why people seek prestige

Here is your Sunday sermon:


Ozodi Osuji

Everywhere you find human beings, they are struggling to have a sense of significance, importance and worth.
Men seek this worth differently from the way women seek it. Women seek it by making their bodies seem beautiful and by playing beautiful clothes and jewelry on their bodies and generally having creature comforts, such as good cars, houses. Men seek glory through accomplishing important things that make other men see them as very accomplishing hence respect worthy.
In Nigeria, these days, symbols of accomplishment are to call oneself professor, doctor, chief; in Alaigbo folks call themselves ogaranya (big man), ohadike (strongman of the people). Nigerians probably crave titles more than they crave food! I have literally not seen a humble Nigerian; they want to be especially very important persons (VIP).
So, why do people seek importance in the eyes of their fellow human beings?
There are probably as many reasons why people seek glory as there are people; in this essay, I want to stress those reasons that seem apparent to me.


What it means to be a human being is probably the awareness that one will eventually die. When people die their bodies rot and smell worse than feces. Worms eat their bodies. It is awful seeing a decaying human body, with maggots crawling out from every orifice in the body: mouth, nose, vagina, anus etc.
The fact that people would die and their bodies, bodies they devoted enormous time and energy procuring food for and providing creature comforts for would decay must freak people out!
Death reminds people that they are literal feces, and one giant nothing; they are food being cooked for worms. This awareness of their lack of existential importance must scare them out of their minds.
Beholding a dead and decaying body people ask: so, I am this decaying body, food for worms? And does that mean that when I die and decay that is all there is to me?
People fear death, oblivion, and finitude. They struggle to convince themselves that there is life after they die. They posit religions, God, and life after death. If only they behaved as their imaginary God approves, they would be given opportunity to live in his heaven forever and ever; indeed, even if they are sent to hell, they are, at least, alive in hell, they did not die out.
The fear of death and finitude is mitigated by accomplishments in this world. If you are a writer, inventor, scientist who discovered something extraordinary the chances are that hundreds of years after your physical death people will remember you. We remember Socrates, Aristotle, Nicolas Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, and other famous writers and inventors; we remember history making politicians, such as Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, V.I. Lenin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (Nigerian politicians exist to steal money from their people and do nothing lasting for their people so when they die their people rejoice and say good riddance and do not remember their names; no Nigerian politician will be remembered two hundred years after he is dead, for folks do not remember criminals).
Everywhere, people struggle to leave a legacy that would make future generations to remember them; in being remembered by the future they have a sense of continuity and surviving after death.
Ordinary people hope to survive through their genes now living in their offspring (people probably sacrifice for their children because they want to live through them forever and ever and that way defeat their fear of death and finitude).


Is it possible to stop people from seeking prestige, worth, importance and significance and power through accomplishments? I do not think so.
In England, the monarch gives accomplishing people knighthood and other honors that make them seem like they are important (in Nigeria village big men simply call themselves kings, kings without armies that they control and use in winning wars; the level delusion disorder, grandiose type, in Nigerians is amazingly high!).
Politicians seem important in people’s eyes and leave legacy through what they do for their people (Nigerian politicians are the only human beings that do nothing for their people and, of course, their people do not remember them for who cares about thieves).
The Tanzanian president, John Magafuli, died two weeks ago; his people are universally mourning him; Nigerians see their dead politicians as garbage that ought to be tossed into the garbage dump.
I do not think that people will ever stop seeking significance. If they feel insignificant, like they are nothing they will seek vicarious positions that make them seem the opposite of what they feel.
There is no escape from people’s vanity. Even folks like Buddha and Jesus Christ that supposedly transcended their egos, what are we doing but remembering their names hence making them seem important in our estimation and wanting to be like them to be important.
People seem condemned to seeking empty worth; I say empty because they will die and decay and therefore have no real worth.
I have no worth and do not pretend to have worth and do not care whether you see me as having worth or not; I know that I do not have worth, so your telling me that I do not have worth does not bother me. You, who is telling me that I have no worth, have no worth; by the criteria of this world’s conception of success, you are probably beneath me so why should I care about your opinion of me? Stuff your opinion of me wherever you want to do so.


Existentially, people do not have worth; they are flesh (which their bodies extracted from animals’ meat and vegetables) and are going to die and decay.
Nature destroys people as it destroys other things. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, tornados, droughts, diseases, starvation kill people as they kill animals and plants.
People are animals and have no existential worth. They are aware of this fact but want to have worth; thus, everywhere they seek worth and when they are deluded, they claim to have grandiose worth (mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder or personality disorders are all futile efforts to make one seem to have significance).
People give themselves false worth that they do not have and pretend to have it; some of them avoid people to go seem important or be with people and pretend to be important, such as Donald Trump, you can see that he feels utterly like rubbish but pretends to be important.
People are condemned to seeking worth. That pursuit is an extraordinarily strong motivator in their lives. People accomplish great things in pursuit of sense of importance. Those who eventually obtain the Nobel Prize in the sciences do it to get their peers’ recognition (plus the thrill of doing research). Billionaires probably feel that their money make them important in other people’s eyes. Presidents, prime ministers, governors, senators probably feel that their high social positions make them important human beings. Importance is transitory and ephemeral for a few years after folks die few people remember them!
People want to obtain other people’s approval and respect and in so doing accomplish good or bad things for society; without the desire for glory, people probably would be like mere vegetables, living like cattle and eating grass.
Only a few persons can accept their worthlessness and live cheerfully with it, doing what they like doing and not bothering with other people’s opinions of them. People who do not seek worth tend to live in peace and are happy.
In Ecclesiastes (Bible), Solomon observed that our lives are vanity upon vanity; In Hamlet, William Shakespeare observed that our bodies are food for worms. We read these profound truths about our lives but instead of developing humility we double down and seek empty worth!
I hope that this essay helps you to understand why we defy pure reason that tells us that we are worthless and seek empty worth.

Ozodi Osuji
March 27, 2021

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