You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2011 05 26Article 208929

Opinions of Thursday, 26 May 2011

Columnist: Baiden, Robert Viliam

Implanting Fear Breaks The Sacrosanct Cradle of Progress

By Robert Viliam Baiden

They say “the oldest & strongest emotion of mankind is fear”. In a discussion with a group of Africans mainly from Sub-Saharan countries, I tried to find out why Africa in all aspects still lags behind the rest of the world in terms of development. I discovered that fear is the “main killer” of progress & growth on that continent!! Right from childhood most of our minds are stripped of almost all of its powers of innovation & creativity, objective action & reasoning and critical thinking. Motivated by fear, our parents, schoolteachers, town chiefs, policy makers, religious leaders & politicians indoctrinate us to believe in brutal superstitions, exaggerated stories of dangers in life, love of money, jealousy, cowardice behaviour and force us to deny who we are. Could fear be the cause of the low self-esteem suffered by most Africans both rich & poor whenever they encounter people from a different race?

Of course all humans are born with a set of instinctive fears like fear of darkness, of falling into a ditch or afraid of being bitten by a snake on a footpath in the bush or the fear of death which is most dreaded by many. Honestly, “none but a coward dares to boast that he or she has never known fear”. However, the substantive issue under discussion is about that type of fear that “murders” love for others, feelings of fear that causes hatred, suspicion, savagery, dishonesty and hypocrisy. It´s about emotions that evoke irrational behaviour & impotency which ultimately retards growth & progression. These fears in our cultures are used by most African regimes as the prime instrument in oppressing its people and keep their citizens in ignorance & poverty.
As a child in the primary school in Ghana, a classmate of mine was severely punished because he informed a female teacher she had a bloody stain on her dress as she was menstruating. In some African traditions a woman “having her period” is deemed unclean and has to be kept secret. By informing his schoolteacher, the kid innocently exposed the failure of his tutor to take good care of herself and the poor youngster was callously chastised. Aminata, a mix sierra Leonean & Senegalese young Christian lady I came across in Thailand was dumped in that country by her husband for another woman from Gambia. Unknowing to Aminata, her husband and his new-found lover were arrested in Senegal for drug smuggling. Both relatives of the man and his current girlfriend blamed Aminata for jujuing & bewitching the couple so they get apprehended. The families of these pair called and vowed to kill Aminata by all means including juju if she ever stepped in her country again.
This is the reality & experience of the majority of Africans today although they find it embarrassing to talk about it in public and often deny and prefer to “shove these facts under the bed”. Unbelievable as it may sound in the 21st century, a number of Africans I know from Ghana, Nigeria, Congo and the Ivory Coast at the university have vowed never to visit their families & relatives in Africa for fear they would be eaten up by witches in their families. Other brilliant African students dropped out of university because they received prophecies of death should they complete their studies after having had contacts with self-proclaimed men of God (prophets). An old friend I met in Ghana recently visited his family with gifts from Texas- U.S and got ill shortly after, claimed he has been “jujud” for doing good.
It is said that “fear is the main source of superstition & cruelty”. As an African I can´t help but be disgusted by some of our traditions that teach us to be fearful or distrustful of family members and friends because their actions are perceived odd. Stories made headlines recently of Ghanaian witch camps in the northern parts of the country where adult individuals accused their elderly mothers of witchcraftcy and banished them from their villages. There were also news of some Nigerian & Congolese pastors who after watching Harry Potter films accused kids as young as four years old for wizardry in their towns. In East Africa, certain tribes believe if a fellow human being with an albino condition is killed and the blood used to perform rituals it would bring prosperity.
Also, most Africans tend to discourage fellow citizens from being ambitious by constantly reminding them of the calamities & afflictions that befall those who undertake normal human endeavors and dare to break away from the cycle of poverty & ignorance. Common “scarecrows” they employ in order to dishearten others are: - if you study hard you would go mad - witches & wizards would target you if you become wealthy - someone would get offended and juju anyone who dare speak the truth – only pastors can expose evil & untruth in our society – poor intelligent people are considered a threat to society – husband & wives need juju charms to sustain their “being in love” – businessmen needs to visit witchdoctors for charms and protection from dwarfs sent by envious family members – all African leaders consults with voodoo priests for mystical powers & protection - etc. The list is endless.
Though most Africans set goals they aim to achieve they are overwhelmed with fear of failure triggered by their compatriots which stops many of them from reaching their full potential. People then become incapable of tolerating constructive criticism or feedback. Such individuals tend to magnify their mistakes until it overwhelms & enslaves them to past wrongs. Yet only those who are courageous enough to face these fears and climb above them are capable of achieving any goals they set. When fear of failure becomes so huge it paralyses and makes a person unable to try anything new. When the mind begins to yield and weaken to the influence of fearful superstition it plays around with your thoughts and then coerces the brain to believe all sorts of nonsense & crazy ideas.
Acquaintances of mine who read an earlier article I wrote on the contentious & pretentious culture of Ghanaians before it was published were scared that I could be attacked by witches & demonic filled individuals. Others claim I should wait until I become extremely wealthy or highly educated before I expose what I perceive to be evil. In short these group of Africans believe only the wealthy, PhD degree holders and the clergy claiming to represent God have the audacity to expose the evils in our society today. Till now, most of these African elites (political leaders, the wealthy, the highly educated & the clergy) are the very same individuals who continue to drum fear into their fellow countrymen. They believe in fear & even make use of the media to promote it as illustrated by most African movies.
Nearly all of these exclusive & top-notch Africans (“demi-gods”) believe and practice cruelty & superstition. They train their fellow citizens in fear-mongering skills so they can maintain their status and wealthy lifestyles. Examine the methods used by this same group of elites to frighten & intimidate other poor Africans and one soon discovers what horrifies them the most. They feel threatened should the majority of Africans become properly educated since that would diminish their ungodly quest for wealth and power. In so called post modernistic era, when some nations are aspiring to send men to other planets, African countries are still struggling with ancient & medieval belief systems that serves to only inflame fear of the unknown!

A moralist once said that “religion worships God while superstition profanes it”. Fear is petty and can never be a motivation to love God or man. Fear renders logic useless and transforms the behavior of man into that of a beast. We Africans must make efforts to uproot these superstitious fears implanted in our imagination in order to keep us in bondage and retard our growth. Research shows that People get healthier if they fear less. For Africa to develop we must ensure that the sacrosanct cradle of progress is restored so we can leave a valuable legacy for Africa's future generations. (expect Part 2!!)