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10.04.2019 Feature Article

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 24

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 24

I try as much as possible to distance the structural charactology of my small world from the grinding asperities of human nature―if I can.

The degree of confounding acrimony, of whose catastrophic unraveling in the depths of the human mind and heart and soul I have witnessed over and over in my short life on this spiritually starved, dying planet, is simply astounding when viewed broadly within and beyond the synesthetic shoreline of my active consciousness.

The foibles of the human heart and soul and mind are real, many and varied, and quite rightly so, given the observable variances and nuances one notices in the underlying structure of developmental psychology outcomes of two individuals who grow up in two completely different environments―of the same cultural space.

In other words no guarantee exists that two individuals born and raised in the same environment, an environment shaped by the same culture, are bound by the natural laws of genetic predisposition to produce the same outcomes in terms of failures or of achievements.

Obviously it is not too farfetched to conclude that similar claims can be made against culture. Culture is not perfect because it’s manmade, it being part and innately demonstrative of the omnium-gatherum of human contamination in several remarkable aspects.

As such culture is not, should not, and must not be static; it evolves by usefully divesting itself of negative autochthonous and allochthonous influences through the informed architectonic conscience of human agency―for the overall betterment and advancement of society and the people who live in this society. Culture, an influential component of the environment, is almost everything that human beings are.

Genetics and the environment thus interact in profound ways to produce all the remarkable forms of life, character and personality traits, and socialization patterns we associate with human existence and development―intrinsic yet malleable expressions of culture .

On the one hand, Jeffrey Archer’s novel Kane and Abel offers some useful―if subtle―insights into aspects of the multifactorial causation of intelligence, competitiveness, and tenacity. Archer subtly makes the case that no certain equation exists directly linking one’s place of birth with increased intelligence, propensity for hard work, a winning attitude, fixity of purpose, a winning spirit, or accumulation of wealth, say, but on the other, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me reveal an environment even more complex, intimidating and hostile than Archer’s.

All the same, the implied interactions between the environment and genetics in the formation of character are all too clear in these literary works.

Culture therefore remains a powerful topographic point in the ligature of the environment and genetics, contributing to the multiformity of social interactions and institutions we see all around us.

Thus, culture does play an extremely important role in how diversity and gender equality are viewed in the way they conform to social norms.

Or lack thereof.
I view diversity primarily as a fountain of collective intelligence. The research projects I did as part of my interdisciplinary graduate work, the multicultural composition of my classes and studentships and panel of professors, my evidence-based practice knowledge of operations research and management science and organizational development, my intense perusal of UN and Mo Ibrahim Foundation reports on diversity and inclusion and gender equality, as well as my own personal observations and experiences directly point to one intimate destination of unquestionable factuality―that the instrumentalist power of interdependence as a tool for personal development and social advancement is beyond measurable. This fact has never been lost on me.

Diversity therefore represents the bedrock of civilization, of social progress, and of personal development. Functioning as a member of a research team in a non-hierarchical milieu, for instance, has probably been my greatest strength―although I have not been nearly as successful in keeping the integrity of my research capability and immanent individuation and intellectual autonomy in group-oriented research efforts free from the contaminating ignotism of certain closed-minded group members and the cannibalizing armature of social undermining, mobbing, and groupthink.

The potential of social undermining, mobbing, and groupthink to emasculate the mental health and self-esteem of a hardworking student, in fact any student for that matter, is great indeed.

This is applicable to my situation.
Then again, the concept of intellectual autonomy and its capacity for individuating the mind in a courageous act of ontological resourcefulness is enormously impactful, a remarkable situation somewhat similar to the prepotent charisma of inbreeding, with which low genetic variation and birth defects can also be usefully identified as likely upshots of carnal knowledge and this, compared to collective intelligence whose accumulative power of benefits closely resembles the heterosis of crossbreeding in many a situational example.

