Recently there was a discussion on my old school online forum about selecting one of us to deliver a speech on our behalf at a colleague’s funeral. One of us suggested that we choose someone of stature to read a tribute on our behalf. This reasonable though late suggestion, incensed a couple of others who questioned the notion of “someone of stature”. Their argument was that we are all “men of stature”. I was shocked. Really? How can anyone suggest that? Are we not students of history? Do we not know of the many great men of stature worthy of our emulation? Are we all the same, as Kwame Nkrumah or Lee Kuan Yew? Is it not okay to have people whom we look up to? Is it not ridiculous to suggest that there are no such people?
But you know, it got me thinking, and I have come to understand to a certain degree, where that somewhat pervasive sentiment in our society could come from.
Let me make something clear from the outset: no one is suggesting that some people are “more equal” than others. Now I will try to make my point. First of all, who is a person of stature?
I googled it and it referred to someone who has attained a high level of respect as a result of significant achievement. I like that. Especially the bit about respect being earned by achievement. But then I thought, what if that impressive achievement is based on theft and dishonorable activity?
So I probed further and the following definitions set me thinking even more:
Dignity is an intrinsic value; Status is a relative value; Image is an attributed value, Class is an assumed value and Stature is an acquired value.
A significant aspect of stature is the ability to help others. It is not about having more money in your pocket than others. It is important to learn the distinction between genuine stature and its counterfeit forms e.g. image, class and status.
I can understand to a certain degree people who refuse to acknowledge the high stature of people. This is because stature is often confused with status, and is afforded to people who may be undeserving of it. Money is used as a measure of social rank and standing, so unfortunately the authentic attained achievements of stature too often go unrecognized, while dishonest but rich people are accorded a high status in this society.
There is something also peculiar to our culture. We think that when we afford people such recognition they become proud and so we don’t want anybody to get any praise. Paradoxically, we love wheeling out award ceremonies and recognizing all kinds of dodgy people. We have so debased the notion of achievement that increasingly people who live by underhanded means and ill-gotten gains are the ones recognized. How one has “achieved” is not important anymore. We have spoilt everything. Nothing means anything anymore.
Another factor to consider is that many Ghanaians don’t want to accept the fact that there are people with real stature amongst us. This is partly because we seem not to realize that a persons stature can increase indefinitely and does not depend in anyway on decreasing or diminishing the stature of others. People seem to think that someone’s increased stature means that they themselves have less stature, without recognizing that stature can be achieved by everybody. It’s called a ‘fixed mindset’ as opposed to a ‘growth mindset’.
The thing to note is that if you believe you can achieve it too, you are more likely to admire it in someone else and aspire for it. This brings to mind the idea of “the American dream”. Everybody should believe that they too can become somebody someday, through their efforts. People, Stature is earned. It acknowledges abundance and unlimited possibilities as opposed to status, so despise it not. Fear not, if you come across someone with stature. You too can have stature.