Rising Above Sentiments
The word “sentiment” is defined by dictionary.com as a “thought influenced by emotion.” Generally, sentiments are preconceived thoughts, opinions, ideas, views, feelings and attitudes we display towards certain issues. Sentiments are responsible for the way we feel about a particular thing or person usually before we have accurate information about them. This piece considers why we hold certain sentiments and their impacts on our society.
Why do people hold the sentiments they hold?
A number of reasons are obvious. One such reason is personal experience. Individuals who have had certain experiences develop sentiments as a reaction to such experiences. For instance, young people who have been betrayed in their relationships may hold very strong sentiments about faithfulness and love. Indeed, a number of such people believe faithfulness is impossible, and love – even where it exists – should be handled with caution and suspicion. Sometimes, people just share the sentiments prevalent in their environments. These sentiments may have been in existence for so long that people have ceased questioning the rationale behind them. Most times however, sentiments are promoted by fear. This fear manifests itself in many ways. We fear to question the rationale behind our beliefs because we fear the possibility of what the answer might be. We fear to change what we love to believe. We fear to accept the reality, so we hide under the illusion of what we would like to happen.
Irrespective of what causes them, sentiments have far-reaching impacts on our lives. It is already obvious that they color the way we see things. The trouble with this is that they make it difficult for us to see things the way they really are. In our personal relationships, at our places of work and even in our worship places, we have certain ideas about the people we meet. We think some of them are not trustworthy because of the ethnic groups they belong to. This creates barriers that prevent us from tapping from the inner reserves of goodwill and love that flow in the hearts of men. Perhaps, the greatest trouble
with negative sentiments is that they promote hatred and enmity where there is no basis for any. We begin to hate others because of whom we think they are and what we feel they represent, even though this may not be true.
The most destructive form of sentiment is the ethnic-based kind. Here, we discriminate others because of where they come from, their culture and the things they do differently from us. It blinds us to objective reasoning and turns otherwise intelligent humans into irrational beings with incurable animalistic tendencies. If you doubt this, look round our society today. Everywhere there is crisis, you will find that ethnic or religious sentiments have either caused or are spreading the conflict. In government offices, we want “our people” to dominate, that is, people who speak our language; who come from our village or from our families. The reason we don’t want other people to get a chance is not that they are not qualified – sometimes “our man” is not even qualified! It is quite troubling because merit has taken the back seat and the human being has lost taste for value. We have locked ourselves within cages and handed the remote control to blind emotions that lead us down the path of underdevelopment. We have become so sentimental that we segregate fellow humans into groups. Even though we belong to one country, some of our friends are not to benefit from certain privileges because they are “non-indigenes”. They don’t bear names that sound like ours. So they must not rise to certain heights in our corner of the world. Why should they, when they are not “sons of the soil?” The son-of-the-soil mentality is in fact, a terrible sickness demeaning the dignity of human beings.
Finally, if we want to grow – both as individuals and as a society – we must shun baseless sentiments that divide us every minute. Instead, we must build trust, respect and love. We must develop objectivity and rise above ethnic, religious or clannish sentiments. We must relate with others on account of their values and not the inconsequential differences that exist between us. If we do, we would be creating for ourselves an environment of peace, orderliness and development in the land of our fathers.