But even more so, rational choice theory calls for which of either intellectual autonomy or collective intelligence more than compensates for the immanent weaknesses in the group structure of teamwork and collaboration. Diversity provides that effective system of compensating mechanism. Moreover, a strong sense of togetherness within the group structure of teamwork and collaboration potentiates the platform of consensus decision-making in the special case where the collective redress of social injustice, for instance, somehow manages to escape the sweeping and swinging amplitude of the adjudicating gavel. Listen to Bob Marley’s “One Love”:

“One love, one heart
“Let's get together and feel all right…

“Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon. One Love!

“So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom. One Song!

“Have pity on those whose chances grows thinner

“There’s no hiding place from the Father of Creation…

“Let's get together and feel all right
“I'm pleading to mankind! One Love!..."
Not everything about the functional character of group dynamics is rosy, however. Group or peer jealousy can harm the quality of research―for instance. I am not presenting this as a statement borne out of a metaphysical conceit of childish frivolity. Peer jealousy or jealousy in general stands tallest in the natural explicantia of the human condition, with some students being purposely nudged aside during research activities by peers who simply cannot tolerate others’ encyclopedic knowledge or polymathy, or professors who falsely claim some students write badly when this is actually not the case, exactly as Hollywood actress of Kenyan nationality, Lupita Nyong'o, recounted her experience with an American English/writing professor on American television.

This shameful degree of mismatch between perception and reality makes for metaphysical conceit.

In the hidden details of the emotional scaffolding of metaphysical conceit quietly lay the short-tail stingray of implicit bias. It was a short-tail stingray that killed conservationist Steve Irwin.

That is, implicit bias, a prevailing problem in the American healthcare industry, yet a serious issue hardly the focus of intense academic discourse or didactic discussion in my nursing education, kills.

Professors, clinical instructors, preceptors, students and clinical scholars alike avoid it like the plague.

From personal experience, I will concede that minority professors and students are more likely to situate implicit bias in a didactic discussion than their white counterparts.

The reason for this tactical avoidance of a major issue is obvious―that implicit bias and racism are inoperable malignant tumors in the bone marrow of the American national psyche!

“Historical guilt!” said a white classmate in our philosophy-history class.

“White guilt!” said another white classmate in the same class.

Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Henry Reichman’s The Future of Academic Freedom, Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, and my own friend Molefi Kete Asante’s Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation fully support the non-jaundiced positions of my white classmates.

But that is beyond the point. Perfection is not what a group strives for because it does not exist in reality, because doing so simply amounts to an exercise in abject futility. It is even difficult for me to accept perfection as a remote possibility in an ideal world, not even in the absolute purity of the gap-toothed smile of heavenly miaphysitism where the sinful nature of the Devil, the Devil and his loyal followers of fallen angels supposedly originated from and lived previously.

Thus diversity is far from perfect because of the contaminating odor of the human element. Diversity’s unbridgeable distance from perfection gains on my understanding of the inner workings of human nature when others within a group somehow misperceive ordinary skills as an expression of innate superiority. But fortunately for my latitudinarian and non-pharisaic disposition, I never experienced any such condescending behavior from any group member in my nursing education.

Yomi Kazzim, Jessica Zaske, Carrieann Eyre, Zachary Gomez, and Jennifer Guerrero made up my group.

Two Africans, two Caucasians, two Hispanics―four women, two men.

African culture.
Hispanic culture.
American culture. But some say “American culture” is a misnomer. What for? Ask pre-Columbian America!

No Asian in the group.
No Asian culture for that matter.
Nevertheless a group asymptotically close to the compositional degree of diversity I sought in the program. Group members came fully equipped with research, writing, leadership, communication, organizational, conflict resolution, and technical-technological skills. This is what diversity is fundamentally about―diversity as a major speciational ecosystem out of which grows a wide gene pool of ideas, of cultural eclecticism, of temperamental cosmopolitanism, of talents.

That is, diversity boils down to division of labor.

