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Otabil’s Cross, His Albatross – Free Education   
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“They chose to have him say something he would never otherwise have said”- George Papcun’s colleague at Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico.

“Machiavelli is the only political thinker whose name has come into common use for designating a kind of politics, which exists and will continue to exist independently of his influence, a politics guided exclusively by consideration of expediency which uses all means, fair or foul, iron or poison, for achieving its end – its end being the aggrandizement of one’s country or fatherland- but also using the fatherland in the service of the self- aggrandizement of the politician or statesman or one’s party”- Leo Strauss (1958).

The radio played a voice: “Gentlemen, we have called you together to inform you that we are going to overthrow the United States government”.

The voice was surprisingly that of General Carl W. Steiner, the former Commander-in-chief, U.S. Operations Command. But he wondered when or where or how he had said this. Little did Commander Steiner know that he had been spoofed (taken in, deceived) by ‘voice-morphing’, a technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

‘Morphing’ is a computer technique used for graphics and in films, in which one image is gradually transformed into another image without individual changes being noticeable in the process. To ‘morph’ is to transform (an image, a voice, an animation) by computer or through technological means. ‘The Golden Child’, a 1986 movie, was the first to use very crude morphing effects from animal to human and back to animal. Michael Jackson’s music video, ‘Black or White’, employed ‘morphing’.

Digital morphing’ has reached a very advanced stage, whether as ‘voice-morphing’, ‘video-morphing’ or ‘photo-morphing’. It is used for several objectives; including the psychological (the military calls it ‘Psyops’).

Whereas the earlier ‘voice-morphing’ involved ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ speech to put letters or words together to make a composite whole (sentence, phrase or passage), the software developed by Papcun can do accurate mimicking of the voice to pass easily for one’s own. Thus, except for those voices which the makers have accepted as their own (including Boateng-Gyan’s tape on recruitment of police, army and security men as well as Baba Jamal’s ‘say a white cow when you see a black sheep’), those whose alleged authors have questioned them must be thoroughly investigated before their acceptance as original.

Pastor Otabil. He says the statement attributed to him on ‘free education’ on tape were pieces which had been assembled together – possibly through ‘voice-morphing’. His spokesman exhorted the President’s men to ‘stop’ playing the tape.

Then he himself organised a press conference at which he chastised those still playing the tape, especially at political rallies, describing their acts as “ defamatory … unethical … criminal … Machiavellian … evil.” It had the possibility of violating his person and impugning his integrity. He observed: “I kindly (humbly) call upon the President to rise up and speak on this issue, with all due respect, sir, although you may not be aware of these developments, the perpetrators of these blatant acts of impunity are largely affiliates and surrogates of your party”.

This man of God who would have been better off with ‘free education’ in his youth used very strong words. A ‘defamatory’ act (involving slander and libel) is a criminal act, falling in section 1 of the Criminal Code (Repeal of Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws) (Amendment) Act 2001 (Act 602). An ‘unethical’ act is one done without regard to ‘ethics’ or ‘morals’. A ‘criminal’ act is a crime punishable by law. A ‘Machiavellian’ act is one that follows the Machiavellian Principles, as enunciated in Niccolo Machiavelli’s book: ‘The Prince’ (1517).

Machiavellianism is defined as: “The political doctrine of Machiavelli which denies the relevance of morality in political affairs and holds that craft and deceit are justified in pursuing and maintaining political power”. To Machiavelli, then, “the end justifies the means”, since good and evil are equal in the contest for power.

Among the many recommendations that Machiavelli proposes in the 26-chapter book dedicated to Lorenzo Medici are that: A Prince should have no objective but war; men will succeed so long as method and fortune are in harmony; whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with the assumption that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may have the occasion for it; injuries should be inflicted all at once so that resentment does not develop, and favours should be bestowed little by little; if a Prince acquires a state, he should absorb the surroundings and identify the enemies; if a Prince must harm a colony, he must harm the poor and the dispersed; a Prince should note that man is more inclined to do evil than good; it is better for a Prince to be feared than loved; a Prince can make decisions for the benefit of the people as a whole with an absence of morality, that is, sometimes he may have to be dishonest and do bad things if, in the long run, it is better for the population as a whole; a Prince should undertake great projects to enhance his reputation. Very strong labelling of a political party, the National Democratic Party. But, who called for it?

Is this a cross for Otabil? To ‘bear one’s cross’ or to ‘carry one’s cross’ is to cope with one’s burden; to endure one’s difficulties. Jesus Christ made a number of statements which contradicted the existing religious beliefs and philosophies. He was judged and sentenced to death by being nailed to the cross (a common method of punishing criminals in those times): he had to carry this cross to Golgotha. He had foreseen his death and advised his disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Pastor Otabil, as a very well-read intellectual, must be aware of the ‘cross’ he has to carry. Or is it the case of an ‘albatross’ which means, metaphorically, a psychological burden that seems like a curse. It is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). The symbolism of the ‘cross’ and the ‘albatross’ is shown in the part that reads: “Ah! Well a – day! What evil looks Had I from old and young! Instead of the cross, the Albatross, About my neck was hung.”

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” recounts the story of a Mariner (sailor) who has returned from a sea voyage. He stops a gentleman who is on his way to a wedding and tells his story as he has been accursed to do.

The Mariner’s ship has been driven off course; all of a sudden, an albatross appears and leads them out of the Antarctic. While the crew is praising the albatross, the Mariner shoots the bird, “With my cross- bow, I shot the albatross”. The crew are angry with the Mariner, then change their minds when the weather becomes warmer and the mist disappears, “‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay”. But this crime and its condonation arouses the wrath of the sea – spirits who send the ship into uncharted waters, with “Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”. The crew then forces the albatross on the Mariner’s neck. The albatross is or was hung (NOT: hanged) on the Mariner’s neck.

As a way of doing penance (self-punishment for committing sin or crime) for shooting the albatross, the Mariner, the only survivor of the shipwreck, is forced to wander the earth, tell his story, and teach those he meets a lesson.

Whoever thought a pastor could not be castigated for his utterances? Asiedu Nketia admonishes pastors to stick to their ecclesiastical duties by preaching the gospel and leave them (the politicians) to do politics. Tony Aidoo, indignant at, as he put it, “the 360 degrees turn around” over the free education mantra argues that Otabil did not have any integrity to protect. The Catholic clergy had a bash for advocating a verification of the biometric registration, the Presbyterians and the Methodists have had their share. This time around, it is the Charismatics.

President Mahama has since invited the religious leaders to the Castle to pray for peaceful elections on 7th December. Which Christian leaders were called? Who were those not called? “Onward Chrisslem soldiers, marching as (if) to war; With the alcross of Jesmed going on before…” (a crude “verbal morphing”).

The discussion has shifted from the position of Otabil- whether he is for or against “free education”. Now, it is whether the tape is the original word-to-word speech or Otabil’s speech has been ‘morphed’.
Source: Africanus Owusu-Ansah/ [email protected]

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