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David Cameron Commits the Fallacy of Argumentum ad Baculum

Wed, 12 Oct 2011 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

There is a fallacious logical argument in Philosophy or Logic, referred to as ‘argumentum ad baculum’, where coercion, the threat of force and/or intimidation, rather than sound reasoning is presented or employed in an argument or as a justification for a conclusion. Now let us take a look at these two separate debates between a student and her lecturer who reports late to work; and a Catechist and a young catechumen who questions belief in the existence of God.

STUDENT: Sir, I saw you last night at Black Power Night Club cuddling loads of ladies and drinking bottles of wine with them. I presume you got drunk that’s why you are so late to school today.

LECTURER: Who told you I’m late because I got drunk last night? Do you want to do a “post-mortem” this semester? If you don’t keep your big mouth shut I will fail you and fail you badly?

The student then keeps her ‘big mouth’ shut and the lecturer “wins” the debate. Here, instead of coming up with a sound argument to discredit the student’s proposition, the lecturer decides to use threat and intimidation to make the student succumb.

CATECUMEN: Catechist, I think there is no God. If there is God and he is as powerful and loving as you describe him, why does he not prevent the natural occurrences that kill innocent children?

CATECHIST: You are committing blasphemy; do you know you will go to hell if you doubt God’s existence? Ask Him for forgiveness now!

CATECHUMEN: Oh God I am deeply sorry; please forgive me for I am an ignorant child.

Instead of presenting a decent argument to justify the existence of God and to prove the catechumen wrong, the Catechist uses his superior position to unfairly frighten and “defeat” the poor learner.

I got close to my computer this morning (11/10/11) to briefly browse through credible electronic news outlets for the stories making the headlines and other interesting articles only to realize to my utter stupefaction that the Oxford trained British Prime Minister has embarrassingly slipped into the thick mud of ‘argumentum ad baculum’.

Ghana and many African nations do not see homosexuality as an authentic union. Our argument is that homosexual acts or same-sex unions are incompatible with or contrary to natural law as they do not only jeopardize, but also make a mockery of the generation of new life. Such unions, in other words, are not only alien to the African people, but pose a serious threat to the fabric of society that affects all people. Because making homosexuality or same-sex unions the equivalent of marriage disregards the nature of the institution of marriage and gigantically threatens procreation, we deem it fair to oppose the legal recognition of such relationships or unions.

If Mr Cameron really spots any weakness in our proposition and disagrees with us, all he needs to do as an Oxford graduate is to respond with an argument strong enough to at least match if not demolish our “primitive” logic. But unfortunately, the British Prime Minister has on this occasion disappointed his Oxford’s Brasenose College lectures and professors by employing one of the most fallacious “logical” arguments – ad baculum; and consequently committing the obvious fallacy of ‘argumentum ad baculum’.

Mr Cameron is clearly doing what western leaders excel at – hiding behind a façade of human rights protection to impose their culture, decisions and will on the usual victims – Africans, and less developed countries. Mr Cameron has “threatened” to reduce or withdraw aid to African countries that have poor records on homosexual rights, including Ghana.

Human rights my foot! If human rights really mean having the freedom to do as you wish, then why are the British people not allowed to marry as many men or women as they want? Can African leaders compel Britain to embrace polygamy in the name of human rights? Hell will surely break loose on any African leaders who dare come up with a proposition like this. For the sake of human rights, why don’t the British political elites call for the abolition of the law that criminalizes pissing or urinating in any place other than places specifically designed for that purpose (a toilet or urinal)?

But wait a minute! What kind of aid is Mr Cameron talking about in the first place? Is it the so-called aid that lands in the pockets of and/or benefits the families of government officials and hardly reaches those who are most in need of it? Is this not neo-colonialism at its apogee? If Mr Cameron thinks he can manipulate or control Ghana with his, well, the British people’s money, then he is only day-dreaming. But I do not blame him; I blame our political elites and people in positions of authority.

And why won’t I blame Mr Cameron’s disrespect and arrogance towards Africans particularly Ghanaians on our leaders if upon all the mineral and other natural resources (Gold, Diamond, Bauxite, Oil, Gas, Timber, Etc.) available on our land we still heavily rely on foreign aid.

Why won’t I blame them for the insult and humiliation that we suffer in the hands of western people when all they think about and do are unnecessary arguments, acquiring wealth for themselves at the expense of the ordinary citizen, and ignoring the improvement of the citizenry’s standard of living?

Why won’t I hold African leaders responsible for our massive reliance on aid when most of the major natural resources in the continent such as gold, diamond, bauxite, timber, oil, etc. are in the hands of foreign companies for the ridiculous reason that African countries cannot afford the machinery and equipment needed to extract or process them; and why won’t the West ridicule us when our leaders are usually prepared to award such massive contracts to foreign companies under disappointing terms and conditions just for kickbacks.

Mr Cameron should not forget that no man is an island; we all depend on each other for survival – what one lacks, the other provides. I probably will not be far from right if I pronounce that Britain needs Africa more that Africa needs Britain. He should get into his head that we are not going to be told how to run our country and how to live our lives as Ghanaians by a foreigner – those days belong to the past.

As a matter of fact Mr Cameron will be doing Ghanaians a huge favour if the so-called aid to Ghana is diametrically withdrawn as that will make our greedy and selfish leaders less powerful and oppressive, and make Ghanaians more hardworking and imaginative, for necessity they say, is the mother of invention.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power). He may be contacted via email (andypower2002@yahoo.it).

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong