The one-dimensional packaging of love as just being about romance shortchanges our examination of other kinds of love, mainly unconditional love or Agape, which is needed for the healing of Africa. It is to the latter that I draw your attention as a new approach to nation-building and personal human evolution.
As human beings, we are fortunate to have the ability for critical thinking and self-mastery that other animals lack. Born into the Homo sapiens category of evolution, I hope that the love that we can have for ourselves as individuals can be strong enough to parlay into a kind of spiritual outreach that extends to all our relationships in our communities at home and abroad, and infused throughout the policies by which our leaders govern our countries.
If the Golden Rule of love suggests that we ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you’ or ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ why not consider taking your love a step further into the Platinum Rule, which requires greater love and calls us to ‘do unto others as they would have done unto them.’ Shocking? Most people have a hard time absorbing this “selfless” rule. We are used to the ‘what’s in it for me’ syndrome, and when our elected officials have taken this question on face value, they have plundered our national coffers for personal gains. Let the masses on whose backs they rode to profit from their power be damned! If we, fellow Africans, continue to operate with collective self-loathing and succumb to the laws of the jungle, then I ask us to ponder whether we should forfeit our rights to the Homo sapiens family and just give in to our basal instincts.
It is possible that most politicians believe their own hype and overestimate their accomplishments. When they are campaigning for the gilded seat of office, it seems that many convince themselves that they are following the Utilitarian Principle of “the greater good.” I also believe that they truly want to make a difference at the beginning until absolute power corrupts their souls absolutely. The true test of their intention can only be measured by their real commitment to the Platinum Rule. Equating this to the love quotient, they must operate under the quality of Unconditional or Transcendent Love, and their noble intentions must not be contaminated by power, fame, wealth, or any motive other than service.
The arithmetic of Platinum Rule offers 100% commitment. A person with a full tank of self-love is capable of splurging love on his brothers and sister, on his spouse and friends, on his community and country, all without expectation because he is sated from the wellspring of unconditional love. Such a man is not afraid to ‘do unto another as the person would have done unto them.’ A minister or member of parliament, operating under the Platinum Rule will do his best to focus on solving the problems of poverty, malnutrition, infrastructure, and other duties he is charged to do for the people, and on budget.
So the next time you hear the word love introduced in your neighborhood as a paradigm for social change or as a political philosophy, take a front row seat again, bring your thoughts to the table, and bring your hearts first.
Albert Einstein said that “love is a better teacher than duty.” Think about this statement from the genius who invented the law of relativity. And Mahatma Gandhi said, “where there is love, there is life.” So why would it be farfetched for us to ponder this word?
And let me indulge you with a wonderful quote from Og Mandino, one of my favorite writers of all time. In his book, The Greatest Miracle in the World, Mandino writes:
Are you unloved and unloving? Does loneliness engulf you night and day? No. No more. For now you know love’s secret, that to receive love it must be given with no thought of its return. To love for fulfillment, satisfaction, or pride is no love. Love is a gift on which no return is demanded. Now you know that to love unselfishly is its own reward. And even should love not be returned, it is not lost, for love not reciprocated will flow back to you and soften and purify your heart.
I am an African woman whose life in America has enabled me to appreciate the power of hugs and kisses and to tell others with rapt abandon, “I love you.” It did not happen overnight, but I opened myself up to a new way of expressing my love for others in real time, and without expectation of it being said back to me, nor dwell on the fear of rejection. I prefer to tell my truth now, not after the person is dead and I’m wracked with guilt and regret over affections withheld and things unsaid.
Try this sometime. It’s scary as hell, but it expands the heart and makes room to love even more. I have learned that people we love owe us nothing. If at all, we are lucky that our love for them reflects our capacity to express this beautiful thing called love. Anytime I express spontaneous love, I feel an inner glow and I grow taller in confidence and wellbeing. I have learned not to expect love from those to whom I give it because I believe in the laws of attraction and understand that love is always there for me and will appear in unexpected places, even from strangers.
I never learned this kind of free expression in Africa. In this respect, I am suggesting that I have learned new ways of expressing myself, as a loving human being, without fear of rejection. This form of communication heals our relationships and enhances our contribution to positive change.
I know that balancing our careers, ambitions and family lives is a daily challenge. However, I hope you will use this interactive platform to participate in this conversation, so that we can nourish our souls and learn from each other what is ultimately good for the development of Africa. As I was preparing to write this column, I learned of a West African man who was so overwhelmed by the depth of love he felt for his adoring girlfriend that he “had to break off the relationship.” According to him, he felt “defeated” by the intensity of his love for her. He could not bear what seemed to him like a weakness, a vulnerability that threatened his very existence, and he could not permit himself to “lose control.” Control of what? Of whom? Can we compartmentalize love? Can such a man be trusted to govern a region or a country?
In the absence of love, destruction takes hold. When love leaves the room conflict moves in, disguised in the cloak of judgment, punishment, neglect, jealousy, ridicule, and disrespect. A man of power who is incapable of love will abuse his power and Africa is crying for our collective love ….Yours and mine.
In conclusion, I challenge you to allow the idea of unconditional love to percolate through your system, one gentle drip at a time. It would help to ponder the range of love from self to world and address your internal dialogue honestly. Talk among friends who also read this column and learn from each other. We are exploring a new, qualitative idea that is inherently able to revolutionize our systems of government, family, and personal lives.
This column is not a panacea or a naïve suggestion that a loving society can be achieved at the snap of a finger. In fact, it emerges out of the urgent need for healing of our continent as well as the world. We cannot afford to put on layers of deadening armor and numb our ability to feel, when we should be reaching out to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Question your motivations for the choices you make. Are they based on the Golden Rule, the Platinum Rule, or the Jungle Rule? Gandhi calls us to “be the change [we] wish to see in the world.” This is as good a day as any to recommit ourselves to positive change for Africa. Dare to love. I love you!
Ms. Adjoa Acquaah-Harrison is a strategic planning and development consultant, a nonprofit fundraising executive, and a freelance writer. She is also the founder of Wingspan International U.S.A. and resides in Lexington, Massachusetts.