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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

“Just Shut The Hell Up; I Don’t Owe Anyone A Thing”

And The Debates Range On!

WHILE WE’RE WAITING patiently for the toxicology, autopsy and coroner’s reports on Michael Jackson’s death the debates about parental role, personal- irresponsibility, selective- memory, the importance of nuclear family and over-widening of well-meaning friends and identity crisis range on.

So you try to trumpet that you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps when you were shoeless until someone had to provide the shoe?

This is not your typical shift-the-blame, excuse-me- I-made- it –on-my –own piece. You won’t find any psychological platitudes or cute social experts’ mumbo –jumbo parables in here .This is more of a take -a- look – at- yourself –and- where ---you’re- today- and- think- of- the people who helped you get there. It could be your teacher, uncle, auntie, brother, friends, grandparents or parents.

Get this: Don’t forget; your success is not your own making. So stop patting yourself on the back.

The most debatable issue which stands above all is the parental role in one’s success or the role other people played in one’s success or downfall.

There are a couple of thoughts about parental role in one’s success that we don’t hear in the recent parental debate because it’s “Human Nature”. People, especially Ghanaians have the tendency to bury one’s good deeds in a grain of sand to ensure that the wind will blow them away faster. Yet, we try tirelessly to engrave one’s bad deeds onto a rock to preserve their longevity and negative significance.

But, I sincerely believe that our present status in life is covertly the result of special favors or blessings we experienced from other people---parents, neighbors, teachers, well-meaning friends or spouses.

I also believe strongly that if it had not been for the countless individuals whose names have been tucked in our short-memory archives, our paths in life would have been completely difficult and different. There is no soul on this troubled planet who cannot, at least, recall the name of one person who played an unparalleled role to make his or her empty dreams soar with tangible wings—provided one doesn’t have self-induced amnesia or selective memory.

Unfortunately, there are children and grown -up individuals ---- both home and abroad-- who claim that their personal and professional triumphs are the product of their individual fortitude or efforts. Therefore, they show a shocking lack of appreciation for what their parents or an honest-to-goodness person, or spouse for that matter –did to help them get to where they are today. The stories of one’s –good-deeds- turned –sour abound in the diaspora among Ghanaians. What a shame!

Please, Please, I’m begging you on my bent knee, remember this: Being in a developed country is not a slam-dunk ticket to success, especially if you failed to rewind your memory tape to think of the people who sacrificed on your behalf and went against the conventional wisdom to gamble on you and your dreams. For you to make it you need their emotional and moral supports to help you soar to the right altitude.

The role our parents or “good Samaritans” played (and still play) in our lives is largely overlooked. But, I frankly question any value that flows from insisting that people, especially children are not obligated to take care of their parents or show appreciation to people who have helped them. Yes, there is a tendency to blame our parents for everything that went wrong in our lives and to resent them. Yet there is little tendency to thank them for the good things they do to help us get to the socio-economic Promised Land.

When things don’t go our way we become whiners and try to play victims and blame others for our mistakes in judgment or gaffes.

Yes, we might not approve of all the things our parents do and did, I’m sure most of the “wrong” things they did might be well-intended and love –spirited, no matter how we think of them .Most of us are surviving today on this pothole –ridden life abroad because of the real -life lessons they ingrained in us when we were growing up in towns and villages in Ghana.

Sometimes, something that seems unbearable to some folks in our host countries is a walk-in-the-park for us. I vividly remember the day of “darkness”in America. A fifteen minute electricity interruption threw an entire neighborhood into a panic mode. The residents didn’t know how to deal with fifteen minute darkness—I beg your pardon!

Whilst some aspects of our culture work against our progress, there are parts that really nurture and guide us against other dangerous health issues and emotional trauma .For instance, take our women and their anti-smoking stance. The stigma attached to women smokers has helped to perpetuate the promotion of relatively healthy lifestyle among Ghanaian women, while their male counterparts are smoking their way out to death at alarming rate. So that goes to show that being born on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana) also has its advantages. That should inject some hope in our part of the world because there are plenty of things to be thankful for being born in Ghana.

To those who were fortunate to be born in the States ,Europe or emigrated to a developed world through their parents’ efforts or someone else’s should be more thankful for being able to have the opportunity at such an early age or at a prime age to make something out life. What if you had been born in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan? Or in Darfur? What about if you were born in Africa –like most of us –surrounded by tribal wars, filth and poverty? What if you were born in a place where you had no access to good education or better medical? Your life path would have been way different and deadly.

