is everyone WAITING for to save the world? They are waiting for our LEADERS, of course. This is the other half of the game. The first half of the game is: It’s all up to you. The second half of the game is: they don’t have to do anything because they’re waiting for the Vice-Chancellor to save the world. They’re waiting for the Secretary General of the United Nations to save the world. They’re waiting for some unthinkable industrial giant to save the world. They’re waiting for some great thinker to save the world. They’re waiting for Mikhail Gorbachev to save the world. They’re even waiting for Daniel Quinn to save the world! SOMEONE UP THERE, SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY!

Well, guess what, folks, There is NO ONE “up there” who is remotely CAPABLE of saving the world. Most of the people I’ve mentioned aren’t even THINKING about saving the world. Trust me, you will never hear Al Gore or Statement Bradley or George Bush or our Vice-Chancellor, or Alhaji Musa Yar’a dua utter one word about saving the world*. And whichever one of them is elected the next Nation’s President; he will not spend a single minute of his administration thinking about saving the world. This is not something they should be blamed for, in all honesty. We don’t ELECT Presidents to save the world, and any candidate that campaigned on the basis would be laughed off the stage. We elect ALL our political leaders to address SHORT-TERM goals. The kids of your grandparents’ generation were told, “It’s all up to you” – and they waited for SOMEONE ELSE to save the world.

Now the people of your parents’ and grandparents’ generation are continuing the game by pointing at you and saying, “It’s all up to YOU.” I’d like to try to persuade you to REFUSE to play the game. Don’t let anyone get away with saying, “It’s all up to you.” No. It’s all up to EVERYBODY. Refuse to accept your parents’ and grandparents’ copout. It’s not good enough to say, “We’ve failed, so it’s all up to you.”

Tell them, “STOP failing!” Which means stop WAITING! Tell them, “There’s nothing to wait for. There’s no ONE to wait for. No one is going to save the world but the PEOPLE of the world and you can’t make it the sole responsibility of MY generation. We are the ones with no experience, no clout, no connections, no power, no money – and it’s all suppose to be up to US??? What are YOU going to be doing while WE save the world?”

Obviously here, I can’t give you a blueprint for saving the world. But I can give you a couple of fundamental notions that I think you can follow with complete confidence. The first of these might be called Quinn’s First Law. It won’t surprise you. It may even strike you as obvious. Here it is. No undesirable behaviour has ever been eliminated by passing a law against it.
The second is Buckminster Fuller’s Law, which is this: You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete is all about making a difference. That is what Very. Rev. Msgr. Prof. Akam is doing, and has done. That is the Tansian University dream.

Most of the time when people wonder to ask what they should be doing to save the world, there is in the back of their minds two general notions of how change takes place. One is the notion thatpassing laws makes things change. The other is that fighting makes things change. We’re trained to think that you really are DOING something if you’re out there fighting and getting laws passed. But if you heed these two laws, you may think differently about this. Once again they are Quinn’s First Law, No undesirable behaviour has ever been eliminated by passing a law against it, and Fuller’s Law, You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. That is the dream of our Father Founder and Chancellor, Tansian University, Very. Rev. Msgr. Prof. J. B. Akam.

Here is Quinn’s Second Law: What people think is what they do. And its corollary: To change what people do, change what they think. At the present time, there are six billion people on this planet pursuing a vision that is devouring the earth. That’s out problem. Our problem is not pollution. Our problem is not consumerism. Our problem is not capitalist greed. Our problem is not conservative selfishness or liberal utopianism. Our problem is not lack of leadership. Our problem is a world-devouring vision that some Nations are pursuing.

Now what can we do about this vision? We can’t legislate it away or vote it away or organize it away or even shoot it away. We can only teach it away. If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision, people and institutions of our higher learning being poised/determined to make a difference. It will not be saved by old minds with new programmes. Vision is a flowing river. Programmes are sticks set in the riverbed to impede the flow of the river. But I don’t to impede its flow; I want to change its direction.

Is it so easy to change a cultural vision? Ease and difficulty are not the relevant measures. Here are the relevant measures: Readiness and unreadiness. If people aren’t ready for it, then no power on earh can make a new idea catch on. But if people are ready for it, if the students and staff of Tansian University are ready for it (and I think they are), then a new idea will sweep the world like wildfire. In our culture at the present moment, the flow of the river is toward catastrophe, and programs are sticks set in the riverbed to impede its flow.

Our path of hope is not to add more sticks to impede the flow. Our path of hope is to change the direction of the flow – away from catastrophe. It is to swim against the tide. I think the students & staff of Tansian University are ready for this new idea. They are ready for breaking new grounds that will usher our people into the level that is saturated with meaning.

Don’t pay attention to people who talk as if saving the world is someone else’s business – big shots in international politics or big shots in international commerce. I say again: if the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, and anyone can change a mind. I mean that. Back in the seventies, a lot of eight-year-olds came home and told their parents, “By God, you’re going to stop smoking!” – and they made it stick. Back in the eighties, a lot of eight-year-olds came home and told their parents, “By God, we’re going to start recycling aluminum cans!” – and they made it stick.

Carry the news to parents, to children, to lecturers, to friends, to relatives, even to strangers, that we can only save the world, change an idea, make a difference through profound co-operation, determination, serving, loving/caring for others, and above all, pleasing God with the totality of our behaviours. If the time is right, a new idea will sweep the world like wildfire.

We have found a path of hope for the future Tansian University, through the doggedness, the astuteness, and tenacity of purpose, of a Priest of great international standing, and a quintessence of excellence, Msgr. Prof. J. B. Akam. If the time is right, a new idea will sweep the world like wildfire – Because of people like him. That’s exactly how new ideas sweep the world like wildfire – and that’s how I see it. That’s our path of hope for the future.

Ukwungwu Joe Ndubisi
(Hon. Sec./PA to Chancellor)

Go to Very. Rev. Msgr. Prof. JB Akam's Publications