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Opinions of Monday, 21 February 2011

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

Patriotism? Are Ghanaians genuinely Patriotic Enough ...

.... in Wishing Ghana Well in Peace, Development and Prosperity?

Waving flags, chauvinism, chanting patriotic songs, forming political organisations, broken campaign promises and propaganda etc, the drama of “patriotism” has kept on unfolding since self-rule through independence to the present, raising eye brows as to what comestible fruit has been engendered so far. From elected governments, choice of ideological doctrines, ‘gleichschaltung-style’ imprisonment of political opponents, acrimony, intolerance, abused opportunities, prestige and vain heroism, coup d’états and attempted counter coup d’états treated as treasons, executions and extra-judicial executions, murders, conflicts, thumb-printing manifesto with own blood, vowing Ghana would be like Kenya if …, charging Party supporters to beat opponent supporters mercilessly, insults, menace and intimidation, sadistic driving through human crowd as if it were some impalpable inanimate mirage with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm because they are worthless bunch of political opponents, inciting mayhem and conflict culminating in the recent much talked-about ‘all die be die’ if foul play occasions in 2012 etc. Could these be patriotism, the path to patriotism, as people term it emotional show of avid for power or a genuine heart-felt desire to express patriotic heroism?
In Ghana as in all African countries, the very idea of patriotism is lost and the term has been prostituted to the very worst of purposes hence so-called patriots spring up like mushrooms. Ghanaians are oblivious of what it takes to be a patriot, unaware that patriotism is not frenzied outbursts of emotion but a tranquil and steady dedication of a life time. Tranquil in this sense doesn’t mean being a lame duck for the right to self-defence must be respected and applied. In its true sense, therefore we run short of appreciating that it is not he who can holler the loudest without knowing what they are hollering about that matters but in striving that our country shall be righteous and strong. Our Ghana must not just be seen to exist in mediocrity but must live and grow in peace, develop and prosper as a nation to be proudly proud of. Honesty and genuine dedication is therefore the pivot around which patriotism revolves to promote peace, development and national prosperity that has seen many developed countries live ahead of us. Let us therefore travel down the journey path of trailblazer countries that have become global icons and learn from their experiences by adopting Socrates’ advice enjoining people to copy what others have achieved to improve their way of life so that they can easily gain for free from what others have laboured hard to produce.


The word patriot has both Latin and Greek root meaning fellow countryman. Patriotism has always been defined as love of one's country or zeal in the defence of the interests of one's country and its citizens not selfish interests cloaked in the banners of national interests. Patriotism as such does not necessitate any scholastic or particular national induction programme of action rather it is selfless instinctive inspiration. In the eighteenth century reference to patriotism was often ironic, for instance when Dr Johnson defined a patriot as ‘a factious disturber of the government’. He also further defined ‘Patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel’ referring particularly to the demagoguery of John Wilkes. Such ironic reservations about the virtues of patriotism are a frequent theme of much modern political and academic commentary, often prompting a bitter reflection by self-ascribed patriots that, ‘Patriotism has become prostituted’.


It is common to hear Americans say we Americans are proud of our country, we love it; same applies to Germans, British etc because out of sacrifice and dedicated life, they have something to brag about and be proud of. Would Americans be proud of their country if America were a country of straw and nothing to write home about? Indeed, whether we like it or not Western European countries are no less a global icons than their citizens pride themselves with. Where does the Ghanaian stand in terms of genuine patriotism? The Ghanaian apparently has the stupider version of patriotism whereby people have the right to kill, injure or maim a neighbour because they are on the other side of the political divide wielding authority by the use of senseless violence and all the loathsome nonsense in the name of patriotism. The Ghanaian society can best be described as a society born in hatred, united by delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its communal next door neighbours. A brief synopsis of trailblazers of patriotism can assist us in determining who we are and where we are as against what our minds and delusive perceptions make us to believe.
In classical 18th century European patriotism, loyalty to the State was chiefly considered in contrast to loyalty to the Church, and clerics were not allowed to teach patriotism in public schools as their ‘patrie’ was heaven, so that they could not inspire love of the homeland in their students. One of the most influential proponents of this classical notion of patriotism was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In England, the Elizabethan era was a time associated with Queen Elizabeth I's reign (1558–1603) and is often considered to be the golden age in English history. It was the height of the English Renaissance and saw the flowering of English values. It was a brief period of largely internal peace between the English Reformation and the battles between Protestants and Catholics and the battles between Parliament and the monarchy that engulfed the seventeenth century. England was also well-off compared to the other nations of Europe. Nothing good comes easy but at a cost. Grinding poverty of the rural working class, which comprised 90% of the population, has also received more attention than in previous generations.


On balance, it can be said that Elizabeth I provided the country with a long period of general if not total peace, and generally increasing prosperity. Having inherited a virtually bankrupt state from previous reigns, her frugal policies restored fiscal responsibility. With taxes lower than other European countries of the period, the economy expanded; though the wealth was distributed with unevenness, it paved the way for more wealth to go around at the end of her reign than at the beginning. This general peace and prosperity allowed the attractive developments that "Golden Age" advocates have stressed on. Spanish, Italian and other European visitors to England commented regularly and sometimes caustically on contrast to their home cultures. British Monarch’s determination not to "look into the hearts" of their subjects, to moderate the religious persecutions of previous Tudor reigns the persecution of Catholics under Henry VIII and Edward VI, and of Protestants under Mary I of England appears to have had a moderating effect on English society in general. These have since yielded positive results for national integration, development and prosperity and international development.


