In writing up this rejoinder, I am only putting in my contribution to the debate on the issue of the Ghanaian middle class. I have been following with keen interest the issue of a Ghanaian middle class and the role they could play in our common development pursuits.
In reading the publication on “In Defence of the Ghanaian Middle Class” the author summed up the many reasons into the “one to rule them all” – factor of hyper polarization in our body politic.
As evident as that may seem,my views go upstream to the very beginnings of a Ghanaian middle class.
Quite particularly, the writer made mention of history and the role of middle classes elsewhere. Their role in those cases was without doubt a contribution to the very advancement of the world we know today. I am nonetheless convinced of the assertion that when “they are given the right cooperation and support they need they will play an influential role“.
Talking of the age of enlightenment in Europe, the contribution of the middle class was outstanding. Established reasoning and practice were dismantled by the enquiring minds of thinkers like Isaac Newton, Voltaire, and father of liberalism, John Locke. They undoubtedly did not wait for “reasonable cooperation” before they gave in their contribution, “they took ‘em”.
Lest I forget, this was in an era where contradicting the dictates of the all-powerful church was tantamount to writing one’s obituary.
In France, the age flourished in the salons, which I somewhat describe as the modern-day think tanks. The likes of Rousseau and Montesquieu were in full flight, bearing the torch.
In the United States, the likes of “we-know these truths…” -Thomas Jefferson and “100-dollar-bill”- Benjamin Franklin, played significant roles in the independence struggle.
So to sum up, except for Eastern Europe where we saw the emergence of enlightened despots who in someway made things easy and had an ear, most of the middle class elsewhere fought their way through – with reasoning.
Now, moving to the Ghanaian middle class, I would say that the main issue with them is the lack of discerning minds, critical ones to take factual decisions.We have a crop of people who have been raised through learning by rote.Sifting through material and deciding by way of factual reasoning is not rewarded.
Basically we have a not-too-discerning middle class who go with the flow, cannot critically think through stuff hence, how do they provide alternate views and make a stance on issues.
The seeming enclosed nature of our middle class; I believe is due mostly to their inability to partake in any meaningful debate. The average middle class Ghanaian will get himself a well paying job, buy or rent out on Spintex road or one of the many gated communities and “dzini fie asem” [mind their own businesss].
Moving to the point on politicization, I should say that, when it comes to matters of the state there is nothing but politics. Politics has to do with facing off with policies. Comparing polarisation in Ghana to most of the established democracies, I’d say we have no problem at all.
The Blue states and Red states phenomenon is known too well in the US, the centre-rights and conservatives in the UK. These are political parties with really strong ideological lines; they basically don’t budge when it comes to policies affecting their fundamental principles. What could be more polarizing?
In Ghana, our political class who are mostly from the same middle class feign political ideologies. Views are considered solely on the basis of which camp it emanates from, if it is not from mine or has a perceived air of an opposite camp, “it is discarded”. It still boils down to the lack of discerning minds. The depth in some policies, you wonder!!
Perhaps one of the causal agents of this disability is the preoccupation of our society on specialization. Once you excel in school you are more often than not advised to go to pursue science in high school and medicine in university.
If you talk often, you should be a lawyer or journalist etc. In a way this unconscious socialization has its effects, the student tries to follow the path and sticks to it till the end. Thus we find a substantial number of people stuck in specialised professions. We have professionals who know close to nothing outside their field of expertise! How then, can an economist contribute substantially to alleviating poverty when there are legal, cultural and environmental dimensions?
I am of the strong view that the traditional professions hitherto known are gradually fading out and will mean nothing in the near future. With the complexity of current society, we will need what is often termed T-professionals who can go deep within a field and wide across many. The current middle class is made up of people who were trained towards professions; they are specialists when our Ghanaian society is plagued with problems of immense complexity and dimensions. They will check out for sure!
Moving further, we have a non-enterprising middle class! This is basically a result of the same educational system. With a discerning mind able to critically think through issues, room for innovation will be available to spur entrepreneurship. We have had the same “akobalm” for decades,the same “ideal milk” and panoply of other stuff, which haven’t moved on.
So basically our indiscernible minds point to nothing but our educational system. A system, which has produced our political and middle classes of today. A system crafted by the political class to cripple us while they rob us in broad daylight. I am no conspiracy theorist; I took the red pill (see Matrix Revolutions).
Is all lost? Have we lost our middle class? Can we retire to our huts and call the Ghana experiment quits? There is hope!
The issue of how discerning a middle class we have brings to the fore that of critical mass. Some may argue that, if we begin talking of discernment, then it will take us a generation to arrive at a critical mass to effect any meaningful change. My view is that, like other mind-set changing revolutions, we need just a few to bear the torches, the US, French and British ones exemplify it.
It is interesting to note that we indeed have torchbearers, worthy of note are our own “three wise men” at IMANI Ghana, who I dare say send the shivers down some spines. Their work in standing out for we the lower classes is commendable. We just need some strong think tank as theirs and politicians would stop sleeping.
I perceive an enlightenment aura spreading out of the camp at IMANI which is gathering storm and leading the way of modern Ghanaian politics based on factual analysis of policies and not banners! I don’t prophesy that often!
With our educational system, nothing good can be said of it now except we are gradually witnessing a top-bottom student upheaval. Our university students are gradually awakening to the realities of no job upon graduation, which is sparking an entrepreneurial revolution. I strongly believe that, through entrepreneurship, our educational system may remain the same but the students won’t. Things will then be forced into shape by emergence.
We might have lost a middle class but the few left will lead the coming many for a prosperous Ghana.
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