Otumfuo on the Whine
Everything talked about in this article will only really make sense when you picture Otumfuo & co. on a nationwide tour of self-pity. Just picture this: you, after a long, gruesome day of hard work, coming back home, switching on the TV to find Otumfuo, wife, or children, after majestically lifting themselves off their inherited golden stools, on air, going on and on about how unfair life has been to them. Just picture this scenario, and kindly hold on to the image for the duration of this piece.
The Abandoned Mind
An old, or young hag to boot, wart of a nose, claw-like nails, long, unkempt, straw-like hair, in a pointy hat, an oversize cloak, perched on a broom, and most importantly, almost always, female, is seen flying across the European skies. Moments later this individual is burnt at stake. Their crime? Witchcraft. Well, 14th-century Europe did not have to actually see this woman, actually wearing this piece of apparel, flying around on this household item, to reach the conclusion that said woman was in fact a witch. She was burnt, hanged, imprisoned, tortured—whichever punishment tickled the particular century’s fancy was applied to said woman—in front of an enthusiastic viewing public. With another witch down, one’s misfortune was nearing a turning point.
But in the public’s defence, these witches actually confessed to their sins—sometimes. By ‘confessed’ I mean tortured into confession. They were to blame for all sorts of misfortunes—from individual, societal, to global ones. About 80,000 Europeans were from the periods of 1500 to 1660 declared witches, and killed. The vast majority of them were women—80%.
It was mostly infirmities of the mind these poor women suffered. Some, mild intrusions needing a little bit of care; others, grave ones needing all the care they could get. But they were mostly prosecuted and persecuted, gruesomely murdered by a society that had no understanding of what they were going through. And this gruesome practice, the budding Africa still sees pockets happening. Some women are still facing grave ostracisations, torture, death, because society has no understanding of the human mind.
When the European discovered America, they sent with them to the ‘new world’, this fatal superstition. It wasn’t long before the ‘New America’ was sending for executions, its women (and sometimes men), having been found guilty of the crime of sorcery. The smallpox endemic of 17th century America was blamed on witches—women died for this. This era’s coronavirus, in centuries past, would easily have found blame in a group of ‘sketchy’ women.
Around this 17th century, an 11-year-old girl, suffering seizures and screaming for dear life, was charged with—you guessed it—witchcraft. It was a hard time being female. This had grave mental exertions on women of the era—the excruciating fear! Mass hysteria among women became common. Hysteria meant witchcraft. Accusations of witchcraft meant another woman taken to the slaughterhouse—the vicious cycle continued.
[Permit this example: This niece of mine, sitting in church one Sunday, couldn’t help but see similarities between the pastor busily preaching, and Obinim. Obinim to her meant pure comedy—so to her dismay she began to laugh, hysterically, until the preacher in the throes of delivering the prophetic caught her. A laughing female during prayers meant—you guessed it—witchcraft. Needless to say, it was one very long Sunday of exorcism, until this niece of mine, tired of having saliva thrown at her, confessed to witchcraft, and agreed with the preacher that she was in fact exorcised. She resumed her seat, still giggling away—she had just met Obinim, what did you expect.]
Rest Thy Weary Head
We could go on forever with these examples; let us give room for just one more. From the very early centuries of misconceptions regarding mental illnesses, right into the 19th century, women were constantly diagnosed with ‘nervous disorders’ or ‘neurosis’, an affliction of the nervous system, or ‘hysteria’, as Plato believed, an ailment caused by the uterus (which was an animal) moving about inside a woman’s body, and causing hysteric discomforts as it moved. The female womb is an animal causing madness in women—Plato, one of the greatest philosophic minds of all times, said.
These diagnoses were quite typically met with cures that only ended up making these women’s situations worse. ‘Rest cures’ that was one particular popular, supposed cure. A treatment which involved isolation of patients—and forcing them to live the most mundane of existence. Many women were driven mad with these rest cures.
The Abandoned Man
All these paragraphs dedicated at women’s mental health management through the years gets one asking, “but what about us men?” If there is anything this ideologically-differing world, through the many, many centuries can collectively agree on, it is that men are fine—FINE. The man is supposed to be always just fine. What is the mind? Why should it cause distress to a man? What is emotion? Why should it plague a man? Men have, since time immemorial, been made to swallow their pain. Never a tear dropped—as though they were manufactured without tear-ducts, without emotions. How lonely such an existence is. One cannot find relief by sharing their innermost turmoil with another.
