Article_A People Divided

A people divided
Perhaps the most tragic of all the changes I have observed in recent Ghana is the vicious circle in which individual insecurity contributes to a weakening of family and community ties, which in turn further shakes individual self-esteem. Consumerism plays a central role in this whole process, since emotional insecurity contributes to a hunger for material status symbols. The need for recognition and acceptance fuels the drive to acquire possessions—possessions that will make you somebody. Ultimately, this is a far more important motivating force than a fascination for the things themselves.
It is heartbreaking to see people buying things to be admired, respected, and ultimately loved, when in fact the effect is almost inevitably the opposite. The individual with the new shiny car is set apart, and this furthers the need to be accepted. A cycle is set in motion in which people become more and more divided from themselves and from one another.
I’ve seen people divided from one another in many ways. A gap is developing between young and old, male and female, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim, and the Traditionalists. The newly created division between modern, educated expert and illiterate, ‘backward’   farmer is perhaps the biggest of all. Modernised Ghanaians have more in common with someone from The United State of America and United Kingdom than with their own relatives who have remained on the land, and they tend to look down on anyone less modern. Some children living in the modern sector are now so distanced from their parents and grandparents that they don’t even speak the same language. Educated in English and French, they are losing mastery of their native tongue.
Around the world, another consequence of development is that the men leave their families in the rural sector to earn money in the modern economy. The men become part of the technologically based life outside the home and are seen as the only productive members of society. In my country, the roles of male and female are becoming increasingly polarised as their work becomes more differentiated.
Women become invisible shadows. They do not earn money for their work, so they are almost no longer seen as ‘productive’. Their work is not included as part of the Gross National Product. In government statistics, the 40% or so of Ghanaians who work in the modern sector are listed according to their occupations; the other 60%—housewives and traditional farmers—are lumped together as ‘non-workers’. Farmers and women are coming to be viewed as inferior, and they themselves are developing feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
Over the years I have seen the strong, outgoing women of my country being replaced by a new generation—women who are unsure of themselves and extremely concerned with their appearance. Traditionally, the way a woman looked was important, but her capabilities—including tolerance and social skills—were much more appreciated.
Despite their new dominant role, men also clearly suffer as a result of the breakdown of family and community ties.
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