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18.02.2003 Feature Article

Cultural Norms and Values: Their Place in National Development.

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Cultural norms play an important role in the development of an economy. Nowhere do we find this a fact than in Southeast Asia, where success stories with respect to the economy has been identified to their cultural norms- being high savings culture, respect, dedication and hard work, humility and frugal behavior to mention a few. There are several academic documents, which point to this as the basis of success in Southeast Asia.

In Ghana, our cultural norms seem to be eroding and to some degree are almost bankrupt. This might be harsh but when any person, who was matured before 1979, and was absent from the system till now, returns to Ghana, one experiences massive cultural shock amidst many disappointments.

Everything we see the government trying to do today existed before 1979. 1979 in Ghana's timeline is when there was a revolution and an unspoken battle of the masses, “the haves” vs. the” have-nots”. A time when many were manipulated to think that their circumstances were so bad. This time also represents a point where there was mass exodus in the country, as any person who aspired to be successful was a target.

Today we hear of a mass transportation system being introduced, but we had mass transport in all major cities in the country, there were shopping centers and chain stores, we had an inter- regional bus system which was effective even though from a financial point maybe not efficient. The laws of the road were clear and we had estates such as Dansoman (planned at least reasonably done) still in the works.

We had restaurants, including Mandarin and Palm court in Accra and a host of other Hotels. We had places such as Tip- Toe, Apollo and Wato. We had Cinema houses. We had a vertinary system that could take care of husbandry issues and could also impact the quality of our food chain. Today, we even hear of rabbit rearing being introduced when in kwabenya there was a Rabbit farm of substance.

One can go on and on but the overwhelming question that is posed is between then and now, what happened? What happened to the extent that we fell so low as a country that today none of these things exist. Why could they not be altered to be more productive or efficient but somehow have totally disappeared? Why could we not have modified existing things but abandoned or totally destroyed them?

Going back to culture, if one takes the gap from 1979 to date, we are speaking of a timeline of about 24 years. This means that the average 24 year old has no recollection of such a life prior to his or her coming to being. Actually a 27 ear old may even have a distorted view.

This is where the problem starts. If one takes into account, what this age span represents in our overall population, one can understand, why there is a great disparity in terms of how older groups and the youth see Ghana. It is not the same. The basis of comparison is different for these two blocks of citizens- those over 30 years of age ( roughly) and those under.

We have one group that can identify with a relatively okay Ghana and another group who saw Ghana, in its “normal state” as one of anarchy, rebellion, revolutionary thinking and what may be deemed as the greatest and all-time deception of Ghana. The so-called revolution.

Today, one sits back, away from Ghana and reads the horrific crimes leveled against people and I am not sure if this is Ghana or some barbaric country of crude, wicked, mindless individuals, who went on the rampage to ensure that all people, in the society, suffered for their own personal failures to achieve anything in life.

A culture which has steadily grown, to become part of today's problems which includes, deceit, quick money, and armed robbery, which simply is a way of getting that which does not belong to one with force, simply because these individuals want it and do not care how they get it. A lack of respect for others and their property.

We are fighting a losing battle if we do not understand that the average experience of any person from 1year old to about 27 years old differs from the norms that an older one calls “Ghanaian”. In order to rectify this problem one has to really educate the masses. One has to also share Ghana's history in a way that makes the appreciation of the past clearer. I know one thing for sure, and that is our problems of today will not get better if politics is injected into all issues.

There are issues that must be dealt with from a national interest viewpoint. Even though those making such selfless decisions will not live to see the outcome (as this is will be long term task), for the sake of our sons and daughters, we need to take the steps that is needed to really tell the whole story, shift the cultural perversion going on now to its right track, and hope that someday in the future, our society has a common idea of what being “Ghanaian” is all about. This is more about attitudes and cultural norms, which actually will challenge the country, as migration and war impacts our societies.

At the same time, today we can start this long-term society modification in Ghana, with education that is relevant to our society, taking cue from the many lifelong lessons that can be identified throughout the continent of Africa. Hopefully this exercise will help us transform our lives and economies from our own will and attitudes.

Ako Folson
Ako Folson, © 2003

The author has 58 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: AkoFolson

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

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