Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coming in June to this Blog: The Westernisation of Accra

To conceive of any kind of Westernisation of Accra is initially problematic, because it pre-supposes any Westernisation is negative.

That said, I find it difficult to avoid it, for the print and electronic media, along with my personal experiences can only confirm a perception that the westernisation is here in Accra--in grand style--and is here to stay.

Last Thursday's opening of the South African retail giant, GAME in my view has gone to cement any perception that the Westernisation--as exemplified by the individualise and consumer culture--is well and truly here.

Over the next few weeks, I shall be looking at the definition of westernisation in Ghana; including how technology; banking; life-style; and our values are changing--or not--as a result of this putative, or so-called, westernisation that I claim to see in my three years of being back home in what Bernard Avle of CITI-FM , receiving an award for the station (adjudged the best interactive show in Africa), in Kenya over the weekend for the BBC Radio Awards, called "the best country in the world"--Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everybody Loves Raymond…or A Tale of Suffering Obtuseness Gladly

Take a look at these two pictures. Apart from the fact that one is white, fictitious and Italian American, the other is black.

Or, so I think.

I know there are a lot of obnoxious people around. My philosophy has been to accept such people as they are—whether ignorant or arrogant—and work with them. I came across an interesting article yesterday in BusinessWeek, entitled “In Praise of the “Anti-Mentor” that basically suggested that it’s foolish to think that arrogant and annoying people will change. In that way, they are reliable, and you can learn from that reliability to guide you on your relations with them.

The writer writes:

the next time you get frustrated with that sleazy politician down the hall, that slippery vendor, or that manipulative customer, take a deep breath and ask yourself what lesson this person is likely to teach you. Anti-mentors may represent the most important opportunity for learning we're given in life. The key is being willing to learn from them.

It was rather serendipitous I should come across an article like that the very same time I was dealing with an obnoxious blogger.

Raymond is the 24-yr-old-son of a former Ugandan Ambassador to Brussels. He owns a blog, Raymond’s Bliss, which you can google easily.

My personal view of his blog is that it’s interesting, in the sense that it’s humorous, albeit excitable. Someone on his blog said that it’s like he’s always on a high. I wouldn’t know. Just to say: his blog reads like the way I used to write in my journal when I was in secondary school.

Either way, the guy is interesting, and is living it up in Brussels.

During our “good times” when he was acknowledging my comments, he accepted my wishing him a Happy Birthday:

At 10:40 AM, Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...
A belated Happy birthday;-)) That makes you a, erm, sagittarius. What's your take on astrology, whilst you try to decipher sms-ed things to your Nokia...

Just one thing: do you ever reply to comments on your blog? If not, why not? ANother thing: that jacket rocks...would rock even better in a disco; maybe you can take the two hot chicks with you?...;-)

I MISS those sarned Belgian waffles!!!;-((

This site might interest you: http://www.tbx.be, a site I check every week for news in Brussels
From: http://raymondsbliss.blogspot.com/2007/02/24.html

To which he later wrote this:

Emmanuel Bensah the third! You sound like a street in Ethiopia (that’s a compliment, I think) I never have understood the logic behind commenting on comments! Though since you are an Ethiopian street, I’ll make an exception…See, now I have nothing to say to you! That’s one reason I don’t, but mostly because I am just lazy!

From: http://raymondsbliss.blogspot.com/2007/02/who-wants-babies.html

Suddenly, one day, it turned sour.

He wrote a post, entitled “Sprite Bunny Genocide”, which was whimsical.

To the extreme, it was out of order, because, in one breath, he was writing about how he had been driven to tears watching a film about the Rwandan genocide, whilst contemporraneously and unwittingly casting a racist slur on Africans:

Lessons for life: Never trust Africans with sharp objects, with no satellite TV! Even with tooth picks!

From: http://raymondsbliss.blogspot.com/2007/04/sprite-bunny-genocide.html

I found that totally out of order, and stated something to that effect.

I came back a few weeks later to see that all the 10 comments that entry elicited were intact, but mine, asking him to be more sensitive about the Rwandan genocide, was erased…without a trace.

I put it down to a glitch in blogger, though at the back of my mind, I was emphatic it was deliberate.

I was proved right when in his latest post, last dated 3 May, I asked him to eml me. I provided my yahoo address, and asked him to get in touch with me, because I had some insights to share, having lived in Belgium for two decades. I also wondered why my posts kept on disappearing.

That was earlier this week. Just before I left the office in the evening, I checked the comments to see that all had remained—except mine, yet, a post I had posted anonymously, encouraging him with his work, had remained.

Evidently, he didn’t know it was me.

In any event, I decided to try one last time by posting this:

Raymond, this takes the biscuit.

You are the only African blogger I know who has behaved in such a strange manner towards his African bloggers...

You blew your chance: I'm an author for Global Voices, that seeks to amplify the voices of non-Western blogs. I was going to recommend your blog to the Sub-Saharan editor, and make some recommendations on how your writing could be less excitable, and more reflective of something that would be ideal for African bloggers.

