During my Basic Education years, it was the routine at morning parades to stand attention with your right hand over your precordium to recite the National pledge and sing the National anthem. Any movement noticed by the teacher which he thinks shows lack of seriousness was punishable.
The most enthusiastic of teachers repeated the recitations and singing at closing assemblies too. These were done to add piquancy to our patriotism.
Many years down the line, I have come to identify patriotism not through vain gestures— nor even apparently genuine ones including paying taxes voluntarily or otherwise— but through action thoughtfully undertaken for the love of the Republic.
Ghana marked 57years of self-rule this year with the theme, "Building a Better and Prosperous Ghana through Patriotism and National Unity".
This theme was aptly chosen as it suits the times, we seem to be witnesses to the death of patriotism. The Member of Parliament for Techiman South, Hon. Adjei Mensah lamented recently in a radio interview: "There is no sense of patriotism in Ghana; we are not behaving the way God created us, but rather we have copied a lifestyle which is killing the country and yet we cannot realize the doom we have caused ourselves…Now Ghanaians don’t think of the interest of the nation but themselves".
I have thus set out to explore who a patriot really is and how we could find one.
Who is a patriot?
For the purpose of this discussion let this definition suffice, thus a patriot is a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
Chinua Achebe in The Trouble with Nigeria described concisely a patriot as:
"He 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 is an emotion of love directed by a critical intelligence. A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people. He will be outspoken in condemnation of their shortcomings without given way to superiority, despair or cynicism".
Statesmen of old have attempted to define patriotism and a patriot. This lengthy treatise by Samuel Johnson in an address to the Electors of Great Britain in 1774 gives us insight on how to find a patriot.
“Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustred, though they want weight.”
He further surmised
"It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see public dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief A patriot is necessarily and invariably a lover of the people. But even this mark may sometimes deceive us."
He continues: "The people [are] a very heterogeneous and confused mass of the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad. Before we confer on a man, who caresses the people, the title of patriot, we must examine to what part of the people he directs his notice. It is proverbially said, that he who dissembles his own character, may be known by that of his companions. If the candidate of patriotism endeavours to infuse right opinions into the higher ranks, and, by their influence, to regulate the lower; if he consorts chiefly with the wise, the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, his love of the people may be rational and honest. But if his first or principal application be to the indigent, who are always inflammable; to the weak, who are naturally suspicious; to the ignorant, who are easily misled; and to the profligate, who have no hope but from mischief and confusion; let his love of the people be no longer boasted"
Samuel Johnson stressed: "A patriot is always ready to countenance the just claims, and animate the reasonable hopes of the people; he reminds them, frequently, of their rights, and stimulates them to resent encroachments and to multiply securities".
These days so many parade themselves parade as patriots. They talk of patriotism only because of the benefits they will get.
Achebe warned of vested interests that because of the benefit they get from the corruptness of the system will sing adulation about the nation and be quick to vilify those who disagree as unpatriotic. He intimates that of such people their definition of patriotism would be as objective as a Rent act devised by a committee of avaricious landlords or the encomiums that a colony of blood-sucking ticks might be expected to shower upon the bull on whose back they batten.
President Mahama has used many platforms to admonish as to think about Ghana and patronize made in Ghana products. He asked as to question ourselves each day whether we could get what we are using from Ghana and patronize that. He further stressed that we should begin to have appetite for made in Ghana products and quench our voracious appetite towards anything exotic.
I am happy for this is call on all to think a bit more about Ghana and to show her a bit more love and devotion. But we may do these whilst being corrupt. Recent revelations on the National Service Scheme, the GYEEDA, SADA scandals, point to how endemic corruption has become. This threatens to erode the gains other patriotic acts may bring. Corruption in Ghana could be likened to the tick on the dog, except that in our case the tick is bigger than the dog. We can't claim our rightful place if we continue this path where our love for our nation is so cold. I pray we rekindle it from today and whilst at that Leadership must show the way. One shining act of bold, selfless leadership at the top, such as unambiguous refusal to be corrupt or tolerate corruption at the fountain of authority, will radiate powerful sensations of well-being and pride through every nerve and artery of national life apologies to Achebe. And there will be little need of lengthy sermons on patriotism.
Samuel Smiles aptly describes the facade we wear in the name of patriotism.
“A great deal of what passes by the name of patriotism in these days consists of the merest bigotry and narrow-mindedness; exhibiting itself in national prejudice, national conceit, amid national hatred. It does not show itself in deeds, but in boastings—in howlings, gesticulations, and shrieking helplessly for help—in flying flags and singing songs—and in perpetual grinding at the hurdy-gurdy of long-dead grievances and long-remedied wrongs. To be infested by such patriotism as this is, perhaps, amongst the greatest curses that can befall any country.”
He admonishes us on the way to go:
“The patriotism that invigorates and elevates a country by noble work—that does its duty truthfully and manfully—that lives an honest, sober, and upright life, and strives to make the best use of the opportunities for improvement that present themselves on every side; and at the same time a patriotism that cherishes the memory and example of the great men of old, who, by their sufferings in the cause of religion or of freedom, have won for themselves a deathless glory, and for their nation those privileges of free life and free institutions of which they are the inheritors and possessors.”
May we find such patriots in our search.
God bless our homeland Ghana
Written by: Nathanael Adjei-Kyeremeh