Ghana’s Many Problems: The Promise of Humanism

Wed, 1 Oct 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

A young mother possesses two asymmetric breasts, one excessively huge and succulently oceanic, the other vanishingly small, barely protrusive and content-wise dry. She feeds her suckling on the latter, the dry breast. As matters stand there always appear roaming shadows of unsettled questions in the crucible of the little one’s mind. Why his young mother continues to breastfeed him on the small, dry stub happens to be the most salient of his suite of worries. The following dialogue transpires between them one eventful day:

Baby: “Why do you have two different breasts?”

Mother: “God made them so?”

Baby: “How?”

Mother: “Ask God!”

Baby: “Mmm…Okay how did God make them so?”

Mother: “Well, I don’t know…All I know is that one is for God himself, the other for man.”

Baby: “Which is God’s?”

Mother: “Is that not obvious?”

Baby: “What do you mean?”

Mother: “Well, the bigger breast is God’s.”

The young mother’s last comment solemnly brings the conversation to what seems like a close. However, something uncomfortably seems amiss. What is it? The suckling’s mother, the little one’s father, has been voraciously sucking on the bigger breast from time to time since the little one’s birth. The suckling, it appears, has been monitoring his mother do it so closely, so often. Hold it, that is not the end of the narrative! Where is God in all of these? That is a question for us all to think about. Anyway, we shall come back to the question shortly! No doubt we have spent considerable time, intellectual energy, and ink discussing the failures of leadership and democracy in advancing social justice and strengthening Ghanaian institutions. This subject is important to us and we also believe to many others who are interested in the cause of human progress, as it is equally not in doubt that “genuine” competitive democracy and strong, visionary, patriotic leadership have a lot to offer humanity in the quest for equity and improved living conditions for the masses.

It is clear from the foregoing and elsewhere that harnessing the potential of these two labels, quality leadership and competitive democracy, for a society’s development should be the priority of the citizens of that society, Ghana in our study. How individuals in that society successfully exploit this boiling potential to propel that society forward represents a profound challenge to human development. It does not suggest that challenges are insoluble in the castor oil of man’s cosmic intellectual possibilities. Quite the contrary. However, it is left to a conscientious people deeply concerned about their contemporary collective well-being and the future of their posterity to interrogate the latent reasons chipping away at the progress of their society. Most of these latent reasons, fortunately, flaunt themselves before the social wavelength of public psychology at different levels of quantifiable manifestations. Therefore, there is no moral excuse for social or institutional inaction where the political quantifiability of the train of latent national ills is allowed to undergo facial disfiguration under the inquiring glare of Ghana’s evolving problematic national character.

These well-defined social ills are not unique to the political personality of Ghana. Our focus on Ghana is self-evident for many good reasons, many of which we have painstakingly explored in some detail elsewhere. Yet these ills demand a semblance of constant hammering into public psychology to give them a powerful, if concrete, ethical expression in national politics, guaranteeing their corrective endearment to the authoritative conscience of moral justice. Obviously the quest for social justice has pursued the functional bodies of our main arguments aimed at improving the human condition. But social justice does not have a meaningful existence outside weak institutions, social gullibility, and political nonchalance. Certain pertinent parameters must therefore be in place to validate its investiture in the sphere of social psychology. Quite significantly, one such countervailing circumstance to a flourishing of social justice in the public space is the institutional entrenchment of bribery.

The institution of bribery is a lucrative enterprise in the body politic, Ghana’s. It has a happy face everywhere, in the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature, a malignant cancer running rampant in the compromised anatomy of public conscience. It is even suggestively a suppressed canker in the body of Christ, the church. If and when the impeccant body of Christ benefits consciously from the institution of bribery, what more is there to say of the prostituting carnality of secular politics? What this means is that the noble visage of social justice is confronted with a taxing dilemma clothed in the enabling polarities of religion and secular politics. It also implies an operational irony between social justice’s innate capacity for resisting the sinister hand of injustice squeezing the proactive hyoid of social responsibility out of moral existence and social justice’s forced cohabitation with the negative forces of institutional corruption. This species of moral dilemma says a lot when the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), supposedly an institutional oversight of public conduct, swallows the bitter pill of corruptibility.

The institution of bribery undercuts public interest and foreign confidence in Ghana’s investment strategies. It seriously distorts the fiduciary responsibilities of the national government and public institutions to the extent of making the country a laughing stock among the international community of nations. The institution of bribery also has the tendency of facilitating corporate corruption on the part of external multinationals in partnership with leading political players in shady procurement of contracts. Sidestepping bidding instruments and parliamentary oversight with regard to contractual obligations has seriously undermined industrial and commercial competitiveness, led to fraudulent disbursement of judgment debts to undeserving, unscrupulous persons, and contributed enormously to industrial mediocrity. The recent spate of architectural disasters in Accra, the capital, and other parts of the country directly speak to the social influence of institutional corruption among other reasons, as observed across the expanding portfolio of policy decisions institutionalized at the individual, parliamentary, and national levels.