Given your strange and unexplained, and frankly, rude, attitude towards posts distasteful to you, I shall refrain from that and consider, instead, writing a post about this most assinine of attitudes.

Unless blogger is doing something strange to my posts, I cannot understand what problem you have with my posts. You said a while back that my name sounded like a streetname, to which I chuckled. I have a good sense of humour, but clearly, you have issues you need to deal with maturely.

Are you the only guy whose Dad was a diplomat in Brussels? Check this: what was I doing in Brussels for 23 odd years and coming back with a Masters degree?

I would be very happy to have you respond to my acerbic post. Should you chose to, I won't stop visiting your site, cos, frankly, I find it interesting, albeit, a bit eccentric.

Be ready to see more visitors come by your blog, because some writing about this attitude of yours shall be in the offing. Africans need to stick together; what you are doing is far from it.

Have a good day!

Yet again, the comment remained for while—but not for long. By the evening, it was, unsurprisingly, erased out of existence.

Right now, I have lodged a complaint with Global Voices about Raymond’s attitude. I was faced with the dilemma of denigrating someone I had never met, whilst allowing the spirit of free speech (including the decision to erase my non-offensive comments), but I felt that it didn’t need me meeting him before knowing what a “nice guy” he is.

I do not doubt he is a good person—most of us are—but what this situation with Raymond reminded me of was the suppression of free speech, coupled with the arrogant attitude of the kids of African diplomats.

It would be wrong for me to cast the net writ large, but I do speak of experience of having interacted with the kids of African diplomats, and it wasn’t always pretty. It comes to a point when I begin to wonder whether it’s the lifestyle of priviledge that they enjoy that creates this attitude, where they are tempted to feel the need to “please” their non-African acquaintances and friends over the African ones.

It’s hard for me to say this is what Raymond is doing, but he is not reacting either. Either he dislikes me for having talked about his insensitivity of the Rwandan genocide or he simply dislikes me.

Like the anti-mentor guy above, I can live with his dislike, even if I believe it to be irrationality of the highest order.

One thing about me is that I do not suffer obtuseness or obnoxiousness gladly.

I was tempted to put it down to a West African/East African thing, then I thought it closer. His experience in life probably would not afford him the opportunity to see things through that lens. Rather, it is simply a case of dealing with an obnoxious blogger... who happens to be African.

And that’s the sad part: for if we have Africans like these (who clearly go to church) I wonder why we need racists at all!

Monday, May 14, 2007

As the Week Opens in Accra: Why ECOWAS Citizens Lost Their Lives in Ghana (1)

My absence from here was due in part to a funeral I had to attend in my maternal grandmother's home town. Now, this town is some 1.5 hours away from the capital by road, and forms part of what has now become known as the Trans West African Highway Network, supposed to connect some of the West African countries together

[- Damane (Liberia border) 26 km in Côte d’Ivoire ;

- Bloloquin-Toulepleu-(Liberia border) 64 km - Côte d’Ivoire

- Ganta-Tappita-Douanes Tobli-Blay (Côte d’Ivoire border): 15 km in Liberia ;

- Bandajuma-Zimmi-Mru Bridge (Liberia border) : 97 km, in Sierra Leone ;

- Freetown-Pamelap (Guinea border : 126 km, in Sierra Leone;

- Boke (Guinea) - Quebo (Guinea Bissau) : 206 km

- Akatsi/Dzodze (Togo border): 31 km in Ghana ;

- Noepe-Hilla Condji (Benin border) : 80 km, in Togo. ]

In effect, the so-called Trans-West African Highway Network has been comprehensively completed since last week, prompting joys that the ECOWAS link-up is becoming more of a reality.

Sadly, it's coming at a cost, as exemplified by last Thursday's eerie accident that involved two articulators travelling at top speed in opposite directions; the helping of Ghanaian motorists of passengers of an overturned bus (comprising West Africans from Cote d' Ivoire, Liberia, Benin, Nigeria and Togo) resulting in their deaths as the second articulator hit them at top speed (after having lost control). Altogether, seven vehicles were involved in the very sad loss of lives that claimed 40 people.

The road on which this happened goes to one of Ghana's premier tourist regions--the Central Region, where there is much more greenery than in the capital of Accra.

The roads are so good and so speed-inducing it's not funny. Regrettably, badly-educated and opportunistic (not to mention tired) articulator truck drivers take advantage of these good roads and act as death merchants.

To remind Ghanaian motorists of the importance of preserving lives, my favourite network, Ghana's mobile network--Onetouch--has erected billboards throughout the highway that spans several kilometres, reminding drivers not just they can connect to ONETOUCH in the area they have passed, but that "life is precious, drive with care".

A publicity stunt, notwithstanding, it's important to read that as you cruise from one region to the next.

(May those West Africans who lost their lives, as well as those Ghanaians who stopped to help them, ending up killed, rest in perfect peace)


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