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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

It is time to think

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

“It is time to think,” said Prof. Helen Lauer, head of the Philosophy Department of the University of Ghana, in singing the praises of Prof. Kwame Gyekye, a renowned Ghanaian philosopher. While Lauer might have said that in relation to Gyekye’s lectures, the relevance today goes beyond the close confines of Legon and to the broader Ghanaian developmental struggles.

Why? The disturbing impressions are that Ghanaian/African elites cannot think well or philosophize well enough from within their cultural values in growing their development processes. This has made the African continent the only region in the world where foreign development paradigms dominant its development processes to the disadvantage of its cultural values.

It is as if Africans have no values of their own, and, therefore, soulless and at the brutal mercy of foreign forces. No doubt, there are on-going schisms between Ghanaian values and Western ones that have been blocking the development process.

But to repair this situation involves how Ghanaian/African elites think from within their cultural values first and projected it into the universal prosperity level. The central issue here is respect and dignity of Ghanaian/African values. The motivation here is that the organism or the project called Ghana has been thinking as a development material not from within its core traditional values but from the neo-liberal ones. Such atmosphere has created a culture of elites who may know their Western education pretty well but do not understand their traditional values and relate them skillfully to their immediate environment for progress.

Such disequilibrium in the paradigms running Ghana have occurred because Ghanaian/African elites have not been able to simultaneously disentangle themselves and balance their thinking against the ancient colonial arguments that suppressed and demeaned their values (with all its psychological and confidence building implications), and set up education systems that draw from within their innate values, as the centres for “mental forms and processes” for development.

In such situation the mental forms and processes that are to produce the development thinking are skewed against Ghanaian/African values. And Ghanaian elites carried them on all the same. No doubt, the thinking that are to allow Ghanaians/African elites to model their development universe and to “deal with it according to their objectives, plans, ends and desires” were one-side in relation to Ghanaian’s/African’s.

Now, with this realization, “it is time to think,” time to philosophize about the development paradigms running Ghana from within its values – both logically and materially. This will entail the working out of the algebra of Ghana’s development from within its values in relation to its inherited neo-liberal ones. Ghana will need a rewind of Kwame Gyekye or its own Karl Polyani, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx or Sigmund Freud to think grandly from with its conventional values up to the global prosperity ones in order to float the necessary mix of confidence and psychology needed to balance the Western neo-liberal values currently running its development.

Ghanaian elites appropriation of the Gyekye “it is time to think” will open up Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the progression of human history as a struggle between development ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal ethos after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. While the practical necessities of Fukuyama’s argument is unassailable, it means the Gyekye “it is time to think” idea has to enrich Fukuyama’s argument by playing simultaneously with neo-liberal values and Ghana’s traditional ideals, as other global experiences show, especially in Southeast Asia.

That will be Ghana’s post-independent future where, for confidence and psychological reasons, the “triumph” of “political and economic liberalism” is harmonized understandably with Ghanaian traditional values in Ghana’s development process.