Recently, the word “civility” has greatly preoccupied my mind. To feed my curiosity, I set out to find the meaning of this seemingly important word that is fast consuming my memory-space. After doing some digging, I found that its meaning, from the Oxford Living Dictionaries, states: “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech”. Really?
This definition ignited my passion to learn more about this term, especially regarding its origin. I then learned that it has roots in both French and Latin, relating to “citizens” and explained as follows: “In early use, the term denoted the state of being a citizen and hence good citizenship or orderly behavior. The sense “politeness” arose in the 16th century”. From the above, the proximity and affinity between the words “citizen” and “civility” can clearly be seen, is most intimately connected. Amazing find, isn’t it? Please hold that thought a bit for me….
Now, take a bit of time to study people in the following two societal classes:
- The really knowledgeable, whose knowledge solves problems in the society and
- The really affluent, who obtained their riches legitimately.
One would come to realize that the people who fall into the above two classes have certain rare character traits such as exceptional calmness, patience, modesty in fashion, speech, etc., forthrightness, truthfulness, self-respect, and respect for others, and so on. In fact, what the ordinary person would whine about, they only overlook and instead think of how to make a difference by helping to solve the problem, if it is within their power.
At this point, I know many would say that I am uncharitable because they may not have found themselves in either of the two above-named classes. Well, there is yet another class which I call the “Nobles’ class”. This class is made up of good men and women found in-between the really knowledgeable and really affluent. They may be termed as average or ordinary but respect themselves and exhibit many of the traits of those in the first two classes. They are civil and value the lives of others as they do their own, if not more. Therefore, they may not be knowledgeable or rich, but they certainly know how to be good neighbors. They seek the interests of others first, even ahead of their own.
They are loyal citizens and friends, are peacemakers and do not talk just anyhow and are easily loveable.
Now, one would have thought that with the above three classes of people named, that would be all, but alas! It is not the case. It is interesting to note that there is yet a fourth class, which I call the “Uncivilized class”! Yes, the uncivilized. This class of people, as would be expected do not respect themselves in the first place. They barely have any proper, useful knowledge in their heads yet, at the slightest provocation, they spew out all of their ignorance thinking they know. They are those who may not be rich, or may, in fact, be rich but may have obtained their riches through dubious enterprises and are therefore quick to announce to the world their latest car, yacht or wealth acquired. They lavish gifts on girlfriends and mistresses that they will never bless their wives with.
The uncivilized, are those who are dishonest, who refuse to pay or cheat their employees, insult their intelligence and make fools of them. This class of people has no shame at all, as they do not mind at all misbehaving in public. They are arrogant, very prideful and would accept no correction whatsoever. They would stop at nothing until they create a mountain out of a molehill. They are crude, vulgar, cheap, foolish, childish, empty-headed and almost always act on impulse!
For example, in the midst of a sensitive situation, without thinking, they dash into the virtual world of social media and splash its platforms with twisted accounts of the situation, severely distorted facts, and ultimately silly untruths. Such acts lend credence to the fact that for such people, their actions always go before and ahead of their thoughts, instead of the reverse. They arrogate titles upon themselves and always try to bully their way through every situation. Such uncouth people believe that force is the most appropriate tool to deploy to achieve whatever they want.
Sadly, the lives of many such people in this God-forsaken class of uncivilized people come tumbling and crashing on the ground, lest they are aware, because their foundation is weak and therefore barely sustains them very far, since they are mostly liars and mischievous creatures who continue on the lying spree, so to keep them afloat! Many such dies in poverty and in neglect because, in their hay days, they ignored the poor and vulnerable and even insulted or abused them while they wasted their finite resources on useless adventures. This is the life and fate of the uncivilized!
Let me state here and now that this subject of civility came to be a big deal and has taken center stage in my mind because of an incident which occurred recently within the perimeters of Terminal 3, at the Kotoka International Airport. This is not the first time that such an incident occurred during the passenger handling process in the discharge of the duties of our Immigration officers manning the facility. There have been many times in the past when we experienced such situations, where we had to deal with passenger complaints, due to the relatively few numbers of booths serving Ghanaian nationals whereas, the vast majority of booths served the foreign nationals.
