I met a retired BBC journalist who became an ex-Catholic – he said it made him too judgemental. The Catholicism I mean, not the BBC! Every time he met someone he would think, ‘you’re such a nice person how come you aren’t a Catholic’!
I know exactly how he felt because I too have been a member of clubs whose truth seemed so obvious (to me at least) that I couldn’t understand why no one else could see it!
And this is the danger of clubs. We start to speak the group-speak and think the group-think and start to believe we have the Truth based on the books we read and feel the need to evangelise to everyone else.
I had a Marxist friend in the UK. The first thing he would do is hold up the cover of his party’s newspaper and ask what we thought of it. In response, I would ask him how he was feeling today. His beliefs obliterated his humanity and turned him into a political robot unable to speak outside of the Party line. We also had the parasitical Trotskyite groups who endlessly tried to persuade you to join them because only their ideology was pure enough to lead the revolution.
In Ghana, many people seem to belong to clubs. In fact, if you don’t belong to something it is considered strange. Being independent and on your own appears to be counter to African society.
One of the main Ghanaian clubs to belong to is a religious one. And, sadly, it seems to be the task of some of them to recruit as many people as possible! Some Christians seem to have nothing to do except persuade you that, not only do they have the Truth, but that you are impoverished and miserable because you do not have this same Truth!
Only one Moslem, a friend, ever directly tried to convert me with the offer that all the sins from my Christian life would be forgiven. This was about as exciting to me as the Christian’s offer that all my sins would be forgiven, going all the way back to Adam, so I politely turned him down!
Working in an organisation or company is also like a club and you are expected to adhere and promote the ideology of that organisation. Teaching in the UK often meant you had to overlook the absurdities of the system or it would have been impossible to work within it. You had to repeat its mantras even when you suspected they were deficient. And you found yourself speaking the ever changing acronyms and jargon and pretending to yourself that everything is getting better – just as They told you it was!
Personally, I’m now wary of joining clubs, either real ones or ones in your mind. I want to attempt to remain a freethinker and to travel wherever I find ideas that excite me. I hope this does not lead to intellectual arrogance. Another thing to guard against.
The young man in my house has just discovered the repercussions of such an approach. His school mate told him the books I had lent him could make him loose his Christian faith. She was scared of knowledge and felt the only book he should ever read was the bible asserting that ‘the entire world’ was in it. She walked away from him. She should stay in her club. She is fearful.
The young man may not leave his club but he is not afraid to journey outside into the cold. And for this he gets my respect.