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Opinions Tue, 15 Jan 2019

Menzgold saga: Our culture lead us to the slaughter

When I was growing up two things were symbolic of who I was, ‘too-known’ and ‘stubborn’, traits that needn’t be glorious but ones I pride in. I reminisce my childhood always with nostalgia; a feeling of joy that I was never broken irrespective of how hard it got but I get sad knowing how the culture robs us of the best.

Permit me to digress to tell a long tale, one that will aid our understanding of our culture. This story sets the stage for an important inquiry. Once upon a time, time-time. A man by name Philip Zimbardo decided to randomly assign volunteers to the roles of guards and prisoners in a test. Everybody knew this was not serious and was only a joke as each was a student of the prestigious Stanford University. I guess I must have entered the caveat, it is a true story.

Almost immediately after the experiment began, the “guards” started to behave in a dehumanizing way toward the “prisoners,” subjecting them to verbal harassment, forced exercise, manipulation of sleeping conditions, manipulation of bathroom privileges (some of it physically filthy), and the use of nudity to humiliate the “prisoners.” Zimbardo, who played the role of prison superintendent, terminated the experiment after only six days when it was intended to last for two weeks.

This research became an insightful understanding into human behavior, culture and leadership. It is rather curious and interesting that 1971 was the year of the research. That same year perhaps built the foundation of everything we know in modern culture. Intel released the first microprocessor, a technology which revolutionized computing, Walt Disney Opened in Florida, the voting age in the United States was lowered to 18 years old, NASA’s Appolo 14 mission to the Moon was launched, women were granted the right to vote in Switzerland and yes United Arab Emirates was established in the same year. Just as these events set the global stage for modern politics, power and culture Major General Idi Amin Dada took control of Uganda and that same 1971 happened to be the last year of Busia’s government and the end of the second republic of Ghana.

Let me allow you at this point to reflect on the question, what is Ghanaian culture and how different is it from the culture of other civilized nations? As we all try to figure out answers to these questions these are my thoughts:

Dada gets the meat and milk even if the child needs it most. I honestly don’t know why we call fathers Dada but maybe Dada Amin must make us reconsider. Getting past the lightheartedness, why did we (or maybe just me) grow up when the best part of the meat and the greater part of milk served to the father when the science that children need that the most abounds. Why did we not ask the question so that we gave the children the best of the meat or the milk?

A child can never be right and should not talk back when instructed. Why is wisdom always associated with age and the perspective of a child never listened to when it is obvious an old clown was born before the king. Why could adult never see the wisdom or at least the thirst of a child’s curiosity?

Why is the 'white' man always esteemed better than the 'black' man? Why do we believe in the colour superiority and even call ourselves 'black' when the last time I checked the colour of our skin was nothing close to black, neither was white anything like the once we call white.

Why do we fear books, reading and pens and actually why the proverb if you want to hide something from a man of colour, hide it in a book? Does learning make us vomit or does too much reading make us mad? Maybe like the biblical Paul we are too short to reach out for books on the shelves.

Why do we believe everything we read? I am sure someone is saying that, so Paul couldn’t pick books from the shelf, wow. Really? Like seriously? Read and gullible are not mutually exclusive.

Why was Akan drama more important than talking point, and who scheduled Akan drama to be televised right after talking point? Or is it just a GTV thing? Maybe more of the ‘G’ syndrome. After all who wants to talk with Gonorrhea?

Why is the ghost always the hero of the story and not Ghana police? Sorry it’s only in the movies. I am still looking for who killed Nancy anyway.

And aww, the new craze, why is the ‘juju man’ not rich or maybe just like the lotto doctor, he is a Good Samaritan that’s all.

Talking about lotto doctors and Good Samaritans, this article was inspired by John Ackah-Blay Meizah and his protégé, the amazing lotto doctors. You may elect to believe the 1000% or 120% per annum or both but why did we not ask the questions of why and how? Our culture needs a fix but I don’t find the solution complex, just curiosity, pure childlike curiosity – the ability to ask the right questions and to have clarity free from all heuristics.

How do we get hoodwinked by ‘Dada’ and believe he has an aeroplane under his bed? Even if Anty Jackie and Bra Kwame said it was good, and the coolest babes- Dumas and Becca invited us with a wink, how shall we find our mind to decide for ourselves free from groupthink and pluralistic ignorance? Even when shatta, Bhim and Sark say ‘ratata’, how do we know the herb makes one think correctly?

There is a serious conversation about our culture to be had, but for now let us have our usual laugh, just this time not the trolling at the pain but laugh with hope that just maybe, there will be an awakening of the values of hard work, diligence, curiosity, learning and rigorous independent thinking. Just maybe we need another 1971 that we may build new foundations rather than the authoritarianism of Dada.

Columnist: Yaw Sompa
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