Mon, 25 Sep 2023 Feature Article

Get Off That High Horse!

Get Off That High Horse!

Passing through the Sogakope market, Accra-bound, I felt the need to buy some loaves of bread for those back home who were sure to ask, ‘What did you bring? What did you bring?!’

No sooner had I gotten out of the car into the market than a mad man, a chiselled mad man, bare-chested, holding a cutlass, charged towards us in the market.

All life left me. This is how I die—I was very sure.

But look at the market women and the street hawkers laughing. They were shocked I was shocked. I was shocked that they were shocked I was shocked. “Oh, he is our brother oo—he has been with us in this market for years. He’s totally harmless.” They explained, almost bragging about their ‘civility’—a civility shared with this mad fella—and by so doing, hinting perhaps at my lack thereof.

Let me get this straight. A mad man—a very sturdy looking one at that—charging at a crowd with a cutlass... Harmless? Ridiculous, isn’t it? But there he went, with cutlass menacingly lifted up, muttering nonsense, yet not striking, or even attempting to strike a soul. Absolutely ridiculous, yet true.

This reminded me of yet another mad man I had witnessed sometime prior. As those folks usually do, this man decided that hot Saturday afternoon that someone had offended him. We don’t know who—we never do with these people. There he went, matching on, angrily flailing his arms, insulting invisible offenders. Parked right in front of the Top Herbal Clinic on the Agbogba-Ashongman road was a Benz; and coming towards it, this angry mad man with hands sweeping about him, clenched in a fist, looking as though masking a stone—looking as though looking for something to hit...

A mad man looking for something to hit. A few steps in front of him, someone’s Benz—granted it was a 1995 E-class model. But as the Benz-heads will tell you, still Mercedes Benz. I watched on as he lifted his angry hand up… Is he holding a stone? Is he going to strike the car? Yes, he was—to both questions the answer was ‘yes’. But to my shock, what does this mad man do? Ever-so gently taps the Benz, barely making an impact. His riotous disposition completely softens when he reaches the car. It wasn’t a strike he gave it; it was a gentle tap—barely a tap.

These mad folks are not stupid after all.
Fellow Ghanaians, these mad folks are not stupid people. I don’t know if you have ever encountered the great mad man of the East Legon-UPSA stretch. Always writing. Professor wakes up in the morning, and heads straight for his base—his classroom, where us all, onlookers, pedestrians, and drivers alike, are his students. One wonders where he gets the chalk. Each day, a new lesson. On walls, on the potholed-tarred streets, you would see him busily writing, unravelling the secrets of the universe for us, mortals—mere mortals lacking insight, hence refusing to see. Just look at the nation’s leading professor majestically going on and on! I tell you, these mad folks are the real intellectuals.

And I have met many of his kind in my lifetime—I believe you have too. Right at the heart of Adum in Kumasi, at the old Hotel de Kingsway building was this mad man who went about with stacks and stacks of papers. As we mere humans would, on a Sunday—and sometimes weekdays—head straight to and fro our various churches, you would find him perched at his corner, religiously reading and writing—making a fool of us all. Mere mortals shamelessly going to church on a weekday.

It is the same for this mad woman around North Legon. That brisk-walking woman who puts the rest of us lackadaisical humans to shame—humans walking about as though we have no purpose in life. See her go, head down, handbag held tightly under her armpit, sprinting on, in full pursuit of the purpose endowed her by her Creator.

‘Maafio’ the mad woman of Agric Junction in Kumasi is no different. The whole of Ghana owes this woman money. A very beautiful woman, with such wide hips—hips only typical of South African women; hips so wide that they look and move like they have personalities of their own. And she isn’t your stereotypical abandoned, dirty mad person. No. Maafio is part of a functioning society. And everyone in this functioning society, she claims, has bought something from her and has refused to pay her the money owed. She picks a taxi—the taxi driver borrowed money from her to buy that car. So, right there and then, she would demand repayment. She sees you walking about in your shiny shoes—those shoes, you bought from her. “Pay me now.” She would demand gently. Maafio often has financial lessons for all persons she encounters. “In life, always do the decent thing—honour your debts. That is the Godly way.” And of course, she would proceed to declare to all onlookers the many instances people have gone contrary to this Godly rule—i.e., bought from her without paying. And if you were not lucky, out of the blue, she would mention your name.

Ah, these mad folks indeed have lessons to share.
Really, the phenomenon of the ‘wise’, peaceable Ghanaian mad folk is so deeply ingrained (yet latent) in our society that sometime back, when a friend related the story of a man who had been knocked in the head and killed by a mad woman, the immediate reaction that got from us, listeners, was—and this perhaps is the silliest response any of us have ever given to anything in our lifetime— “Oh! Why? What did he do to her?”

