Feature Article of Saturday, 13 October 2012
Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi
Whether He Goes to School Or Not
So, don’t bother sending him to school. No use. It is a waste of my time. And yours too, Mr Amidu. It is a waste of our money. Spot on, Mr Martin Amidu Esq. You are disarmingly forthright, never afraid to speak your mind–for country–for Justice–for humanity–for Ghana. It doesn’t matter whether you do it at the risk of being mistaken for a fool. That is the price you pay for country–the price for Ghana–the price for fighting corruption and graft in public life. Spot on Barrister Amidu. Send a fool to Bristol for a Bachelor’s degree. Get him to continue at Yale for a Master’s degree. Garnish with a Phd at Harvard. He would still be a big fool. In fact, he could be a bigger fool hiding behind the gleaming façade of his degrees.
Martin Amidu is no fool. He knows what he is doing. He wants a sane society where people care for one another and respect government property. He wants a country where Ghanaians would be each other’s keeper and still be resourceful enough to keep themselves happy. He wants to see a caring and responsible society where Ghanaians can afford to go to bed and wilfully forget to lock their front doors. Amidu wants to see a free society where honest work pays and thievery is abhorred. Other societies have managed to build responsible systems. Why can’t we? Yes, we can. Oh yes we would, even in the midst of our deprivation and abject lack.
This is what it means to be each other’s keeper: While we insult and needlessly bully drivers of trotro and Yutong buses, Karen Klein, 68, an American grandmother who drives a school bus, is today richer by $700,000 for being bullied by middle school students. The students teased and pelted Karen with insults about how her children killed themselves because nobody wants to be near her. It happened that Klein’s oldest son had killed himself 10 years ago. There, the grandmother breaks down in tears. The school boys videotaped the ordeal and splashed it all on the internet.
Sitting in Toronto, a 25 year old Max Sidorov, feels the fierce urgency of the grandmother’s ordeal, and ventures to do something about it. All Max wanted was to raise a small fund, probably $3,000 or $5,000 to sponsor the grandmother vacation, where she could relax herself and recuperate from the ordeal. But the result was astonishing: Max’s little fund grew to $700,000, because, you see, Max lives in a society where many other people think like Max: They care about other people’s feelings. This is the kind of results Martin Amidu is campaigning for. It is responsibility. It is sanity. It is God. Max didn’t need a PhD is Philanthropy to do this. He is a nutritionist. He probably had had a good meal that day, but he felt that somebody else thousands of kilometres away, needed some peace of mind to be able to enjoy some sandwich. If folks in Dansoman could care for each other this way after eating Mawuli Banku, imagine the kind of society we would have. The trick is not that Max has a bigger heart; it is because Max would have cared for an abandoned dog the same way he did for Karen. Max would have dished out the same amount of love for a cat with a toothache.
We love our proverbs and aphorisms but we don’t live the wise words they teach. It’s been said that if you go to a new place and you want to know how they would treat you, look at how they treat their animals. My first girlfriend in Canada owned a dog called Digger. He is a shitzu. I found it strange and sacrilegious that she would put the dog in the same bed with us. I can’t sleep in the same bed with an animal. We keep them in the backyard where I come from. But she would insist that Digger is family. She would take him to groomers to bathe, shave and cut his nails. When we went out for concerts, she would pay her cousin, Eliza, to come take care of Digger. I always told my friends that these obroni people have time for lots of nonsense.
Well, which is difficult to do: pay for a manicure for a dog or pocket money meant for a football coaching legend diagnosed of throat cancer? I am not sure my mum knows how many players make a team in a typical football match, but I was surprised to learn her reaction when she reported the news of the shameless theft of Cecil Jones Attuquayefio’s money by a Joy Fm sports journalist. He doesn’t care if Jones dies today but he pretends to care about the development of sports in Ghana by sitting on radio to pronounce our collective judgement on many things Ghana. To call this greed is a misnomer. It is a certain indescribable black that assails our poor world.
The thing is, we like to own too many pairs of shoes. That is the problem: It is shoes. The other day, I wrote that Tony Blair wore the same black shoes for 10 years to the Prime Minister’s Question Time. As usual, a gentleman who writes better English than most of us sent a mail to me, asking where I got the information about Tony’s shoes. I replied that I had been reading his memoirs, A Journey: My Political Life, and that Tony also expresses some fascinating views on money: It is not the motivation for his accomplishments; money is just a consequence of the things he would do. Instantly, he fired: You must be a poor man. With this mentality, you would never make enough money to return to Ghana. Freeze to death in Canada. Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin, Ottawa, Canada.