The sages have said “one good turn deserves another” which means for some of us if something is worth pursuing or has useful lesson for human/societal progress, there is nothing wrong learning or adopting it. After all, human beings across cultures are social creatures who thrive successfully through adaptation and learning from within and without their immediate surroundings. Simply stated, all forms of learning or some elements of mimicry—whether intentional or unintentional—are intrinsic parts of human condition.
However, the problem emerges when one attempts to learn but pretends he/she is not learning or copying from someone else, and in the process either over-copies or distorts the imports of the learning to make it seem as if the knowledge acquired is the learner’s original idea(s). For instance, any fair observer who can pay even a whisper of attention will notice the rapid “westernization” of the Ghanaian society today.
Again, it’s not to say there is anything wrong learning or copying from the more cosmopolitan lifestyles or technologically-advanced cultures in vogue in the Western countries such as the United States, Britain, France, and the like. Believe it or not, all countries learn from one another but some learn in more discreet ways. More so, we know the social media phenomena have not only revolutionized cross-cultural learning irreversibly, but also they have globalized the world in such a way that international borders are almost nonexistent in this 21st century, thereby promoting faster learning than before.
Someone living in a remote part of (say) Jamasi in the Ashanti Region or Walewale in the Northern Region, with the click of computer mouse or cell phone can reach/access a vast treasure of information from almost anywhere in the world in split seconds. The easy accessibility to information propelled by the Internet-affiliated technology has ushered in unintended damaging socio-cultural consequences in many parts of the globe, because in cyberspace the vulnerable as well as the media literates are evenly exposed.
Thus, because news/information is processed or decoded differently by different receivers, often people in a society with no basic knowledge in media literacy tend to consume news blindly or over-copy what they hear, read, or see without taking into account its accompanying socio-cultural constraints. It is why Ghana nowadays boasts of some overindulgent clowns in the entertainment/music space claiming to be celebrity A or B—nomenclatures that are derivatives or over-copied versions from the US-based Hollywood entertainment industry.
The hypocrisy here can’t be disguised, because many of our brothers and sisters in this country don’t want some of us living abroad or in the United States to make any point that tries to draw comparison between Ghana and the US. Yet, all around motherland Ghana, the “sweet aroma” of US or Britain culture is over the place. Talk about the mushrooming of charismatic churches, Kumawood, Ghallywood (or Hollywood?), the concept of premiering a movie, red carpet session for entertainment celebrities, talk-shows, disc jockeying, mega shopping malls, social media, and many others, they are all creations of the United States and some other Western nations.
In fact, one needs to understand the basis for Ghanaians’ often disdainful denial in terms of copying Americans or our colonial overlords in that whenever learners try hard to over-copy their masters they usually end up becoming too “knowledgeable” for their own good or self-advancement. It can’t be lost on us that the globalization, driven by the social media, has contributed immensely towards helping millions of Ghanaians see and learn how other modern societies do things within their respective borders every day.
It’s no secret that millions of Ghanaians are known for picking up one or two cultural habits from here/there and always come out over-copying the learning experience. Hence, some of us should not be surprised to see anyone in Ghana today posting nude pictures on the YouTube or Facebook, because we are fast at over-copying others but dislike learning to curb the excesses that come along with the things we learned.
Some American celebrities post or might have posted some naked photos on the social media in the past or in the present but there is also an enforceable Communications Decency Law enacted in 1996 by the US Congress to control extreme indecent acts or pornographic materials on the Internet. It looks like in our present social media in Ghana almost nothing is off the table.
Most likely too, the “over-spiritualization culture” in the current Ghanaian society stems from the influxes of the so-called prophetic/charismatic churches which evolved from the United States. Then, the question that readily comes to mind here is: do the average Americans today spend too much of their time frequenting those charismatic churches? Overall, many Americans are religious but their church-going habits are nowhere near what is overplaying out in Ghana as we speak.
Equally worth noting is while Ghanaians learn from the West and in most cases overdo it, many Westerners in contrast embrace self-discipline and sophistication because even if the people ignore to self-regulate themselves in public domain or in cyberspace, strong mechanisms are in place to ensure law and order, including media ethical practices.
Learning and copying are some of the essential aspects of our collective humanity but they must be done within the perimeters of decency and reasonableness. Of late, some sections of the media are screaming about the near lack of unfiltered access to information or that they are not “enjoying” too much freedom of the press, while blatantly ignoring that even in America the concept of “prior restraint,” sedition and decency laws, including ethical media standards, serve as the guidepost. It should be emphasized that the freedom of speech/press grounded in constitutional guarantees becomes meaningful if and only if it is nurtured in the incubator of human morality across the board. Freedom comes with moral constraints and self-discipline, too.
Bernard Asubonteng is a US-based writer
By Bernard Asubonteng