So it happened just by accident – cross my heart. I was just sitting there enjoying my emo tuo with palmnut soup that afternoon when my ears pricked almost of their own accord in the direction of a conversation occurring on the table just behind me.
You see, I was at a canteen on some *ahem* personal business, which coincidentally turned out to be the same venue for a workshop on some Public Health topic or the other. Now, if you’re even a little bit health-inclined, or happen to have an ear out for headlines in Medicine, you’ll know that that’s one of the fastest-growing fields currently.
I’d seen the 4-by-4s and branded pickup trucks and, as usual, had subconsciously formed an impression of the ‘bigwigs’ meeting together to discuss research findings and have brainstorming sessions to determine the direction of health policy in Ghana:
Step 1: Write Proposal.
Step 2: Get grant money.
Step 3: Use some of grant money for project and make a killing on the rest.
Step 4: Present findings in a paper alongside and gain academic clout.
Step 5: Repeat.
I judged them harshly, I know – I’ve confessed my sin and have received God’s forgiveness (what about you? But that’s another matter altogether 😉 )
So, this is how the conversation went somewhat:
“As for you guys, you’re children koraa o! Do you know when I finished Medical School? August 1988! Were you even born then?!” *good-natured laughter*
(I took this opportunity to widen my eyes into my meal as I calculated my own age then!)
“And it wasn’t even as easy as it is nowadays,” he continued to his attentive audience. “Even with that one, it took almost a year for my first pay to come…”
He then proceeded to narrate a series of events that would surely be as upsetting – if not more so – in present day Ghana to any doctor: delayed posting causing him to volunteer services to a nearby hospital – presumably so he could get a little something to support himself – then he got tossed far out to one Agona followed by an Ass
sin or two before a long sojourn in the Northern regions.
Somewhere along the line, the narrative went even further back to a time when he had begun University only to have their programmes suspended by the ruling military power in attempts to curb the growing resentment amongst the youth towards the military occupation. Apparently, they were carted off to various cocoa farms to prepare and transport the beans to the port in attempts to kill two troublesome birds with one stone: get cheap/free manual labour to buttress a flagging export & forcibly quash agitations by the youth against the existing regime. (It’s a marvel how little we really know about our past as Ghanaians!)
Anyway, so this medical student then was carted off for at least a year, disrupting his academic calendar and also indirectly setting the stage for ‘National Service’ in one fell swoop, and creating that large gap in education between Secondary School education and Tertiary training in another!
He went on to tell stories that focused on how they survived the tough times, blending into the ’83 Hunger stories that I only believe now because too many people assert its occurrence: standing in line for hours just to take the unfinished raw kenkey home to boil yourself, experimenting with different plants to find out which was edible or otherwise, the sheer gratitude at having food only marred slightly by the mirage of any meat on it, the long queues at department stores for a rationed list of things to buy…
It’s pretty normal for my peers and I – those born of the ’80s and ’90s – to look at our elders and want to be like them. In fact, there’s nothing really wrong with having people and higher standards to look up to in this world. Life is all about progress: if next year meets you at the same place you are now in every sense of the word, you’ve got a Serious Problem!
Unfortunately, the more I grow and observe things and people around me (myself inclusive), I am forced to identify a common thread running through it all: Now!
We’ve become the generation that wants everything the very moment we think of it – and it’s not totally our fault really. We are conversant with an Information Database accessible worldwide which gives results at the click of a button; our cold food is readily warmed in seconds by the microwave oven; our music is on multiple devices and we can find what we don’t have in minutes, if not seconds; with a powerful miniature computer in our pockets we can take pictures and view them in just how long it took to snap them, make virtually any calculation under the sun, speak to anybody under the sun with the right identification code – even view them face to face if we so desire – execute any word processing activity we require and send it to someone halfway around the planet, watch and/or create moving pictures with sound, And access that Database I mentioned previously with the least of effort! It may not seem like it people, but we really are living in the remarkable future which dreamers of old fantasised about…ah, bliss, right? Er…no.
When those dreamers and visionaries tried to predict the future, they mostly forgot to add the human factor to their postulates. What have we really done with it??!
Listening in on one person’s account of events merely 3 or 4 decades ago led me to the realisation of just how much the World has changed Remarkably since!
