I Am A Hypocrite, JM Is And So Are You!

In 2004, I made a decision to dig into the life of Author and multi-talented Poet Maya Angelou. I took interest in Maya because I had an interest in the life of anybody who had played a role in the liberation of our race; she was one of them.

Maya was a friend to my hero Malcolm X and she worked with my role model Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights struggle in America. Maya had a deep affection for my country Ghana and her love for humanity was legendary. She was fluid in wisdom, honest with her thoughts and proud of her humanness. She never played a heroine because she knew her life merely hanged on the grace of God.

Dr. Angelou nurtured my one time media crush – the screen goddess, Oprah Winfrey. I knew I had a mother in Maya the day I read her poem WHEN I SAY I AM A CHRISTIAN. It summed up my thoughts on Christianity and to date I’ve learnt to practice my faith with modesty. So I had enough reasons to follow her life and learn as much I could.

As I read Maya and followed her numerous interviews, I realized that one very profound quote had stuck to her tongue and it seemed permanent. She loved it so much and it appeared to have altered the course of her life. It is a quote from Terence, a roman playwright of African descent, made in 154 BC: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", meaning "I am a human being; I consider nothing that is human alien to me."

I think Maya made reference to this quote more consistently than I ever heard her quote any other person. Terence, by this quote, I presume, meant that he was familiar with anything that forms part or plays itself in or around our humanity. Nothing surprised him and nothing at all shocked him about humanity.

As a former slave who was freed by the same slave owner to become one of the greatest playwrights in the first century, Terence knew that every human being is capable of the best form of kindness and the worst form of evil; we all qualify to be saints and we all qualify to be devils. No wonder the great Maya was awe struck by this quote and injected it into her veins. She lived with it and died a proud ambassador of humanity.

Often in life, people who have had a ‘balanced diet of life’ never get shocked at what our fellow human beings can do. Read about King Solomon in the books of 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles and review his summary in Ecclesiastics and you’d understand where I am coming from. When you are not consumed by shock, you’re able to reason out well and offer relevant solution to hopeless situations. Maya Angelou was one time a commercial sex worker so she knew what goes into a woman’s decision to sell her body for a living.

Therefore she was never too quick to judge or condemn them. I am not by this saying that one must always experience the other side of life to respect those who are or have ever been there. No! I am just saying that every now and then we must mirror ourselves at the other side and accept that we are equally capable of any stupidity. It is only there and then that we can be wise enough to tolerate even the worst form of insanity.

When you admit that you are capable of doing anything that another human has done, you don’t get shocked unnecessarily and you are less likely to live a hypocritical life. When we are familiar with our humanness we grow to accept the reality that everybody has a beast in the basement.

I’ve been following the news and media reviews of happenings in Ghana lately and boy, they make me sick to the bone. All of a sudden, Ghanaians have metamorphosed into the righteous judges of President John Mahama. Suddenly, we are all pretending to be so shocked and overwhelmed at the massive corruption in government and in our public offices; within a twinkling of an eye, we have all turned into saints who do everything right in our little corners.

Even people who don’t know the difference between DEMAND and SUPPLY now offer Economics tutorials to our president on radio. It is true that in the midst of bad governance our President JM and his charges want us to believe that they are the best things that ever happened to our country. Of course that is a lie and that is hypocritical; but is JM the only hypocrite in town? No! I am one, JM is and so are you.

I support every call by Ghanaians to demand accountability and bring the JM administration to order but of what use will that be if we don’t change from our own stinking attitudes. Why would you inflate company invoices for your selfish gain and call for Elvis Afriyie Ankrah’s head after Brazil 2014? Because he is a certified crook and you are the saintliest of men? Shut up you hypocrite and brighten the corner where you are.

Why would you benefit from an illegal electricity connection for years, rob the nation of its electricity bills and pretend to be shocked at our current Dumsor crisis? We blame everybody else but ourselves for everything and nothing. Can we accept the fact that we are all thieves and liars who need to repent to overturn the fortunes of our country? Let us stop pretending to be shocked at what is happening and accept that we are jointly and severally liable for the ills of Ghana.

If we continue to distance ourselves from responsibility and continually see our president as the devil in the midst of (we) angels, we can never come to terms with the fact that we are a part of the solution. There is nothing happening in government which is alien to us. We are worse in our homes and in our offices. Let’s get real and start the clean-up from within.

Terence’s statement "I am a human being; I consider nothing that is human alien to me" also introduces the element of compassion. Ghanaians are quickly losing our sense of compassion for one another. In 1982, during a television interview on the Merv Griffith show, Maya Angelou was asked if she is compassionate. She responded by quoting John Donne, a sixteenth century poet, who said that “The death of every human being diminishes me”.

A soul stirring quote if you ask me. John Donne saw himself a part of every human being. He felt their pains and lost a part of himself whenever anybody died. This is not so with the 21st century Ghanaian. It was so with our forebears but our generation, supposedly the wisest in history, care nothing about one another. We can easily embark on a strike action and watch our fellow human beings die without any sense of guilt because we are not a part of them. Interestingly when our relatives suffer the same fate, the strike doesn’t apply.

We pretend to be alien to the suffering of some people and not that of others – We are losing our humanity. Go to our public hospitals and see the horrendous treatment meted out to patients by professionally trained nurses. We’ve heard stories of pregnant women who are literally abused physically by nurses because they find them frustrating to deal with. We do all these, step out confidently, demand ‘our due’ and accuse JM of being the only nation wrecker in our country.

Funny! We’ll forever be like this if we continue on this dangerous path. Folks, let’s kill our hypocrisy and give breath to our sense of responsibility and compassion for one another!

Source: Sammy Osei/ email: samfosei@gmail.com