Now let me ask if you were supervising the passenger handling in the arrival hall, with 90% other nationals and 10% Ghanaian nationals, how would you apportion the booths to serve them all without a single complaint? Common sense dictates that you apportion more booths to the larger group and fewer to the smaller group. Even when the smaller group has all been served, of course, it makes sense to use those free booths to serve some of the passengers of the larger group, in order to reduce the queues at the other booths. Sometimes, even when there still are some of those in the fewer group – mostly Ghanaian nationals, being served, some of the people in the larger group – mostly foreign nationals may be introduced into the fewer group’s queue to simultaneously serve everyone in the shortest possible time.
This is not a new phenomenon, neither is it strange a thing to do if you have been to some of the world’s largest and busiest airports around the world, such as the Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which serves over 100 million passengers yearly! Similar is the case of the Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) as well as the Dubai International Airport (DXB), and so on, just to mention a few. To buttress this, passenger volume handling and the fact that time is money and is a scarce resource, and that processing of passengers in the shortest possible time, adds to the airport’s key performance index and makes it the preferred hub, destination, transit point or route for passengers when making a choice regarding which airline to choose in relation to one’s destination.
Let it be known, especially to those who after disembarking from their first ever flight or second or even third, mostly on paid-for tickets just around the African continent or first time returning home from the diaspora, that you do not go to such busy airports and yell at their Immigration officials, as though you own them or the facility! Within a split second, their security guards would grab you, detain you and you would have worsened your case; the very reason why you were agitating and hurling insults irresponsibly.
Fellow Ghanaians, civilized people are well-behaved. They are well-cultured from their typical Ghanaian homes, blessed with the best of manners and graceful in the Ghanaian-spirited attitudes and values. Civilized Ghanaians remember the enchanting lines of our National Anthem: “God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong…” and “Fill our hearts with true humility…”! Civilized Ghanaians also remember these esteemed lines from our National Pledge: “I promise on my honor to be faithful and loyal to Ghana my motherland” and “I promise to hold in high esteem.
Our heritage won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers; I pledge myself in all things to uphold and defend the good name of Ghana. So help me God.” Civilized Ghanaians would think of the above lines first and their allegiance foremost, to their motherland, Ghana, before stabbing her in the back! By insulting, misbehaving, misconducting themselves towards our gallant, professional Immigration officers, they spit right in the face of
mother Ghana, upon all the symbols of our national identity and desecrate all that we hold sacred and value most dear to our hearts; even the very fabric of our societal bonds. They chip away from that moral fortress and sever the very umbilical cord that nourishes us all as children of mother Ghana!
My brothers and sisters, to be judgmental of our officers, is to make a mockery of the very institutions that serve us, and this is severely detrimental to our national wellbeing. Such behavior put us collectively in a very bad light in the eyes of the foreign nationals. It makes them erroneously think that we live in caves and on trees and that we are next to the lower class animals and therefore misbehave at will! It is shameful. It is absurd. There is no sense in it. If there is anything that we should be complaining about now, it should be about the arrival hall of the plush Terminal 3, which
floods every time we have quite a heavy or continuous downpour of rain.
Finally, by all means, criticize, it helps to improve. But do not criticize destructively. Constructive criticisms rather help build strong institutions, so let your aim be to say what you need to say as polite as possible, with absolute civility asking yourself: would I feel good if same was said to me and how would that affect my image, and by extension the image of that institution in the eyes of those present at the scene? The vast majority of people who brutally chastise, nag and complain about nearly everything are the very people who cannot do anything meaningful when put in the very situation of which they so bitterly complain! Remember not to indulge in the sin of an exaggeration, for, you will pay dearly for it. Remember also to not bite the fingers that feed you and certainly, never point at your hometown using your left finger. A fool speaks anyhow but the wise calculate their words. Think of it, and be wise: be either in the class of really knowledgeable, really affluent or the nobles’ class but never, ever let it be said of you that you are in the class of the uncivilized!
Perhaps, the words of God are apt to direct and advice in this matter: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise… A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame… A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness… A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes… A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” It, therefore, behooves us all to change this goofy, nagging narrative. Let us stop denigrating what should rather be held sacred.
Let us show our national pride in our actions and pay our allegiance to mother Ghana. And as a guiding principle, please think at least twice about anything before you act; your life would become a testimony and a blessing for good!
God bless our homeland Ghana. So help us, God!
- “Civility” defined in the Oxford Living Dictionaries: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/civility
- Largest and busiest airports in the world: https://wanderwisdom.com/transportation/Top-Largest-Airports-in-the-World
- The Ghana National Anthem
- The Ghana National Pledge
- The Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version: Proverbs 12:15, 16, 23
- The Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version: Proverbs 18: 6-7
By Kofi Asare Bediako Jnr.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."