With the tightening -economy and increased in Ghanaian middle –class' anxiety and no comprehensive plan for the youth, more and more and more youth are seen on our roads; doing “construction” work on weekends now than ever. Why is that?
Just in case you missed it: The filling –of- pot-holes is the only guaranteed job opportunity in Ghana for the youth. Forget about them going to school. If they want money all they need is to buy pick –axes and shovels and start filling pot- holes on weekends on our accident –prone roads. What about school aged kids peddling pure- water at lorry stations? Do our policy- makers see them at all? Where is their sense of civility: Empathy, obligation, kindness and justice? Maybe with their tinted car windows, it's hard for them to see anything significant.
Finally, I'm in Ghana trying to find my bearings so as to be able to play my role and make a difference in my own little way. However, while I'm waiting patiently to learn the system I began a sinister love affair around the same time--one that is consuming my energy. My love affair is: kids' plights and searching for the Ghanaian civility. I have undertaken a one –man campaign to see to it that every child goes to school in my community. I'm also looking for how much the society takes care of these children.
Well, as adults who grew in a toxic and poverty-stricken culture, some of us fall in love with cars ,electronic gadget or cigarettes and alcohol .But, just as we're more vulnerable to the glory and heartbreak and heartache of romantic or materialistic love than we will ever be again ,at no time are we more vulnerable to the seductive power of looking for self- interest than we were in adolescence .
Living in Ghana for just seven months I have come to realize that many Ghanaians---irrespective of their educational background or stature in the society-- see no place for civility, in a- less- than -perfect world. To them they feel they live in a competitive, dog-eat-dog, no- hold barred and cutthroat society, therefore civility is a luxury they can't afford –period! They say being civil is not only hazardous to your health but to your professional ambition and bank account. They believe nice guys always finish last.But can Ghana live up to its glory if civility is thrown out of the window?
What is civility and what does it mean to you?
Civility has complex meanings to some people. But it has something to do with courtesy, fairness, decency, concern, tolerance, integrity, selflessness, trustworthiness, lending - a –hand, politeness, and good manners. However, for the sake of this discussion we're going to concentrate on another form of civility(or lack of it):It's our inability to postpone or renounce the gratification of our desires; at the expense of the nation's health. We have refused adamantly to conform to written or unwritten rules and regulations because those restrict our actions or inactions. So we glamorize the non- conformist and romanticize the maverick.
Our politicians and community leadership are the main culprits—who always make their own rules.The recent election in Ghana speaks volumes of that. This has not only eroded the respect we have for our leaders at both national and local levels, but it has also evaporated the trust we have for them. The mistrust has also developed into disdain for the ruling class in our society.
Our religiosity has not even prepared us to be civil.Going to church constantly is not the prerequisite for being civil, kind, concerned and empathetic. If we're civil we will fight injustice in our society.We will protect our resources (rivers and streams).By the way, have you seen the color of river Birim lately? When are we going to see the need to protect and prepare our kids to face this century and beyond?
There is an increase of the erosion of authority in recent time. All figure of authority has lost its power. From politician to teacher to parent. It's because those who are entrusted with the task of promoting pro-social behaviors and preserving established values have made their messages less credible and less edible and most likely to be seen with jaundiced eyes and disdain.
The mistrust for authority is partially the result of an increase in literacy rate. The fact is, “when we nourish our brains and refine our intellect, we in effect become more critical and less civil”. Most Ghanaian educated people are not only unwilling to conform to rules and regulations or respect any authority, they also show total disrespect for established power and values in our communities. In effect, the more education we attain the less respect we have for authority, rules and our customs and the more we feel the need to satisfy our own needs and self. If you don't believe me, just look around your community, neighborhood and work place.
Having made ' SELF' the central concern and value in our lives, we should not be surprised to see why civility has suffered and the national interest is in the back seat.
If we have any ounce of civility, we will learn work ethics and does a quality job instead of working on lottery numbers at our work place and leaving work places before the scheduled time. We will learn integrity and concern about our environment more than our personal enrichment. We won't be throwing plastic bags around that tend to choke our archaic sewage system and become a breeding habitat for mosquitoes.
Where is our sense civility as a nation when our children go to school under mango trees? If we are civil we will protect what we put on TV and radio waves and teach our offspring how to make a living in an old-fashioned -decent way.
DEMOcracy suffers when civility is at its lowest level. And even in non –democratic societies, anarchy rules when civility goes on indefinite vacation. Once the individual needs outweigh the needs of the general population the desire for massive intervention of the government becomes the only choice. Does the Arabs' unrest ring a bell?
Lack of civility has produced unsympathetic citizens, lousy politicians, lazy and customer-service-impaired workforce and all the society ills in our midst. Our teenagers lack socialization and mental skills that are needed in the world's new economy.
The remnant of governmental and societal neglect of our teens over decades has produced (and still producing) a generation that does not like reading or objectively following politics and has no respect for authority or the elderly. Our youth have poor work ethics; yet it wants to be rich overnight, with no sweat. Sakawa becomes the answer.
Where are we heading as a nation?
How can a great nation like ours continue to enjoy its vitality if its citizens have no civility?
Well, the last time I checked I thought offering a- helping- hand to your nation, the poor, elderly and innocent children in need was also part of civility---hallelujah !
*The author is a social commentator and the founder of the Adu--Gyamfi Disadvantaged Youth Empowerment foundation.