In the wake of Ghana’s disastrous show at World Cup Brazil 2014 I’ve had to ask myself why I even try to clutch on to a Ghanaian identity. Yes, I was born in Ghana, to Ghanaian parents, and hold a Ghanaian passport. No, that does not automatically make me Ghanaian as I have learnt throughout my life but prior to now I felt I had enough points to battle those who wished to exclude me from sharing in that identity. Now I just don’t know if it’s worth the fight.
I’m not being a spoil-sport. My teams of Netherlands and Germany are still in this afterall. I wasn’t expecting miracles from the Black Stars and I do think that they did well with the cards handled them. It is those cards that make me angry because I truly believe that if that team played for a different country or if they had a different coach their performance would have been better.
It is the issue of respecting your elders. This obligatory unquestioning obedience to authority that is at the heart of Ghanaian culture is what jars at my soul. Yes I went there. The concept sounds noble right, but in my heart “respect your elder” is a double-edged sword that Ghanaians need to address if the country is to go anywhere in this world. Respect your elders yes, but those elders should earn that respect. Add to that the habit of leaving it up to God or of living by the motto “e be ye yie” (it shall be well) as many Ghanaians are apt to do and it’s no wonder there’s a lack of accountability in the country.
The anthropologist in me feels bad for identifying these as the root of my major gripes with Ghana and Ghanaian people because these principles are in fact the core of Ghanaian culture. It is after all what makes Ghanaians stereotypically warm, friendly, welcoming, and humble as opposed to the stereotypes bestowed on citizens of its English speaking neighbour, that which shall not be named. Thus, I fear what ails my soul about Ghana is not going to change any time soon hence this new dilemma I find myself in. You might be wondering what on earth I am talking about. Obviously, it’s not clear to me either, so I will continue to ramble on in hopes that I eventually can identify and communicate the depth of the upheaval I’m currently experiencing.
I have African (non-Ghanaian) friends who joke that Ghanaians are very goody-two-shoes Christians. To them I say, it’s not Christianity. It is not Christianity that brought God to Ghana. No, not at all. Are Ghanaian people very religious? Very spiritual? Yes! But, the one great God has always existed. It, the multiple spirits (lesser gods), and the ancestors departed are highly revered and are thought to be able to influence both positive and negative energy upon us as individuals and us as a society. It is in that construct that the typical Ghanaian individual today lives his or her life – socially, economically, politically – whether they know it or admit it or not. That Ghanaian will not stir the pot too much. They might sulk or quarrel but will not stir the pot…too much. What if a current misfortune is because of appropriate spiritual retribution for a past wrong committed? If I have been wronged today, that person will get what he or she is due, in due time by God or through God. IT’S OK. Enye hwee (it’s nothing). It’s ok.
I used to think this approach to life being shoved down my throat growing up was because we were diplomats, but uh-huh, I can clearly see now it is because we are Ghanaian. And despite my rebellion, I’ve been inoculated, a lot more than I will admit to. It’s part of the reason why I’m angry with myself about the way I handled the situation with “the boys”. I could have put them on blast on Facebook since we share the same friends. I could have pointed them out to the men I did befriend in Brazil and encouraged a confrontation, hopefully physical, but at least verbal. I could have been ugly to them myself. All deserved because they were wrong. But I did none of that. Instead, I was often finding myself absent-mindedly smiling, saying hello, and asking how they were doing when we ran into each other forgetting that they had wronged me. I had already left it up to God see, because it’s okay. Why invite bad karma down my way? They will get theirs in due time abi?
Bringing it back to football though, I feel that this is what makes Kevin Prince Boateng seem like a trouble-maker as he is not culturally Ghanaian. KPB, culturally German, does not know not to criticise the elders because elders just by being elders are sacred like God, the lesser gods, and the ancestors departed. Ghanaian fact! I jest not. To backtrack, elders include not only those physically older than you, but also those of male gender if you are female, of higher rank socially, economically, politically, or in positions of authority such as teachers, clergy, police, or even seniors in school. I will also go as far as to include obroni people (black or otherwise) as elders if the situation is right.
These people are not our co-equals,we either out-rank them or are ourselves out-ranked. Its a complex algorithm. They and their spouses or girlfriends and children (who automatically share rank though in their presence only) deserve to sit in the business or first-class section of a flight paid for by the Ghanaian people so that they can travel to Brazil to watch the World Cup as official dignitaries, while the Black Stars themselves, who have not yet been paid their appearance fees from months before are cramped in commercial coach class, divided amongst several different flights because the concept of team morale is so over-rated, and forced to put up with sub-par living arrangements. My theory is that KPB, himself the recipient of privileges not bestowed on the other players but given to him in reverence of his pseudo-elder status (being a foreigner) and thus probably invoking the unspoken ire of team-mates did not know that ebe ye yie. It shall be alright, ooooh, you are not to complain and demand your rights my dear. Just sit there and take it like a good citizen. Above all, you are most certainly not supposed to, like Muntari did leading up to their suspensions, openly question or threaten an elder. Tweaaaaa! Insolence!
Mtcheeew! I’m of the mind that if you are a so-called elder that deserves respect then act in a way to garner respect. Or I lie? If you, an elder, acts irresponsibly why should you not be taken to task? You don’t even respect yourself, let alone your constituents, yet all are supposed to bow down to you? Sorry, I don’t follow that logic. So I for one have not been impressed by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and by extension the government of Ghana which seems to show no shame in the events as transpired. No shame regarding the controversy of possibly fixing games. No shame regarding the mistreatment of the Black Stars because I do feel that they were mistreated. No shame flying in millions of dollars in a chartered flight for the whole world to see to pay the players their arrears. What is it they say about dirty linens? I won’t be surprised if there never will come an apology to the country of Ghana by the coach or by the GFA. Elders don’t apologize. They are never wrong.
I ramble on.
I was told by a couple USA fans that shortly after they arrived at the Natal airport a huge contingent of Ghanaian fans arrived as well. Apparently on a four hour chartered flight directly from Accra. They wanted to know if I was one of them. I was not. I had saved up my own pennies like many World Cup enthusiasts from around the world and paid my own way here.
I was later to hear that this Ghana cheerleading contingent were here in Brazil courtesy of Ghana government. Oh I see. So Ghana has money like that? The country that has to beg its neighbours for electricity so that there is no dumso dumso (power outages) during World Cup matches as artfully caricatured in a FIFA advertisement can charter flights and pay for party supporters to come and drum at the stadium, huh?