A Political Coin of Three Sides

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

: What Do We Actually Want??Part llb

One of the salient issues we raised in the piece before this installment was the social, cultural, and political significance of music in society. Lest any reader misconstrued our position, we did not say music was a bad influence on society generally. In fact, we merely invoked the power of music through selective argumentation. The blues, palm wine music, traditional highlife, roots reggae, Afrobeat, Old-School Rap, are a few genres that have had positive and lasting influence on both public and private consciousness.

A few examples: Poncho’s “Sweet African History,” KRS-I’s “Self-Destruction,” Nas’ “I Can,” Peter Tosh’s “You Can’t Blame the Youth,” Bob Marley’s “Africa Unite” and “One Love,” Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise,” Adomako Nyarmekye’s “Manyi Wo Ayea,” Koo Nomi’s “Koobi Aware,” BB King’s “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere,” Nana Ampadu’s “Obra,” Teacher’s “Oheneba Ne Nea No Papa Te Ase,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Fela Kuti’s “Why Black Man Dey Suffer,” Michael Jackson’s and Lionel Richie’s “We Are the World,” all have had positive influence on society.

What are we saying? We are simply saying the youth must use the medium of hip-life to foster social cohesion, public hygiene, and individual responsibility, to build moral character as well as adherence to mores and laws, to undermine sexual indiscretions among the youth, to question bad leadership as well as to fight corruption, to promote social justice and the value of national development, hard work, love, and unity. In the same vein, we ask our movie directors, script writers, and producers to do the same in the movie industry, for our music and movie industries probably have the greatest influence on the impressionable minds of the youth.

Therefore, our hip-life musicians, movie actors and actresses must capitalize on their newly-acquired celebrity statuses, turning them into positive role models in society, given that psychosocialization—sociocultural environments—plays some role in personality development. We need this because social irresponsibility has become the rule rather than the exception. It’s even stranger that preserving a woman’s virginity, for instance, has become a badge of shame in our modern civilization. Children have become parents and parents children. Our educational and religious institutions have become another migrainoid bother—public caricatures. Social and psychological indiscipline runs amuck everywhere in society.

What sort of education are we giving the youth? On the whole, is it qualitatively any better than what an armed robber gets on the street? What kind of ethics do we teach in our institutions, secondary schools, for instance? Why do we value mass-produced credentializing of the youth over quality education? It’s the case that recent developments in Ghanaian politics have pushed us to ask these questions. Again, recent developments in our society lead us straight to Bob Marley’s sentiment that universities and religious establishments have become institutional laboratories for churning out thieves and murderers! Indeed, the prevalence of political corruption and anomie are a social symptomolgy of our civilization of modernity.

In fact, why are our graduates in politics using ordinary instruments like pen and paper to do what a violent armed robber possibly cannot do with a cache of firearms? What are we doing to reverse the flow of social and political negativities in our society? How about our business administration, banking, financial, and accounting institutions? What is the nature of ethics taught at these business institutions? How can responsibility, accountability, and integrity be effectively taught as part of the general curricula of secondary schools, of pre-university institutions? How can expanding universal quality education to the youth help fight child slavery, juvenile delinquency, and general ignorance in Ghana?

Any suggestions in terms of practical solutions? Well, revolutionizing public consciousness and pitting it against social injustice is the first step. How do we carry this out? The tiny Island of Jamaica has introduced the progressive opinions and philosophy of Marcus Garvey in secondary schools to raise the social and political awareness of the country’s youth to a higher level of moral conscientization.

Certainly, those of us familiar with the ideological intestine of “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” know that Ghana’s youth must be reading this book as well. Kwame Nkrumah’s “Consiencism” must also be read by every student who goes through the secondary school system. Namely, Nkrumah, like his ideological mentor Garvey, has so much positive ideas to offer in terms of practical solutions. Ayi Kwei Armah’s “Two Thousand Seasons” is quite another. We shall return to this later.

Yet our questions carry the philosophical weight of a Pandora’s box. That’s, didn’t some of our corrupt politicians read these books? Actually, if they did, how do we account for the great mismatch between academic moralizing and moral pragmatics? This question, too, does not seem to have a ready-made or reductionist answer. On the other hand, is it possible to subject morality to scientific investigation, namely, through pragmatic ethics? Specifically, the questions say a lot about the complexity of human nature. After all, could the noble search for knowing or understanding human nature possibly be an agnostic project?

