Notwithstanding the solemnity of the occasion during a funeral service recently, the church was thrown into laughter when the priest asked if anyone in the congregation had ever seen a hearse followed by a haulage-truck, carrying the deceased’s property to the cemetery?
The priest’s mention of haulage reminded me of U-HAUL in the US. This is a haulage company with different vehicles for haulage. In 2020, the company made $4.54 billion. However, in all its history, U-HAUL has never been contracted to haul a deceased’s property behind his hearse to the cemetery.
The first question then was, why do people entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding a nation’s resources, and protect and defend other humans, according to the Political Philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his book “The Leviathan,” from life being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” behave like they have the Divine Right to plunder everything/anything in sight from money, to houses, to yachts, to private jets and to others?
The second question was, how do we want to be remembered and what legacy do we leave for society?
I found the priest’s questions poignant. Perhaps, the Greek General, Alexander the Great of Macedon, proffered some solutions.
Alexander the Great
Born in 356 BC to King Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander succeeded his father who was assassinated in 336 BC, when he was only 20 years old.
Managing a volatile situation, Alexander proved himself not only a great intellectual, the result of tutoring by Aristotle, but also an astute General whose army swept across Europe to Asia and southwards to North Africa.
Following his field successes, he was named Alexander the Great. He died of fever in 323 BC at the age of 33.
Before he died, he told his colleague Generals to do three things on his death.
Firstly, he wanted the best physicians in Macedonia to carry his casket. Secondly, he asked that all the gold he acquired in conquest to be strewn along the route on their way to the cemetery for his burial.
Thirdly, he wanted his open hands to be displayed out of the casket in full view of mourners.
Asked why such odd instructions, Alexander replied as follows.
To his first instruction, he wanted the best physicians to carry him to demonstrate the fact that, when death beckons, nothing can save any human being, king or servant, rich or poor.
On his second directive that, all the gold he had won in battle be strewn along the route, he said it was to show the world that, not even gold, among all material acquisitions can accompany the owner at death.
His answer to his third instructions of his open palms being displayed in the glare of the whole world was that, we came to the world empty-handed with nothing, and we shall return to our Maker empty-handed with nothing.
So, Alexander the Great’s “three-piece” answer summarised the futility of the rat-race of human greed for money, power and property which will be left behind at death!
The priest then berated the greed and ostentation of leaders/politicians while majority of the people wallow in poverty. With over 50 per cent of Africans below the poverty line, and rudimentary health needs difficult to access because of neglected health systems, leaders unconscionably fly to advanced countries for medical care, or where they go to die comfortably. Meanwhile, hospitals are under-resourced.
The priest’s second question was how one wants to be remembered? Would you like to be remembered as;
• The visionary leader who selflessly led the people to a higher level than he/she met?
• That cruel/wicked leader who only brought pain and suffering to his people?
• That arrogant leader who had scant respect for his people, and did as he/she pleased?
• The peace-loving leader who wanted nothing for himself/herself, but the best for his people?
In her speech to the graduating cadets of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, UK in the Summer of 1965, Queen Elizabeth stated,
“Always remember that, the best and purest form of leadership is example.”
Example here refers to selfless, positive, inspiring leadership of integrity which will benefit society.
Can our leaders sincerely swear by God/Allah, or “Antoa-Nyamma” or any deity they believe in, that they have led by example?
On the first question of why some leaders grab everything in sight, Alexander the Great gave an appropriate answer in his “three-piece” death-wish.
A question asked was why we Africans are busy sacrificing meritocracy on the altar of greedy wealth-acquisition, nepotism, arrogance and mediocrity, while running to the advanced countries to beg for crumbs.
Queen Elizabeth’s 1965 advice to graduating cadets emphasising example and integrity is still valid today, and answers the question, how do you want to be remembered? Remember Shakespeare’s words “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones!”
Once again, in the words of President Kennedy, “if the many poor are not helped, the few rich cannot be saved.”
As the priest asked, “have you ever seen a hearse followed by a haulage-truck carrying the deceased’s property with him/her to the cemetery?”
Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, Wake Up!