By Sunday Akin Olukoju
Confluence, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point”, like “a happy confluence of weather and scenery”. For the purpose of this article, a confluence will be the meeting point of two important things that are bound to impact generations.
These two important things are “affluence” and “influence”. So, what is affluence? It is defined as the “abundance of money, property, and other material goods; riches; [and] wealth”; and or “an abundant supply”, preferably, of something of value that could bring comfort and security or both. And what about “influence”?
While it is construed to mean “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others”; it is also seen as “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others”. It is also defined simply as “a person or thing that exerts influence”.
Ordinarily, someone with abundance of money or a person of affluence should be able to exert influence on others, the government or the environment. One should expect a billionaire like Bill Gates to lend his voice and convert a troubling issue to an event that will draw celebration.
One should expect all developed nations to have a compelling force or produce desired reaction or effects on the actions and behaviors of their citizens. It is no secret that most affluent countries around the world have their terribly poor or very crime-prone neighborhoods.
That could explain why Canadian sociologist, Marshall McLuhan, unequivocally submitted with conviction that “affluence creates poverty”. While some will be right to disagree with him, is it not worth asking why almost every conservative government are more concerned about small government and big tax slice for corporations whose chief beneficiaries are just few individuals?
Shouldn’t people start questioning why only few people are becoming multi-billionaires while hundreds of millions are struggling to live comfortably?
Jack London, an American novelist had earlier submitted that “affluence means influence”. I hesitate to agree, as I realize that this submission could be misleading as long as it is not qualified.
What kind of influence are we talking about here?
What is the moral character and value content of the affluent in question?
Should we worry if the influenced ended up becoming an eagle or a vulture; a lamb or a hyena; a dove or a serpent?
What we are witnessing now is that most financially affluent are not impacting troubled neighborhoods tangibly. They are not positively affecting struggling families.
Many affluent economies around the world are not exerting an influence that could make the world a better, safer, happier, or greater place for human habitation.
Affluence by itself does not guarantee emotional stability. Affluence cannot replace loneliness with true companionship. Affluence cannot turn back the hand of the clock. Affluence cannot stop death from striking. Affluence may never guarantee true and everlasting love.
Affluence as defined has no fool-proof remedy against global financial crisis. Affluence deceives humanity into abandoning closely-knitted human relationships and humble or modest lifestyle, while disdaining complex issues beyond the physical realm or labeling things that are out of empirical reach as “fables”.
Affluence tricks us into having dangerous appetites that we wouldn’t miss if we never tasted the poisoned food. Affluence fuels the fire of arrogance. Affluence waters the garden of consumerism.
Affluence drives the vehicle of conspicuous consumption. Affluence looks for ways to slice off the little from the less privileged in order to elevate the level of affluence of the insatiable affluent. Affluence could travel with greed if not checked.
The love of insatiable affluence is the root of discontentment. The love of insatiable affluence is the seed of cut-throat competition, manipulation, and exploitation. Affluence has the tendency to give oxygen to undue over-estimation of human power, capability, and accomplishments.
In some cases, undue reliance on affluence leads humanity to start assuming the role and duties of the supernatural. In certain instances, affluence dismisses the essence or existence of divinity and exuberantly minimizes the reality of death and its aftermath.
In short, affluence has a very high tendency to leave no room for any beliefs in divine intervention due to its arrogance of invincibility. It just basks in this delusion of grandeur about its personal ability to make or unmake great things happen at will.
This may explain why Maya Angelou concluded, in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”: “People whose history and future were threatened each day by extinction considered that it was only by divine intervention that they were able to live at all.
I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.”
Ken Blanchard, the American author of a book, “The One Minute Manager” that has sold over 13 million copies believed that “the key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority”. The question then is, how, and what kind of influence?
John Maxwell, another American author whose books on leadership are all over, opined that “leadership is influence”. But how? Again, another American, Richie Norton, summarized it this way: “Influence creates affluence. Affluence does not create influence.
Affluence makes you more of who you already are.” While I am quick to agree with Norton, I will insist that some conditions must be satisfied before we can reach this conclusion.
And that is the essence of locating a confluence between affluence and influence. A school teacher who places less importance on remuneration but more emphasis on training the heads, hearts and hands of students to think critically and work conscientiously is the one who locates the confluence between affluence and influence.
The teacher’s intellectual acumen is the affluence that will influence the student to excel in life, and for life. This may explain why an American historian, Henry Adams submitted that “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
An affluent society ensures that every child is able to access the best schools and hospitals in the land without stress in order to live free of any unnecessary physical, mental, emotional or physiological encumbrances, and thus locates the confluence between affluence and influence as each child grows to become the very best in any field of human endeavor, despite economic class differences between the various parents of such students.
A multi-billionaire that lives a simple and modest life and lifestyle in order to establish a corporation that takes very good care of its employees locates the confluence between affluence and influence. In more ways than one is the role of any responsible mother in helping us locate the confluence between affluence and influence.
Jack Wagner, an American actor and singer, best known for his roles in the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful”, emphatically stated that “My mother has been the greatest influence on my life, morally. When I get right down to it, my mother and father are two people I can count on no matter what.”
First, the kind of affluence we are talking about is one that is morally positive.
Second, affluence here is not measured in dollars or gold, and it is not a common commodity that could be purchased.
Third, it is one that came with the best of intentions for the receiver without any ulterior motive.
Fourth, it is one that has both earthly and eternal values.
Fifth, it influences generations as one generation passes this kind of affluence to another.
Sixth, it is not an affluence that could be affected by economic downturn.
Seventh, it is one affluence that has a confluence with influence.
The mother herself is the affluence that brings influence. The mother herself is also the influence that creates generational affluence.
Most mothers help a child locate the milk of kindness and the affectionate compassion in humanity. Most mothers help a child see the desired future even in the midst of chaos and rubbles.
The confluence between affluence and influence is where the two meet to deploy intelligence of eminence to establish persistence, confidence, prudence, deference, convenience, coherence, competence, experience and excellence.
(❚ Dr. Sunday Akin Olukoju is the Director of Distance Education of Providence Theological Seminary, a community newspaper correspondent, and the president of a community organization)