The quest for philosophical understanding of human nature is much akin to Thomas Jefferson’s moralizing against the injustices of slavery as a slave master himself or the moral contradiction between the Synoptic “kiss of Judas” and the moral justification of Christ’s betrayal according to The Gospel of Judas. But since the youth are humans with complex human nature, how do we close the mismatch to the barest minimum? Given that imperfection is a natural constitution of our humanity, which part(s) of our humanity harbors the seat of corruptibility?

Is it the mind, soul, or spirit? Moral philosophers, sociobiologists, and neuroscientists must come to our aid! Furthermore, granted that philosophy has not given us much in terms of unraveling the complexity of human nature, isn’t it only proper that we look elsewhere for answers? Does sincerity or pathological lying spring from biological determinism, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, essentialism, or social environments? Or combinations of these ideas? The mind, we believe, may have the answers. Let’s leave them for the neurophilosophers. But our reductionist position overlooks the theoretical complexities associated with mind/body dualism.

Let’s continue via another angle: Leopold Senghor once equated biological blackness with emotionalism and biological whiteness with rationalism. Was he entirely right? Cheikh Anta Diop dismissed Senghor’s philosophical Negritude out of hand. Frantz Fanon’s philosophical ambivalence toward Negritude is another matter entirely. However, the work of the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio, captured in his “somatic marker hypothesis,” seems to provide sufficient neurological basis for the emotional dimension of rationalism. In other words, emotionalism feeds the fire of rationalism.

In effect, what are we saying? We are simply saying that emotionalism is not a negative trait after all. Diop was indeed right. Therefore, it will seem that the rigid philosophical dichotomy between Senghorian emotionalism and rationalism has no place in Afrocentric rationality and neurobiology. The question is: How can we nurture the emotional resources of the youth in the context of national development? This is another complicated question. Yet we clearly see the fire of emotion somehow entangled in the flowing musicality, athleticism, and terpsichorean abilities of the youth. The other question is: How can we turn youthful emotional resources into rational currency for technological advancement? This leads us directly to the larger questions we raised in “A Great Ghanaian Scientist: Dr. Victor Lawrence.”

Back to our educational institutions and the social benefits of critical reading. “A man only learns in two ways,” declared Will Rogers, adding, “one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Unfortunately, Armah’s book, “Two Thousand Seasons,” is underrated by literary critics, yet it’s as morally powerful as Asante’s “Afrocentricity: The Theory of Change,” Williams’ “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” Mandela’s “A Long Walk To Freedom,” Malcolm X’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Achebe’s “There Was A Country,” all of which the youth must read by the time they are ready for university work. In fact, Armah’s book, like KRS-1’s “Self-Destruction,” indicts Africa’s culpability in her own destruction.

Meanwhile, the level of moral awareness captured in these books has the power to push the threshold of the sociopolitical conscientization of the youth beyond what the current crop of corrupt leadership enjoys. The moral conscientization of the youth via our educational institutions must be done in conjunction with inculcating progressive ideas of entrepreneurial and financial independence in them. However, this is a hopeless venture if Ghana does not first wean herself from foreign paternalism and patronage. The national government must lead by example. Moreover, entrepreneurial, personal, and financial independence is possible within the larger framework of institutional fairness and of sociopolitical stability.

Admittedly, government must not be seen as a panacea for society’s ills by the youth. This is why we must channel youthful emotion and other psycho-physiological resources into creativity for national development. Then again, Howard Gardner’s “Five Minds” theory is worth exploring further in the Ghanaian context. His expositions on “respectful mind” and “ethical mind” are particularly resourceful and transformative. Mazama’s and Asante’s “Pedagogical Knowledge” is equally powerful in terms of pedagogical resources. Raymond’s “The Warrior Method: A Program for Rearing Healthy Black Boys” is another.

Finally, we may study and even appropriate the Baraka School model for our impoverished communities. We could as well have to weigh the benefits of the for-profit Bridge International Academies against those of other institutions such as Fred Swaniker’s African Leadership Academy and our secondary schools. We need to restructure the curricula to meet the challenges of modernity. In this case, therefore, the era of learning by rote, of studying foreign cultures and geographies, at the expense of Africa’s social and economic realities, must be things of the past. Indigenizing those foreign ideas capable of solving our problems must be encouraged by our institutions and culture.

On the other hand, these progressive suggestions are meaningless if our institutions—parliament, CHRAJ, Accountant General’s Department, judiciary, executive, and others—are not empowered to do their fair share in terms of fighting corruption and other social ills. Providing better health-care services, fighting crime (drug trade, etc), and reducing corruption at the ports, customs, and police department send strong signals to the youth that government is serious. Seriousness on the part of the government should tell the youth to take themselves serious.

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis