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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

A junk-culture diet is being over-consumed

---we need well-balanced nutrition.

The importation of the modern day technologies , alternative lifestyles and a junk-saturated culture, have changed the way we behave and have thrown Ghana’s etiquettes and culture out of the window.

The Americans have their junk food ,but they also have their consumer Protection Groups. But, Ghanaians have their junk culture diet, without any protection Advocate . When I was growing up in the late seventies ,second- hand(used)clothing from Europe and North America was the major item on the used- item’s market .I used to go to the Tema Station—where good quality of “Obroniwaawu” were located, to make my selections.

Back then, the importation of things were very restricted for political reasons and lack of capital .But, now with the ‘importation liberalization’, everything goes. With it comes the junk culture consumption. From used bags to zippers, to bed sheets to towels ,to gay-lifestyles to under wears .Ghanaian young women(the I’m –aware- generation) are now exhibiting their bodies’ parts as if they’re on sale. They dress half-nakedly. The teenage boys are also in it. They wear their pants all the way down to expose their under wears. No wonder they can’t walk right. And, every average aged person in Ghana is on the net, advertising for love, but “only people in Europe or North America need to reply”—they warned. Even students who can not say a word about Shakespeare can now recite all the lyrics on 50 Cent’s album— “Who is 50 Cent?” Well, if you do not know him then you must be living in an elevator , for the past five years. Who wants to read when you can text? We have been bombarded with a junk- culture diet, so much that we’re gradually losing our down –rooted culture. What happened to our “Organic culture”? Are we exchanging ‘development’ (if any) for an ‘imported junk- saturated culture’? I wonder who is responsible for these unwanted phenomena.

With the emergence of the modern day technologies and the popularity of cell phones in the Ghanaian society, we have thrown the’ sense ‘out common -sense. But, a new technology requires new rules and set of manners. Frankly, watching Ghanaian phone users would make you wonder if there should be laws to put a cap on the wholesale consumption of a “foreign culture.” I’m not kidding.

In the olden days the passengers on the STC (buses) read Ghanaian Times or Daily Graphic, to kill time. But today , it’s very hard for you to spot anyone reading on a bus. Nine times out of ten you will most likely see people yelling into a piece of plastic device without regard to people around them. Even well-behaved people forget their manners when they’re around cell phones. ”leme make a quick call” and all the bad habits start.

The original purposes of owing a mobile phone –which were nothing more than safety , security and the ability for one to reach people in an emergency—have diminished. With its minted-acquired roles as a device for photo, TV set, music player ,internet and everything you want it to be, Ghanaians are getting hooked beyond anyone’s imagination. In fact an average Ghanaian owns two phones—each with different ring tone. And, the type of phone, ring tone and the size of it have become the symbol of a social importance and therefore something to be flaunted in Public—like a Swiss bank account.

These days nothing –not even one’s brain power—gets public attention than the size and the weight of one’s phone. Your phone determines your status within the Ghanaian society—especially among students. Have you attended funerals in Ghana lately? Well, if you’re not careful you might think you are at an annual mobile phone convention. They have even assigned funny names to phones which can’t fit between an average lady’s breasts. In other words, it should be small enough to fit inside a lady’s brassiere, without being noticed. It has to be the smallest among smallest. So if you happened to carry an average size phone, you better be dead.—you would be called,” timber jack”, Akonti abaa”, ”club” “hammer, “Awo soa me ( mama -help –me-carry-it)” .etc. You want to start a fight? Then buy a phone and send it to your friend or relative in the village. Don’t even bother if it doesn’t take pictures—pictures they can not even access .They will keep ‘flashing’ you because they buy their units in bottles (small quantity).

Mobile phone has even become a “psychosexual symbol of who is in charge in a relationship”. The next time you see a man and woman eating at Heavy- Do or any restaurant in Accra, you will see that the male partner has his phone on the table whilst the lady has hers in her purse. Is that a Coincidence? I don’t think so. That’s their way of showing their masculinity . Not only that. To exhibit their newly- acquired status, mobile phone owners have to broadcast their phones’ tones. The cool tone you have on your phone the more supplicated you’re—so they think.

Talk about the misplacement of priorities . A lot of the young -generation Ghanaians have down-loaded their favorites tunes from their favorites musicians—as if playing the tons of CD’s at home and in their cars are not enough. In fact, formal dinners and weddings have repeatedly been interrupted by ringing phones with their programmed tunes. In the olden days, even calculators were not allowed in an examination halls. But, now cell phones are some of the basic items among secondary school students’ “school supplies” .Some of them even take mobile phones to an examination hall ,so as to text their friends for answers to a problem .No wonder they can not do simple addition without a calculator. Is mobile phone a curse or a cure?

