28.02.2008 Feature Article


28.02.2008 LISTEN

The poorer a nation the more religious it becomes. The more religious one becomes the poorer one is. By the way, how true is this assertion?

Much is known about our plight and socio-economic situation. Note, I didn't say anything about spirituality, because one can be spiritual without necessarily being religious.

According to a global survey conducted by Pew Organization, “there's a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and its economic status.” That means “the poorer a country, the more central religion remains in the lives of individuals while secular perspectives are more common in rich countries.” There are some exceptions though. These include oil-rich Islamic states like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Stated differently: The wealthier one is the less religious he or she becomes. This probably explains why our religiosity is so high. You can draw your own conclusion. But, doesn't logic dictates that religious people should be prosperous, especially, since they don't dupe people and supposedly live a very pious life? What went wrong in our part of the world?

Amazingly, the number of people going to church in Ghana on Sundays and similar large numbers flocking in and around the mosques are enough indications that Ghanaians should be the first gate keepers in heaven. But, the level of integrity among Ghanaians is very disappointing if not at its lowest ebb since independence. Only a few Ghanaians are prepared to uphold the truth at the peril of their lives .There is no repentance and sincere expression of remorse in Ghanaian society.

We don't have integrity, we don't honor commitments and obligations .We hardly take responsibility and accountability for our actions .Why take the responsibility when you can easily blame it on someone else?

We often use our religiosity to camouflage our flaws and lack of responsibility and accountability. But to make headway, there is a need to take responsibility of our actions by showing remorse. When I say 'remorse', I'm talking about an old-fashioned,”holy-crap, I'm-an idiot” kind of remorse. At least, when we mess-up we should be human enough to cry, apologize and sometimes act to show how dumb-ass we're for screwing –up. Knowing how your actions have cost your family, friends, nation or community will be a motivational factor to make you remorseful and perhaps a chance to repent .But that is not the case. We don't want to be responsible for anything. And we sanctimoniously use religion as a shield to hide our iniquities.

We're the products of our environment, isn't it? The obsession that “we –are- poor” plays a major role in our situation. How many times do you hear people say”, God will provide, it's God's will,” and other mumbo-jumbo alibis? They say that to make themselves feel good while they can hardly make the two ends meet.

Interestingly, people who see poverty as way of life will tell you that it is not the fault of theirs but rather blame it on others. The blame is always shifted unto some outside force that is supposed to have master- minded the misery. To them, poverty is a disease that one can contract like cold.

God has already provided for us by giving us the ability to earn a living through effective interaction with our environment. In our part of the world, we have fertile land and superb climate and big rivers to mention only these. Please do yourselves a favor and stop asking him for more. What kind of God do we worship, who will want us to be miserable and broke? Shall we stop holding on the belief that it is God's will for a nation or an individual to have less than what the nation or the individual needs to survive? Are we sure it is the will of God to have run-down schools, award road contracts to musicians or quarks only for a shoddy job to be done? Is it God's will that we couldn't run our own airline so that the Delta and North America airlines will give us a lousy service and bad food? I am told the latter has threatened to with- draw its services from Ghana, is it true?

I bet you're disappointed now, aren't you? You wanted more than me telling you that we have to change our perspectives and work hard to get there.

Yes, poverty is a sad state of condition for anyone. I know what it takes to endure poverty. I have personal experience of poverty at a stage of my personal growth and development. Do not make a mistake, I am not a rich person but I have worked towards having a share of God's blessing. I know poverty will forever remain with mankind except in God's kingdom. Even Jesus once said, “the poor will be with us always”. There are people who live in countries, towns, societies, communities and neighborhoods, where there are no opportunities for advancements—therefore people efforts are all geared towards survival. So I know it's going to take a lot more than this write- up to address poverty in Ghana. To think otherwise will be very insulting and very naïve on my part.

Another expression of poverty that is taking its toll on the Ghanaian is lack of ideas and one's inability to think outside the box-- which makes every dream impossible. If you think I'm exaggerating come up with any new idea—that you think will make a difference at your village or office. The chances are your idea will be crushed before its even attempts to germinate.

Take a look at our chieftaincy institution, which continues to give us headache each in day out. One will to like ask whether that institution is even relevant at all in times like these. Pockets of confusion and break down of law and order in most of our communities are largely due to greedy and questionable tribal lords who have arrogate to themselves the title of untouchable.

We're victims of our own making. To get something we have to give up something. Do you remember the Law of Opportunity Cost? There are hundred of churches and other religious institutions, spread across the country. Let us assume they pull their resources together and form investment clubs and credit unions to finance their members in businesses, don't you think Ghana will not be the same heavily indebted poor country?

The condition we live in didn't suddenly creep in the night as done by the robber. The rampant road accidents we experience are also our own making. Talking on the cell phone while driving is not a smart thing to do, isn't it? The water pond behind our backyards and the choked drains which are breeding mosquitoes profoundly are our own creations. What about the discarded plastic bags? No wonder when BBC's David Amanor interviewed a Ghanaian lady on her expectation of President George Bush's visit, her response was that the America President should come and de- silt Accra gutters for Ghanaians. We are jokers, aren't we?

Taking credit for our own success is self fulfilling and rewarding than blaming others for our failures. The average Ghanaian does not see anything wrong; when he or she sleeps in darkness, when road traffic accident is taking its toll on the Ghanaian work force, when a victim of crime has to pay a police officer to enable him hire a taxi to visit crime scene. Chances are it is not all right when the majority of our people have given up on their dreams to have a reliable politician to fight for their needs. Nothing happens until something moves, folks!

Ideas alone can't change things, Philosophy or political ideology doesn't give us schools, railway network or good roads. Sadly, as a nation we don't want to put in the time and effort to get what we want.

Ouch! How many hours a week do we spend attending funerals? What about church services? When was the last time you saw a young person reading on the bus? If he or she is doing anything at all then he or she might be playing with the volume of his or her cell phone and play his or her favorite tunes on the phone.

Am I against going to church or watching TV? Nope! I'm just making a point. The fact is the average Ghanaian spends more than half of his or her time doing things that do not give any constructive dividend, yet we wonder why we are poor. Much of the time is spent on unproductive ventures.

Albert Einstein once said,” If you feed your mind as often as you feed your stomach, then you'll never have to worry about feeding your stomach or a roof over your head or clothes on your back.” But, I'll say if we feed our minds as often with productive ideas and act on them we won't have to worry about feeding our stomachs, a roof over our heads or clothes on our backs. As a nation what are our visions? Simply put, what kind of Ghana do we want our children to inherit? Are there any collective forces guiding us as people of a country towards achieving the nation's visions?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

*The writer is a social commentator and founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment Foundation, to help the youths of Asuom.E/R