Friday, 17 February 2012

Patriotism in Attire

I think that every Ghanaian Member of Parliament must be made to wear traditional attire in moments such as the State of the Nation address. 

I have long thought that the success of a country relies primarily on its self-identity and I think this self-identity is manipulated in the tangible, visible rituals. For example, wearing "international business attire" when dealing with African issues will not promote the sense of pride in the African way of doing things (aka patriotism) that will lead someone to find the best possible solution for their country (or continent). Before you dismiss this argument, ask yourself why diplomacy is not carried out in surfer shorts and wifebeaters. In the UK, uniform is very important and further the standard of that uniform is important. Why? Because Headteachers believe that being in a uniform unique only to your school (when all other schools are also wearing uniform) creates a sense of community, belonging and pride in your school and ensures better behaviour in school.

This is the basis of my argument to an extent, but it is also coupled with other more abstract political arguments such as the Asian Values argument provided for the Asian miracle that has occured in a post-colonial world. East Asia (and India to some extent) show a pride in their identity, culture and beliefs as something that should and will dictate their everyday behaviours and not just when American presidents come to town. I think that this confidence in Asia by Asians has been a large factor in their story and being able to couple the benefits of the Western system with age old beliefs and traditions to create a hybrid that works for one's people is paramount to sustainable development.

My final argument is one that may be familiar to those who took part in occupy nigeria. Many said they believed their leaders were pandering to the wishes of the Western firms and governments. I think the general feeling among Africans in the continent and in the diaspora, is that those governing the continent do not take pride in it (evidenced by the whole entity that is the new AU building). African leaders do not have a mind of their own to lead and dictate the development of the continent, or at least they pretend very well that they don't. But the continent is not full of kids, we need not be babied by foreigners. A lion cub grows up and very often challenges his father for the pride rather than wandering off to establish his own. If that lion cub wins, no one talks of his father again, and the said lion cub must now make the decisions and me confident in himself to do so. The independence movement was the challenge, but now we have the pride, will we have the confidence to make the decisions for the pride?

How does this all add up? This post is not supposed to be anti-West. I live in the UK and I benefit from all it's policies, to be honest I dont think I would have the balls to suggest any changes to the country's foreign policy either. It does upset me though that in matters of domestic politics, or at times when the president (or his ministers) are representing Ghana to the world, they stand there trying to fit in to a culture or club that isn't truly theirs in an often ill-fitting "international business attire" suit. The Kente is not only for days of village festivals. I realised I felt this way when I used to see Umaru Musa Yar'Adua standing next to John Agyekum Kufuor, and when I now see Goodluck Ebeli Jonathan standing next to John Evans Atta Mills. In those moments I feel more Nigerian than Ghanaian and I reckon it's because the Nigerian presidents stood there so unashamedly, unapologetically, (typically) arrogantly Nigerian, whilst the the Ghanaian presidents stood there sending out a "do you think they'll let me into the English Country Club with this suit?" message.  And that type of divided thought (not saying that is exactly what they were consciously thinking) will not save a country from being royally screwed when the big foreign multinationals come knocking at the "Gateway to Africa".

p.s. I hope to one day do a proper study of the correlation between culture and development and if at all these things like traditional vs international business attire actually has an effect on a country's growth. When I do perhaps you'll agree wholeheartedly will this post.

UPDATE: I stumbled across this article on the Guardian African Network. Read it and agree!

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