By Nwachukwu Egbunike
Before you tweet, take a cold chill, breath and chill again: there’s no award with being the first to tweet fallacy.
With the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria nudging so close, the Nigerian tweet-sphere has become dangerously polarized. The dominance of two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Party – also means that the “narratives of Nigeria’s politico-twitterati” has been disruptive as never before. As though that were not enough, the propensity with which tweeps transform rumours and outright lies into exclusive ‘news’ is alarming. This might be a good time to suggest some spices for those who value their credibility and wish to preserve it.
The English word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, which means “hinge.” All other virtues hinge on these four: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Plato first discussed the cardinal virtues in the Republic, and they entered into Christian teaching by way of Plato’s disciple Aristotle.
Prudence has been classified as the first cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” In other words, prudence is practical wisdom. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact; we are showing our lack of it. It is only prudent that we seek the counsel of others, due to our propensity of falling easily into error. It will be imprudent to assume that we know it all – I too know syndrome – that seems to be the national lure of many twitterati! It is essential that in the current volatile clime, tweeps should realise that: It is imprudent to jump into every conversation or to make generalising assertions that are simply indefensible. A prudent person avoids the embarrassing situation of having to be brave. A prudent person is not the ‘clever tactician’ – who continues to escape personal commitment. Prudence is not ‘timidity’ – being afraid to make a decision or making it known when justice demands it.
Justice is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. Justice is simply giving each person his/her due. Justice is not revenge, but the conservation of rights. Consequently justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when individuals or society deprive someone of that which he is owed.
There is a growing tendency to assume that since the talking space is free from gatekeepers, therefore one is also ‘free’ to malign or destroy the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ names of others. It is only just that one refrains from the herd mentality when issues break – as they are wont on twitter – to consider if there are other angles to a story. This is especially important, when we do not possess all the facts to a story. It matters nothing if the court of public opinion has already given a verdict, what if their judgement is false?
Fortitude is commonly called courage. However, this is different from the conceptualisation we have of courage today; particularly, the twitter type of courage. Real fortitude aids us in overcoming fear and to remain in the face of obstacles. However, since fortitude relates to the will, it is always rational. Therefore fortitude does not admit danger for the sake of gragra or shakara. Fortitude is neither foolishness nor rashness – “those who rush toward a fight do not know that fighting means death”. Please think before you tweet. If you want to exercise your courage, try the streets!
Temperance is the restraint of our desires or passions. Temperance moderates excess, and, as such, requires the balancing of legitimate goods against our inordinate desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may be different at different times; temperance is the “golden mean”.
The itchy fingers associated with being the first to know and that inordinate passion to claim bragging rights of being the first to tweet. Before you tweet, take a cold chill, breath and chill again: there’s no award with being the first to tweet fallacy. It’s true that your grandmother has always praised your intelligence, yet smartness is knowing when to “jump pass” – that’s temperance. Pride is exercising no restrain on the desires of our thought – made known in speech or via our writing.
This post was first published on AfricanHadithi (March 12, 2014)