Breaking Out Of The Colonial Shells

Tue, 6 Dec 2011 Source: Acheampong, Thomas

- how our social systems can be more effective and useful. (Part I)

During my elementary school years, I was taught, among others, about the political and social systems of Britain; how the British Monarch was rich, wealthy and powerful; I was taught about the landscape of Britain, about the Prince of Wales, snow, rivers, and lakes in Britain and many other useless lessons. When I entered secondary school, I learned about European history, the geography of the West; how the Prairies in both the U.S. and Russia are cultivated for their wheat and corn, the characteristics of snow on higher grounds and lower grounds, etc,. Little academic time, if any at all, was devoted to the history, cultures and the landscape of Africa; neither was there enough time to learn about the land, waters, the climate, and the rest, of Ghana.

What I am trying to draw readers’ attention to is that, though I am an African and a Ghanaian, for that matter, I was not helped enough by the education system of that time to know more about my own environment, culture and history. The white man’s world, his ways of life, his ideology, and systems of administration, became the focus of my education. I graduated from college and university in Ghana and still felt very empty about what I could do with my education. Unfortunately, I had no means to go and live in the white man’s world, about which, I learned so much. And would that ‘world’ have accepted my ‘made in Ghana education,’ even if I had the means? The white man has, craftily, succeeded to micro-manage our minds and energies to make them useless in our own land and still we are unacceptable in his backyard. They have made us believe, though in vain, that their ways of life, their philosophies, their believe system, and political orientation are the only ways by which Africans can redeem themselves. Sadly though, we have come to embrace this brainwash with a big “Amen” and religiously follow suit.

It is not surprising to me, at all, therefore, that we, Africans, have lost our sense of self confidence. We lack the confidence to explore and develop our own social, economic and political systems of administration. We cannot even improvise, let alone imitate others’ inventions and ideas to suite our own ways. For instance, many years after independence, our judges in Ghana still wear these sweaty, smelly and filthy wigs to courts. They still use the same archaic judicial procedures and English terminologies which bear no cultural relevance to our understanding and worldviews. Many years after independence, we are still ‘condemned and consigned’ to using English as the only commercial language because we have not still found our social identity as Ghanaians. Our inferiority complexes, (due to tribal cultures), do not allow us to come to any compromise on developing and making a particular language in Ghana the official language; something the white man ‘whom we look up to’ developed in order to have the “where-withal” to change his environment for the better. The British did not, from birth, speak one language. They had and still have many different dialects, accents and cultures. But for the sake of uniformity and social cohesion, and knowing that there was a greater advantage in unity, they all accepted one general form of language – the English language; - the old form of which we try to speak here in Ghana. The Italians, the German, the Jews, the French, the Mexicans, the Argentineans, and a host of other multicultural groups of people developed or accepted some form of a common language to ensure uniformity of purpose and development as nations. Common language, according sociologists, historians and archaeologists, is the necessary precursor to development. But where are we…? Still languishing in our mental prison cells and very paranoid of our next door neighbors.

Due to language barrier or lack of it thereof, we are not able to fully and properly express our sentiments, thoughts and emotions in writings they way we would have wished to do. Unfortunately for us, also, no matter how best we study this foreign language, (called English), we can never compete with those born and brought up in that environment and culture. I am always sad whenever I hear or see people boasting or being praised for speaking English fluently. Does that make our system better? Does that make that person an English man/woman? How much can that person speak, write and use his/her own language to develop his/her environment as the white man, whom he/she is imitating, has done? We have many PhD holders in almost all academic disciplines and other disciplines of human endeavor, but how many of these degree holders have come up with inventions and developments of their own that have had any meaningful impact on our economies, societies, healthcare systems, securities, and other areas of human needs? It is sad, but I have to admit here, that I am no better than any college degree holder in Ghana. I still have nothing to offer my country despite going through the Ghana education system for so many years.

“The fault…is not in our stars…But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” We have accepted and imposed on ourselves a way of life that is embedded in a foreign culture and language. Therefore, much as we try, and for how many years that we try, we will never succeed because it is like putting old wine into new wine skin, or, like trying to build a 5000 ton edifice on a 3000 ton foundation.

Our law enforcement system is no better. Our police and other law enforcement agents still wear ‘the master’s reject’ as their uniform. They go about their work in the same way and manner that the colonial master instructed them. They see themselves as ‘foreign and special’ from their own culture and kind; just like what “master” used to do. We have not been able to design any uniforms for these agencies which would bear our cultural emblem and sense of pride as sovereign people.

The end results of all this foreign “camouflage” is that it has created some sort of psychological and intellectual vacuum and mistrust in “our own systems.” We, therefore, cannot trust and accept that our own social systems can work to deliver our socio-political ideals because: A) the operative dynamics of our systems do not resonate with our inner thoughts, beliefs, way of life and purposes as Ghanaians, though they have been with us for so long. B) The presence of those colonial control and administrative systems always remind us of our shameful colonial past; something we want to forget so quickly as black people.

I am not advocating for a wholesale change to all colonial systems and structures. Rather, we should be able to transform most of them and divest them of all colonial colors and emblems to fit our vision and purposes. For instance, the school system is excellent, but we should not go there to study about U.S. eco-system to the neglect of the reality at our backyards. We should not be spending time and monies just to study, say, the American social patterns while we are ignorant of the social paradigms which inform our beliefs and way of doing things as African and Ghanaians. When that happens, we come out of the colleges and other institutions of higher learning as “uneducated literates.” We merely become opinionated about everything and innovators of none. Our school systems must not only be equipped to train us to detect and to know what is wrong or who is wrong, but more importantly, how to make them better.

Let us remember what Kojo Antwi said: “…we must free our minds from this cultural captivity…”

I love Ghana and I am proud of being a Ghanaian.

BY: Thomas O. Acheampong

(This writer can be reached at: pawa909@yahoo.com)

Columnist: Acheampong, Thomas