Don’t get me wrong. Mobile phones are not inherently evil. They can be crucial in an emergency, and they can make last minute arrangement happened. And, we can not leave home without them .But, the way we use them in public is causing a social upheaval in Ghana, to say the least. Some of the bad phone habits are: letting phone ring in an inappropriate place, talking on the phone while ignoring the people who are with you and the obnoxious “mobile yell”—talking so loudly that everyone around you can hear your conversation. Now, Ghana is producing a class of Lunatics .Don’t laugh, this is a serious matter. Thanks to the emergence of the Bluetooth (the wireless headset device), the gap between a mental institution’s resident and a bank executive in Accra is getting smaller and blur. They both walk and shout into the air wirelessly and they carry no device in sight. They also dance to their favorite tunes in the middle of a street. Watching this development unfold in the busiest district of Accra makes you wonder how far we have come and how fast we’re descending. Welcome to the 21st century’s technological advancement, folks !

“So doc, how long do I have to wait, to see my period ?” .Make no mistake about it, there’s a difference between hearing someone talking and being forced to hear the result of a stranger’s medical tests on the bus or in a restaurant. Talking about your personal business in a low tone of voice is ok. But, trumpeting them is ludicrous. Listen to what I was forced to eavesdrop on mobile phone conversations , while I was enjoying my Sunday Omutuo : “so he covered my entire body with ice cream and reach for…….” I paid half of it and I have to find another way to pay for the rest…….” “he sponsors me so don’t worry, he will pay for it but don’t send it if the wife is home…”She’s fine, I swear, I’ll text you with details….” What is going on? It may seem incomprehensible but people generally will rather be with their thought than hear you discuss the social ramifications of your problems with your sugar -daddy or the behavior of your new girl friend’s kids.

As if all that is not adding insult to injury, we’re topping it off with the Gay and Lesbian conference. Mine, oh, mine! What is going on? Am I the only one to speak against this issue? I would not be surprised to wake up one day and find these headlines in the newspapers:, “ The Pedophiles are sponsoring and adopting young boys and girls in Ghana .” “ A Sleazebag tried to lure a 12yr old girl into a car”. And, why stop there? Let’s invite the Spouse Abusers for their annual convention. Whether or not gay lifestyle is genetic is opened to public debate .But, there’s no deny that their impulses to have the convention in Ghana were heavily influenced by our over –consumption pattern of junk culture. In other words, our over- consumption of foreign cultures gave them the platform and latitude of which to launch their lifestyle in the public domain .

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for the ‘Talibanization ‘ of Ghanaian society ,but allowing the wholesale consumption of junk-culture from foreign countries is a cause for concern. Paradoxically, most of Ghanaian migrants tend to send their kids home for culture enrichment and to insulate them from the very bad things Ghana is willingly ‘importing’ on large scale. It should be remembered that a country’s security does not depend on the pile of arsenals in its warehouse , but its ability to protect its citizens—especially its youth—from physical and mental harm. For it’s said that “whoever controls your mind controls your destiny and your soul”. So what ever we allow our youth to put in their brains will come back to hunt us all. We surely do not want to fathom the social ramifications of Ghana’s wanton retailing of the western world’s social make-ups— we’re not equipped mentally, medically and psychologically to deal with them. Do you remember—not their version— how the whole HIV thing started? I rest my case.

I have a small deficit in the area of predicting the cause of events. But, for this I can attribute it to lack- of –Power in our part of the world. By “power,” I mean the ability to bring out the fulfillment of one’s desire or needs. On that note, I quote Napoleon Hill .He wrote,”the Possession of Power does not guarantee wealth. Nor does wealth always guarantee power .But the lack of power can guarantee poverty. And, poverty can always guarantee Powerlessness” . Power, You can not smell it, or hold it, but you know you have it ,when you have it.

Speaking of ‘Power’, powerlessness nations’ home -front economic policies are always being dictated by the donor countries—which have no knowledge of the real issues on the ground. Now, thanks to Al Qaeda and its ideologies, the western world is literally fighting for its survival and well-being. All their resources have been diverted to that goal. And, since African nation’s—particularly Ghana’s— strategic importance(if any) doesn’t play any meaningful role in the western world’s quest –for- peace equation we better learn how to walk on our own and watch what we consume.

Unless Ghana renews and commits itself to guiding its culture and the young generation against poor consumption ,it will always find itself begging for something. With poverty, diseases, global warming, etc we can not eat everything that is freely offered to us. Need I say more?

Is anybody home?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
NJ, USA
*The writer’s a social commentator and a founder of Adu-Gyamfi Educational Foundation—which offers scholarship, Apprenticeship and entrepreneurship Programs to the youth of Asuom.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.