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Opinions of Thursday, 30 March 2017

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard

A country and its culture similar to computer and its software

By: Bernard Asubonteng

The closest comparison or analogy that may be suitable for this particular discussion is the use of computer-software construct. Individuals with basic knowledge of how computer functions will attest to the fact that for a computer to perform any task well not only does it need a software but also the computer program must be the right and compatible one. Therefore, computer and its application system are analogous to a society and its culture.

In simple terms, no country can ever progress or develop efficiently without the right cultural attitudes or behaviors of its people. Thus, if computer is to software, a country is to a culture, period.

Certainly, culture has been defined and explained narrowly as well as broadly; and, as we write today the operationalization of the concept of culture still keeps unraveling at various levels of academic domains and elsewhere. Hence any effort by this current writer to attempt to point out the precise contours of these complex layers that prop up culture may not be productive exercise.

Better yet, the best that can be offered at this point about a country’s culture is that which deals with the people’s belief systems, work ethics, how the citizens view their governments and state properties, written or unwritten customs, educational systems, attitudes toward the environments, how children and the most vulnerable are treated, and many, many more.

Indeed culture, like computer application program, is fascinatingly complex but the most indispensable component(s) without which nothing worth its salt can be accomplished. So, again, what is all this association of society-culture and computer-software about? Some readers may recall that writing under the heading “Any Future Ghana Development Plan Has To Be Culture, Stupid!” (Myjoyonline.com/Modernghana.com,7/15/15), this writer opined, among others, that any present or future development frameworks wrapped around technical jargons may not be enough to help propel Ghana to the top of the food chain of progress. Rather, the most important approach is for the nation’s decision makers and planners, including all Ghanaians (who have not done so yet), to take dispassionate and holistic assessments at many of the country’s ingrained but unprogressive cultural behaviors and mentalities, especially, on how we look at Ghana as an organic whole.

Undeniably, Ghana has abundant talent, human and natural resources to boot, but the main stumbling block to the country’s fast development is many of our country men/women cultural mindsets. Again using the computer-software parallel, Ghana seems to have one of the best “human computers” in its arsenals, but unfortunately, the accompanying “cultural application programs” are severely dysfunctional.

The country lacks cultural discipline and behavior that are abreast of the time. Pretty much it explains why Ghana is struggling to be on par with nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and a host of other nations that began their developmental race at the same starting blocks as Ghana in the 1960s.

Let it be known that no one is in anyway campaigning for the shutting down of any Ghanaian culture and all its various subclasses. Ghana, as we have been told many times, has a “rich culture” and we are not disputing that age-old narrative. After all every society has a culture; and indisputably, culture drives a country’s civilization.

The problem, however, is that there are some aspects of the so-called (rich?) Ghanaian culture that are out of sync with the exigencies of the contemporary times that seriously need reconfiguration. Any such rearrangement, if it were to happen, must start from the people’s mental predispositions regarding their societal expectations and roles, including their worldviews of culture in general.

For what kind of behavior(s) makes some people ashamed or shied to eat while walking in public places but also doesn’t inspire concurring sense of shame urinating anywhere in the street corners? Or, how do we explain habits or attitudes that inform some people to haphazardly throw trashes into open gutters and sewerages and blame the government for not cleaning up quick enough?

Often, these unpatriotic and reckless behaviors toward our environments create artificial blockages in the process, while exposing those areas to deadly self-inflicted flooding in the event of torrential rainfalls as recently witnessed in some areas such as Accra.

Obviously, all these habits and customs become self-perpetuating because of the given cultural context of the society as a whole. As indicated, culture is multidimensional; and, every phase of human lives/conducts has traces of culture embedded in it. There are elements of some countries’ culture that make it relatively easy to allow public corruption, misuse of state properties, destruction of the environments, dumping human wastes all over the place, and in most cases serve as an enabler for the citizens to even encourage corruption by bribing public officials including the police. Ghana is a typical case study, here.

Unsurprisingly, there are some people who will read this piece and start raining insults and innuendoes on this poor writer because they may have limited understanding and appreciation of the concept of culture. Ghanaian culture must not only be viewed from the prisms of how the people dress, sing, dance, eat, enstool traditional rulers, worship, celebrate birth or mourn the dead, measure successful life via the number of houses and cars owned, and so on.

Culture is far more than the foregoing patterns of behaviors. The country’s system of governance, how public officials handle state meager resources; how the internal controls are structured; the people’s level of patriotism; the role of the nation’s police and other security forces; the way our traditional rulers claim ownership and sell lands, all form integral parts of a country’s culture. That is why no amount of development initiatives would make any huge difference unless majority of Ghanaians are ready to exploit a more progressive cultural behaviors.

Ghana may have human “super computers” but can we say the same thing about the “right software” that enables the system to perform at its optimal level? That is the missing key—the right cultural attitudes!

The writer is based in the United States. He can be reached at: detrio03@aol.com