Interest and Sentimentality
“You may tell little lies, small as a thorn, but they will grow to the size of a spear and kill you.” – Yoruba proverb
We all have secrets; some of them are so dirty we even try to keep them from ourselves. The bulk of us live double-lives. We preach one way and live by a different one, and it is a matter of degree. We lament when the winds do not blow our way, but scarcely flinch when the breeze wisps in our face. Is it thus strange that we take a joke more seriously than we do an excellently researched indicator? All around us, we all live as if life should satisfy our interests.
Our interests are idiosyncratic and person-specific. They serve as the intrinsic motivational tool that leads us to engage with ideas, activities, certain people and objects. However, the object of our interests varies. Some are meant to advance our ambitions, and others to protect the interest of others. Whatever they are, they long for a romantic and comfortable life.
They fuel our fantasies and carve the foundation upon which we believe our ideals will flourish. That is why when our interests come to the fore, we become sentimental and cannot easily get out of it. In such situations, we cannot make proper distinctions between objectivity and egotism. We are so overwhelmed by our feelings that we find it is difficult to tell the truth, whether in private or in public…at least in certain matters.
When it comes to our interests, a surprising majority of us simply become spectators. We attend to them; they work on us rather than we working on them. They take hold of us and inspire our sentimentalities to infiltrate every nook and crook of our reasoning faculty. We therefore develop a strong mental disposition toward it – and this gives a rise to a large number of energies being channeled into it.
It is quite difficult to determine what gets us interested in what we are interested in. They are a combination of past experiences and new impressions. What’s more worrying is the manner in which they control our sentiments. As individuals, we have the capacity to engage in a host of activities. We are always being bombarded with a lot of impressions, but we can only do a little at every point in time. And so, we unconsciously focus our energies on the things that interest us at any particular time. That’s why it is easy for individuals to ignore well-researched findings when they do not satisfy their interests.
Whether by design or sensitivity, the thriving of activities and issues around us depends on our interest in them. This interestedness gives us purposefulness. It gives room for our sentiments to motivate our activities, and inspire what we value and what we prioritise. And sentiments in action means we think and act based more on feelings than what is logical. We are cowed by emotions instead of being strengthened by the courage of objectivity. We allow our sentiments, inspired by our interest, to override our rationality. We create reasons even when none is needed. We give them weightings and make ourselves believe that they are what has to be done.
In such a state, intolerance reigns because we become essentially selective about what we want to see or hear. We concentrate our consciousness on what is interesting to us and ignore the other areas. This fixed concentration results in a deeper and more lasting impression of our interest on us. It therefore becomes simple to act in tandem to have our interests satisfied. We become romantic, and find it easy to attack and sideline those who do not share our views.
That is why a moment’s reflection is important in every decision that we have to take. Our interest focuses on satisfying our selfishness. On the surface it feels good, until you realise that every selfish act contributes to the ruin of society. Your moment of sentimental glory, wherein you shout the denominator without the numerator, goes a long way toward weakening the foundations of rationality. And so, you find out that more often than not a sensibly constructed argument tends to bore the public rather than impress. It is easy for those making the objective arguments to be labelled arrogant and uppity. That leaves room for your sentimental rhythm to vibrate unopposed and form waves.
In today’s intellectual environment, saturated as it is by relativism, we have a hard time trying to separate sentimentalities from rationalities. Often, we end up speaking in muted tones because we do not want to be seen as attacking opposing views. But the time has come to take a stand between these two. What we need to understand is that every sentiment, no matter how small it is, gets an upper hand because it is shouted with the might of loudness. We cannot therefore say we want to stand between more and less rationality; it is time to say with our whole being ‘yes’ to rationality and ‘no’ to all sentimentalities – even within ourselves.
Kodwo Brumpon is a partner at Brumpon & Kobla Ltd., a forward-thinking Pan African management consultancy and social impact firm driven by data analytics; with a focus on understanding the extraordinary potential and needs of organisations and businesses to help cultivate synergies that catapult them into their strategic growth and certify their sustainability.
Comments, suggestions and requests for talks and training should be sent to him at kodwo@brumponand kobla.com