Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese footballer, as a person is not in the spotlight here. The arguments that I imagine have followed a mistake that he made are. It serves as a backdrop for an interrogation of the well-known debate: wealth versus knowledge. Or, more precisely, what some see as a competition between acquiring wealth and seeking education. It has even become fashionable to argue that pursuing a degree is better than getting an academic certificate. Questioning this is important, particularly in Nigeria where young people are willing to argue about the superiority of one over the other.
On college campuses and in beer halls, Ronaldo’s mistake must have generated heated arguments and insults. I imagine someone saying: “Ronaldo is wrong, but he has more money than you.” I’ve heard similar comments when people impatiently dismiss other people’s opinions. When someone goes this way, I cringe. Why? This line of argument limits the depth of our reasoning. The wealth vs. education debate is vast. There are things to unravel when you engage in an informed conversation, new data is provided that can enrich our minds. The derogatory comments cut through all of that.
When I see, particularly among the younger generation, the tendency to abandon meaningful discussion for impatient insults, I worry about the future of the nation. Issues that should make us all think are trivialized, discarded. However, it is from a robust debate that new ideas are generated. When we say, political leader, religious leader, traditional leader, the way you approach this will have negative consequences for the people and the nation, your officials and supporters send insults. They don’t see any point in what he says, but they throw the baby out with the bathwater, also implying that his boss has more money than you anyway. But should some of us be baffled by such shenanigans? Not.
The reason is that each person has a role to play in society, particularly as journalists. It is what we are configured for, what we are trained for, because society needs our line of contribution. And no one who abandons his role because of what others say can fully fulfill what he is configured for. Every person is set up for something. When you find yours and you’re really doing it you won’t doubt that it’s all upside down, backwards, whoever scornfully says your point is useless because the person you criticize has more money than you.
This point brings us back to Ronaldo. During a press conference at his new club in Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo said: “Football is different, so for me coming to South Africa is not the end of my career.” Maybe it’s a mistake. Perhaps it is actually due to the lack of knowledge of the location of the nation where he is located. Whatever it is, being a superstar or being rich does not exempt one from having essential information. Still, I reiterate that Ronaldo is not the focus of this piece, but rather the debate about money and the acquisition of knowledge that any criticism of what he said must have sparked. As I have said, it has become the mindset of some that when a question is asked about a person who is believed to be wealthy, the next thing is that they start comparing the wealth that people have.
People who do this view all things from the perspective of material possession and this should not always be the case in any society. What I have heard where such a point of view is expressed has always made me think. Now, the possible arguments of a similar nature provoked by Ronaldo’s comment made me think more. For me, being talented in a particular field is one thing. Being materially rich is another. Being a scholar, educated, that is, knowing relevant things insofar as they affect the society in which we live, is another one. Neither should prevent the other, and having one is no excuse for not having the other.
If any human being thinks that talent in a field, wealth and awareness of one’s environment are not related, it is a wrong view. For everyone to work together to make every function for the benefit of humanity. I guess the search for knowledge led to the science that made modern football possible. Money is needed to play football. Knowledge of the best material to use and where it can be obtained makes soccer available for Ronaldo to play. This example is just to show that neither money nor knowledge, those who pursue knowledge, can be dismissed as less relevant.
People who seek the knowledge that makes possible the science of making modern football possible may not have as much material possession as Ronaldo. But knowledge of him contributed to how Ronaldo found his talent, fulfilled the talent, and became rich doing it. Knowledge. All I’m saying here is that if someone argues that there is basic knowledge that everyone should have, there’s no reason to dismiss it as irrelevant. Even living and surviving in a specific environment requires knowledge. If I confuse what you get in mostly humid and forested South Africa with Saudi Arabia and its desert, I run the risks related to weather conditions. My money may not save me if too much damage has already been done. Basic knowledge is essential.
I must proceed from here by stating that I feel uncomfortable when someone speaks at all, stating that money is more important than anything else. Money matters in a modern society where it is the medium of exchange. But the view that money makes those who do not overcontrol it less important oversimplifies a complex phenomenon. Such an argument is bluntly dismissive, and treating knowledge or education as inferior to money can only be acceptable in societies where people mistakenly think that only material wealth defines a person. it is not
Actually, this wrong mentality is one of the reasons why Africa suffers from poverty. Because knowledge is the basis for generating wealth. When knowledge is taken as information, then it is clear that information is power. The man who will make money needs to have information about where the most money can be made. It’s one of the reasons why there are all kinds of experts. Knowledge of him benefits the man who wants to earn money. In any case, the skills differ but all contribute to society. It is one of the reasons why ancient philosophers give credit to the place of different individuals (for example, the philosopher-king). It means that people are wired to do different things, and doing exactly that is where they make the greatest contribution. In societies where this is clear in people’s minds, spaces have been created to accommodate and reward individual contributions. The scientist, the writer, the peacemaker, the defender of what is good and right for humanity, all are recognized and recognized, for example, through the Nobel prize.
We must bear in mind that such prizes are not awarded for having the most money. Rather, they are those who have contributed significantly through their knowledge, or have used their money to improve the lot of humanity, even helping to advance knowledge. They tend to be the ones remembered for generations in the future. Money is ephemeral. But knowledge is permanent, it is continuously built. And the names of the wise are forever mentioned in the classrooms where knowledge is passed from one generation to the next.
Furthermore, the names of past billionaires are not mentioned in classrooms, nor are their memorable words quoted nearly as often as the people who contributed knowledge while they were here. Many would be delighted to see their contributions to knowledge compared to those of one Albert Einstein. Meanwhile, there were billionaires in Einstein’s time that when their names are now mentioned, many will ask, who?
A person who pursues knowledge is no less important than the one who has all the money. Money and knowledge need not compete. Rather they should be complementary. After Pelé made money from soccer, he continued his education up to the doctoral level. In any case, materially rich people tend to have their greatness in the now. Those who make contributions to knowledge tend to have their greatness outlive them for several generations, as is the case with many literary and scientific figures. However, the nature of greatness that each person prefers is the one that they would proclaim and celebrate.