Despite the heights achieved unavoidable vicissitudes accompanying progress and development such as plots and conspiracies, frequently political in nature were not uncommon including Civil Wars, the foiled 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament by anarchists etc. Today, British society has evolved tremendously for the better and development of society.
Napoleon's true legacy in the eyes of patriotic thinking minds reflect the loss of status for France and needless deaths brought by his rule. He was compared to Adolf Hitler by historian Pieter Geyl. Napoleon is blamed as the man who set back European economic life for a generation by the dislocating impact of his wars. Similarly, the Russian Civil War, which broke out in 1918 shortly after the revolution, brought death and suffering to millions of people regardless of their political orientation, but in the German revolution, their program was democracy, pacifism and anti-militarism. Though with initial setback due to World War II Germany quickly buried their bitter past and set out to repair their ravages, yielding high dividend. Today, Germany is an enviable global socio-economic icon.


The precious values of the virtues of Democracy, Religion encompassing all faiths, law and order, all human institutions even including marriage and indeed Patriotism have all been debased and devalued to worth nothing, only attributable to the faculty of human selfishness, pleonexia and wickedness. Human conscience in Ghana and across Africa is at war with itself, struggling between the choice of two distinct opposites of right and wrong, good and bad, stability and instability, liberty and suppression, freedom and oppression, humanity and cruelty, peace and conflict to an endless list of comparisons due to greed and selfishness. Ghana and all African countries abound with pseudo-patriots aptly defined by Dr Samuel Johnson who need to rethink. Patriotism is always an unqualified selfless virtue that requires neither compulsion, influence nor any form of pecuniary drive or inducement. The Ghanaian self-styled patriot is in essence a latent narcissist eudaemonist dangerous carnivorous dragon who cunningly emerges through demagoguery in the form of innocuous herbivorous lamb that eventually unsheathes its carnassial teeth to devour flesh right under the eyes of sycophantic faex populi whose cecutiency to the difference between evil and virtue have been overcast in lies and propaganda propagated for selfish purposes of demagogues. Eventually such demagogic “patriots”, goaded on by poverty identify themselves with the masses for whom they profess to fight against uneven distribution of wealth unveil their aim and purpose and gravitate towards hylicism after amassing the masses behind them for so-called popular support.


Serving one’s country in the spirit of patriotism does not mean imposition of one’s self on the citizenry with claims of so-called ‘unfinished business,’ forgetting that no one person can claim to be the sole claviger to political wisdom or as a destined life ruler of any country. Rulers like Nero, Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini, Stalin, Mugabe, Mobutu, Gadhafi, Museveni, Castro, Kim Jong-il, John Rawlings, Abacha, Mubarak and many more such self-imposed dictators don’t qualify to be patriots.


Indeed Nkrumah did a lot as a patriot during his regime when he came to inherit plenty from the Colonial administration to shine the star of the newly-born Ghana. Blinded by his post-republican though plausible yet impracticable wrong ideas, Ghana’s socio-economic indicators showed a steep nose-dive. Like Napoleon, Ghana no more mattered to Nkrumah as such, instead his xeric appetite for Soviet-style United States of Africa brain child heroic crusade funded with Ghana’s sinking resources needed to be satisfied as his top priority. After-all, Dr J B Danquah did not deserve a guerdon of imprisonment on political grounds by Nkrumah who was a direct beneficiary of J B. There ended Nkrumah’s drama as a patriot. If Ghana is a democratic country today whereby politically, Ghanaian can express freely themselves on political matters, then we must be grateful Generals Kotoka, Ocran, Afrifa, Mr A K Deku and JWK Harley who risked their precious lives and thrust through Nkrumah’s security to liberate Ghanaians out of the shackles of Nkrumah’s anti-plural democracy and returned Ghana to plural democracy at-least once again, yet these are the most hated patriots and unsung heroes in Ghana’s political history. In his turn on patriotism, when Dr Busia assumed office as Prime Minister, he brought with him top World Bank economists and United Nations dignitaries like Dr Amon Nii Kwei, Dr Kwame Donkor Fordwor, Dr S K B Asante, Dr Basoa, Mr Kwame Mpianim, Mr J H Mensah and Mr Kofi Annan all of whom held top World Bank positions and the United Nations respectively to head strategic positions for socio-economic growth whom detractors bastardised as elitism. Dr Busia’s contribution to Ghana’s development as a leader lasted for 834 days but did not end there; the New Patriotic Party has survived him and fighting for Ghanaians. What we see today in Ghana is a complete departure from what Dr Busia did for economic growth; Ghana’s finance ministry is headed by proper Charlie failures and an under-graduate serving as deputy Minister; an upstart rookies regime full of ‘cowboyish’ ruffians. Ghanaians face the most serious economic hardships in memory yet we rush to dance to the tune of propaganda.

Can there ever be a Golden Age in Ghana’s socio-political history as do other nations? It is so pathetic that Ghanaians and indeed Africans are our own destroyers. Most of all so-called patriots have hylist ambitions at the fore which they seek to satisfy first therefore they would massacre their citizens to maintain themselves in power and authority, yet Ghanaians cherish in réclam personalities and condemn virtue. Ghanaians see nothing wrong with thumb-printing a manifesto with blood; nothing wrong with Ghana will be like Kenya if ….; nothing wrong with insinuative state of the Nation’s Address that fails to address the country’s achievements, needs and goals but would vehemently react to a conditional statement of all die be die. Come-on, Ghanaians need to wake-up and know what o’clock it is in good conscience and in good faith if we want to progress.

Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, LLB; MPhil