Just look at that! A people so ‘wise’ and ‘peaceable’ that any act of violence purported to have been committed by them is easily dismissed as acts of self-defence. What a people!

And that is exactly why America still shocks me. Every passing breath, you find the American—mostly White adult and young-adult males, taking to the streets and spraying bullets on fellow human beings, for absolutely no reason at all.

Any attempt at listing these instances would be a very futile one—even if we choose to narrow the count down to recent memory. B&FT would have to make this publication a special SPECIAL publication with an endless page-count to make that happen.

“Gun violence is a fixture in American life…” The BBC put the matter bluntly some time back. And it really is. The US has more gun violence, more mass shootings than any other country in the world. A 2016 study published in the Wall Street Journal showed that almost one-third of the world’s public mass shootings occurring between the years 1966 and 2012 happened in the US. In 2019, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing published a report titled ‘Mass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts, and Solutions’ where it noted that between the years 2011 and 2014 alone, the rate of mass shootings increased even more exponentially, with one occurring every 64 days in America. That’s every two months! Unbelievable!

Not only have the number of incidents increased, but their fatalities too—more and more victims fall dead, the rest, fatally injured with each gun man that breaks loose in the country.

In 2017, the world was to, post-events, watch CCTV footage of a 64-year-old unassuming White man hauling five suitcases of firearms into his hotel room in Las Vegas. This man was to open over 1,000 rounds of bullets on concert-goers a few metres away from his hotel room, killing over 60 people and fatally injuring over 800. All just for the sake of it.

One month later, during that same year (2017), a 26-year-old White male entered a First Baptism Church in Texas, sprayed bullets on the congregants, wounding 22 of them, and killing 26 people—victims of which included women, men, the elderly, little boys and girls, and an unborn child. Again, just for the sake of it.

In 2012, ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’, the movie, had just premiered. Movie goers in a packed theatre, donning various thematic costumes, see this young White boy dressed in black, scuffling through the aisles. They make nothing of it—I mean, as noted, almost everyone in the movie theatre was in costumes. Before they could say Jack Robinson, 24-year-old James Holmes was spraying bullets and tear gas grenades on them. He manages to kill twelve people, injuring 70 others.

Earlier that same year (2012), 20-year-old White young-adult Adam Lanza entered an elementary school, releasing bullets on students and teachers alike, killing 26 people in total—20 of these victims being children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old. Heartless, tragic… Who are the man and woman who gave birth to this devil, you ask? Oh, Adam shot his mother dead too—earlier that same day, before he made for that elementary school, he made sure to finish off his own mother.

Just last year (2022), 18-year-old White male, Payton, entered a supermarket and strategically killed 10 people while injuring 3 others—all of whom were Black people. About 7 years prior (in the year 2015), yet another White male, 21-year-old Dylann had entered a Black church, and had mercilessly killed 9 people—African-Americans who had assembled for a Bible study meeting.

Just this year alone (2023)—from January to June, the country is estimated to have “endured 28 mass killings”, with the death toll increasing every week. “Six months. 181 days. 28 mass killings. 140 victims. One country.” Chilling—how the AP News site reported on the matter.

Na Who Cause Am?
Whenever these devilish acts occur, there are those who are quick to bring up the ‘guns’ conversation. And in this vein, you have two differing camps. There are those who call for stricter gun laws—the limiting or curbing of access to firearms, and the abolishment of the nation’s Second Amendment all together. In this same camp, there are others who, on the other hand, call for more guns—increasing access to guns for the average citizenry, in fulfilment of the Second Amendment, so that each may better ‘defend themselves’.

There are others who, on an entirely different hand, dive straight into the ‘mental health’ argument, asserting that these perpetrators suffer one form of mental ailment or the other. And it is with this second group that our ‘interest’ (and shock) today lies. These people mean to tell us that mental illness coming in the forms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. are the reasons why a human being picks up firearms and arbitrarily starts hurling bullets at innocent passers-by, for absolutely no reason at all? It is interesting, is it not? If we are to go by this argument, it is all so interesting, is it not? That on the one hand, we have a country like Ghana having its insane populace busily engaged in the distinguished acts of lecturing—of ‘philosophising’—to invisible students... The Ghanaian mad man holds a cutlass, but strikes no one, holds a stone but only gently pats an old Mercedes Benz… Overall, the Ghanaian mad folk has been found, on countless occasions, exhibiting insight, and we daresay, wisdom. But there we have it, in a supposed developed world, USA, the supposed mad fella, taking to the gun every chance they get, causing atrocities upon atrocities upon innocent folks. It’s all so striking, is it not? But why is it so?