Again, these troubling instances are not unique to Ghana. An excellent example of the preceding is the collapse of T.B. Joshua’s church building. That brings us to the narrative doorstep of God, the suckling, and the asymmetric breasts, call them the secular Holy Trinity. What exactly are we driving at? God is the suckling’s mother who in turn represents the asymmetric breasts, namely, the politician and the clergy. Both the politician and the clergy claim to represent the total personality and collective voice of transcendence. There is a subtle difference in the strategies via which either acquires authority and power, however. The politician derives his secular authority from popular sovereignty, the clergy’s spiritual authority from the caged mindsets of a cluster of men and women. The politician and the clergy both love and appreciate the nicest things of life, supposedly the bigger things of life, in our case and more importantly to our discussion, the excessively huge and succulently oceanic breast. Indeed, it can be argued that the cast of mind of the electorate or even of religious following is not apparently of this carnal world. It certainly belongs to the manipulating world of transcendence. One could only wonder aloud why T.B. Joshua utterly failed to foresee the September 12, 2014 crumbling of his mega-church coming, or why he refused to take a standing cue from the narrative blueprint for the Tower of Babel.

It is troubling to see the amount of support going his way despite his culpability for and leadership failure in owning up to tactical mistakes that led to the architectural disaster. If a plane was actually behind the unfortunate disaster as he had consistently argued in the public arena, why did he not see that coming, why did any member of his church not see that coming, and why did any of the billions of Christians around the world not see that coming? Should September 11 at least not have given him any apocalyptic hint, prophetic clues? The name Joshua, does it ring a bell? Was Joshua correct in his assertion the sun stood still? Was it not the earth instead? Yet the clergy and the politician are identical twins in the enterprise of indoctrination and mind control. For one thing, members of the clergy are good at their trade predicting and prophesying about election outcomes but failing to tell the world when exactly the Lord’s Resistance Army, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab are going to strike at any point in time, exposing the identities of the baleful minds behind the bursts of terroristic arson at the height of Ghana’s 2012 election petition trial, conveniently ascribing their prognostic bankruptcies from failing to solve a muster of out-of-the-ordinary human challenges as tactical moves to divert public scrutiny from their spiritual inadequacies, and so on.

They the politicians and the clergy could not even predict when Ebola and cholera were going to strike at the heart of human complacency. The divisive, false political prophecies of the clergy often pose serious threat to national security. For another, regrettably, religion is here to stay. Thus religion constitutes the kind of philosophy no society or civilization can completely get rid of as long as man exists. It is a great fact of sociological indubitability that, religion has contributed enormously to enrichment of moral philosophy as far as anyone can reliably tell in spite of its extensive historical and contemporary portfolio of debits, even affirming its internal inconsistencies. “One may indeed arrive at the possibility, just the possibility, that the existence of religion, with its unfathomable influence on the human mind, may have been just as crucial to human survival…Let us borrow an analogy from the medical sciences: even an accurately diagnosed disease does not preclude the potential of that very ailment in the prevention of worse afflictions,” Wole Soyinka maintains: “What we must pursue, therefore, is not a competitive bruising arena for the claims of ideology or religion but an open marketplace of both ideas and faiths.”

What an insightful projection of humanism! How does man usefully accommodate mutual competitiveness between the running claims of humanism and those of religion without so much as giving up on neutralizing strategies peculiar to his innate psychological contradictions? This is not a question solely meant for the unruly ears of religion. It is equally good for softening the stubborn ears of politics. In one sense, therefore, humanism and social justice encounter each other at the political juncture of human development. What does this say of the relationship between the improvable claims of human agency in the realm of religion and of the mystery of transcendence? “Not one of these [religious claims], or any religion known to humanity, can affirm in any testable way the eternal verities of whatever ‘truth’ they espouse.” Here, there is a direct palpable likeness to politicians’ open identification with the strategies of material unfulfillment and failed promises after having lied through their teeth to secure the confidence of the electorate, a common attribute of electoral democracy.

