Feature Article of Sunday, 22 January 2012

Columnist: Commey, Gideon

The Sum Total of How Ridiculous It Is

Dedicated to all social change makers and young social entrepreneurs attempting to solve a social problem.

“It took the madmen of yesterday for us to act with extreme clarity today. You cannot achieve a fundamental change without a certain amount of madness” - Thomas Sankara

The destiny of every country rests on the future of its young people. In this country, ours has been relegated to a penalty shootout, a college gram-bacteria-staining lab exercise. And if I lay bare the Swords of Damocles of this our malignant system, I hope not to be labeled as pontificating my bed time Milo or branded to be weird as the ecowarrior in the neighborhood who is addicted to munching Bhut Jolokia sandwich every lunch time. I am just an unassuming law abiding citizen making my voice heard.

In the early afternoon of Monday January 16, 2012, I came across one of the most shocking and somehow ludicrous revelation of my entire life. The ground zero was the Registrar General’s Department. Together with my activist friend, we strode to the RG to register trademarks for our three (3) highly successful social media action initiatives on Facebook, namely; Pass-A-Book-On, Share-Your-Lunch and Make Things Happen.

Entering the large already overcrowded office hall streaked by pigments of chaotic human activities, we made our way to the trade marking section. Our inquiry led to a revelation that before a trade mark can be registered, a search that costs $60 for each trade mark has to be conducted for the availability of the name. For our 3 initiatives, total cost here is $180. After the preliminary search, the actual registration of the trade mark itself we were told is pegged at $150 for each trademark, making $450 in our case. The total damage on our head here was $630. The equivalent in Ghanaian cedis is GHS 945. Shocked to the bone marrow, my words were remanded in custody by the throat.

I must admit that I’m not an expert in trade marking, but I really get the heebie-jeebies when a system that preaches Youth Entrepreneurship in audios of a boisterous dakadak lacks an equal moral obligation to nurture it. My case is simple- if you won’t help us; please don’t make life difficult for us. I am definitely a green horn in trade marking, I completely have no idea how much they cost else where and won't even attempt to go into the nitty gritty of it or make comparisons, but my issue is how affordable and accessible is this facility to budding young entrepreneurs in the country and does it constitute an enormous albatross to our initiatives? Can't there be concessions for us and who has the authority to mediate these concessions not just on trademarks but all other stuff that militate againts the fruition of our brilliant ideas? That is my hurt, that is the burden I want to express for ears to listen.

My friend Ato Davis can’t be tortured more by this outrageous manifestation. He comments on my post on Facebook to explain why am not making a meal out of infant candies and toddler Lego- “There is nothing rocket science about trademark registration. If you want to check the existence of a TM, you search through existing records. Trademark records are not documents filed away in underground tunnels in Tamale, so you don’t need $60 bus transportation and labor cost to go search for them. They should be computer data”.

I am just highlighting to you just a corn of the frustration and bubble of intimation that our lid-system gifts young people attempting various endeavors to break grounds all to the benefit of our society, and to keep mute about these, I can’t. Why should this be normal? Why should this be accepted without any complaint? Why hasn’t it be brought to light? Oh, I can’t wrap my head around this.

In a country where one cannot point a finger at a single youth friendly social and health service public facility which gives free consultation to young people, shouldn’t we be worried, and shouldn’t we as a matter of urgency demand answers from some so-called experts, technocrats and decision makers to explain why there exist no enough angel incubators for young entrepreneurs and why there are no evidenced interests and attempts by the powers that be to atleast water the grounds for us to sow and nurture ourselves? Are we asking for too much here and are we rebels by so doing?

Many brilliant ideas are dead and are dying each second because of trifle impediments. How would one therefore justify our comparisons with the Zukerbergs and the Silicon Valley Google guys? Where is the Ghanaian Dream? Do our leaders live in ivory towers? Do I have to tweet my concerns like the teenage high school Brownback critic Emma Sullivan to get attention?

And shouldn’t the National Youth Council (Authority) concern itself with such issues, rather than its officer indulging in tactless faux pas (homosexuality allegations) in an outmoded Jeremy Clarkson fashion? Oh, I agree with Mark Twain, “It is very difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it”. We have entered into a period of consequences and to pamper our struggles in underwear thermals would be the worst timidity ever. Let us voice them out, we have to be heard!

“I am for violence if non violence means we continue to postpone solutions to our problems in order to avoid violence”. I believe youth movement building partly holds a key to birthing the solutions we all seek to our momentous struggles in this country. In the absence of a reliable Youth Council and a robust Youth Parliament, we have to look to ourselves to build a movement free from hierarchical bubonic plagues. We can achieve results better by way of Consensus Building.

Let’s embrace all ideas to build this movement and just like what the banner at the Occupy London- St. Pauls Cathedral indicates, “If you have an idea-we won’t just say you don’t understand the ‘system’ we’d like to hear you”. With hope on our side, we can work towards building our own future in the midst of all these glorious burdens. Though the future remains unknown, the wind continues to blow in the direction of human progress. As for how things are run in some of our institutions, am not sure answers are available to us, just like how am yet to find an answer to why pancakes are uber-tasty with corn syrup. I rest my case.

Gideon Commey (Community Organizer, Writer, Poet)