Children in the developing world die from illnesses seldom deadly to citizens in developed countries, such as measles, malaria, and diarrhea. A small cut sustained at a playground untreated can easily morph into a full- blown infected wound that can kill the patient .In the developed world every newly born gets vaccines a few times during the first year of the child’s life to fight against diseases and minor infections.

And, for those of us who were born in the developing countries like Ghana, our mothers took chances on their lives and ours because many women die every year from the complications of pregnancy or childbirths. And what is the reason why they have more children? They do so with the hope that one of the kids will survive to adulthood—how sad! Mindful of the fact that our parents have no IRA’s, 401K’s, social security or savings accounts-- their only assurance and insurance are their kids. Trust me, they would have had fewer kids if they knew that the kids they had would survive to adulthood.

Those who were relatively lucky to be born in a developed country or emigrated to a society that values education; one that offers its citizens a wide range of mechanism for the benefit of the entrepreneur, from a working legal system to relatively stable financial services and availability of capital—regardless of how lousy they are and how some selfish individuals will hijack the system. You folks stand on the shoulders of people --including your parents, spouses, friends and others—who invested money, time ,energy , hopes and sacrificed for your future as well as theirs to get you where you are today. That is not a small endeavor to sneeze at.

You can pretend you don’t remember those who helped you in the beginning of your journey. However, regardless of what you think of them and their role in your life, there is no question that you’re where you are today, because someone gave you a lot of opportunities to make something out of your life---- whether you’re in Ghana or abroad. The question is: what are you willing to do to give back to your parents, country, community, neighbors and to those who played a meaningful role in your life?

Stop scratching your head!

Unfortunately, it’s more often the local celebrity that captures the minds, sound bites and the news headlines. But, there are real ‘sheroes’ and heroes in every town or village. I’m talking about your parents, neighbors, spouses, teachers and ordinary folks in your community who invested their limited hopes in you and your dreams but for some reasons you found a way to wipe them off from your memory hard –drive for your own convenience.

Let’s face it, we all wanted to succeed in life—to have a nice car, a sizable house, perfect family, money in the bank, good education and all of its trimmings. But, we had no clue what success was. Simply put, most of us do not have a clue about how to reach our goals on our own because we lacked the tools. We had no blueprint for reaching our greatness, no devised plan, and almost certainly little or no access to those who have actually accomplished the feat of becoming successful in their fields. But for a divine plan we have been able to make onto a satisfactory level; through someone else’s unselfishness, effort and blessing.

For too long, some ungrateful individuals have thought that being part of something bigger than them was not important. They believe they don’t owe anyone or society anything, that, they made it solely on their own merits. But think of the remarkable power of depending on each other for our growth .Remember that you do not have to give up your individuality when you become part of a bigger cause. Look into your life’s rearview mirror. What do you see? Any idea how you got to your present destination?

Despite our religiosity and claimed alliance with God, the talk of returning the blessing or favors we received from others doesn’t stir every soul because Ghanaians see no need to do it. They downplay its’ social and emotional significance .But, you should not only pull the ladder up after you, but leave the ladder for others to climb. You should sometimes reach down to help them climb.

Ironically, sometimes one’s failure to achieve one’s goal in life can provoke a surge of accusations filled with innuendo and sweeping judgments, not facts. Those accusations are mostly directed to the same people who are responsible for his or her social and economic development.

I’m continuously astonished that any time you hear people bad-mouthing someone, nine times out of ten they are former recipients of the victim’s blessing or generosity at some point in their lives. But, because of “Human Nature”, we tend to have very, very short memories indeed .That is how we deal with our own insecurities and inability to express our appreciation and deal with our shortcomings.

When life is good it’s easier to forget and disown those who helped you to get through the nights. But, when it dissipates, it’s easier to look for the culprit because when things fall apart we try to apportion blame and franchise irresponsibility.

Success has little to do with out-earning and out-buying those around us. It’s the ability to remember those who helped us and developing an interest in a CAUSE which can out live us. Remember this: Whether you live in Ghana or aboard, your position in life is a direct result of someone’s effort. So now that you have found your own bearings think of your village, town, nation and those who gave you the ladder.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

* The author is a social commentator, the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation for the youth of Asuom, Akim.