VIOLENCE IS “a thing” in our lives, abhorred by most people. Others thrive on violence. My most cherished readers are requested to forgive me, for calling it “a thing”, for want of a better word.
There was a particular year, during my Diaspora, but that year has stayed fresh in my memory, for the mere fact that it was rich in something which I had no chance in verifying. It was said that airlines that flew out of Ghana , (and that at the time included the now defunct Ghana Airways), were fully booked, for the day following General elections in the Republic of Ghana .
The reason given for this panic, (-all part of the vicious rumor), was that, there was going to be violence following general elections. It was to be triggered off by cheating in electioneering. This, I understand is called “rigging” in political jargon. The year was 1996. As it turned out, there was no violence, and the feared exodus did not take place either. I wonder what happened to the air-tickets.
What the rumor had was further spiced by the additional that, those who did not have the money to fly out, had used their resources, in stocking food, (you could say, grocery), in their homes. It reminded me, when I heard it, of a law in Germany , (the only law that nobody any longer obeyed), which required that every family stock grocery at home, to last four days, -just in case). The situation getting to be real is so remote, that, the citizens laugh, and scoff at it. Nobody came to my home, over decades, to inspect anything. Prudes say, it's the law, and one ought to obey it. Well, I, like millions did not. I have been in Ghana fixedly since middle of 2003, I exercised my Franchise, by taking part in the voting of 2004, and the district I voted in, was on that occasion, as tranquil as the Garden of Eden. I did not hear of any untoward events of relevance in other parts of the country. If there were any, my readers may excuse my inexactitude. This time however, the political thermometer seems to portend a rise in temperature, as the time draws closer to voting, on December 7, 2008.
The meaning of the adjective “wry” is; marked by contemptuous mockery of the virtues or motives of others. The closest synonym is “cynical”. Until I was informed through the media that, in 2008, no “Journalist of the year award” was to be given, I was ruffled in my mind, an awful lot of times, when I watched any debate, or discussion on television, or listened to one on the radio. In roughly five years, I have been able to identify which political party a journalist may be affiliated to, by just marking his style of arguing, or his/her temperament in discussing. This is something I am convinced all of us must be aware of. What is from one's own Party is correct, it's wise, it's honest, it's progressive.
Conversely, what is from the other side is dishonest, senseless, cannot benefit the nation, etc. You could observe, and hear a journalist, challenging his contemporary “to build up an educative argument, if he so can.” The display of pretentiousness throws the argument into acrimony. Nobody wins; not the listeners, and not anyone engaged in the debate in whatever manner either. But, that is rampant. I lived for a long time in a country, where “no politics existed.” But, before then, I had lived equally long, in a country, in which freedom of expression was limitlessly existent..
It was not unusual, to hear a man/woman, express approval, even if it came from a political opponent, or express disapproval, coming from the party that he/she sympathizes with. It needn't be seen as anything insulting, if an attempt were made, to say, or even ask, “does political maturity go with industrial development?; does the Japanese, or the British, the American, or Australian have more tolerance towards political difference of view-point than the Ghanaian, or Zimbabwean?”
Britain has had Parliamentary democracy, for well over a millennium-and-a-half. America knows it, since post Civil war, and that is a milestone, that sits on sand dunes, since two hundred years. But, Japan knows it, since the end of World War II. It seems to be working for them.
Power-sharing, following contested elections wouldn't be good enough for the Japanese. Not palatable for the Koreans either.. So, what is the reason that leads us mentally, to sprinkle our intellect so pungent, when it comes to politics? Unless I make a short cut, it would be our great, great, great grandchildren, who may evolve the answer.
But, no! We want to eat a chunk of this cake too. There are intellectuals, who contend; the same way babies don't walk, until they first crawl, nobody, it seems, can escape this. You must, crawl, before you walk. But, when did we start to crawl, and haven't there been cases in which babies just learn to stand, and then walk, without having first to crawl?
This seems to be a never-ending argument.
It seems monarchies evolved spontaneously, almost everywhere among folks. God seems alone, to know, when this was. If interpretations of motifs found in caves should enjoy any credence, then we should say, even before the Phoenicians along the Nile basin, monarchs had existed elsewhere. But, for simplicity to sprinkle the discussion, let us take the last five thousand years.
