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The Ewe-Asante Impasse: Learning from Isabella the Golden Retriever!

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

In the rural town of Caney, Kansas, is a gentle and amiable golden retriever called Isabella. (Isabella’s owners, Tom and Allie Harvey, simply refer to their beloved Isabella as Izzy, not unlike many Americans who are quite fond of abbreviating their own names, including the names of their pets.) What is remarkable about Izzy, however, is the fact that this member of the naturally genial breed of golden retrievers would become a surrogate mother to three Bengal tiger cubs, whose own mother had abandoned them shortly after the cubs were born, at the Harveys’ self-built Safari Zoological Park. What surprised most people, however, was the selflessness, magnanimity and equanimity Izzy exhibited in adopting the Bengal tiger cubs, considering the fact that Izzy was on the verge of weaning her own litter of puppies, before being called upon by her owners to take on this formidable task of surrogacy.

In July 2008, a white Bengal tiger owned by the Harveys gave birth to three cubs at the aforementioned private park, but joy will soon turn to consternation as the Harveys discovered that Mother Tiger had abandoned Baby Cubs. Not knowing what to do next, the Harveys turned to Izzy to see if she would adopt Nasira, Anjika and Sidani, as the tiger cubs were affectionately called. Enthrallingly, not only did the Harveys’ successful experiment become a headline everywhere and garner wide-reaching fame for Izzy, but there was a resultant increase in the numbers of visitors to the zoo, which both reversed the financial predicament of the Harveys and saved the zoo from being shut down.

So, what can Ghanaians learn from Izzy, the golden retriever-turned-surrogate mom to three tiger cubs? Pro-Ghanaian Internet portals – and the stories that these sites carry – have become the launch pads of ethnocentric tirades and fire-spitting rhetoric – the likes of which are unprecedented in the annals of our nation – by well-meaning but misguided Ghanaian citizens. That there is an alacritous desire to attack one another’s ethnic origins under the smallest pretexts is not only disheartening, it is downright repugnant and perfidious as well. Izzy, via her beautiful story, has some important lessons for humans, the latter ostensibly the superior genus: that it is all right to assist those who do not belong to one’s own kith and kin; that it is all right to assist others who may be culturally (are Ghanaians listening?) different; that we all belong to God’s Earth and we ought to learn to live together in peace, love and harmony; that hate, or odium, leads to a stultification of the progress of both individuals and societies.

As an Ewe, I believe that were I to walk into the home of an Asante, I would be received rather warmly, and I know that I will do the same for any non-Ewe visiting me. So, why are we hiding behind the anonymous enclaves of cyberspace to heap revolting and treasonable invectives on one another? What exactly has raised the temperature of disagreements among Ghanaians to such a high level of conspicuous volatility?

I have yet another position: Do not say to a person online what one is unable to say to the same in the flesh. We must all be bothered by our arrogance and intolerance – and our continued defense of histories untrue and unsubstantiated – which will only widen the chasm we have already created. And many undoubtedly cringe every time that they see some of these disparaging comments on pro-Ghanaian Internet conduits targeting one ethnic group or another. Some argue that to embrace the notion of pacifism is a mark of weakness, but how many of us, paradoxically, continually enunciate the greatness of Nelson Mandela, the latter a man who achieved so much for his nation – and his black brothers and sisters – through nonviolence?

It is reasonable to oppose one another for political reasons – every sane person understands such a thing. In fact, when Ghanaians were informed recently that John Atta Mills was on the verge of approving a $50,000 car loan for each lawmaker, the outrage transcended political party lines, a very good sign that we are able to bridge our differences and act in unison to stop an otherwise foolhardy move by the sitting president. We could extend such geniality to one another at all times, even while we disagree on how best the government ought to tackle the various issues our nation faces today. In other words, we can disagree on a number of issues, without the now all-too-common and searing salvos we unleash on one another – names, places of birth, traditions, being some of the notable factors targeted by the wranglers. Honestly, how do we look one another in the face outside of our homes and say that we are brothers and sisters with a common destiny? How can we, in all truthfulness and under these circumstances, shake one another’s hands and say that we all belong to one nation?

Let the story of Isabella the golden retriever inspire us to greater moral heights, even as we forge a common future for our nation. It is perfectly normal to be angry with a politician, or ordinary citizen, for his or her utterances, but to extend blame, based on one statement, to the rest of that person’s ethnic group shows gross callousness and the lack of respect for self and others. Ewes and Asantes are not at war; Ewes and Asantes are not enemies; Ewes and Asantes have always intermarried, and will continue to do so; Ewes and Asantes are joined together by a common cord of brotherhood, one that the dyed-in-the-wool ethnocentrists cannot sever, no matter how hard they pursue their nefarious objectives. Perhaps lessons in cultural relativism and ethnology are what we all need to better coexist with one another.

I hope that we will, as members of the same nation, stultify the propensity for ad hominem attacks and effervesce the proclivity to ad nauseam harassments. Together, we can build a strong nation despite our varying backgrounds, and together we can become more patriotic despite our cultural differences. It behooves all of us to realize that so long as we expend our vital energies attacking one another, even while the nation faces a smorgasbord of challenges – soaring unemployment, pitiable educational standards, endemic poverty, unaffordable health care, lack of transparency in the affairs of government – the politicians who are mismanaging the economy will continue to have a field day, to the detriment of the working class.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.