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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Columnist: Adu, Ernest Kofi

Avaricious Riches and Hedonistic Society

By Ernest Kofi Adu
(ernestkadu@gmail.com)
When I was a fledgling newspaper reporter in 2003, one of my interviewees, in answering a question I posed to him, rhetorically asked: "What do you call money earned through unethical sources?" Now that I have mastered the language of this moral question and have come to know every trifling feature of the Ghanaian society as familiarly as I know the letters of the alphabet, it is time to answer the question.
Money that is earned through bad sources like corrupted politics, corrupted business, ransom money, stolen or theft money, blood money, cannot have one particular name. This is because profit from the sale of narcotics, prostitution, guns and other illegal activities fall into the category of bad sources.
Call it dirty money, ill-gotten money or gains, filthy lucre, loot & booty, and you would not be far from right. Loot and booty are more specifically for theft or ransacking of national resources or dipping of hands into the national kitty filled with gold. Dirty money is quite general and can be used for any illegally or unethically acquired gain.
In Latin, lucrum also means "avarice," and in Middle English lucre, besides meaning "monetary gain or profit," meant" illicit gain. The use of lucre itself in this writing has taken on the shameful meaning imparted to it originally by the adjective filthy.
There is another word called "graft" which is corruption usually through bribery; political favour for political donation. And the British law has two terms for it: "immoral earnings" and "the proceeds of crime".
Years ago, our ancestors, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, made a momentous, but true axiom that became the beacon light of the Ghanaian society: "Good name is better than riches." The holy book puts it better: "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold ". [Proverb 22:1].
But in the twenty-first century Ghana, the reverse is the case. Riches are better than a good name. Our society celebrates the rich – the man of great wealth. The tragic fact is that we live in the world of desire. The pursuit of pleasure is the norm today. Our country has been turned into a hedonistic society where wealth acquisition and instant gratification is the focus, the means of acquiring the wealth, notwithstanding.
If not, why would your fellow human being, created in the image of God, slay another for money? Do you remember Kwame Assenso, a 28-year-old gold dealer at Obuasi? He bonked 183 women and used their vaginal fluids for money rituals. THINK OF IT. It is the same money that made another young man in the Volta Region to attempt to sell his mother.
Where lies our values, as a country? Our society is still sadly crippled by the manacles of corruption, despite the abundance of churches and other countless religious organisations. Like Martin Luther King Jnr. said in his "I have a dream" speech, the Negro in America lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of vast ocean of material prosperity, I dare say faithful servants of the nation find themselves in the same soup.
"Riches" is not the greatest gain in life. The greatest gain is true and everlasting happiness. As noted by Norman Cousins, "The unbearable tragedy is to live without dignity or sensitivity".