Where lies the difference? Is the Ghanaian mad person genetically superior to the White American mad fella? Did God endow the Ghanaian insane person with such distinct biological makeup, one that makes them superior in thought and in actions than their fellow insane White American? Or is it society that makes these differing sets of people behave the way they do?

Pardon These Nuanced Conclusions
This, on its own, is a viable subject for intense scholarly research, but let’s attempt some explanations.

  1. Perhaps this divergence in the behaviours of the Ghanaian insane individual and the American insane person may be due to the fact that the Ghanaian insane fellow knows that the society in which they find themselves is a no-nonsense one. That this society will not tolerate any form of nonsense that proceeds from them. That there will be no ‘committees’ set up to look into why it is that they behave the way they do—why it is that they commit such and such crimes. That there would be no ’nsosoorsuo’—no pandering to their devious acts. All there is for them, would be punishments. Even in the depths of their madness, the Ghanaian insane individual knows fully well, the immense punishment that awaits them should they so much as act stupidly. The mad man headed for the Benz with flailing arms knew fully well the beating that was going to be meted out to him should he so much as scratch that car. That mad man knew the lashing that awaited him should he so much as strike a soul with that cutlass of his. So then even in insanity lies immense caution, foresightedness, and we daresay, wisdom. But the White American fella who is supposedly mad, look at them go, stupidly—very stupidly—causing mass killings, mass injuries to fellow human beings day in, day out. This is what happens when one finds themselves in a nation that panders to them. A society where one’s outright stupidity oftentimes risks intellectualisation. A society where intellectuality sometimes—sometimes—feels as though attempting to hold brief for one’s stupid acts. It’s such a shame.
  1. Or maybe it is also the ease of access to firearms prevalent in the American society that makes its ‘insane’ people behave the way they do. The United States of America is infamous for being the gun-capital of the world—the nation having the highest per-capita ownership in the whole world. There are over 120 firearms for every 100 people in the country. Coming in at a distant second is one of the poorest countries in the world, Yemen where there are about 53 firearms per every 100 persons in the country.

Let’s Go Where the Facts Lead Us
All this talk of madness brings to mind yet another form of insanity. And it is that which involves the educated—oftentimes the highly-educated—and the act of thievery. It’s a shame, is it not? For one to spend precious years, energy, and resources, seeking and attaining the highest levels of education, of intellectuality, of supposed gentility, just to come out principally as thieves by profession. Yes, you guessed it, we are talking about the Ghanaian politician, civil servant, and other such leaders and persons in the public sector.

You see, the American politician, civil servant, and such other leaders and persons in the public sector, they know that their nation is unforgiving. That is to say, any act—any unsavoury, criminal act—committed by them will be subject to intense scrutiny, investigation, prosecution, and consequent punishments. They know the ‘beatings’—punishments that await them for any such offence, criminal acts committed. The abuse of power, the channelling of public funds into private pockets and bellies, these are crimes which are unforgivable, and there exists a robust system in place, quick to go on the ‘witch-hunt’ if you will, sniff out acts and perpetrators, and immediately met out to such persons, legally allotted punishments.

Meanwhile back in Ghana, what the politician, the police, and all such other public sector players have, overseeing their actions, are pretend eyes, pretend laws, pretend systems of supervision and enforcements. All we have are pretend promises made by various Presidents to root out the cancer that is corruption. All we have are pretend manifestoes and speeches at the beginnings and end of their Presidential terms, pointing to pseudo-results, pseudo-instances, as proof of effort—as evidence of their supposed watch and supposed actions towards uprooting the evil that is corruption. There are no truths in them, only pretence.

Ease of access, a deep sense of entitlement, and a system that panders to their evils, these may just be that which keeps inspiring many White American males to continue taking to the streets and public places, with guns in hand, committing inhumane atrocities upon fellow Americans. Ease of access, a sense of entitlements, and a system that panders to their evils, these are factors that keep the Ghanaian supposed leader, politician, and public servant ‘empowered’ to continue committing acts of gruesome corruption upon fellow Ghanaians.

So, in a sense, the American politician and public servant is like the Ghanaian mad fella; and the Ghanaian politician, like the American mad man.

That is why my brothers and sisters, I solemnly declare that until the Ghanaian politician becomes as wise and as insightful as the Ghanaian mad folk, this country of ours will never find true growth. Eii, wait a minute…

[Published in the Business & Financial Times (B&FT) - 25th September, 2023]