I do not even know where to begin, in relating my experience at last Thursday’s Lunch and Learn. I was anticipating an unrelatable talk about urban planning and “environmental psychology,” so needless to say I was taken aback when I was asked to “please rise for His Majesty” at the beginning of the class. But what followed was a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking lecture about the state of Ghana, Africa, and humanity in general.
Most importantly for me, I believe that His Majesty Osagyefuo Ofori Panin spoke wisely about profound, deep-rooted problems with culture and the devolution of human character, all without being too vague or broad. He began by describing the environmental and socioeconomic strife that has gripped Africa in modern history, what he named “poverty without option” or “poverty without opportunity.” His account of there being absolutely no hope or support for the lowest classes struck a deep chord in me.
His Majesty also launched into discussion about the need for sustainability and conservation of natural resources, which I also agree with and support. I found his remedy about looking to the past and mimicking ancient laws, about restricting natural resource depletion was particularly thoughtful and wise. He was clearly well-versed in the need for and implementation of sustainable complements for economic growth, as his working with Prince Charles’ Rainforest Project can attest to.
But perhaps the most profound problem that Osagyefuo Ofori Panin addressed was the corrupting effect of modern culture on human character and values. I related to this part of his lecture the most, because what he spoke about was so universal. I agree, there are prevalent values like greed and mistrust that breed and justify selfishness. The most fundamental flaw that His Majesty brought up was a lack of respect and affection for our fellow humans and for the Earth at large. I find it incredible that a man living so far away can still be perceptive of such pertinent problems in an entirely different culture than his own.
It was, after this diatribe on human character, that he began to introduce his solutions for the problems at hand. His Majesty spoke about changing culture to place higher value on meaningful and benevolent change, to make it where “the greatest men are those who change the world, not who amass the most wealth.” For me, this was nothing less than inspiring. I once spoke to a man of South African descent who partook in the overthrow of Apartheid. He recalled “you must change yourself before you can change your surroundings,” and I get the feeling that Osagyefuo Ofori Panin was alluding to the same idea of the necessity of self-improvement. Especially in the context of establishing a sustainable and environmentally stable lifestyle, it’s true you have to harbor feelings of conservation and respect before you can actually go about conserving and respecting the world. While some may say that such a declaration is too vague and doesn’t inspire direct action, I’d agree with Osagyefuo Ofori Panin in saying that meaningful change must be the organic product of a cultivated, thoughtful set of values.