By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
When the late President William R. Tolbert declared “ignorance” as one of the diseases he was committed to combatting in the Liberian society many persons did not understand what he was driving at. For them, ignorance, which some from the Latin word, “Ignorantia,“ means that a person did not know anything. NO, this was not what the former President alluded to.
Actually, ignorance, as one book defines it means, “the lack of knowledge, education or awareness.” Additionally, ignorance is also defined as “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact or lack of knowledge, understanding, or information about something”. In short and in a simple sense, it means, not having knowledge or information on a particular subject or issue.
Judging from these definitions, the word ignorance means that one can be educated, but may not have knowledge on a particular issue or subject matter. As a result, a person who is not aware or au courant with a particular issue may not make any informed decision or judgment. And so the late President was trying to make sure that bulk of the people were properly aware, educated and informed about issues to make the right decision.
Today, I decided on this issue of ignorance because of recent comments following report that the daughter of Montserrado County, Edward Forh, died after she was denied treatment at the J. F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia and since then, there have been mixed reactions on the matter. Some claimed that there has been too much public outcry only because it involves the daughter of a ‘big man’ or an official of government, as similar situation had happened to others without such public outcry.
I take this as an issue for public debate and education because some of those arguing may not be aware of the issue of status and prominence in society. Again, as it is said about ignorance, which among other things means, “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact or lack of knowledge, understanding, or information about something.” I believe that some of these individuals, some of whom call on talk shows, are ignorant of the issue of status and prominence in society, for which they have reduced this to say because it is ‘big man’ or an ‘official of government’s daughter for such outcry.
Let me say that because certain individuals, not necessarily government officials, whatever concern them or those closer to them such as their relatives, is of public concern. Sociologists tell us that status refers “to the place or position a person occupies in a system of social relationship.” It is also referred to as “one standing in a society.” Status comes in two categories- achieved and ascribed. In a simple sense, achieved is that which one gets by” meeting some requirements of society” such as education and position, while ascribed status is that which is conferred on a person because of
“some inherited characteristics” such as family or nationality, as in the case of the lawmaker’s daughter.
As a result of one’s status in society, such person comes to prominence, for which much attention is given to whatever activities, whether positive or negative such persons undertake or involved in. This is why in the field of Journalism; one of the elements of news is PROMINENCE. That is, those who are prominent because of their status in society, always make big news than those who are not prominent. It also goes to say that because of this prominence and status they enjoy in society, it is also extended to their children and relatives, and sometimes acquaintances in the society, which are then covered by ascribed status.
Considering the issue of status and prominence, there is this public outcry on this matter because of the status of the deceased’s father. Besides, her father’s status, the deceased was the beauty queen of one of the country’s universities- Stella Maris Polytechnic in Monrovia. By that, she also had a status in society, and so even without relying on her father’s status or prominence in society, one could even use her status as “queen” of Stella Maris.
As it is public knowledge, just recently, a Miss Liberia former contestant who reported died as a result of the Ebola virus was widely reported only because of her status as a former contestant of the “Miss Liberia Beauty Pageant.” That is what really happens with someone with status, as there had been others of her age that had fallen victim to the virus, but did not fall in the category of this former contestant, for which their deaths were not widely known.
Conversely, what status and prominence do also is that they make people to keep an eagle’s eyes on those who enjoy this. For example, if the Representative’s daughter, while alive was involved in any bad act, this considering her father’s status and hers, would have been reported, either as “Representative’s daughter or Stella Maris Queen.
More importantly, let me say that prominence comes about mainly through the activities of the person, institution, or group based on the constant reporting in the media of what they are involved in. it is not because someone is an official of government.
It is basically and measurably based on the activities of the person. It could even be someone, a group or organization, as well as public official or public figure. The Representative has a status in society and is also a prominent person, as such, whatever relates to him and his family is of public interest, whether it is good or bad.
Also, this issue of status and prominent can be likened to a concept in mass communication known as “status conferral,” which states that the more a person , group or organization appears in the public, a special status is conferred on them, for which people are always interested to read or listen to whatever they are involved in.
To conclude, let me say that it is because of ignorance that people are linking this publicity of the lawmaker’s daughter to a “pick-and-choose” situation, when, in fact, others had been victimized by this kind of treatment by some hospitals. Again, those who have status and are prominent in society, along with their subjects or relatives, would always be treated in like manner, and is not because of a particular person, group or organization, as others try to insinuate in the lawmaker’s daughter public outcry.
Also, this issue of status and prominence can be likened to a concept in mass communication known as “status conferral,” which states that the more a group or organization appears in the public, a special status is conferred on them, for which people are always interested to read or listen to whatever they are involved in.
This is why it is even said that it is advisable for those in such category to always behave in a way and manner that are generally acceptable to the norms and values of society, as any deviation would equally be highlighted in like manner.
Once more, it is because of status and prominence for which there have been such public debate on Forh’s daughter situation. I REST MY CASE.