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Opinions of Sunday, 11 August 2013

Columnist: Korang, Daniel

Perilous Trends In Ghanaian Civilisation

Overthrow Of Culture: Perilous Trends In Ghanaian Civilisation

One thing that must cause extreme ache in the hearts of all true Ghanaians must not be the rapid debasement, degradation and ignominy of the Ghanaian culture. The cultural beauty of Ghana is rapidly seeing decay that we cannot hesitate to be concerned. Ghanaian culture has regrettably been tagged with foreigness in the land of its origin. When culture is overthrown life is bound to be brutish and loutish.
What is culture? What is civilisation? When people think of culture, they often tend to do so in very simple and more monolithic way. Culture is not only about dancing, it is not limited only to music; it is not about costume alone. It is beyond patterns of social celebration, rituals pertaining to birth and marriage, cuisine or sports. Beyond that, and this is important, culture is about people’s total way of life; the way people live, eat, worship, produce, express themselves, create and recreate. It is the totality of a set of bequeathed ideas, belief system, values and norms, which constitute the common bases of generally agreed social action.
Culture is lifestyle as manifested by a particular people or society. So it is man-made, not genetically inherited. It is evolved for the purpose of living. It is socially taught and learned. It originates as human response to the physical and biological environment. Culture is a living aspect of living: it grows with time; it sheds anachronistic ideas and picks on new and more viable ones. Cultural traditions look to the past for their mandate, authority and authenticity as cultural traits are regarded as society’s norms handed down to generations. However, culture is dynamic and is often affected by local and external influences and stimuli.
Culture can also be conceived of as the collectivity of human activities and general principles that tend to guide ideas of a group of people with shared traditions (general acceptability), which are passed on, instilled into generation (socialisation) and reinvigorated by members of the group (sustainability).
Ghanaians have embraced westernization at the extreme expense of our rich native culture. As far as the Ghanaian is concerned, the native culture remains one of the key national identifiers. Our culture clothes us with some aura of originality and uniqueness.
Before independence, African nationalists vehemently attacked the Europeans for debasing native culture and values. Every one may have thought that we needed independence so we could, inter alia, preserve our rich culture and be proud of it. Ghana, perhaps, only gained political independence (if at all) and still remains a colony as far as culture is concerned. Ghana is culturally colonized. Colonialism, perceived in this context, is an imposition of foreign culture over indigenous traditional practices and foreign dominance and subjugation of Ghanaian people in all spheres of their social, cultural and religious civilisations.
It is important to stress that Western civilization has distorted and retarded the pace and tempo of cultural growth and trend of civilisation in Ghana.
We are in an era of cultural pillage and plunder which has led to the relative stagnation and precipitous decline of traditional cultural pursuits in the Ghana. With Ghana culturally subjugated and dominated, the Western culture and European mode of civilisation is beginning to thrive and outgrow Ghanaian cultural heritage. Traditional Ghanaian cultural practices are gradually paving the way for foreign ways of doing things as Ghanaians become fully ‘westernised’. Western culture now is regarded as frontline Ghanaian civilisation.
Ghanaian ways of doing things have almost become primitive, archaic and regrettably unacceptable in public domain. Not only have certain aspects of the material culture in the Ghana lost or destroyed, we have also lost the power and sense of cultural continuity, such that it has became practically impossible to recover the ability to strive for cultural progress on our own terms.
The socio-cultural effects of the wholesale importation of western culture are lamentably manifold. Westernisation has developed into ugly tumours on our cultural heritage. Let us attempt to point out some few scars left in our cultural heritage.
Effacement of extended family system: One aspect of our rich culture that has markedly suffered the severest effacement is our family system. There is a gradual obliteration of the extended family system in Ghana. The extended family is rapidly giving way to nuclear family system. Traditional Ghanaian family values are disappointingly breaking down very swiftly. Extended family that was a wonderful instrument like a social verve, social security in our community has given way to nuclear family. Little wonder that there is no more respect for the aged; no more respect for values that we once held sacrosanct in Ghana; younger ones now find it very difficult to greet elderly ones; the elderly are very often abused and neglected; women are gradually metamorphosing into men; the family is no longer an important vehicle of social change.
Individualism: The near cultural extinction Ghana has left in its trail a purely individualistic lifestyle amongst the once beautifully communalized Ghana. We now have children of single parents, a phenomenon that is identifiable with America. People no longer communalise, nobody wants to be anybody’s brother’s keeper. People plunder the property of their own family members- no sense of unity. People seek their own and do not concern themselves with any belonging to others. People have become eccentric and idiosyncratic. Selfishness is at its zenith.
Confused building pattern: Sadly, our building pattern, as a distinctive way of indigenous Ghanaian living, has not been spared. The way we build now is different from the way we used to build; we no longer take into cognizance our own peculiarities in the building process. We now build houses without ventilation. We build haphazardly. No wonder we have seasonal flooding in Ghana.

