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Our illusions and myths may spell our doom 

“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.” - James Baldwin

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One of the enduring myths in our society has been about the fruit Tetrapleura Tetraptera, called prɛkɛsɛ in Twi. It is believed, broadly, that the fruit only grows in Ghana and Israel. I do not know how this myth came about. But from what I deduce from it, it is to associate our country to the biblical text about Israel being a nation chosen by God. And as a result of this, we believe we are insulated from tragedy.

About two weeks ago, someone reiterated this myth. Even though I had not tried, up until this time, to verify this enduring myth, I had always thought it highly improbable. Indeed, it is false; prɛkɛsɛ is a tropical plant, native to West and Central Africa. 

There are many such myths. On the primary level, myths seek to create meaning out of the disorder of life. On the other hand, they create illusions by putting a lid on the truth and perpetuating lies for generations. What is worse is that the people who believe in such myths rely on them to prop up their world. They become iron clad pillars in how they see the world. Consequently, these pillars grow so tall that they blind us from seeing reality for what it is.

Most of these myths embody Vladimir Lenin’s profound quote that: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” But no society is insulated from the horrors of lies when they become truth. Such a society only accelerates its destruction because it is essentially running on a highway blindfolded. 

President Akufo-Addo’s recent glowing remarks about our democracy forced me to think about some of these myths in our country at the moment.

The most disturbing myth held widely, especially among the political class, is that the foundations of the Fourth Republic are well grounded.

It does not seem so to me. At best, it continues because of the fatigue and groundswell against arbitrary military rule. A democracy must serve the ends of the people. It seems to me, and to many, that our democracy was created for a few people who find themselves close to the seat of power at any given time. It has served them tremendously well. The nepotism that has characterised this democratic experience has created spaces for relatives to ascend to positions of power instead of competent individuals. The grabbing of state resources through corrupt means has enshrined the mass’s struggle and poverty. There is essentially no sustainable and reliable welfare system in this country.

But those at the top live palatially as kings, queens, princes and princesses. The gab between them and the ordinary Ghanaian is wide. 
There were several tiers in European society before they adopted democracy. But they were essentially divided into nobility and serfs. It was impossible for a serf to enjoy any perks that accrued to the nobility, which gained its wealth through corruption and exploitation.

It took arm struggle for the peasants to free themselves from that divine bondage. If the NDC-NPP duopoly continues to shelf the economic dividends that must benefit all Ghanaians in their homes and bank accounts abroad, and use deception and manipulation to win power, the peasants will one day revolt; that is a historical fact.

And it might not take as long as it took Europe’s serfs because the disillusionment is already evident and most people no longer accept their station in life as preordained. We cannot, therefore, be proud of this current system no matter how squalid our past was. If we cannot learn from history then we are bound by fate to repeat it.

Also, it seems quite absurd to me how we have touted ourselves as a peace-loving people. The evidence does not support that myth. First of all, we are not tolerant of dissenting opinions; that, I think, is where peace ends. We are apathetic to sympathy.

Mistrust, inequality and concerns around fairness have spiked electoral violence. According to the National Peace Council, 47 constituencies witnessed violent acts during the 2012 elections. The figure increased to 86 in 2016. In 2020, for the first time in the life of this country, eight people were killed during elections.

Ghanaians are more wary. Up from 35.5% in 2014, 43% of respondents in a 2018 Afrobarometer survey said they feared becoming victims of political violence. The tension in our political space has not waned. In fact, the stakes are much higher going to the 2024 elections.

Apprehension has amped up. The anger and disappointment in the weary eyes of young full-blooded men shouting for passengers at lorry stations in major cities across the country scare me. They have nothing to lose. And they were created by this society. They would not mind, I think, to burn this country down with their desperation if the right conditions present themselves. There are conflicts among ethnic groups going as far back as centuries. Chieftaincy disputes are scattered across the country. And we tickle ourselves as being peaceful. It is time we rethink that illusion and work towards becoming really peaceful. 

The myth serving as the biggest veil on our minds is the idea that we are a moral society. If that was so, our conscience will be our compass.

We would not be as morally bankrupt as we are now with more than 94% of the population claiming to adhere to creeds that teaches right behaviour. 

Even with all the hopeful balm that our religions caress our minds with, we seem incredibly panic-stricken. This is evident in how, from top to bottom, people are grabbing and stepping all over their neighbours. Even in a pandemic, while our government grabbed, shop owners, far and near, also exploited.

The corruption that has engulfed our governance swallowed the base of our society first. Integrity is regarded as stupidity by most people in this country. If it was not so, why do we praise deception as ‘smart,’ and ridicule individuals who are forthright, call them foolish sometimes.

A politician who does not live large is looked at with disdain. How do we expect them to live that way? Is it not telling that former president John Mahama said telling Ghanaians the truth was the bane of his presidency? What I think he meant was that Ghanaians do not like forthright people.

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We would rather want the truth massaged. And that is why we are easily deceived. That is why we have the leadership we have at the moment. The breakdown of the social contract between our governments and the people started from the clan and has now poisoned the family.

We are yet to appreciate the fact that if anyone is starved, we are all in danger. What can be more immoral than this? 

Our misconception about our democracy can make us suppose that we are fine even though we are not. It may be safer to walk in the night in many parts of our country but that does not negate the chaos and conflicts that surround us. When we stop elevating dishonesty and allow our conscience to rule our choices, that is when we can consider ourselves moral. Until then, our illusions about our democracy, security, and morality may spell our doom. 

Writer's email: [email protected] 

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