This is a composition which after due consultations with ancient writers or scholars and dead teachers, I have decided to put together with the hope that it will be of use to us writers and critics alike. Its aim is to ensure modesty and diplomacy both in writing and in criticism. I may not expect us to swallow it hook line and sinker but to weigh it on the screen of truth and pick the best that comes through. In many cases, circumstances and situations determines our actions or reactions towards events and these propel us to write or speak for or against them.
First , I would like to draw our attention to the fact that there are certain cautions or advise that are really not needed but if they must be given, they should be said or written with such courtesy, that the addressee would have reason for its consideration. There is nothing men are so willing to give out so freely than their advice. That would be because such advice more often than not is meant to gratify their selfish interest and not the interest of those they seem to be giving the advice. Imposing cautions or advise on people is the worst move we can ever make knowing full well that each of us are an entity and have our own individual perspective or points of views concerning issues.
Another point of caution is the manner in which we thrown the pebbles of criticism at others forgetting that those who pelt others with pebbles ask for rocks in return. Alexander Pope in his ‘Essay on Criticism’ opines that “each work of wit must be judge by the same spirit the author write’. Judging or criticism is not just an act but also an art. If you must criticise a person or a work of art then you must stand in the same position as the person or author to do it. Bad critics end up steering up enmity than friendship. Do not just seek to give your sense the psychological assurance of what is due, but in all your criticism, you must also learn to seek your friendship too. In all you speak, let truth and candor shine. However be careful with blunt truths as sometimes they cause more mischief than good . The greatest harm can result from the best intention.
Pope advises thus “But you who seek to give and merit fame, and justly bear a critic’s noble name, be sure yourself your own reach to know, how far your genius, taste and learning go, lunch not beyond your depth but be discreet and mark that point where sense and dullness meet”. The point here is, if we must criticise a work then we must be sure that we are knowledgeable enough in that field, if not our silence would be most appreciated as Abraham lincoln says “I will never be too old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to say”. Be silent always when you doubt your sense, so says Pope, and even when you are sure, you must speak with seeming diffidence. Having a little knowledge in a field does not make one an authority as Pope also advises that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the pierian spring, there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again’. It buttresses the fact why those who truly know say less because knowledge sobers one. Before you embark on the advisory journey or on the path of criticism first of all know that people do not care about you or your advise. They do not even need it because they can do without it.

In ‘Leviathan’ considered to be one of the 100 great works ever written by man, Hobbes opined that three things cause conflict amongst men, competition(what a man does for his gains) diffidence(what a man does for his safety) and Glory(what a man does for his reputation) and as far as these remain, there would always be conflict amongst men. Men are most concerned about their pride or reputation than you can ever imagine, a reason why you must deal with them subtly and with immense diplomacy. Never show a man contempt. Wrongs can be forgiven but contempt never is, our pride remembers it forever. Knowing this, whenever we choose to advise or criticise people or their works without showing respect to their person or make them feel less important, then we should be rest assured that their pride will resent us with extremity. According to Dale Carnegie, a New York telephone company went on a research on the most frequently used word and discovered that the personal pronoun ‘I’ was used 3090 times in 500 conversations. It is what Ayn Rand calls the Great ‘I’ in her book ‘Anthem’. A broil in a man’s body would show him more concern than a plague in India killing over a million persons. In all our speech or writings of criticism or advice let us keep these views in point. It is the reason Robert Green in 48 Laws of Power would say, know whom you are dealing with, do not offend the wrong person. Nnamdi Azikiwe says a man is not innately wicked but when an attempt is made to consign him to the scrap heap of history, he shows resentment in no uncertain terms.

When you speak as a young man, some as a result of their age, may hardly take you seriously so, I try to make reference to authorities ;the great sages of the past and present, with the hope that even if some would not agree with me, they would at least agree with Dale Carnegie, Alexander Pope, Robert Green, Abraham Lincoln, Ayn Rand and other great sophists who have mastered the art of interpersonal relationship. The objective is to make us understand that first, Know that u can never win an argument, second, Be aware that you can never teach a man anything. The great teachers of the past understood this when they held the opinion that you can never teach a man anything but can only make him find it within himself. There is a rule that states ‘seek the truth not through others but through yourself’. But if you must teach a man, then do it following the advice of Alexander Pope that “Men must be taught as if you taught them not and things unknown proposed as things forgot”. If we know this then it will help us live better and more peacefully amongst men , respecting each other, and by so doing we easily win the censorship of people rather than trying to coerce them into accepting our points of views.

I would not end this essay, without sharing a knowledge I have gained from Dale Carnegie when he says that philosophers have speculated on the rules of human relationship over the years and of all their speculations, they have danced to the tune of one song; one rule. It is not a new rule. It is perhaps as old as the human society itself. Zoroaster taught it in Persia to his famous Fire Eaters about 2500 years ago. Confucius taught it to his disciples in China about 24 centuries ago. Loa Tze the founder of Taoism taught it to his disciples in the Valley of the Han. Bhuddha taught it to his disciples by the Holy Ganges of India about 1000 years before Christ. Muhammed taught it to his disciple by the deserts of Arabia about 630 A.D. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it about 500 years before Bhuddha. Jesus Christ taught it to his disciples among the stony hills of Judea about 2000 years ago. Jesus summarised it in one sentence. It is known as the golden rule; probably the most popular rule in the world. It simply says do unto others as you will have them do unto you. We must learn to treat others with the same courtesy, respect or accord we want others to treat us. Even as we air our views, raise cautions, criticise the works of others let’s bear in mind that we intend to make them see reasons with us and we can never achieve this by making them feel less about themselves. Do it subtly and wisely not with coercion because a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. This is an ancient truth.


John Ewah.