Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Does Ghana have a politics of insults because Ghanaians take things too seriously?

I argue with my mum alot, as any young person can attest to. You get to an age where you're a bit more confident in speaking your mind and your mind might not always agree with your parents.

Things often collapse into an atmosphere of silence and sighs when my mum tells me I've insulted her. Now I know when I've intentionally insulted someone, and often my mum is wrong about these allegations. Nevertheless, she'll tell everyone and they'll believe her because she is the mother. She is Ghanaian.

Yesterday, on the night that Nana Akufo-Addo gave a talk to the IEA, I found other Ghanaians overreacting just like my mum would, to one of my comments. I merely pointed out that given that NADAA was educated in Ghana under British rule and then in the UK it is weird that he would say aluminium in the (incorrect) American style of "ALUMINUM". You know what I'm talking about right? I'm hoping you've had that discussion about the weird way in which Americans pronounce/spell perfectly simple words. If you've ever been stuck in a room with a Brit and an American then I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about.

Aluminum - my dear American friends - is not how it's said, but that is all for another post. 

If NADAA was educated in America I could accept this mistake. It would clearly be a cultural thing that he had picked up. But along with it I would expect a slight accent, especially on the mispronounced word. Something that gives it a raison d'etre. But my dearest NADAA, has a strong posh British accent which occasionally will slip into a Ghanaian accent. (His accent doesn't bother me, I have many family members who sound just like him - that little merge of Accra-London living. It does throw me off slightly though, and that is why I mentioned it on the running commentary beside the live coverage on YouTube.)

Suddenly, (though not surprisingly) I had people telling me no one forced me to watch the Evening Encounter, suggesting that I was a NDC supporter and telling me that this election is too crucial to be pointing out the minor things. WOAH WOAH WOAH. First off, as much as I love Ghana, I can't see how a minor question as to NADAA's choice of pronunciation could ever lead to someone voting for the opposing party. And if for any reason ECOMINI or ALUMINUM becomes the tipping point for the electorate then we really should look at the value of our democracy. Secondly, unlike the Americans (who can still entertain comic critique and jest around their politics), we are not voting in the world's most powerful man. Heck! we aren't even electing the most powerful man in Africa! People. need. to chillax. The problem with over-reactive comments like the ones I received is that they become easy sparks for more serious replies and eventually an argument ensues where real insults feature and our politics are yet again devalued and put at risk, all because someone took unnecessary offence to a minor comment about their favourite politician, or even about themselves (if they are the politician).

When my mother drops the "you've insulted me" card in an argument. I quickly tell her how I didn't - or at least not intentionally, - and then I suggest we leave the discussion, because she's now in a bad place which will mean she doesn't progress the argument objectively. If the topic can be revisited at a later time, it will be. But if it is clear that she's harbouring negative energy, I'll leave it alone. I try my best to remind her (and those YouTubers) that some things do not need to be taken to offence so easily. Some things are a passing comment and if you agree or disagree you can join the discussion and give your reasons in a calm and thought out manner, or walk away until you've calmed down.

Relaying the incident to my sister, we both came to the conclusion that Ghana's politics can be volatile at times, simply because it is so very easy to offend a Ghanaian, my mother included. So when we all ease up, maybe our elections won't be such a do or die affair, and THEN we can start widening the discussion about how the everyday person contributes to the vision of the nation instead of worrying about protecting the peace in election time.

Opinions below please.

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