Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic was someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. His epigram applies also to the way we regard human worth in the 21st century. It is increasingly clear that we confuse human worth with certain qualities celebrated in popular culture and which we hold up as an example to the young. Considering the young are the future, this trend is worrying as it is now becoming clear that celebrity role models do not possess qualities that we would most like to have, and are not capable of affecting us in ways that would make us want to be a better person. Moreover, celebrity role models fail to inspire others, young and old alike, to turn challenges into coherent and meaningful solutions, and by implication fail to recognize individual worth and achievement.
The chief disadvantage of the current situation is that many people are bewildered by the culture of a celebrity role model. This has become so serious an issue that it is ever harder to instil and maintain civility in our own generation and the next – seriously degrading all humanity. The phenomenon is proving a particular problem in many inner cities as more and more people become urbanized the world over, and where the majority of the poor tend to reside. The picture is much more depressing in less developed societies. Messianic elites offer a terrible example to the next generation in that they give the impression that war and the slaughter of men, bombs and guns are a fitting prelude to ‘peace on earth, good will to men’. The rising tide of refugees is but a manifestation of this phenomenon. At its heart lies an individual emptiness gawped at by a collective emptiness.
We, at The Kamugasa Challenge, readily acknowledge that we cannot expect to out-hiss the serpent, which is, to banish darkness all together, but, we can at the very least, expect to enchant her. Our aim is to enchant her by lighting a lamp in the dark, even if it be ever so small, that others may light up their lamps by it. Our vision is simple. It is to inspire our own and the next generation to turn challenges into coherent and meaningful solutions: focusing on humanity, leadership and citizenship. We should like to show in our work that, a life well spent and a character uprightly sustained, is by far a better role model than that built on a foundation without true values and civility. It is our belief that a good role model is the precious life-blood of a healthy, open and transparent society. This, to our mind, is creative benevolence – philanthropy in action. Indeed, it is a sure way of guaranteeing humanity, and in the words of Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit: ‘Charity begins at home and justice begins next door.’
Finally, the purest benevolence should make a man or woman desire to be qualified to benefit others after the fashion of salt; if the salt be scattered, it should be that its conserving influence should be felt the more widely. That is why we believe a single individual lighting his/her lamp in the dark can scatter benedictions across a continent, and girdle the world with blessings.