Sexuality and marriage: The conception of sexuality in Ghana has changed completely; the desire to be like Westerners by our children has suddenly made them promiscuous, doing things that were never imaginable several years ago. Morality has seen a drastic decline. Same-sex marriage is gaining dominance. Untoward sexual practices are creeping into the society. Marriage is no longer sacrosanct. Divorce has become the order of the day. Street children abound. Ghana has been very weak and vulnerable since the last century.
The youth are regrettably suffocating under the intense pressure of profanity and immorality which are by-products of westernization. Our young ladies expose their private parts without qualms. Sexual activities happen in the open. Incest occurs incessantly. Our air-waves are polluted with immoral lyrics. Our typical cultural dance has given way to some complex body gestures which cannot be named. Domestic violence reigns in all corridors of life. We have lost our uniqueness!
Language: Proficiency in our own language is declining in Ghana because we are compelled to embrace Western culture and civilization. Western language has created a caste system in Ghana. It causes alienation for people who cannot speak English. Language been a vehicle of culture, we are in a very serious problem. We must define and design means of helping Ghana out of the hideous quagmire of language and cultural logjam. Indigenous African languages should be mounted in schools as a compulsory part of the curriculum lessons in Ghanaian culture.
Naming system: Today, Ghanaians feel proud to be called names that are descriptive of pets in some countries. We have Ghanaians with all names being foreign. As a multi-tribal society, Ghanaians could be identified by their traditional names and tribal marks. It is therefore not acceptable to have both first and surnames being foreign and therefore alien to one's culture and tradition.
Medicine: Cultural alteration, provoked by the pressures of westernization in all spheres of life, has enough pervasive impact as to qualify as cultural coup in Ghana. This is more noticeable in the area of science and technology on Ghanaian experience and consciousness. Modern medicine has largely taken precedence over traditional methods in matters of health. Once upon a time, during the reign of traditional medicine, mortality rate was far less than today when we have all the foreign drugs and medications in abundance. Traditional medicine has a lot in store for Ghana. Let’s go back and use them!
Ghana now suffers from high level of mental enslavement and cultural imperialism. There is therefore the need for decolonisation of the mind. The trend of civilisation in Ghana is pathetic, the strength of the wave of Western civilisation is such that Ghana is hardly capable of resisting it. The wave is so strong that it has become irresistible. Ghanaian children are sadly ignorant of their own cultural values and practices. Children do not see the essence of cultural originality.
The trend of Ghanaian civilization is extremely perilous and terrifying. Westernization has become very pervasive and prevalent, such that Western culture has taken precedence over Ghanaian values and culture and the latter is regarded as inferior to the former. The Ghanaian experience of modernity is fraught with tensions at every level of the communal and social settings. The post independent Ghana is confronted with how to have a true national identity. Ghanaians are rapidly losing originality in our way of life. Obviously, Ghana cannot refuse the pretentious invitations of globalization. However, our focus must to evolve viable options for truly Ghanaian culture.
In modern Ghana, civilisation must be seen as just another concept of western domination: imposition of foreign culture over traditional cultural values. It is important to emphasise fundamentally that urgent and more decisive steps need to be taken in order to reorder and reverse this evanescent trend of cultural emptiness, without which Ghana may experience seasons of cultural extinction and drought of Ghanaian values. To this end, all hands must be on deck to neutralize the impact of westernization which permeates all aspects of Ghanaian life.

Daniel Korang (LL.B)
Enso Nyame Ye Chambers

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