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Opinions of Friday, 16 May 2008

Columnist: Asher, Bernard

Reflections on a Culture Gone Bad

A childhood acquaintance sojourning in the USA called me lately with the merry news of his wife’s impending labor in the next couple of days. As is expected, it was wonderful news and I was, off course, glad for him. After the pleasantries, he requested a heart-to-heart. “Listen mate, he said, I am under a lot of pressure to go and witness the birth of this child first hand”. As would be expected I encouraged him to do so. But then he elaborated further, “no, listen, man, my wife and almost all my friends want me to actually go into the room with her and help with the delivery of the baby, you know, to literally look on as the child pops out from the “great unknown’”. I could not help but guffaw at his increasing trepidation. The man seemed to be sweating even as he spoke to me. He demanded that I stop laughing and be serious! Having a child of my own and being a fair man I told him to do what best suited him and not what people demanded of him. Obviously his wife was a different ball game! “If she wants you to show that you love her by being there for her then by all means go on and do it”, I advised. But then he asked for my own unbiased opinion. “Brother”, he said, “what do you advice? Did you go and witness your son’s birth first hand”? At this juncture, ladies and gentlemen, I struggled with my own personal opinion as I feared I would unduly colour this rookie’s thought patterns regarding one of the most important cross-roads he would ever come to in his life. But I had to be honest and so I told him the truth: “no I didn’t go and witness the birth of my son first hand”. At this he retorted with shock: “you mean to tell me you didn’t go with your wife to give her support while she was in labor? “No,” I hastened to point out before he thought that I was anything less than a devoted hubby, “I was there at the hospital and at the ward but, you know, not to witness the baby pop out from the ‘great beyond’”. “Why” he asked, now clearly perplexed. “Well,” I replied, “I didn’t think it was right to discover in one fell swoop an endeavor that I hoped to spend the whole of my life discovering”. “In short”, I continued, ‘I was a firm believer in the etymological or vintage meaning of the Akan word ‘akata esia’ (cover and hide) which requires the Akan woman however old they were to perpetually protect and guard their sexuality with a view to leaving a remnant for her man to explore and discover lest she be robbed of all sexiness and be reduced to mere child bearing machines”. I quickly made him aware that this was my view and he was- off course -entitled to his own views. At this he thanked me and hung up.

The above dialogue kept resonating in my mind long after this phone call. The nagging thought of how this, patently, alien exercise of witnessing a baby pop out from the “great beyond” first- hand would not cease to bother me. How this act had now become the yardstick for proving one’s “unfailing love” to his spouse and how it managed to creep into the Ghanaian psyche was, after careful thought, even more enigmatic to me. African traditional culture never had a man peering into the legs of a woman as she was in labor? Out of respect for the woman, the Akan and, indeed, the African man would wait outside the hut as the matriarchs of his or the wife’s house attended to, nursed and comforted the wife as she went into labor. Whiles pacing outside the door, the patriarch would usually be comforted by his brethren including the elders of the village and encourage him to keep his cool. Soon after, the shrill cry of a new born would pierce the tensed milieu decreasing the patriarch’s sky- high heart rate and send the whole village into frenzy. With congratulatory pats coming from all angles, the patriarch, beaming with pride, is assured of his virility al fresco and retains his standing before his kin and handles his long suffering spouse( with her dignity in tact) and child, who will in due course be delivered to him, with the due care and love they both deserve. Unfortunately this highly cultured fare is no longer pertinent in today’s African and more so Ghanaian society. It has sadly been replaced by the knee-jerking, mind blowing and sexual desire-stripping exercise where hitherto highly virile Ghanaian men are violently robbed of their testicular fortitude after being forced to witness their children popping out from the “great unknown” under the highly sinister guise of “proving their love”. The substantive question is: since when was one’s love proven by witnessing his wife’s “akata esia” metamorphorsize into a highly elastic facade from which proceeds not just a child but a seriously blood-spattered visceral afterbirth that was never meant for the patriarch to witness but to be antiseptically disposed off with a view to retaining her prized dignity? Well, I’ll tell you when! It was when the highly amorphous western culture belonging to the USA and the UK penetrated the pristine African and Ghanaian cultures with its desultory tenets.

It is without doubt that those of us that still adhere to the indubitable and unchangeable tenets of Ghanaian African traditional culture will hold on to the these pace- setting milestones ad infinitum and will by no means allow the alien cultures of the so-called west to adulterate our highly developed culture and neither will we allow our minds to be indoctrinated by the poison of the west. Before I am dismissed as excessively patriarchal, let me make it plain that I am a firm believer in the feminist cause. Women have an unequivocal right to dignity and the pursuit of happiness in the same way that men have. All I am saying is that certain things are better left unsaid and undisclosed with a view to preserving the self-worth and dignity of our matriarchs. Otherwise we will be confronted with the age-old Akan adage that goes thusly: “s? ?feefee ifun n’anyuase’a, ihu saman” {if you insist on searching under the eyelids of a corpse, you are bound to see a ghost}.

Well as for my chum in the USA he took the bold and admirable step of going to witness his child popping out from the “great unknown”. He called me soon after, and after downing a glass of cognac to steady his nerves he advised me thusly “ man if you ever see a scantily dressed woman parading her stuff in front of you, go get a glass of cognac and say to yourself: vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. To this I replied thusly: “well, eh, I don’t know about that” and hung up the phone rather hastily before my missus walked into the room.

Bernard Asher is a lecturer of Business Management & Economics@ Guildford College of Higher Education & an External Tutor @Reading University, England, United Kingdom. Email: basher@guildford.ac.uk

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