Please don’t ask me ‘but what about us men?’ Because I do not have the time nor energy to sort through the attics of history to fish out those few instances where attempts were made to understand the turmoil the masculine mind is also plagued with.
The 21st Century Ears
This 21st century cannot claim for itself a total understanding of the human mind, and its occasional, accompanying mental illnesses, yet it can be argued that progress has been clearly made.
The 21st century, still quite scant on the understanding of the mind and its infirmities, has, among others, figured out one vital sociological means of ensuring that persons burden with such ailments get relief in this world. And it is ‘listening’. ‘Listening’ is a very important step to catering for this easily ostracised, disembodied part of the human body, the ailing brain.
Finally, the male is to also find relief. A tear shed does not ‘de-man’ him. An expression of innermost fears, turmoil, mental illnesses, do not disqualify the male nor female as functioning members of society. After all, say, an arthritis-ridden person is still a person, are they not?
Finally, the brain is to be seen as a functioning organ, just as the heart, the kidney, the reproductive organ, etc. As such, it is as susceptible to diseases as these other organs are. And treatments must be offered this organ, without ostracisation, by society, the best way we possibly can.
What a wonderful world!
An Extremist for An Extremist
But sadly, whenever there is an overthrow of an old, disadvantageous, or oppressive regime, the new, overthrowing regime almost always, to our dismay, ends up replacing the former in its extreme—sometimes at the polar end of this extreme. We are still on the human mind…
Alas, you can not trust this revolution, as crucial as it is for the ailing mind, to be without tendencies to gravitate towards the extreme.
It is now common place to find the Ghanaian millennial—male and female—having experienced the shift from childhood to adulthood, revelling in constant self-pity. Life, even at its very best is almost always a make-or-break situation. Yet, the Ghanaian millennial, taking lessons from elsewhere, swears each day, that life was purposely built to ensure their destruction. The Ghanaian youth is now easily seen engaged in the battle of pain—’my problems are bigger than yours’, each one’s curse upon life seems to suggest. Such attitudes can never build an individual—it only breaks them.
This pity-party revolution, should it take root in our world, might surprise us all and have an effect more damning (on both men and women) than that had by the Spock-like, emotionless existence advocated by the earlier centuries.
[Side note: Does it make you feel better to know that the writer is a millennial?]
This revolution of ‘the whole world has turned against me’ spearheaded by USA; this mentality, heaven help us, should it take root in a budding society like Africa, like Ghana; should it take hold of our youth and our future children, the continent would be left with no choice but to remain forever in its endemic poverty. Because our young, energetic populace would be busily petting the snake of emotions, until the unruly reptile grabs us by the necks and suffocate us to death.
Balance is crucial—especially to a developing world, in this highly advanced world.
Ultimately Poor Has Implications.
But it is all good, isn’t it? It is refreshing to find the privileged, those blessed with means, sitting publicly, decrying life—cursing their stars before us all. It really gives credence to the Biblical “blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” verse, does it not?
Look at the rich wasting away, finding no happiness in this capitalist world solely built to ensure their happiness. It is ironic, isn’t it? It makes for good television, does it not? Perhaps, coming back home to find Otumfuo on TV, throwing curses at life, wouldn’t be such a bad idea, would it?
Rich Has Enabling Implications
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” suffers misinterpretation. In this capitalist world—and even a socialist world for that matter—poor disrupts the realisation of Matthew 5:15-16. “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
This economic/socioeconomic order we, humans, have created for ourselves dictates that one be endowered with means before one can effectively practice this simple act of putting their lamps on stands. In this highly globalised, highly literate, capitalist, Information age of ours, it takes a whole lot of effort to rise from poverty—the ultimate light-dimming tool.
That is why being rich (aka having the means) in the end, isn’t supposed to have a dismissive, vain connotation. Because without the ‘means’ in the capitalist social order, one suffers real possibility of living a fruitless life; their true purpose, unfulfilled. So yes, your money is of essence. It can only have meaningless implications when you assign it that purpose. One’s full essence is much more easily met when one is endowered with the means (aka money).
So then Africa cannot Argue Luke 6:20
Africa’s poverty has implications. As seen last week in the article ‘Humble Beginnings Look Like Tetanus’, Africa/Ghana’s poverty, as we begrudgingly admit to, has adverse implications. Our endemic poverty means that there will be many potentials existing on the continent that will end up untapped. “The graveyard is the richest place on earth”—this is especially true for Africa.
