Ei, enti ennye won aniwu? (So don’t they feel disgraced?)

The Akan language, which is spoken by more Ghanaians than most others, has a way of invoking the culture of its creators, through the “economic” use of a few words.

For instance, when a person has done something that goes against Akan cultural usage, he/she is not upbraided by summoning an enor­mous amount of weighty words. On the contrary, the words used to remind him/her that what he/she has done is “not expected of some­one of his/her upbringing”, is to say: “Wani awu!”.

That means “You have killed your eyes!”

Now, dead eyes cannot look other people in the eye. Dead eyes create the impression that one is “shifty” and “not to be trusted.” One is, in short, not a worthy member of one’s community.

The subtlety in this way of using language lies in the absence of abstractions and the use of active verbs. When you are told you are “in disgrace”, you need to know what constitutes the abstract concept of “disgrace”. But when you are told that your eyes are “dead”, there is no way your possible lack of knowledge about abstract concepts is going to save you. Your eyes are dead. Period.

The whole community might, upon a complaint laid against you, gather together at the chief ’s palace to discuss your behaviour . If, after a thorough discussion, one is found guilty, one might be fined, in exculpa­tion of one’s transgression.

In imposing the fine, the chief ’s spokesperson would proclaim one’s guilt by intoning: “If because you harboured such unjustifiably, hostile sentiments towards the complainant, you had picked up a stick and clob­bered him/her to death, you would have treated him/her just like an animal!”

At that, the whole gathering would be prompted to murmur their assent : “Ahhhh-iiiiiii!”

It would take a normal person who had gone through a public humili­ation of this sort, an extraordinary provocation to seek to go through another one. For a pubic humiliation is just that – it would cast one in a bad light before everyone.

One might have had admirers amongst certain sections of the populace before the brouhaha. That would now be gone, probably for good. And, of course, one would lose the right to correct the errant behaviour of the children in one’s household. Yes, when your eyes are pronounced“dead” in Akan society, the repercussions can be far-reaching.

That being the case, how is it that Akan people of today,can deploy an excavator, bulldozer or chanfang machine in a river or stream, which is he main source of drinking water for the peo­ple of an area, to churn up the riverbed and wash it in the river,in search of gold?

Are we not the people who think so much of the spiritual ele­ments associated with water bod­ies that we give rivers and streams the names of human beings? Do we not call Birem “Abenaa” (Tues­day-born female)? Do we not call Supong “Kwasi”? (Sunday-born male?) Is the “human name” name of Twafuor not “Yaw” (Thurs­day-born male), and is it not a fact that no-one may cross Twafuor to go to his/her farm on Thursdays?

I think the “social-control” mechanisms we inherited from our forefathers have broken down irreparably and that’s why an unthinkable desecration such as using an excavator in the sources of the drinking water of a people can take place.

How did our “social-control” mechanisms break down?

Our ancestors employed psy­chological methods too get us to be socially responsible. For instance, if your mother was called “Abenaa”. You wouldn’t want to hurt a being called “Abenaa” (such as the River Birem).

But if you went top school and they told you every day that Rivers are inanimate creatures and that in according spiritu­al powers to them, you were “worshipping” stones and riv­ers and acting against the “Ten Commandments and declaring yourself an “obosomsomni” (idolator) would you be able to resist the temptation to con­form to what your schoolmates all believed in?

Especially, as conforming and thereby being able to ob­tain a “certificate” from school would classify you as being “educated” and thereby enhance your chances of vastly improving your standard of living and that of your relatives?

But then, you leave school with your certificate, and it fetches you a nice job.

You conform to the norms of your society by going to church; you join societies that advance your so­cial standing. And you get promoted.

But you also conform to your society’s norm of being hypocritical beyond belief; just mouthing words from the Bible and hymn books, without the lest inclination to put the words into practice.

You take bribes. You falsify accounts. But you pay your church dues and subscribe to social organi­sations as required.

And next thing is: you hear that by “investing” a small part of your wealth in a form of gold mining called “galamsey”, you can multiply that wealth, are you going to ask, but what are the repercussions that are going to be felt by my children and their children? What water will they drink if my excavators kill the water bodies?

These questions may occasional­ly cross your mind. But conformity is the norm in the Ghana of today. So you adopt a numb attitude. You see nothi8ng. You hear nothing. You say nothing. You just bank your proceeds and go to church every Sunday.

Even when you hear that excava­tor like yours are being used to dig so close to the Accra-Kumasi road that the road might be destroyed after rainfall, you see and hear nothing.

Are you not ashamed, Mr Mod­ern Ghana ‘Go-getter’?

When you go to conferences with equally qualified people from other parts of the world, and you deploy you verbal skills to their ad­miration, do you ever susoec5t that their respect repeat respect for you may not exist – despite your “bril­liance” – because in your country, people like you use excavators and bulldozers to destroy the drinking water of their own people?`

Ei, enti, ennye mo aniwu?

By Cameron Duodu

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