Think of all the Dynasties in Asia Minor, (the Middle East), Latin America, (the Incas), in Africa, (other than Egypt ), in Ghana , the ( Ashanti Kingdom ), and let us whisk across to Nigeria , (the Ogonis), Imagine the Congo basin, to South Africa , (the Zulus). That cannot be even ten percent. For quite a long time, we seemed to have such a limitation in our vocabularies, such that our word for plunder was CONQUEST. Plunder is ignoble, but conquest isn't!
The common man or woman in the street did not know whom he/she owed allegiance, until dawn. That was then. Were the monarchies dictatorships? There is no simple answer. So, let's say, some were, some were not. Again, for the sake of simplicity, let us zoom through time, and say that, what happened after 1492, came to destroy the monarchies of Latin America, ( Mexico , Peru , Bolivia ).
In Europe, the Industrial Revolution, and its real enslavement of the masses, that led to poverty and disease, (Tuberculosis, Rickets, Cholera) did sow the seeds, which later led, (almost automatically), to philosophies, developed by Fredrick Engels, and his protégé, Karl Marx, and their pupil, Vladimir, Ilich Lenin, led to the events that led in October 1917 to the overthrow of Czar Nicolas II of Russia, and served as the embers which later were to smolder off the Monarchies of Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, and all the so-called Balkan states. (The unfortunate annihilation of the last of the Romanovs in the city of Yekaterinburg . This has been treated in an earlier topic, (in The Chronicle). As World II came to an end, only Greece still had a King, but King Constantine, as he was called, was soon to go, at the hands of the Military, in the mid-seventies.
He lives in Spain , in a special arrangement that could be designated as an exile. How England , Luxemburg, Holland , and Belgium managed to retain their monarchies could be communicated in future exercises from the same source. (This daily).
As the walls of the steel parapet collapsed, one after the other, almost a generation ago; Hungary, then East Germany, Rumania, and the Soviet Union itself, it was the hope in the minds and hearts of people both sides of the divide, that the world was going to be freer for the common worker, who behind the Iron curtain, had neither the permit, nor the money to do so.
Politics is not looked on by many as a job, or even an occupation. Many people call it a GAME, and when they say so, they go further to call it a dirty game. When one day I asked an American whom I got very close to, who worked for his Government, not as a politician, but a civil servant, just what politics is all about, he told me the following: He started with a question. “My friend, how much money do you think a man in Washington , DC , has to raise, if he wants to join the race for the White House?” “Fifty Million Dollars”, I answered him, almost sheepishly, without thinking too deeply about it. At the time, fifty million was more than enough. (Of course, not today).
He agreed. But, he immediately came with the next question. “How much money does the President of the United States of America make in a year? I know it, as around US$300,000. He agreed. But then came his next question. It was this: “Why do you think a man would raise fifty million bucks, to try and get a job, which gives him just a miniscule of the capital he may have raised?” Before I could attempt to answer him, he picked the example of a man they called LBJ, (Lynden Byrnd Johnson).
He was a Texan, who was President John Kennedy's Vice. When John was assassinated November 23, 1963, Johnson was sworn in, on board the Air Force I, as John's successor, and the 36th President. Mr. Lynden Johnson served the rest of John's Presidency under the unfortunate circumstances, and won “a quasi-second term” in office through a land-slide victory, just around a year later.
To the surprise of many, he opted not to stand again, in what would have been his own second term. The 36th President had come to Washington as Senator from Texas twenty years previously. His assets then were up to only US$5 million.
As he returned to Texas , a retired politician, he was worth a whopping US$250 million. The American that so educated me turned to face me squarely in the face, and he said, “Do you understand why someone will kill a dozen people, if need be, to raise the money to run for office, even in America ?”
He was a lot taller than me, and even though I could have said, “Nope, I don't understand”, I let politeness win. We had a couple of Budweiser in the form of draft, going down our throats with some hot-dogs.
As we parted, my recollection was that, I enjoyed the beer miles ahead of the pseudo-political jazz. What I still did not understand, was why some people would go out there, and risk their lives, so that somebody else could grab votes, and win a seat in the house of Representatives, or parliament, like in our situation, -and I am talking of the Republic of Ghana. Get a Degree in that, my friend!!