When I stopped at the traffic signal, I noticed him immediately. He was waiting for the light to turn green, on a motor bike, like all of us. Waiting while other riders just whizzed by nonchalantly. He was in a helmet, unlike other riders. I wondered whether he could withstand the pressure of everybody just passing by and making the most of the time. He did. He moved just ahead of me as the light turned green, leaving me with something to think about.
Did he make a difference by doing the right thing, when everyone else was doing wrong? I wondered. That question is rhetorical to me, in the long run we all have to keep doing the right thing. The problems is the impact, if it gets diluted by all the other not so right actions. In so many parts of the world that have not moved ahead, his action would stand out. His action would not be unique in the countries that are rated first world. It would disappear into the uniformity of systems enforced to keep society advancing.
Here, in the wilderness of systems stained with the absence of leadership or enforcement, the people who do right, stand the risk of being overwhelmed by the actions of those who do wrong. It is true that these thoughts will sound a tad too severe, considering how privileged we are as a country with our enviable stability. However it is mainly because of this stability, that we should be insistent on protecting what we have.
In the days following the horrors of the revealed slave trade on Libyan shores, I have heard in the various discussion fora, divergent views. From extreme surprise that young people would take such risks, to run away from what we have, to outright justification of their actions in the face of deteriorating Ghanaian conditions. Views that have reinforced the importance of protecting what we have, not by single, intermittent actions of good but concerted commitment to doing and maintaining good.
Our calm streets are deceptive. There are too many people selling along the streets, making too little, with too little to lose. There are too many schools without on site, committed teachers. There are too many university trained graduates unused, and wasted. There are too many doctors sitting at home after training that the government pretended to subsidize. Our environment, attitudes and expectations are too suggestive of a lack of progress, to stop people from leaving.
As I bemoan the tragedy of seeing young black people auctioned like uncleared cars, I am reminded not to be too condemning. I have the images in my mind’s eyes of young people at witches’ camps, kids without oxygen equipment untangling nets under boats in our rivers, trokosi girls, and the remand prisoners in inhuman conditions. I am also reminded of the many tertiary students/graduates from my country working in factories, hustling on foreign streets, and working in environments that do not justify the significant investment from a country whose tertiary educated cohort forms less than 2% of its population. We used to be the chief departure point of able- bodied people forced to leave their homes and families to build countries not their own. Now they leave of their own accord. The young uneducated are leaving, and the highly educated also leave. And if these are the core of the future of our country, we are hemorrhaging our posterity.
It is not enough for a few people to do the right things, when they can. It is not enough for e few graduates to get good jobs. It is not enough for a few people who can afford appropriate medical treatment to walk smiling out of expensive hospitals. All true good is communal.
Isolated/regional/individual wealth, authority, education, anything good, always gets overwhelmed by the greater reality. It is just a matter of time. All goodness withers, unsupported by community.
One day, the number of good people willing to do good things, will hit the critical mass. The good Ghanaian critical mass.
I am waiting for that day.
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