What's in a title?

Globally, human creativity in coining honorific titles has reached exospheric levels.

At the heart of these titles is a strong sense of inflated self-worth and immense self-confidence. Consider how Muhammad Ali, who claimed the title, “The Greatest,” bragged, “My only fault is, I don’t realise how great I really am!” Ali-like-people adore titles. They subscribe to C. JoyBell C’s view; “If you have a horse… you should sit on it…stroke its hair, whisper on its ear, be one with it. And you shouldn’t feel sorry if other people don’t have one.” Substitute horse with title and revel at the intriguing metaphoric rendition.

Some titles accord their bearers an unearned right to veneration. Ironically, title-bearers are always keen to accept the exaltation that comes with the title, but often fall short of societal expectations. Rather than embrace the whole package, they tend to confine acceptance of titles to selfish hogging of the limelight, while dismally failing to fill the legitimate anticipation aroused by the title.

In his judicial memoirs entitled All Rise, Dikgang Moseneke, the former deputy Chief Justice of South Africa writes, “Addressing public-office bearers as ‘Honourable’ and ‘Your Excellency’ tells the world nothing about their competence, dutifulness and honour. Respect is…earned…not self-gifted. The high-flown labels encourage false civility and undue deference which…stand on the way of accountability. The bigger the title, the less likely will subordinates and the public demand answers and the higher the likelihood of impunity”. Titled individuals normally fall for the cockamamie idea that they are elevated mortals occupying the fourth position in the universe after the true God, His Son and the angels! What a load of baloney!

Unimpressed by public officers whose bloated sense of self-esteem is a derivative of an unearned title, Moseneke added, “Many have chosen inflated labels, but the actual honour or excellence is often strikingly absent…the desire to become honourable, becomes a sleight of hand or an act of public deceit”. Were it not for the gravity of this view, one would smile at the chucklesome nature of Moseneke’s choice of words. Common sense, which is glaringly lacking in a subset of position-focused individuals, dictates that we should consciously and conscientiously comport ourselves in a way that befits our title. Once you rummage through the rubble of some titles you’d quickly discern that they are far too heavy for their bearers.

Father. This title doesn’t mean a man with the ability to copulate and procreate. Far from it! At its basic level, the title fatherhood is bestowed on a man who showers his children with love and would if necessary administer tough love. A provider of shelter, sustenance, clothing, guidance and a healthy environment conducive to development.

Self-proclaimed fathers, who have the capacity to meet these entry requirements to fatherhood, but deliberately fail to do so, are simply men endowed with functional tools of reproduction, not fathers. Their tenuous relationship with the truth compels them to militantly clutch to a title they don’t deserve.

Mother. A woman’s ability to conceive doesn’t automatically accord her the motherhood status.

Though successful in bearing children, some women have demonstrated an inordinate degree of inattentiveness to their kids, to the extent of heartlessly abandoning them. These child-bearers seem to lack prolactin and oxytocin; motherhood love hormones. Hormones crucial to emotional connection with children and highly instrumental in converting ordinary but fertile women into mothers.

Women who, for no good reason, leave their children with grandparents, foster parents and orphanages cannot fall into the esteemed category of mothers. Sadly, the society tends to overwhelm women with the pressure to prove their fertility, particularly unmarried women, nagging them to succumb to the high-pressure expression often uttered with a touch of misplaced contumelious levity, “O palelwe ke nyalo o bo o palelwe ke go re tsholela ditlogolo!”

Religious ministers. The etymology of the title minister, suggests its claimant is a servant. Not a master.

Think about titles some ministers, who are as imperfect as humans come, have conferred on themselves. Most Right Reverend. Most Holy Father. His Holiness. His Eminence. Grandiose titles loaded with profound clout but pregnant with deceit. Implicit in these titles is the ‘fact’ that their bearers are perched at the apex of the holiness pyramid! All too often, they’re quick to excommunicate partially obedient intelligent individuals. This flagrant affront to our intelligence deserves the strongest censure from all venerable lecterns in the world.

Do mortals, like you and me, who sin countless times each day, have the right to demand absolute obedience through imposing titles which bestow a semblance of infallibility?

We’ve heard true stories of such title-holders falling victim to morally indiscreet conduct, only to disingenuously shriek with boundless confidence, ‘Let who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.’

People’s representatives and the Judiciary. Worldwide, these ‘industries’ are swelling with a fascinating jambalaya of titles; “His Honour, The Honourable, Your Honour, Your Worship, Your Lordship and My Lord.” Ordinary people vested with extra-ordinary titles! What good do such overbearing titles serve?

Intimidating titles that convey elements of divinity on imperfect individuals, turning them into a privileged caste of rarefied almighty colossuses! Unwittingly reducing everyone else into impious beings.

Two-and-half centuries ago, Abigail Adams, cautioned her husband John Adams, the second president of the US, “All men would be tyrants if they could”.

More so, despotic-prone men and women who cherish usurping the worship rightly deserved by the Creator by bloating their names with honorific and divine peppered prefixes and suffixes. Human excellence has never been, and will never be, a by-product of titles.

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