Let’s take a deep breath away from all the melodramas unfolding in the country, including the Menzgold’s deceit, and it may not take long for one to come across a tableau of Ghana’s age-old alarming reality: The fact that many parts of the nation’s socio-cultural psyches are severely dysfunctional and can be cited as the main causes of Ghana’s cycle of underdevelopment. At the core of the nation’s sail-paced or lack of significant socioeconomic progress after 60-plus years of self-rule is millions of Ghanaians’ misunderstanding that there is strong bonds between a country’s culture and development.
Many of us love to brag about the richness of Ghanaian culture or how “rich Ghana culture is” as if this country’s culture, in particular, is only about the historically omnipresent chieftaincy system we have. As we know, culture is broad and has far-reaching consequences in our lives. In fact, culture is how people live their lives individually and collectively in a given space and time. Indeed, culture drives societies, the people and vice versa in so many ways.
Whenever we talk about the food we eat and how it is prepared; marriage practices; birth rites; mourning the dead; education system; thought processes; religious activities; economic and political traditions; nation’s policing/law enforcement, sports; the citizens’ attitudes toward their government, environment, or the concept of national identity and a sense of patriotism; invariably, we are describing elements of culture.
Clearly, culture is like having cellphone with bad signal or without radio reception at all. Surely, the phone can even be a brand-new one, but without signals the phone will probably be good only for playing some games and will not able to communicate or make important calls. Likewise, irrespective of how a country implements developmental and social programs, much depend on the “cultural signals” of that nation. The nonfictional truth is that many aspects of the Ghanaian culture are sorely out of order, sick, and woefully unprepared to keep up with the rigors of modern-day development.
Just to clarify things, I live in the United States now; but, it does not mean my Ghanaian identity is lost. No matter what, my American brothers and sisters always make sure they remind me about my Ghanaian heritage via my linguistic accent. I know where l was born, including which part of Ashanti Region my beloved parents are buried. So, whether l live in Ghana or not, many of us have interest in making sure Ghana succeeds among comity of contemporary nations. It is why some of us are trying to keep things in the right perspectives rather than behave like the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand and feigns everything is normal. Some of the nation’s cultures and subcultures have been progress-averse, and it is getting worse in this social media age.
No progressive-oriented country, at least, for the past century has made any meaningful or high-quality socioeconomic advancement without taking a serious look at, and making some notable adjustments or changes to some of its unprogressive cultural practices. Ranging from some traditional chiefs’ ironclad hold on land acquisition/purchase to religious worship, Ghanaians general inclinations toward national interests, corruption-prone civil institutions, subpar education, some clueless media practices, ineffective healthcare services, groupthink/mob justice mindsets, buck-passing and self-pity tendencies, Ghana is culturally sick, but the government is always at the receiving end of the blame game.
We can keep luxuriating in denial and hold tight to mediocrities in the name of the tired-old mantra of “our rich culture” or pursue sober assessment of some of the country’s progress-retarding cultures such as the ones listed above. Clearly, buck-passing and self-pity mentalities are part of the average Ghanaian persona to the extent that he or she makes the personal choices, and when the efforts become successful hardly does the person gives or shares the credit with the government of the day.
But as soon as one fails in his or her endeavor, the individual often becomes consumed by self-pity while avoids taking personal responsibility. At this point many will try to shift the blame onto the government or witchcraft. The aftermath comments of many Ghanaians or the customers of the Menzgold’s investment rip-off represent classic example of our buck-passing subculture. It is government this, or the president that all the time among Ghanaians.
Actually, the culture of greediness born out of get-rich-quick tendencies, and lack of embracing the consequences of our choices are troublingly baffling as my “new friend” Kwesi Pratt recently opined on the Peace FM discussion. Most likely, we are the first people to be in the church’s pews or in the mosque but the last to uphold the truth because Ghanaians are “experts” at blaming others for their irresponsibility.
Modern societies that have succeeded socioeconomically do not put up cultural habits in which millions of their citizens, including many of the media houses, arrogate to themselves the role of “mob prosecutors, mob judges, and mob executioners of alleged criminals.” Thus, in many parts of Ghanaian cultural habitats, group-thinkers hold sway over critical thinkers; so, in Ghana today all that it takes is for one person to scream “thief” or “criminal” and almost all Ghanaians will join the bandwagon and loudly shout out “thief, guilty, criminal, death” even before they understand what is actually going on.
How can Ghanaians naively pronounce someone “guilty” of a crime because another person had said so on the social media? In this case the late Ahmed Suale’s tragic murder in Madina comes to mind here. In a culture like this many of us are not least surprised characters such as NAM1 could allegedly succeed in swindling a sizable number of Ghanaians of their investment funds. Undeniably, the Menzgold’s mess is symptomatic of a deeper socio-cultural ills long ignored in Ghana and they are holding back the nation’s efforts to leapfrog in its march toward sustainable development.
Bernard Asubonteng is a US-based sociopolitical commentator.
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