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Opinions of Saturday, 5 August 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Men And The Culture Of Instituionalized Violence In Ghana

Rawlings is Provoked = Canes Vice President
Asaga is Provoked = Whips wife
Edumadze is provoked = Pulls Gun
Politicians provoke soldiers= Coup
Israel is provoked = Bombings
USA is provoked = Bombings
Zidane is provoked=Head butt

Everywhere you look, violence seems to be gaining currency. In all the above, we see the common theme of provocation leading to violence, pain, death, destruction, disrespect for law and order, collective punishment and disgrace. In most of these cases, men are the protagonists of violence. Folks, is there a better way of life besides being schadenfreudes (one who glees over the pain of another)? Must mental or psychological violence always lead to a physically painful response? Is provocation a good reason for a mental meltdown?

Sometime ago, I wrote on the issue of violence and conflict resolution in Ghana. I am not surprised that we are back at this topic again. We’ve either lulled ourselves into believing that this problem does not exist or frankly don’t care because after all, the alpha male rules ferociously in Ghana. I am talking about the case of MP Asaga who ghoulishly walloped his wife into smithereens. For a moment, I thought the wife was caving in by asking the public to back off. I am glad that she has mustered courage to apparently veer away from the coarse coercion of the Asaga family. Please help this woman out no matter her sins.

The topic of violence has always intrigued me for several reasons. I often try to make sense out of our violent past without much success. I try in my quiet times to understand why our society tolerates violence to the degree that it does. I am sure some of you either engaged in or witnessed violence growing up. I mean the knocks, slaps and beatings that we saw in schools and some homes. I have always held that, corporal punishment in our schools significantly contributed to the culture of violence in our society. But before schools were institutionalized, we had ritual murders and wars too. In our more recent history, we’ve seen coups as a legitimization of violence. Rawlings is perhaps the first coup propelled president of Ghana to have molested his own vice president physically. As if this was not enough, some of his yes men explained away that he was well within his rights to whip his own vice president silly. Rawlings is also known to have involved himself in other violent acts publicly. Under various governments, we have seen brutalities of all kinds. Examples include the flogging of our mothers and sisters under AFRC and PNDC; terrorist attacks by the NLM aka Matemeho under Nkrumah, and the brutal murder of the Ya-Na under the watch of the current NPP dispensation.

All things considered, charity begins at home. It is often very rare to see violent folks who did not experience or learn about violence at a young phase in their lives. We are either hardwired for violence or learn by observing our family and friends. Behaving violently is not something that comes out of nowhere. Don’t we all have violent tendencies? Even the meekest amongst us can be provoked to act resolutely and most invariably, violently. Often, it comes down to experience and how to manage these tendencies that eat us all. If all of us do get angry but some are able to deal with their anger without violence, can we learn something from them? Is violence a question of sheer unmanaged reactions to provocations? It was interesting to note that after Zidane’s behavior at the world cup, most of his neighborhood friends while growing up, quickly explained the kind of upbringing he got. It is also noteworthy that folks like Zidane are repeat offenders.

What can we learn from MP Asaga’s experience? What Mr Asaga did is not uncommon in Ghana. I am sure there are a lot of folks, men especially, who believe he is well within his rights. Especially after he hinted that the woman committed an unpardonable offence. Who decides what an unpardonable offence is? What is also near to the truth is that, men, arrogate to themselves the function of judge and jury when dealing with women. For far too long, women have become chattel. They are barred from doing the very things that men do because they are either seen as sub-human by men or even if full human beings, do not deserve the same rights as their partners. Why do we treat our own women with such wickedness? Is it the conditioning that men get? Can’t we see that everywhere that women are free, prosperity reigns supreme?

While Mr. Asaga could use some anger management and coaching, I think he should pay a stiff price for his shameful deed. I don’t enjoy kicking a troubled man in the shin or groin but it is hard to look away on this issue. I think a man of Asaga’s caliber should know better and to the extent that his prosecution sends a message to all men, I am for it. As part of his punishment, he should be an ambassador of anti-violence against women. For once, the authorities must act swiftly to send a message to all violent men.

Our government and local human rights groups must also make it a point to raise and sustain the case against domestic violence in Ghana. In this case, not just against wives but also against the maids that some of these wives beat mercilessly. We need a constant diet of conversation around the issue of violence. We need programs that will help those of us with unbridled temper to work on it. The bottom line is that hitting is wrong. There is now evidence to show that you can raise your kid(s) without hitting. Even if you have to discipline your kid, hitting should be very rare if not totally absent. How do you sleep next to a bloodied woman and have sweet dreams? I accept and admit that others can drive you mad but our challenge is to find constructive ways to deal with destructive anger. Some of us have the challenge of dealing with anger and must accept it and find ways to manage it.

We need women to speak up when maltreated. Yes, some of you Ghanaian women would rather keep a marriage instead of speaking up against domestic violence. We know it can be a challenge finding your dream husband in Ghana. However, a good husband is perhaps not one who whips you all the time. So why settle for that? Yes, the man provides for you but is that a caveat to molest you? For the sake of your children, civility and your own life, don’t tolerate domestic violence. The least you can do is to ask the man to seek help. Men who beat their wives are the same who are likely to kill them. And oh this, some Ghanaian women are even reported to say that if their men don’t beat them, they don’t love them. What kind of sick mentality is this? Our women deserve better and we should goad them away from these defeatist and self-loathing mentality. If you, as a woman, define love by how much you man kicks your butt, then you deserve what you get.

Look here; if you don’t like coups then don’t support domestic violence. Like a tree, most of these coup makers start as human seedlings. Most of these violent coups makers learnt their trade from the domestic scene. If you don’t want your kids to hit, then don’t hit them. If you don’t want a president who engages in physical violence, then don’t support coups. If you don’t want an MP who batters his wife, speak up now. In a way, I feel sorry for Asaga because anger is a short madness and those of us with temper can easily be lured into such situations. However, everyone is responsible for his or her acts. It is incumbent on everyone to find constructive strategies to deal with anger. Provocation from others is not excuse to use physical violence on others. Asaga will help his cause by apologizing to the whole country for his let up. After which, he must face the law. Enough is enough and the rule of law must work for all, irrespective of one’s position. Hopefully, we can all learn a thing or two from Mr. Asaga’s unfortunate experience. I wish him the best as he finds ways to deal with the situation. Be brave Mr. MP and accept you fault.

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