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Feature Article of Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.

The Ewe-Akan Impasse: Isabella the Golden Retriever Shames Us All!

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 was the selflessness that Izzy exhibited in adopting the Bengal tiger cubs, more so because 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 soon turned to alarm 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. Incredibly, 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 number of visitors to the zoo, which both reversed the Harveys’ financial predicament and saved the zoo from being shut down.

So, what can Ghanaians learn from Izzy, a golden retriever-turned-surrogate mom to three tiger cubs? Pro-Ghana(ian) Internet portals are now the launch pads of ethnocentric tirades and fire-spitting rhetoric – the likes of which are unprecedented in the annals of our nation – by 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 disgusting as well. Izzy, via her beautiful story, has some important lessons for humans, the latter theoretically the superior genus: that it is all right to assist those who are not one’s own kith and kin; that it is all right to lend a hand to others who may be culturally (are Ghanaians listening?) different; that we all belong to God’s Earth and ought to learn to live together in peace, love and harmony; and that hate, or odium, halts the progress of both individuals and societies.

As an Ewe, I believe that were I to walk into the home of an Akan, 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 horrible and awful invectives on one another? What exactly has raised the temperature of disagreements among Ghanaians to such high levels on the Internet?

We must all be bothered by our arrogance and intolerance – and our continued defense of histories untrue and unsubstantiated – which will only widen the rifts that we have already created. And many noble citizens undoubtedly cringe whenever they see disparaging comments on pro-Ghana(ian) Internet conduits targeting one ethnic group or another. Some patrons of Ghanaweb.com argue that embracing harmony is tantamount to exhibiting weakness, but how many of us, oddly enough, continually enunciate the greatness of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a man who achieved black-white integration in South Africa through incredible tolerance?

It is reasonable to oppose one another for political reasons – every sane person understands such a thing. Yet still, Ghanaians know when to declare a temporary ceasefire. In fact, when President John Atta Mills died a few weeks ago, most Ghanaian mourners transcended political party lines in their veneration of the departed leader, a very good sign that we are able to temporarily set aside our ideologies and act in unison when the need arises. We could extend such warmth to one another at all times, even while we disagree on how best those at the helm of the nation’s affairs ought to tackle the various issues facing us today. In other words, we can disagree on a number of issues, without the now all-too-common and searing salvos that we unleash on one another – names, places of birth, and traditions being some of the notable factors targeted by the wranglers.

Let the story of Isabella the golden retriever inspire us to greater moral heights, even as we forge a common destiny for our nation. Moreover, it is perfectly normal to be angry with a politician, or ordinary citizen, for his or her utterances, but to extend blame, based on the insensitive statements of one person, to the rest of that person’s ethnic group shows gross disrespect for self and those who are being maligned.

Ewes and Akans are not at war; Ewes and Akans are not enemies; Ewes and Akans have always intermarried, and will continue to do so; Ewes and Akans are joined together by a common cord of brotherhood, one that the dyed-in-the-wool ethnocentrists cannot undo, no matter how hard they pursue their wicked objectives. I hope that we will, as members of the same nation, stultify the propensity for ad hominem attacks.

Finally, we can build a strong nation despite our dissimilar backgrounds and 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, and 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, is a doctoral student and an Adjunct Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

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