You don’t think so? Not really? Sure? Okay, when was the last time you held a cutlass to do some much-needed trimming of your grass yourself? When was the last time you actually walked into a Library to look through numerous books to find out some information that you needed? When was the last time you hunted for (or got hunted by, if you’re that kind of person *smh*) the photographer a week or two after an event – church especially – to get your photos and then hope he adds your negatives (in case you want more ‘washed’ for you later)?!
Young people of today are going to university with Daddy’s older car (or even brand new ones in some cases) as part of their University List and it’s pretty normal – unlike those times when it was an almost sure fire way of ensuring you do a little ‘extra time’ because your lecturer sef might be hoofing it to class. The job market is tough still, sure. You need a 1st Degree to even qualify for an interview, a Masters gives you a leg up in a relevant area, but the almighty Who-You-Know principle still operates virtually everywhere. But still, opportunities abound to the committed youngster like never before: your market is wider, your potential for know-how is astounding, self-improvement is only limited by you, and in all senses of the phrase, the World is Really your Oyster.
Unfortunately, we focus too long on the job that isn’t being served up on a platter to us, or the boss who’s always on our necks to over-deliver, the ‘lack of money’, all simply summed up in “You just don’t understand what I’m going through” – and we forget to be Grateful.
Human beings created in God’s image cannot Be, without acting like Him. Whether we believe in Him or not, and for Better or Worse, we will exercise the innate ability to Create. We have created Masterpieces of Awe and Horror but it seems we consistently fail to achieve because we choose to focus on what we Have Not, and not on what we Have; what we Cannot Do or Be, instead of what we Can; Where we Are Not, instead of Where we Are.
Just take a step back and look at your GHS3,500 smartphone with all the specs you dreamt of and more – I hope watching cute cat videos and distributing gory pictures in HD is really worth it for you. If you walked into the year 1960 with a smartphone fully connected to the Net, do you realise that you could potentially Rule?! You have everything you could imagine and more at your fingertips and a press of a button; from the reason why the sky is blue to instructions on how to make vantablack (the blackest substance on earth), the full periodic table to how to cure malaria with natural herbs, how to learn to speak in public to the full works of all the greatest writers who have ever lived, et cetera et cetera…and you choose to use it to ask “Who is Gossip Girl?” *insert facepalm*
We want all that our seniors have – the Trasacco house, the Range Rover, the job that pays in $$$, the bottomless bank account – we want all that and have the audacity to think we deserve it without considering the cost. Then we want it any way possible, legal or otherwise, irrespective of the cost. Sometimes I step back and I’m tempted to believe that money is not a good thing in the hands of the young. We can’t handle money or fame as well as most older people (that’s why I’m still praying for Abraham Attah – remember Macaulay Culkin!) and sometimes what is meant to better our lives ends up ruining it instead.
People, I don’t really want to talk much today. I just want to draw your minds back to the realisation that we Are living the best version of our times Now. Just for a short second, let’s all take a step back and look at where those ahead of us came from – you’ll find out that almost invariably, their grounding was worse off than ours. Take a look at the movers and shakers of our time and you’d be surprised to find out that very few of them started out with silver spoons in their mouths. They arose from worse circumstances to become who they are today…what excuse do we have then for not surpassing them really??
Maybe it’s time we stopped blaming the System and somebody Out There and start looking at our own circumstances to figure out where we are going wrong and how we can somehow make it better from our own little corner. The best way we can show Gratitude for the many gifts we enjoy today as a result of our parents’ sweat, blood & tears is to harness all our potential and resources, and stop complaining without Doing something first.
Save up the 1GHS till you make a 1000GHS. Stop waiting for the Massive 500GHS blessing from Heaven – it most likely won’t come. God is NOT an ATM! When we pray for a house, extremely few people get it by knocking down a thief on a motorcycle – most of us go to school to work to be able to afford it! Sometimes someone gifts you a brand new suit, other times a sewing machine. Education, instead of money…
There’s a Purpose and a Plan to all of this, I promise you – shortcuts will therefore always turn out to be more costly in the end. What’s the point in getting it all, only to lose it because you never figured out how to keep it all???
Take your time – Do the Time – and you’ll be better off for it…