Patriotism and disappointments

BY: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi

Imagine this- Ghana in the 1970s. Issifou is a Ghanaian public servant working at a public corporation. He is to be precise an accounting clerk.

And from his meager income, he ensured that his children were clothed, fed and educated. 

There were some disturbances and the corporation he was working for could no longer operate. What was more? Some armed men raided his place of work.

As at the time of the disturbing event, he had some money in his possession. The good old servant returned the money to his employers after there was some semblance of normalcy.

It would take a while for him to discover that other persons who were in possession of money belonging to the same corporation failed to returned it.

They had used it to “better their lot”. The good servant who returned the money could barely get by.
Very few people would dare express their true opinions in public. But somewhere in a private discussion, Issifou stands the risk of being called a fool, stupid or senseless.

Issifou is more likely to hear this and begin contemplating on the impact that the money he had just returned would have had on his life.
The moral and spiritual side of him is likely to be boosted and strengthened. Plus he is likely to earn plaudits from the moral community.

But would Issifou continually feel joyous and self-actualised when his pension cannot realistically pay for the fare to his hometown?
This sense of ambivalence is something that won’t simply go away - as people always wonder if they would receive recognition for their patriotic acts.

The Oxford Dictionary defines patriotism as the quality of being patriotic and expressing vigorous support for one’s country.
The same dictionary defines a patriot as a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

But the tragedy of patriotism today is that it tests the human character and conduct in a way never seen before. Are we able to stand up to ourselves and vigorously support the country against our own personal excesses, desires, drives and greed?

In some time past, the nation needed protection from others. Today, the nation needs protection from its own people.
Tales of patriotism have for a long time been associated with poverty, shame and lots of regret- and those who run the economy are to blame for this.

There are men and women who have placed their lives on the line for this nation and yet some do look back with a sense of regret and disappointment.

On February 28 of every year, we delight in reminding ourselves of the infamous Christianborg crossroads shooting where sets of failed promises led a group of veterans to their untimely death.

Little do we recognise the impact of failed promises, wasted opportunities and mismanagement of the economy on the lives of those who wrestle hard and high daily with other commuters before getting onto a ‘trotro’ for work.

Take a good look at those who take pleasure in preaching patriotism. It comes at no cost to them. They are usually well to do, maybe politicians, who have had long educational and professional stints abroad and are home to retire.

Chances are that they are in no way likely to be involved in the cause of which they encourage people to undertake as part of their patriotic duties. They easily get the national awards and medals.

Take a look at those who scorn and have fits at the mention of the word “patriotism.” They are often those who have spent year on end in public service, retired and come home to meet an empty plate.

They are the ones who are unable to afford decent housing and accommodation. They are those who can’t hold their heads high and proudly beat their chest about their service to the nation.

But here is the point: there is no connection between patriotism and forced labour. The call to patriotism is not a call for the offering of free labour or services – though that may be true in some instance.

Take the case of the 91 doctors who made the news this week because of their unpaid remuneration. If gifted with microscopic lenses, many would at least admit that the hospital is as dangerous and perilous a ground as any warfront or conflict hot spot in the world. And in choosing to work there, they are being patriotic.

For every two or three who desire to fleece the state, there are twice those numbers who are able and willing to place their lives on the line for the nation.

It is, therefore, regrettable that patriotic acts of the past are sorely rewarded. But this can be reversed and it can start now by remunerating right and improving living conditions for all.

That is not asking for so much.

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