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The Blame Culture In Ghana

By Kwasi Obiri Quansah

12/12/2005 -

For the purpose of defining ‘blame’ and ‘culture’ in the right context I reached out for copies of the Oxford and chambers dictionaries from my book shelve.

The Oxford English dictionary described ‘blame’ as ‘hold responsible and criticise for a fault or wrong, ‘Criticism for a fault or wrong‘.

I also reached for a copy of the chambers dictionary I had on my book shelve. This was just to bring variety to the definition. The chambers dictionary has this to say about ‘blame‘; to find fault with; to impute fault to; to accuse of being responsible for; to lay the responsibility (for something bad) on, to discredit upon.

I also went for the Chambers’ dictionary’s definition of culture. ‘Culture is the result of cultivation, refinement in manners, thought, taste etc.

Blame therefore becomes a culture when it is cultivated over a period of time. When blame becomes habitual it becomes an attitude. When it becomes commonplace to blame somebody for anything, then blame has become a culture.

The question is; are we as a nation already there? Has blame become part of our manners, thoughts and taste? One does not need to put on any special lens or obtain a degree in human behaviour to notice that Ghana is gradually slipping into this attitudinal culture You can identify the blame culture by listening and reading the electronic and print media respectively. Listen to our politicians and you will see what I am talking about. Pastors blame the members of the church and the members in turn blame the pastors, husbands blame their wives and wives blame their husbands. What about parents and children, employers and employees? You will hear the same language that tells you that blame is becoming part of our national culture. How do we react when something goes wrong? Do we look for the reasons for the failure or the helmsman?

Listen to deliberations in parliament between politicians from the opposite sides of the divide and you will appreciate the fact that the blame culture is fast becoming part of us. No one is advocating that people should not be held accountable for their actions or inactions. What is important here is the intent of the action or inaction. How do we receive it when a policy goes wrong? Do we look for the reasons for the failure or the person at the top? ‘Causing financial loss to the state’ is a fine charge by all legal standards. After all it is meant to protect our scarce resources from being mismanaged or misappropriated those who have been put in charge. The danger however, in my opinion is when this becomes a weapon against those in the helm of affairs. It makes people in authority over cautious for fear of being blamed in the future, thus killing any initiative. This is counter productive and detrimental to policy decision-making. If the underlining intention of the policy is good, then if the implementation sometimes goes wrong what we should look for is the reasons for the failure. But in our case instead we look for the policy maker in order to blame and eventually punish.

The blame culture could be seen in the language of sitting and former public office holders It is the cause of rancour, bitterness and animosity between current and former public office holders. Identification or belonging to a particular political party is not wrong. Rather Prideful elitism, exclusivism and sectarianism are wrong- and should have no place in our society.

The blame culture does not stop at the door of only our politicians. In fact the culture has permeated into every facet of our society. Its impact is felt even in the pulpit of the church. Listen to the pastors, and of course listen to the congregation and you could see the ugly head of this culture. In the army when an enemy fire wounds a frontline colleague, the other colleagues do not look for where to put the blame. If you are an action film enthusiast like me then you will comprehend the point I am making. A soldier carries the wounded colleague on the shoulder, while the other soldiers give them cover to a safer place. The wounded is treated and comes back to the war front after recuperation. Do we see that attitude in our churches and among our clergy today? Or better still do we see that attitude in our society today? Well your guess will be as good as mine. But my judgement is that we have far the opposite. I want to use the well-known case of Bishop Duncan Williams, the founder and leader of Action Faith Church as my point of reference. This is a colleague Christian (call him a soldier) who is wounded on the battlefield. One would have expected that like the wounded soldier scenario, fellow Christian would help and assist this man before apportioning blame. I have never been a Duncan William fun, but I read with pain the comments of people, many of who were fellow clergy, his predicament. In the Christian battlefield today when a colleague is wounded we don’t find out whether or not it was the victim’s fault, instead you are left to rot in the dungeon. Is this the Christianity Jesus taught us? No, I think so, rather it could be described as cosmetic Christianity and outward show of piety.

Readers should forgive me for the digression and the long sermon. That the blame culture is killing our society is to put it mildly. Precious time and resources is wasted on looking for those to blame instead of looking for solution for the failure.

Blame is dangerous and poisonous. It is cancerous, a social canker that eats away initiative and suffocates adventurism. This type of culture prevents people from learning from their mistakes. The result is that the same mistakes are repeated. This is because in this culture people look for causes in order to hand down punishments. To avoid blame and eventual punishment people recoil and withhold their contribution. People hold back their ideas and suggestions for fear of being blamed if something goes wrong. Policy makers, politicians and people in authority will thread cautiously for fear of being blamed and punish if a policy back fires.

The opposite of a blame culture is a learning culture. In this type of culture mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn. In learning cultures people learn from their errors and seek ways to avoid a repetition. In other words, this culture seeks causes in order to learn so that they can avoid a recurrent of the mistake. In this type of culture the question often asked is why did it go wrong and how can we avoid a repetition. Whereas in the blame culture the question would have been, who is responsible for that failure? And what will follow is, he or she should be dealt with.

There is an obvious need for change. We don’t need surgeons to diagnose and prescribe a cure. We don’t need psychologists to initiate the needed change. We don’t even need deliverance prayers to for this change. After all the church and for that matter the clergy need to purge itself of this culture. The question is, who must change? The answer is, all must change. We should learn to break this attitudinal culture by learning not to blame people just for the sake of it. The change must start somewhere. So before I posted this article I made a vow to change. By the time you finish reading this piece I entreat you to make a similar commitment. Send the message across to all rulers and the ruled in our beloved nation that the time has come for a change. It is the only way that will encourage people to take initiative and risk, which are very essential ingredients in our developmental journey.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Kwasi Obiri Quansah.