We cannot afford to dismiss ‘rich’ as vanity, and ‘poverty’ as essence. Because poverty, as we have seen time and time again, is one of the biggest, most effective thieves of essences.
There are people worldwide suffering this bane of unmet potentials, having been cheated one way or the other by this capitalist world that clearly calls itself the rich man/woman’s world. Worldwide, there are people rendered homeless; some, homeless and insane; others, homeless and elephantiasis-ridden.
There are people constantly living on their last Cedis, Nairas, Dollars, Pounds, and on top of it, battling grave illnesses, unable to afford the healthcare they require. There are people who have never had a level playing field in life—in all aspects. Some born with brains, but denied education—such people are from the get-go placed at a huge disadvantage in this capitalist, highly competitive, Information Age.
At Your Service
All of the world’s miserable—us all, are supposed to render yet another duty to the rich [remember what rich means in this capitalist age.] After the hell the rest of the people, scraping the bottom of the barrel, go through just to make life meaningful, we, the people, are expected to bring the little we have left as offerings. Offerings of ‘awws’ and ‘ohhs’; of endless pity to the people blessed with the means of mattering in this age of ours.
It almost reminds me of feudalist Europe. Without mentioning names, Harry and Meghan, soliciting pity, together with the rest of the Royal family, attempting explanations, all remind me of feudalist Europe.
A Royal Reality TV—except really real
Without mentioning names: this is why stories like the British royal family saga which some Ghanaians seem almost vested in, when dissected have such ridiculous implications. As billions of people are struggling with the hardships of existence, there is an existential fiction unfolding—a fiction that a people so rich and powerful have created for themselves. And this is something you see happening in the West a lot.
Maybe, it is a consequence of development—that a people get too much time on their hands, that they get too much space in their brains to revel in such idiosyncrasies. In these countries the rich and powerful offer their lives as spectacle—requiring that all existence pause, and become spectators to theirs. The West’s rich and powerful submit their lives—the good, the bad, the ugly, for public consumption.
This almost sounds good, does it not? To be at a perceived top of the global food chain (or ‘attention chain’, for that matter) where your life is a concern to all—it sound good, does it not? But such a life, the rich and powerful is soon to realise, is inherently empty—devoid of true meaning. They are but actors whose whole lives have been but plays mounted on the world stage. They are but jesters acting out skits before the masses—for us to watch on, to laugh at, scold at, hurl insults at, and sometimes be in awe of, all the while still laughing at, scolding at, scoffing at, hurling insults at. It is a vicious cycle. What a life. So much for placing one’s candle on the table for all to see.
It’s a mess on all fronts. But Ghana and Africa, we have developing to do—we have not the time for such existential crises.
A Note to Self
As one sits on their ‘thrones of means’, one should perhaps be introspective enough to remind themselves that, the world, with all its people, from differing backgrounds, realities, and experiences, was not made to be of service to one. The world was not made to be my sycophant; it was not made to be your dedicated congregant of sympathisers. You do not summon them at your whim to mourn your ‘lows’ and celebrate your ‘highs’. It does not take a sorcerer to foresee such expectations of sycophants reaping along with it, congregants of critics, insulters, and scoffers. You cannot have one without the other. A life made for the viewing of the public, will be harshly ripped apart by the public. Don’t submit yourself to it, for this is the only true reality it presents.
And this kind of sycophantic services, I do not foresee the Ghanaian rendering. We each have life throwing itself harshly and constantly at us. We cannot afford to play dedicated audiences to other people’s lives. President Akufo-Addo, Otumfuo, all protocols observed, humbly I submit—and you are hearing this here first—the Ghanaian makes no such promise to you.
Maybe years later, after we have risen to the position of developed country…
It is only then, perhaps, that your children may come before us the masses, via our TVs, internet, whining about life. It is only then that they may come to us complaining that you have, among others, stripped them off their tens or hundreds of millions of Cedis allowances…
Who knows, maybe it will be then, after development has happened for us, so much so that individually we have time on our hands, and mental spaces to spare, that we can afford to watch on, and offer to you and your families, humbly, our sympathies. After all, isn’t endless opportunities a bitter pill to swallow; and gold, a hard metal to sit on…?
(But remember, our insults, in this case, would be inevitably attached—eventually attached.)
>>>The writer is a writer. And this sentence is circular. [email protected]