If you ask me, I would say diversity means “all hands on deck!”

As a fructiferous supply-chain management of ideas, diversity is expected to provide a suitable mise-en-cène for teamwork and collaboration to flourish.

As a conveyer belt for knowledge transmission, diversity acts as a point of contact for bridging the benefits of intellectual autonomy.

Information asymmetry and monopoly of knowledge dissolve into an instrumentalist equation responsible for the equitable distribution of ideas and knowledge and cultural values―a wealth of collective intelligence.

This suit of claims and observations takes into consideration the fundamental idea that no particular culture has all the answers to the human condition, that multiculturalism operates on the basic principle that differences of opinion are the foundation of intellectual and socializational civilization, and that we all have something positive to contribute to human development―while not forgetting that cross-fertilization of ideas and multiculturalism and ethno-racial equality should be the cherished troika of any civilized society and progressive educational system.

These concessions do not make for an apologetic lucubration on the effectiveness of group dynamics per se. Group members’ insecurities, irreconcilable differences among group members, bossiness and peer pressure, arrogance and shyness, misanthropy and anthropophobia, aliteracy and laziness, and a strong sense of intellectual autonomy can seriously harm the prospects for group dynamics. Emotional lability, privation, poor human relations skills, substance abuse, poor sleep and personal hygiene, racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, inability to keep pace with technological advancement, and sexism are all potential enemies of group dynamics.

Mental hygiene and intestinal fortitude are priceless qualities for individuals to cultivate for purposes of self-betterment, collective action and responsibility, group development and cohesiveness.

Here, ultimately, bystander intervention supplants the so-called bystander effect for the sake of the common good. Group members became each other’s keeper because we understood the ethical and strategic implications of bystander intervention and of individual and collective responsibility for group success―although these were not ideas either reinforced or taught in my nursing school.

Jessica, for instance, on a couple of occasions sent out a group text at dawn to remind us to get ready for our offsite clinical assignments. I usually was at the clinical site at most two hours prior to the commencement of our clinical assignments. Group solidarity calls for painful compromises and sacrifices to be made in the interest of the common good and collective action. Group members who may have previously harbored contrarian inclinations for infrangible independence eventually gave in to the weight of collective action, group solidarity, and the common good.

And it worked beyond our expectations!
None of my group members, however, exhibited any of those aforesaid negative traits as we embarked on our major group project yet. I convinced my group members that we should work on female genital circumcision, a suggestion which they agreed to consider for purposes of personal or individual edification. I hastily went through Sarah Rodriquez’s Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States: A History of a Medical Treatment, Efua Dorkenoo’s Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation: The Practice and Its Prevention, and Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy for the group project, having read these profound works in the past.

I also read several peer-reviewed articles on the subject, including those published by the UK-based Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD), the United Nations (UN)-the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union (AU), and in women’s magazines and feminist publications such as Ms., founded by Dorothy P. Hughes and Gloria Steinem.

Finally, I shared my research findings and sources with the group, both of which formed the narrative and structural bulk of our group project. However, two members of the group kept me out of the voice-over recordings for reasons I cannot explain, after I was done voicing the introduction. I felt completely out of place.

Other problems emerged in aspects of the technical details of the project. These included questions relating to the proper formatting of the reference section in accordance with a set of standard rules put in place by the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as a piece of misinformation thrown into the complex mix of technical details. I strongly objected to the inclusion of this erroneous information, a sore point for all of us, in the body of our group project but the decisive weight of a quorum or consensus was not on my side, and because of that I lost the will to exert any further influence.

This negatively affected my mental health in profound ways, bringing back painful memories of professors and non-professorial others who had claimed I was wrong even when I was categorically right.

