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17.08.2014 Feature Article

A LOUD BUT UNHEEDED CALL TO PATRIOTISM?

A LOUD BUT UNHEEDED CALL TO PATRIOTISM?
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The current scourge of cholera in Accra and other parts of our country, Ghana, has brought forcefully to the fore yet again certain attitudinal deficiencies of some Ghanaians and their attendant dangers. Among a myriad of causes cited for the outbreak is the sheer lack of patriotism or the blatant display of unpatriotic acts in the Ghanaian society. Many are of the view that the proclivity of some Ghanaians to engage shamelessly in unpardonable acts that not only put others at risk but themselves is attributable to the dearth or outright lack of patriotism. They contend that this is the root cause of innumerable avoidable problems and disasters in Ghana.

So what is patriotism? It is essentially love for one's country. While this definition may be vague, inadequate or oversimplified, it is pretty easy to identify unpatriotic actions or inactions. Even without an exhaustive definition of patriotism, it cannot be patriotic of anyone, if they block drainage systems with buildings causing floods as a result, if they disregard traffic regulations and cause accidents, if they misapply government funds ( but apply same happily on themselves),if they pilfer from or plunder their workplaces, if they execute shoddy jobs, if they do not do work for which they are paid or if they take '10% or better' and allow for the delivery of shoddy jobs among countless others. In effect, anybody who engages in an act that shows contempt for the country thereby militating against its progress and the well-being of its people is unpatriotic. The recent spurious reasons given by some football fans turned asylum seekers so that they could stay and work in Brazil showed, most tellingly, the extent to which some Ghanaians can go to tarnish the image of Ghana even in international cycles.

In response to a question on Radio Ghana's programme, Behind The News , on the causes of the rather deplorable sanitation situation in Accra(and by extension the whole country) a deputy minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Nii Lante Vanderpuye(MP),among other causes vehemently bemoaned the negative attitude of some Ghanaians with respect to waste disposable. He effectively dovetailed it to a lack of patriotism. He sounded so distressed that he said he would subscribe to exemplary flogging, corporal punishment for offenders. Also when the alleged calls by doctors for insurance packages before they treat Ebola cases should there be (and may God forbid) an outbreak in Ghana was broadcast in the media, many rubbished their demands deploying the mantra of the lack of patriotism to buttress their views. Others were more virulent; they said it was an attempt to hold the nation to ransom. Evidently, many such reactions thus citing a lack of patriotism, are not uncommon.

But whilst it may be easy to spot unpatriotic acts, it can be tricky or even confounding to conclude on which acts are patriotic. Do actions like singing the national anthem, enunciating the national pledge, supporting the Black Stars loudly and unconditionally, or even telling people to be patriotic(because you are) make one patriotic? A few years ago, some Ghanaians were stunned when television stations showed other Ghanaians struggling valiantly to sing or recite the national anthem and the national pledge respectively. Well, some Ghanaians were not, in the least, surprised; it confirmed their argument that patriotism was non-existent or has dwindled to a worrying low.

In the words of Chinua Achebe, a patriot ” is not a person who says he loves his country. He is not even a person who shouts or swears or recites or sings his love of his country. He is one who cares deeply about the happiness and well-being of his country and all its people.” “ Patriotism,” he concludes, ”is an emotion of love directed by a critical intelligence.”

So does patriotism occur naturally or is it instilled in the individual? It is very much unlikely that it occurs naturally. For there to be a general feeling of patriotism among the populace, the starting point is an inner feeling of being a part of the country, a feeling of one's worth and its importance to the state. That awareness means that the individual does not feel estranged from the state but sees themselves as a critical and indispensable part of it. A state of affairs, in which the individual is inspired to act responsibly and selflessly bearing in mind that they would be treated with dignity and respect. The greater part of this task is in the hands of the managers of the country, the leaders! And the buck stops invariably with political leadership; those who have willingly sought and accepted the arduous task of leading us to the Promised Land.

A general feeling of a sense of patriotism is possible if the leadership is not only heard to be executing their duties sincerely and with the sense of urgency that it deserves , leadership must be seen to be doing so and the impact of their actions felt by the followership. That means they fulfill their side of the social contract. Against such a backdrop, the leaders will have less work to do if they assume the moral and patriotic high ground and exhort the followers to be patriotic. Even so, there are bound to be unpatriotic persons but that would be the exception which is easily manageable. If the highest echelons of leadership fail to exude patriotism it has an unavoidable trickle-down effect until it reaches the very bottom of the followership.

Exhortations, education, prayers ,and even punishment (for unpatriotic acts which simultaneously break the law) would have minimal impact unless through deliberate and practical ways, leadership leads by example and the majority of the Ghanaian populace then feels emotionally attached to the country. Unless the Ghanaian is inspired by verifiable actions, we can only contend with the present scheme of things and continue to have hope. Hope is foremost for continued existence and Ghana shall overcome.

God bless Ghana!

Emmanuel Asakinaba
Emmanuel Asakinaba, © 2014

The author has 42 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: EmmanuelAsakinaba

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