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05.03.2009 Feature Article

``You can't mean it``

WHEN I was in junior school, (and please, don't ask me when this was), a lot of things not accepted from America included the way English was spoken, and written by Americans. An example would be; whereas the English (British) would write “centre”, the Americans, the correct spelling was “center”.

Today, the British have changed their ways, and now write “center”, so as to match the Americans”. This came to be, as on July 29, 1969, the Americans, not the British, landed on the moon, and recited the phrase, “one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.” Before then, the American would pronounce “can't”, as if it was written, “caint.” That being the case, let us take the American way, and say, “you cain't mean it!”

A man who has lately become my friend, moved into a new house in a district for the elite in a leading Metropolis of the country. It was natural that when he extended an invitation to my partner and me to visit, it was more than welcome. For a couple of nights, I dreamt of the palatial abode, (saturated with imagination), before I finally set foot into it. If I attempted to describe the place, the three pages allotted would be exhausted, and I still would need more space and time to get there. Just believe me, it was so nicer than one can tell in words.

After some five hours, it was time to go home, and it was long past mid-night. The unauthorised garbage, just as you had to turn right for the palace, escaped my attention completely as I drove in. But, not so on my way back.

A couple of young men were busy grilling something so nearby, unperturbed by the stinking heap of all sorts of rubbish. Thinking I had detected the culprits, I applied my brakes and put the automatic gear lever into P, where I understand nothing ever goes wrong. With the engine still running, so I could engage D and speed off in case of unexpected trouble, I tried to get some info from the “grill-team”, (and I guess they wouldn't mind my calling them so). All I could get from them was that the garbage heap belonged to a developer, who had acquired the house opposite the rubbish, and the land in juxtaposition to the mess, which called my attention, belonged to him as well. And what was more, the mess, that was the cause of my worry, was thrown into where I found it, by workers of the wealthy developer, and at his instructions, anyway. “You cain't mean it!” I yelled at the top of my voice, showing and smelling of such disdain like I had never been capable of before.

But, whichever way I tried to show contempt, the young men were consistent with their claim, that the mess, as they saw it in their neighborhood, was the work of the developer, whom on and off, they also referred to as “bugger”, an expression locally supposed to mean a man who had earned his money in a foreign country. So, the man who owned the land on which the stinking mess was contained had once lived overseas. Did he come across in Madrid, Frankfurt, London or Amsterdam, rubbish heaps like the one we are talking about, in any of these cities? The answer must be an emphatic, no!

What makes him indulge in such an unwholesome behavior, now that he is among his own people? One would have thought, “He would have liked to demonstrate decorum in every aspect of his behavior, having returned from a place technically more advanced!

The answer should be “law and order”, or the lack of the same. If you lived in a German community, and for any reason you tried and succeeded in dumping any garbage in an unauthorised place, then you were in such trouble that when you succeeded in getting yourself out of it, it would not be consistent with human behaviour, to try and repeat it. The penalty would be such that a normal worker might take a bank loan to pay the penalty imposed by the state, for attempting “to subject the community to the effects of toxins.” That is not the behaviour of a patriot, and the state doesn't offer you any other options than to pay dearly.

Our Republic has been standing in front of the choice, to follow the path to better health practices, and HYGIENE is the key word. The community that is being talked of, as the center-point, is in a district called “first class” area. One of the young men we encountered in the night, “grilling” nearby the garbage heap, told us unabashedly that in-between the bushes, people sneak in at night to pass excrements. The “bushes” being talked about are mostly plantain plants, which since a-generation-and-a-half have been cultivated, yielding a delicious food item, which Ghanaians and foreigners alike, enjoy a great deal.

It grows virtually everywhere, and as against in times past, when it was cultivated on farm lands and far away from homes, it is now inside the fenced walls, and outside around the walls. Human excrements are a source of manure, and that the plantain flourishes behind the house, to the same extent as in deep pristine forest, is no surprise. But, we live in a country, where life expectancy of around 54 years, is two year less than at independence fifty-two years ago, when it was 56 years.

Ironically, at the time townships had public “conservancies,” which were dug taking the slope of the landscape into consideration, and it did not contaminate water that returned from the streams to the homes for consumption.

An exhibition at Piccadilly, a district of London, twenty-five years ago, showed how three hundred years ago Hygiene was superbly observed in the “Ashanti-Kingdom”. People who were in primary school at Independence in 1957, haven't forgotten the “Town-Council Officer”, who came to inspect the homes, (including the earthen-ware containers) in which drinking water was kept.

They used to send offenders to jail. We have slipped back in standards. We simply cannot stay together with our excrements, except channeling it through water-closets, from our next door to our bedrooms. That is what the leading nations do, and they live till one hundred years. I beg your pardon!

_anonymous Columnist
_anonymous Columnist, © 2009

This author has authored 86 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AnonymousColumnist

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