Chances are, we all have heard or used the word “commonsense” before—either in our daily conversations, at home, in school, workplace, or in most cases some people just use the word loosely to chastise/mock other people’s behavior deemed to be lacking “commonsense.” Undoubtedly, the word is used quite often that sometimes you wonder if those people who use it really understand “commonsense” etymological predicates.
So we say: What does it mean when a person says someone lacks or “don’t use his or her commonsense?” Better yet, what makes some people think commonsense is so common, or why do we pair the word sense with common? If commonsense is that “common” how come that everyone, it seems, doesn’t have access to it in order to use it to better one’s environment/life and hence becomes whatever one aspires to be in this fleeting world of ours?
From all indications, it turns out that commonsense is never common at all. Like countless English vocabularies or concepts, the word “commonsense” is enigmatic and has etymological and notional underpinnings that are not only complex to decipher but also it has deeper meaning than many people think. In fact, the tricky part about it is that it doesn’t necessarily take quantitative or academic intelligence to have commonsense. If that were the case almost everybody in Ghana who has had the chance to go through high school up to university level would have “common” sense in abundance.
But, as many of us have come to know, that is not the case because Ghana has produced and still continues to produce academically-gifted people/leaders and yet the country’s socioeconomic development is still tinkering on the edges of mediocrities. Clearly, the country has large repertoire of talented and educated human resources, so the question of the nation’s perennial underdevelopment cannot be blamed on the lack of quantitative intelligence among Ghanaians.
People might say too much corruption and mismanagement are the main reasons for Ghana’s poor state of affairs. But this line of thinking woefully fails to take into account that beyond certain threshold of logical/analytic intelligence, it takes honesty, self-control, selflessness, perseverance, sense of purpose, good work ethics, patriotism, and the like, to build a well-functioning society. No economically viable society has ever been built with the majority of its people/leaders that are lacking the preceding non-academic qualities.
In more succinct terms, some aspects of human intelligence that involve character traits, such as integrity/honesty, self-control, accountability, good work ethics, teamwork, honor, and many others, cannot be captured under the microscopic lenses of any academic or IQ test. Rather, the natural habitat for all these important human attributes are located in what we vaguely termed as “commonsense.”
Consciously or on subconscious level, a good number of people view commonsense as if it is a given and assumed without self-discipline and effort. Surely, commonsense is not all that “common” as some folks, especially in this part of the world, try to make it seems so. Commonsense is like multilayered onion; it is intricately and compactly arranged when the skin is peeled off. It requires more than the so-called exceptionally high IQ or spatial acumens to unravel its structure.
All modern societies that have learned to master the intricacies of commonsense are the ones classified as rich or developed countries. When Ghana needs help or loans, these are the places our leaders go. Like in Ghana, many people in the developed world also have academic accomplishments, even if their schools are well-equipped. The significant takeaway is that for the most part they have effectively combined their academic intelligence with their “commonsense” abilities to make life worth living in their communities.
Anyone or a person of Ghanaian descent who has had the chance to teach in formal classroom in any developed country will bear witness that the students there do not have brains that are superior to the students/people in Africa or in Ghana. The secret that explains the vast gap between the levels of development of Ghana and (say) the United States is that most of the American citizens, right from school learn how to tame their selfish and indiscipline impulses, while embracing honesty, good work ethics, and love for country. All these qualities are mostly self-taught that are socially and culturally engineered by commonsense.
Ghana has gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese, crude oil, plenty of water bodies, arable lands, and all the resources and talents needed to be a first-class cosmopolitan state. But, what is holding the country back since its political independence six decades ago? One of the major stumbling blocks is our inability to seriously demystify “common” sense and merge it with academic/quantitative intelligence to be able to have a better shot at socioeconomic development. Sitting by timidly and allowing other nations to plunder Ghana’s resources in the name of “win-win” partnership is not one of the hallmarks of commonsense! Indeed, there is no such thing as “common” in commonsense; let’s not get it twisted.
Author: Bernard Asubonteng is a US-based writer. Email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org