I didn’t lose my rags over this because I chanced on a piece of information Prof. Brenda Owen had posted in Canvas, a cloud-based or online learning management tool, validating my position. I immediately texted this information to all five members of the group but never received any response. I thoroughly discussed this particular issue and others directly related to the group project with Frank Asiedu, a close friend and a reliable study partner, who, together with Gurpreet Cheema, Yolanda Ngounou, Oscar Salgado-Contreras, Kevin Sihon, Edwin Ametefe, Matthew Hull, Eric Adu Gyamfi, Mavis Gyau-Aning, Paul Jarrells and Patricia Young-Sellers, made up a clique of classmates I surrounded myself with, friends who were well informed about the human condition and shared in parts of my private and public worlds because I invited them into these worlds in the first place.

In times of difficulty this group of persons and acquaintances, a family of sorts, offered me moral support one way or the other throughout the program. My close relationship with a number of these individuals ultimately led from one important thing to another and before long Dr. Kosuke Niitsu, a dedicated and knowledgeable psychiatric nurse practitioner, became a trusted friend and confidant. Dr. Niitsu had since been a great symbol of source credibility as well as of great help to me personally.

Each of these persons had a good head on his or her shoulder.

Gurpreet crammed my starving glenoid fossae with useful information on Indian and Asian cultures. Oscar liberally shared his Mexican background and sophisticated taste in music with me. Matthew, Paul, and I had fun discussing music and international politics and social injustice. Patricia, a warm and welcoming character, and I discussed many topics including the classes we took together, while I made her swallow non-choice morsels of my harrowing American experiences.

I prepared a delicious bowl of groundnut soup and invited Jessica, Jennifer, and Carrieann to join me in my home for supper. Only Carrieann made it because the other two had to attend to pressing personal engagements. Both Jessica and Jennifer later texted me to apologize for not showing up when I inquired into the reasons for their failure to honor my invitation, even though I told them the apology was not necessary given their convincing and truthful alibis. Carrieaann paid me another home visit with her daughter. They brought me four National Geographic magazines. I had promised to cook jollof rice for my group at an opportune moment. Or, if worse comes to worst, I may ask my mother to cook it in my behalf since she is the best cook in the entire world.

Frank, Oscar, Edwin, and Eric also paid me a home visit to check on me. I had paid Frank a home visit once previously, Eric and his family twice or thrice. Eric and his family invited me to their church also. I attended church services with them each time I paid them a home visit. We also had supper together.

I had a crush on Vakac Magdalena but never mustered up the courage to declare my attentions to her.

Her contagious laughter, her champagne-like demeanor and affectations, and her steamy warmth had melted my heart on many a time.

In the absolute secrecy of my spooky dreams and crooked thoughts I trysted and serenaded her with Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers” and Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and Brian McKnight’s and Aaron Neville's soulful renditions of the latter song, Gerald Levert’s “I’d Give Anything,” Joe’s “I Wanna Know,” Keith Sweat’s “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” Michael Jackson’s and Paul McCartney’s “The Girl is Mine,” and Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Woman”―while Frank, Edwin, and Matthew mischievously egged me on even as they simultaneously whispered Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z’s “Crazy in Love” in my ears!

These spooky dreams and crooked thoughts in which Frank, Edwin, and Matthew made magical appearances to tease me about my romantic infatuations for an already-attached lady!

Crazy Francis!
Being very professional, overly respectful of others’ private spaces and a gentleman, I kept these trillion-dollar secrets close to the doors of my heart, as well as from her even as she and I briefly chatted occasionally on campus during and after our classes!

Magdalena was very affable!
And Frank deeply knows how much I admire this girl. Frank knows my head sets my heart on fire whenever he and I discuss her. Could I really be in a dream? Could I be consumed by the raging fire of fantasy? Could I be inhabiting the realm of fantasy dreams?

It was as if I went to nursing school to look for love rather than to study.

Such a wonderful and lovely human being, Magdalena!

“Francis must surely leave Vakac Magdalena alone!” I said to my crazy self.

And she was left alone―and in absolute peace!

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2019

This author has authored 574 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: franciskwarteng

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