Momentum and disconnect
When I describe my study (a mental health study looking at the difference in prevalence of mood disorders between a patrilineal and matrilineal tribe in rural, Ghana) most people don’t understand why I would fly all the way to Ghana to go to…………….. the village.
The village is the epitome of everything that most city people rebuke with their very core. It’s also the epitome of underdevelopment and poverty. In fact, one of the greatest insults/”funniest” jokes is to say that someone is from the bush or acts like a villager. It’s pretty close to calling someone “hood” or “ghetto” in the United States. There is such an extreme disconnect amongst the city folk and villagers…it’s somewhat astounding.
Washington, DC…the nation’s capital is known for two things: the central location of the most powerful government officials and buildings…and obscenely high crime rates. The disparity that you see between SE DC and Capitol Hill is probably the closet example to the difference between the “city” and the village…just think much more extreme.
There is an enormous air of “them” and “us” here in Ghana. The city dwellers speak of bringing themselves down to “their” level when discussing
likely forced interaction between the two subcultures. Often going out of their way to make sure that the distinction is very clear between the two. Despite this separaion…..in Ghana, we identify ourselves not only by tribe or clan but by where we “come from”. Everyone is from a village. Even if our family hasn’t lived there for generations….we are all identified by the village that our mother or father’s parents or grandparents or great-grandparents came from. Much of the well to do own land in their village and often build homes or have farms in their village. Nevertheless…they are the first to draw the very thick line of “them” and “us”.
For the most part, I lived in the city and commuted to the villages I worked in throughout my time in Ghana. There were soooo many interesting and seemingly noteworthy observations I made during my field work. Be it the school children who no matter what stopped and greeted every adult that they came across or the tremendous sense of community…it was all of great interest to me. When I told people back in the city many weren’t too surprised or said that it happened everywhere in Ghana. But as I said in my previous post the momentum and rapid change is happening faster than I think most people realize. In Accra, people aren’t bothered with saying hello and the sense of community is disappearing. They’re truly beginning to “live like Americans” (a phrase I’ve heard one too many times). They don’t know their neighbors and certainly have not built a fellowship with them like they have in the village.
Contrapositvely, there were stories I told of extreme gender roles where men dominated everything and women were the perfect example of extreme submission and the city dwellers immediately responded with “things are changing”. Even if things are changing, which they most definitely are, looking at the future and ignoring the present is not the way to go about social change.
We tend to see these kind of situations in our own lives where perceived negatives aren’t really present anymore and perceived positives are ever present without an end in sight. This disconnect, however, in regards to development and health are probably one of the greatest barriers in closing the disparity.
With greats like Kwame Nkrumah in cultural archives many people have a natural affinity for looking back at his visionary leadership for guidance on what to do now. As a result there many other who reject those dwelling in the past and feel strongly that we need to look forward and progress. In both of these schools of thought…the present is missing. Few people are interested in the cross-sectional approach of looking at exactly what is going on now in Ghana. More importantly, it seems that some aren’t willing to put forth the work in the present to work towards a greater future. For those people, it’s just much easier to complain about the situation. We alllllllll know these kinds of people, no matter where we are in the world.
Out of over 230 people that I interviewed, less than 10 people were able to sign their names, although the vast majority of them had gone through at least junior high school. When I came and told graduate ghanaian students at the University of Ghana….the majority of them were shocked. At least 4 of the villages that I went to were less than an hour away and there are several villages much closer to the school. I write all of this to say that many of the future leaders are the graduate and undergraduate students of today. Yet despite access to relatively important communities of interest…few have true understanding of the confines of the reality that the villagers live within.
I dare not say that after a few days in a village I have deeper and and more broad understanding of a nation that citizens grew up in……but I am boldly saying that there is an obvious and serious disconnect between “them” and “us” and the momentum of the city and [seemingly] stagnation of the village. It is my sincere hope that Ghanaians, especially the younger ones (in Ghana and abroad), take time to gain a better understanding of the state of the nation in it’s entirety. Not focusing solely on the village or the city…the south or the north but rather one cohesive Ghana..for it is us who will inherit the land, policy, and consequences of the leaders’ action [or lack thereof] today…and us who will build upon previous generations’ work for the generations that come.