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20.03.2008 Feature Article

Craving for real heroes and heroines: where did they go?

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Who are the contemporary Ghanaian heroes and heroines?

Bomoso is a small town in the kwaebibrim district. Don't look for it on the Ghana map because you can't find. It's a home of kwmae Nti (alias “lightning'),who returned from Germany with a white girl friend and an enviable reputation for distributing a highly intense slap to anyone who stepped on his 'sensitive toes'. His no- nonsense character made him an instant “hero” among the youths. A lot of them adored and even emulated him. What does that say about our modern –day society?

With our modern-day heroes and heroines—just like our politicians--we expect them to be cheesy on integrity, so no one is ever surprised when they are because we're hungry for role models. .

Undoubtedly, our constant craving for real heroes and heroines in our modern -day society has cheapened the currency of “heroism” .

Heroes and heroines are people who perform extraordinary things which are highly valued by the society. It is measured by bravery or doing something great for oneself or the community.

These outstanding Individuals supposedly have characteristics that are desirable to majority of the people around them. But for some reason, the Ghanaian society has lowered the qualifications or the standards for its modern-day heroes and heroines such that much is not required of a Ghanaian hero or heroine.

If a national poll is conducted in Ghana to determine who should be a contemporary hero or heroine chances are that the qualifications will be tilted in favor of drug dealers, crack-smoking musicians, questionable-sport men and women, vote –hungry politicians, 419 legal practitioners and their colleagues on the bench, fraudsters of all dimensions and self-anointed religious cardinals, bishops, apostles, deacons, osofos, con evangelists etcetera as the list is long. One characteristic of these persons is that they have large quantities of what I will call “worldly toys” such as cars, huge mansions many wives and concubines and short lived fame.

The Ghanaian index of social status has been reduced to a level such that being noble and hardworking does not matter anymore. It is all about how much one has in his or her pocket. In fact, the impression is created that the Ghanaians does not care anymore about how worth is acquired. The result is irrational actions –which produce bad consequence are perceived rational. In other words, irrational actions become very attractive to the majority in Ghanaian society to the extent that when things look too good to be true they think they're “good.” This explains why most of our people so much idolized those who possess negative “social traits” which were deemed evil in “yesterday's” Ghanaian society.

John Steinbeck shares his thought on this subject when he alluded that in his 1990 novel; “The Cannery Row” According to Steinbeck,” the things we admire in man; kindness, generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and empathy are the concomitant of failure in our society. And, those traits we detest like; sharpness greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self –interest are the traits of success.” Strangely enough, most of our modern- day heroes and heroines possess all the qualities detested by previous Ghanaian generations.

What is considered offensive today will probably be considered acceptable by tomorrow's standards.
In recent past, our heroes and heroines were people who possessed many idealized virtues, such as physical strength, honesty, courage, intelligence, hard work and ability to see beyond their time and took bold and deadly decisions, not for their own interests but for their people's well-being. The fear now is that these virtues do not matter in contemporary Ghana. You can ask yourself how on earth a drug baron can be a representative of the people in the nation's legislative assembly. What went wrong that we have leaders whose survival depended on lies?

Our modern society lacks the necessary qualities to produce a hero of the caliber of Nkrumah and his brave colleagues, Yaa Asantewaa and her warriors, J.B. Dankwa and his team of think tanks, Paa Grant, Caseley- Hayford and many more that were known in our various communities but not documented.

The Ghanaian Kids now aspire to have the smallest, sophisticated, flashy and attention-seeking cell phones to impress their peers. They rather want to been seen holding a nice electronic device like IPod or Blueberry Smartphone- than reading a novel. Have you seen the new dress style in town called” sag or I am aware?” It originated from the U.S prison system. It is nothing more than one pulling his or her pants (trousers) all the way down to expose his or her underwear. It exposes one's body parts and also prevents the individual from walking straight. Funny enough, this is what the Ghanaian youth are blindly copying. For me, it is more of ignorance than arrogance—though the two seem to go hand in hand.

The disintegration of our cultural values over the past two decades or more is one of the causes of break down in our social norms and values more especially those that have to do with who should be emulated in our society. Dignity unfortunately, is an “uncommon commodity” in our modern Ghanaian society.

In addition, the Ghanaian present “heroes” are those who don't have to do anything extraordinary to win admiration. Naively, we adore those who can beat the system and make their own rules. I bet 'Ataa Ayi' got more media spot light than a hard working teacher who spends his time and energy teaching his class on weekends free of charge at Gambia No. 1 in Brong Ahafo Region .

When was the last time you heard or read about an ordinary man who plays by the book? The media plays a role by shaping our choice of actions even including who our heroes are. Too often the media glorifies politicians who are involved in drugs and sexual scandals, sport- figures who do drugs, police officers who cannot account for court exhibits, musicians who paddle drugs, custom officials who survive on under invoicing and other dirty connivance, indiscipline military chaps, God mocking religious leaders who use religion to amass wealth while the congregation is left pale, weak and broke and community leaders who ignore the interest of their community for their own ends. These “role models” are the same people who control our “lives and thoughts” because they can go any limit with their so- called heroism.

Instead of glorifying these nation wreckers and crooks as heroes and heroines, I am of the opinion that millions of Ghanaian parents struggling to provide raw gari as lunch and dinner for their children as well as going through sleepless nights to provide water for their household must rather be commended. Our mothers who travel several miles to transport food stuff to the markets must for once be recognized.

Our “fitters” as we called them who out of their ingenuity have kept our over -aged vehicles running must be given a pat on their shoulder. The daring young men and women at Abossey Okine and similar locations across the country must be made to feel loved. These great sons and daughters of Ghana will be appreciative of even medals made from the cheapest metal from Tema Valco or Kokompe junk yard.

But, you can bet with your last pesewa that this group of people and their kind will never be part of this year's consideration for July 1 Republic Day nomination and awards. It is all going to be recognizing old and new cronies and mates.

Sadly enough the season has brought itself. You can be sure that the politicians will once again play on the heads of our brothers and sisters in zongos for votes. Some will promise them New York type of skyscrapers whilst others will promise them heaven on earth. The truth is that after the election none of these so- called elected officials will like to be bothered with the ordinary people's issues.

We got what we paid for. Paradoxically, we always elect people who possess all the requisites of Ghanaian contemporary heroes and heroines--- greediness, visionless, insensitive, meanness, egoistic, self-seeking, “mismanagers”, clever fraudsters, professional liars and nation wreckers. In essence, we have allowed evil to rule because the good men and women stand by to watch these players. Who wants to be our real hero or heroine?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2008

The author has 206 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwakuAduGyamfi

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily 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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