Obviously what a society values it rewards. And by what it rewards one can tell a lot about how it functions and will likely evolve.
Ghanaians seem to prize ‘humility’ a lot. Rarely do you see a person measured by integrity, skill, fortitude, steadfastness, diligence, candour, or several other virtues that other cultures seem to value much more.
This is intriguing as in most other places you don’t often hear ‘humility’ being used as the cardinal virtue when describing major reformers or leaders (presumption: cardinal virtues are often associated with those held up as exemplifying the society’s values). I mean, was Churchil humble? Martin Luther? Roosevelt? Da Vinci? Shaka? Osei Kwadwo Okoawia? Rameses II? Marcus Garvey? Feynman?
Is Gates humble? Soyinka? Desmond Tutu? Jack Welch? Is ‘humility’ the key attribute people associate with them?
What I mean is, can you mention a truly transformative figure in world history whose name immediately springs the word ‘humility’ into your mind as soon as you hear the name? I struggle to mention one. Even the case of Jesus Christ is debatable. Most of his claims (‘I am the bread of life…’ etc) won’t pass the Ghanaian test of ‘humility’.
So why do we put such an emphasis on ‘humility’? I suspect I am beginning to get a hint of why we do. I think when we say that someone exhibits ‘humility’ it is often another way of saying that the person appeals to our ego by making us feel adequate and sufficient even when we don’t merit it. In that respect, anyone who unsettles our sense of self-sufficiency or our easy notions can’t be humble. Anyone who makes us uncomfortable about our unexamined ideas and prejudices can’t be humble.
So it is not really ‘humility’ we prize but ‘mental comfort’. In some Ghanaian secondary schools, they call those who make people feel mentally comfortable ‘possi’.