Clearly humanism faces a bleak future at the hands of religion and politics if these identical twins, the clergy and the politician, are not ultimately consigned to the emotional dimension of mutual accommodation. After all, it is the material needs of humanity, not of deities, that must be at the forefront of the social battle extolling the virtues of moral justice. The deities are self-sufficient, omnipotent, and omniscient, thus making them overly capable of handling any challenging circumstances. Human carnality is quite something different, different in that man cannot reliably place its figure on the vicissitudes of tomorrow. Yet transcendence is an extension of human carnality. “If humanity were not, the deities would not be,” notes Soyinka. “Humanity, not deity, is the begetter of metaphysics.” Soyinka then again directs a candid critique to self-professed ambassadors of transcendence, potentially unraveling the perceived tenuousness linking transcendence to human agency: “The gods do not descend from their remote perches to take part in arguments that allegedly derive from their will…It is the human agents who claim to receive, enshrine, and enforce their pronouncements.”

Indeed Soyinka’s rhetorical juggernaut must surely strike the right note among men and women of humanistic bent. The story about humanism is not one based on facile speculations. It has depth, layers, and dimensions. The welfare of a people is one such that demands high public scrutiny and unbridled moral appreciation, acknowledging that the total neglect of a people’s welfare can be so devastating to the evolution or progress of the national enterprise. A polity of the kind may even teeter on the brink of social dissolution, of anarchy. Enemies of the state, of which we can reliably point to including a stream of dapper theologians and hypocritical evangelists, are always on tenterhooks at the spectral arrival of national dissolution, when, incidentally, their political favorites are not in power. These hypocritical misfits shamelessly trade in schadenfreude politics where the misfortunes of incumbency mollify the material greed of their political palates. That is why the clergy can be so much like the politician in opposition!

This is also why humanism is such a tricky project. Significantly, though, humanism transcends the incongruous particularities of religion, race, and ethnicity. The well-known humanistic instances of Bob Marley, Kwame Nkrumah, Mother Teresa, Camilo Torres, Wole Soyinka, Mahatma Gandhi, Franz Fanon, Nelson Mandela, Gustavo Gutiérraz, and Oprah Winfrey are born of different persuasions, not specifically of religion. Morality and goodness are not exclusively of religion. Secular education, aging, and culture aid in the normalization of morality and goodness as part of the general process of learning. Let us be assertively emphatic that humanism is not and never should be an imposed prisoner of religion, for as it is an intersecting point of operational harmony does not always transpire between the materialist facet of human agency and the forces of transcendence. The operative root word here is “human.” We still have to be extremely careful and particular about banking our hopes on projects directed toward, erected by and around the humanity of man because of the question of his entrenched fallibility.

The tough kernel of our contentions centers on candid acknowledgment of man’s vast array of weaknesses through emotional circumvention of the cult of personality. Man should not invest too much hope in the perceived strength and seemingly limitless possibilities of human intellection. The dynamics of competiveness, ethnocentrism, intolerance, greed, pride, jealousy, racism, and shortsightedness can work against the operational currency of humanism either severally or in close association. It is important to emphasize at this point that humanism, religion, and science are not monopolies of truth, either, given their emotional propinquity to human attachment. Nor can it be detached from the actualizing exigencies of liberation ideology, noting that liberation ideology on the other hand does not lay exclusive claims to the tenets of de-colonization or manumission. On the other hand, it is theoretically indebted or beholden to practical considerations for improving the material well-being of human beings.

What do we mean? Equitable distribution of quality public services; bridging the gap of educational inequity; fighting gender inequality and racism and ethnic supremacy and poverty; protecting the vulnerable in society including the handicap and ethno-racial minorities; food security; promoting political meritocracy and environmental awareness and equitable distribution of national wealth and responsible competitive democracy; fighting the excesses of unbridled capitalism; encouraging religious and cultural and political tolerance; and checking corporate irresponsibility constitute a few crucial elements making up the conceptual formulation called humanism. Empowering citizens to expose corruption and corrupt officials without fear of public exposure or threats of violence to one’s person should be the primary responsibility of any civilized society. This requires passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI).

In any case protecting whistleblowers should be a singular act of public conscience, a chunk of moral act fit to stand the sizzling contours of Ghana’s constitutional ochlocracy. Moreover, the critical wall of constitutional affirmation outlining the role of whistleblowers in the body politic must link its architectural legitimacy through another act of social colligation, raising the moral threshold of public opinion against the entrenched institution of corruption: Public education. The issue of conflict of interest is of immense interest to our corrective project, humanism. However, we should want to add that the Indemnity Clause sneaked into Ghana’s 1992 Constitution imposes a severe dilemma, a heavy burden on the national conscience, thus setting a precedent where prosecuting future public officials, particularly presidents, for outrageous malfeasance and other egregious national crimes, sentencing them to prison terms commensurate with the gravity of their misdeeds, becomes a problematic legal conundrum.

Where are the young mother, the suckling, and the asymmetric breasts to set things right? We wait to see!

We shall continue the discussion in Part 2!

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis