The Akan language, which is spoken by more Ghanaians than most others, has a way of invoking the culture of its creators through the “economic” use of a few words.
For instance, when a person has done something that goes against Akan cultural usage, he/she is not upbraided by summoning an enormous amount of weighty words.
On the contrary, the words used to remind him/her that what he/she has done is “not expected of someone of his/her upbringing”, are simply: “Wani awu!”.
That means -- literally - “You have killed your eyes!” ....."Your eyes are dead!"
Now, "dead eyes" cannot look other people in the eye.
Dead eyes create the impression that one is “shifty” and “not to be trusted.” One is, in short, not a worthy member of one's community.
The subtlety in this sometimes literary way of using language lies in the absence of abstractions and the use, instead, of active verbs. When you are told you are “in disgrace”, you need to know what constitutes the abstract concept of “disgrace”.
But when you are told that your eyes are “dead”, there is no way your possible lack of knowledge about abstract concepts is going to save you. Your eyes are dead. Period. Everyone knows what "dead" means.
The whole community might, upon a complaint laid against you, gather together at the chief's palace to discuss your behaviour . If, after a thorough discussion, one is found guilty, one might be fined, in exculpation of one's transgression.
Whilst imposing the fine, the chief's spokesperson would proclaim one's guilt by intoning,with vivid imagery, this formulaic expressiuon of guilt: “If because you harboured such unjustifiably, hostile sentiments towards the complainant, your fellow compatriot, you had picked up a stick and clobbered him/her to death, you would have treated him/her just like you would nhave a treated an animal!”
At that, the whole gathering would be prompted to murmur their assent : “Ahhhh-iiiiiii!”
It would take a normal person who had gone through a public humiliation of this sort, an extraordinary
provocation to make mhim or her RISK goING through another one. For a pubic humiliation is just that – a preventive measure aimed at casting its victim in such a bad light before everyone that a repeat offence would be unthikable to him/her..
Before the punishment, mone might have had admirers amongst certain sections of the society. That would now be gone, probably for good. And, of course, one would also lose the right to correct the errant behaviour of the children in one's household. And so on. Yes, when your eyes are pronounced“dead” in Akan society, the repercussions can be far-reaching. The whole exercise was innvented to teach the Akan that :"Animguase mmfata Okanni ba!" [ Loss of face brought about by one's actions does not BEFIT AN AKAN-BORN PERSON!]
That being the case, how is it that AKAN-BORN people of today, can shamelessly deploy an excavator, bulldozer or chanfang machine in a river or stream, which is the main source of drinking water for the people of his own commmunity, to churn up the riverbed and wash it in the river WITH POISONOUS MERCURY ,in search of gold? i SWEAR THAT WHEN I THINK OF THIS, SUICIDE IS NOT TOO FAR FROM MY MIND.
For, are we not the people who were taught, as children, to regard the spiritual elements associated with water bodies with so much reverence that we call rivers and streams the names of human beings? Do we not call Birem “Abenaa” (Tuesday-born female)? Do we not call Supong "Kwasi"? (Sunday-born male?) Is the”human name” of Twafuor River not “Yaw” (Thursday-born male)?
And is it not a fact that no-one may cross Twafuor to go to his/her farm on Thursdays? Is River Tanoh in Asante not thought to be so HOLY thatwomen aren't allowed to cross it in case they are in their period? Is that rule not the same one which obliges women in their period not to go to "Nkonnwafie so? [the stoolroom of a palace] or, someties, even the palace grounds in general?
An excavator or bulldozer in a holy water-body? Anokwale mpo!
I think the “social-control” mechanisms we inherited from our forefathers have broken down irreparably and that's why an unthinkable desecration-- such as (I repeat) using an excavator in the sources of the drinking water of aone's own people, can take place.
How did our “social-control” mechanisms break down? Our ancestors employed subtle methods, steeped in a deep study of human psychology of an empirical nature, to get us to be socially responsible.
For instance, if your mother was called “Abenaa”, you wouldn't want to do anything to hurt a being called “Abenaa” (such as the River Birem!.)
But when you went to school, they told you every day that Rivers are inanimate creatures and that in according spiritual powers to them, you would be “worshipping” stones and rivers and acting against the “Ten Commandments and declaring yourself an “obosomsomni”[idolator] and so on. Against such an onslaught on traditional spychological controlos, would you be able to resist the temptation to conform to what your "Christian"schoolmates all believed in?
Especially, as conforming, and thereby being able to obtain an all-important “certificate” from school would classify you as being “educated” and automatically qualified person who should enjoy a vastly
improved standard of living and provide utold benefits to one's relatives?
We leave school with our certificates, and i they DO fetch us a nice job. We mindlessly conform to the norms of our "modern" society. We go to church. We join societies that advance our social standing. And we are so highlythought ofg by those we have been imitating that weu get promoted to the highest rngs nof nthe nsocial ladder -- Ministers, deputy ministers, chief eecutive officers; managing directoirs.
But the obverse aspect of the privileges we enjoy, also manfest themselves: we conform to our society's norm of being hypocritical beyond belief; just mouthing words from the Bible and hymn books, without the lest inclination to put the words into practice. "Whited sepulchres", as Jesus bserved of the society of his time.
Many nof us take bribes. We falsify accounts. But those who go church do pay their church dues and tithes. If our priests have the propensity to make false prophecies, we rationalise that "human fault" away.
Our politics is characterised by empty abstract words. We "exceed" budgetary allocations nrather than "overspend" them. We face "challenges" instead of carrying out palpably inefficient policies. When we are caught telling lies, we ascribe the "calamity" to the work of envious enemies or, ulktimately, of the devil!
And the next thing is: ywe learn that by “investing” a small part of our wealth in a form ofgold mining called “galamsey”, we can multiply that wealth.
Do we pause to ask, but what are the repercussions that are going to be felt by mychildren and their children from the devastation galamsey causes? What water will they drink if my excavators kill the water-bodies?
These questions may occasionally cross one or two npeople's minds. But conformity is the name of the game in the Ghana of today. So we adopt a numb attitude. We see nothi8ng. We hear nothing. We say nothing. Weu just bank the proceeds and go to church every Sunday., wearig white clothinhg and smoothly anointed aces.
Even when we hear that excavator like ours are being used to dig so close to the Accra-Kumasi road that the road might be destroyed after rainfall, we shrug. Aren't those journalists who call attention to these things rather tiresome? When will they stop adopting a holier-than-thou attitude? Who asked them to makengaamsey THEIR "ISSUE"?
Are you not ashamed, Mr Modern Ghana 'Go-getter'? When you go to conferences with equally qualified people from other parts of the world, and you deploy your verbal skills to their admiration, do you ever suspect that their respect repeat respect for you may not exist – despite your "brilliance" – because in your country, people like you use excavators and bulldozers to destroy the drinking water of their own people?`Yet you have a "Government" in place?
Ei, enti, ampaa, ennye mo aniwu?
[So in reality, thee things do not cause you to feele ashamed?]