11.02.2024 Feature Article

We are cultural philistines

We are cultural philistines
11.02.2024 LISTEN

There is no doubt that there is SOMETHING wrong with us in Africa, the only problem is that no one knows what exactly our ailment is.

Those of us who waste our time and efforts in trying to shed light on our situation are confronted with more bewilderment and rewarded only with insults and whatnot. Our people simply prefer to normalize the abnormal.

Anyone who attempts to point out the aberrant ways is simply labeled and ostracized like an ogre. Mass hypocrisy is the game in town. Refuse to learn how to play it at your peril.

Take my experience yesterday as an example. Ghana is one of the few countries which enjoy a measure of positive coverage in international media. The country has been oversold as one of the few “success” African stories. Many of our cousins from the USA bought into the PR gimmick, some of them came to stay with us, and many of them have left in disillusionment. Check the internet for some chronicles of their ordeal; you can cut their bitterness with a knife.

It is not only the poor economic and service-delivery conditions that aggravate the most, our penchant to oversell ourselves, and our ability to turn the simplest of things into major productions continue to dazzle and amaze those who are not used to our wayward ways of life.

With hired PR and marketing firms, we sold Ghana as a Tourist paradise. Our politicians fall over themselves with promises of how they will launch us into alujanah by bringing in a million tourists. Our economic gurus were drafted to produce fanciful Spreadsheets and PowerPoint documents to wow and showcase us as the friendliest people on this side of the ape divide. Our gurus did not disappoint. Our envelope-chasing stenographers who parade as journalists around here are too lazy to engage their brains in any critical analyses. They simply continue with the chew-and-pour way of doing things that were beaten into their brains from Kindergarten onward. You simply do not question authority.

The result is that while we consider ourselves Champions and dance to our self-generated lullabies, the rest of humanity wondered in awe at the type of brain cells we carry in the cranial that we call heads.

A few years ago, I came down to Ghana with a couple of Dutch friends. We traveled around the country sampling the beautiful scenery. There are many stunningly beautiful places in Ghana, there is no doubt about that.

Naturally, we visited Kumasi and went to look at the museum at the Manhyia Palace which the Tourist Office recommended as a must-see as it presents the best of the famous Asante Kingdom.

For a Kingdom with the rich history of Asante, the palace underwhelmed me. I had expected something better. I have sampled lots of museums, and what I saw in Kumasi was definitely below par. I was not impressed, neither were my foreign visitors.

What however distressed me the most was when my Dutch friends asked to buy some Greeting Cards as momentos. We were directed to the Palace’s Bookshop.

I almost fainted with embarrassment as we wandered around the Bookshelf of the palace of the Chief of the Great Asante Kingdom where the only books on display were Christian books, and the only cards available were Christmas and other Christian stuffs.

I don't have any problem with anyone worshipping whatever she fancies to worship, I do have a problem though when I see people pretend to be the Custodians of our African culture whilst they use their offices to promote foreign cultures.

Yes, religion is a cultural thing. It is only in Africa that we naively think of religion as a benign thing instead of considering it, as other people do, as a most potent tool of domination.

Prophet Frantz Fanon told us that we cannot expect those that we imitate to consider us as equals. We should stop being foolish to expect those to whose ancestors we grovel and supplicate to consider us as anything but their inferiors.

The memory of my embarrassment at the Manhyia Palace came cascading down yesterday when I journeyed to Accra to fulfill a request for greeting cards from Ghana.

For a country that touts itself as a Tourist Powerhouse wannabe, one would have expected Ghanaians to take advantage and try to earn some income by promoting GHANAIAN stuff, but like the proverbial newly-converted who became the worst zealots, Ghanaians love to be more Catholic than the Pope. They want to be more American than the real American - just listen to the people the Telcos employ to man their helpdesks. Their attempts to pantomime Yankee accents only make you wonder why people with brains will engage in such voluntary stupidity.

My trip to Accra was necessitated by the simple fact that I couldn’t get a non-Christian card in Kasoa. Of course the shops stocked cards for maudlin kinds of stuff like birthdays, and valentines, but there were no cards on the country Ghana - its rich culture, beautiful people, awesome beaches, wonderful landscapes. Nothing!

The post office at the Circle has been reduced to a ghost of its former glory. There was still a skeletal staff manning the few kiosks that were still open for business. I was directed to the stationery shop where, to my utter dismay and disappointment, the same story of no non-Christian stuff played out. It was February, but the shelves had only Christmas cards.

The Sales lady did her best to be helpful as she rummaged through the shelves and the desks, all to no avail.

Still on this Christians hijacking every public space thing.

A few years ago, I wrote about my experience at the Trauma Hospital in Winneba where I and other patients were asked to stand up for devotion.

This is a State hospital, built and maintained at the government’s expense, yet Christians think nothing of hijacking it to serve their god. I called and asked the doctor why he thought I would come to a hospital if I believed that prayers or devotion would cure my ailment. He looked bewildered and mumbled some inanities. There was no devotion that day.

What staggers most about our situation in Africa is how we have come to normalize the abnormal.

Why should government employees, so-called civil servants have the temerity to turn government properties into personal turfs where they can dictate to citizens? Why should Christians use the facilities of the Government of Ghana to promote their Jesus and not the interests of Ghana? What would be the reaction of the Christians if the Moslems or the Rastafarians also started to impose their brands of piety on fellow Ghanaians? Or did they forget the injunction: Do unto others as you want them to do to you?

Of course, I will not have a problem if I see all the religious pyrotechnics around reflect themselves in the behaviors of the people who purported to be holy. Or are we to believe that it is Ghosts who have turned Ghana into a cesspool of corruption, indiscipline, and waywardness?

Maybe the Christians will tell us what, apart from turning our people into unthinking Zombies, what single thing they can point out as an achievement? Or what they will tell their Jehovah why we fail to use the brains HE was supposed to have created for us to solve our material challenges like we see other human beings do - non-Christian China being a good example.