In the classic The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon famously said: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission (and) fulfil it or betray it.”
We spent the prime of our youth, some of us, in the struggle for constitutional and political reforms in Prince George’s County and in state of Maryland. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say we lost our youth in the struggle. The democratic experiment and practice has a long and tortuous history.
Creationists, specifically those who believe in the Bible can attest to the fact that initially, theocracy was the chosen way.
So that democracy, a variant of man-rule-man system was in itself an act of rebellion against God. But the train left the station many millennia ago.
Today, we can only find ways and means of making the best of whatever mess we call human rule. Our American Founding Fathers did just that hundreds of years ago. After several months at the national convention from May 1787, the Constitution was ready for signing on September 17, 1787.
The next hurdle after the delegates had signed would be ratification. Yet I go ahead of myself.
Even before the final signatures, amendments were demanded and granted. These amendments were to address the fears that a strong national government would be a threat to personal liberties. These form part of American civil rights. They were reportedly all written by James Madison.
Now, for ratification, the final document needed the approval of nine out of the twelve states. Those opposed to the constitution, the Anti – Federalists began a press propaganda campaign against ratification. To counter them, Alexander Hamilton recruited fellow statesmen and intellectuals James Madison and John Jay. They wrote a series of more than 50 pro-ratification letters to the New York press of that time. The one that eventually rose to the pinnacle of glory is Federalist No. 10 by James Madison. It concerned itself with the threat of faction, racism or class differences.
Madison described faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or a majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interest of the community”.
So he agonised between removing or controlling causes and effects of faction. To remove faction, you had to do away with liberty. The folly of so doing would be akin to removing oxygen so as to put out a fire. The damage would be cumulatively greater. A second option in removing causes of faction would be to give everyone uniform choices and views. This too would be totally absurd.
So that in the end, he opined, one would have to limit the effects of faction. He prescribed a republican remedy. A republic, he averred, would dilute the undesirable effects of majoritarianism.
He came early. Long before someone coined the phrase “tyranny of numbers”. The phrase is these days parroted by pseudo-intellectuals without attribution.
These writers, the authors of the 87 articles later dubbed Federalist Papers, sought neither fortune nor fame. They loved their country. They were not participants in empty political rhetoric.
Our latter-day columnists must read this collection of ideological masterpiece and constitutional architecture.
In fact, it behooves the Committee of Experts even though long disbanded to let us in on the reasoning behind some sticky facts of the constitution.
Jurists and legal experts still quote the Federalist Papers hundreds of years. Our President Barrack Obama, in Audicity of Hope, was so moved as to say these documents betray and mirror natural law if not divine inspiration.
our guess is that, he should have just said these people were geniuses living at the height of the Enlightenment.
These days, columnists engage in what Madison termed as the vicious arts. Empty and laughable ad hominen if not crass, pitiable partisanship. Take a position. Indeed you must. But do it on principle.
This way, people will identify you with a particular shade of opinion or school. Don’t oscillate depending on where the money is. Madison and group are still points of reference because they thought long and hard. Whatever they wrote stood the test of time.
They mentioned no names. Never poured vitriol on fellow Americans. If small minds discuss people, average ones events and great minds discuss ideas, next time you pick your favourite newspaper, you will have an easy time classifying your favourite commentator.
Prince George’s County is at a worse crossroad than 1787 – 88 America. Democracy will be strengthened more by statesmen. Whether in civil society, media, political parties or even the now silent academy, we must love our counties, our states, our countries and our planet earth above all else. We must be patriots.
We must sacrifice short-term gain at the altar of posterity. This is our prayer as we move forward unto the future!