The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 45 – Ghana: The Family: Bringing Us Together, Tearing Us Apart

Transposing emblem by Kwasi Amankwah Awuah

Everyone is born into a family of some kind. Family, although widely accepted as a good and functional part of every society has its pros and cons. Extreme attachment to one’s family has consequences that I will try to discuss in this article.

The first family connection is made with the immediate family, usually called a nuclear family, consisting of a mother, father and siblings. This is where an individual’s values are greatly influenced. They are formed and nurtured here before any other system adds different ones through association or training. Sometimes a nuclear family can be incomplete, with one of the members never being available to the individual, but that is a discussion for another article.

Kumasi, Ghana – At the market – Anton Ivanov

As a wider circle within which the nuclear family exists, there is the extended family. This family is made up of members of the parents’ nuclear as well as extended families. Within a system of interlocking nuclear families, an extended family can be too large for an individual to keep track of. Grandparents, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, in-laws, etc. – the network for an extended family is a never-ending one.

Having touched on the two most common ones, I must mention the existence of society as a familial system. It is even said that a family is the basic unit of society, making it an extended family of some kind without blood relations. In a community or neighborhood, people join together to possess an identity. Moral values and behavioral patterns are vaguely agreed on to help shape members who grow within the society or to train those who intend to become a part of it later.

Elmina, Ghana – In motion – Anton Ivanov

I am a native of Ghana, West Africa, and know the importance of family within my cultural setting. There are over 100 ethnic groups in Ghana with even more clans and tribes associated with each.

An individual born into a family has a set of rules that are instilled in them regarding how to trace their family roots. No matter where you find yourself, even if born out of the country, you automatically become a member of your mom’s or dad’s family according to the familial system of your tribe. Ethnic groups differ in the type of familial systems practiced, with most being matrilineal or patrilineal. These systems entail complexities and bonds first to an ethnic group, then to the family of the parents and then to that of the nuclear family. In my society, the extended family system is so influential that it has more power over the body and property of a dead individual than the nuclear family. The extended family is said to own the individual.

Accra, Ghana – Scene from the market – Anton Ivanov

Comparing the family unit in the West to that of my cultural setting reveals a vast difference. In the West, America in this case, the family usually consists of the nuclear one. Apart from a few minority groups, most individuals are brought up with no sense of an extended family, and systems do not help with that either. Imagine the shock I got the first time I heard that a child could come from a different state than that of their mom or dad. “Really? You do not live where you were born?” I wondered, thinking about how this gave an individual no reason to trace the roots of either of their parents. Over time, the links to these family members from other states will weaken and break off, leaving generations after that individual with no idea of who they might actually be related to in other states.

It is necessary, however, to realize the importance of achieving a balanced approach to the familial system and allow it to influence our moral compass while guiding our actions.

Accra, Ghana – At the beach – Gerhard Pettersson

A strong sense of attachment to an individual’s family provides a sense of belonging to that family, especially when it is an illustrious one. This is seen in monarchies, among aristocrats and even with ethnic groups that consider themselves superior. A member in any of these lays claim to properties and privileges with little or no work, thus having a powerful support system as they chart their course through life.

The feelings connected to this are intense within Ghanaian society. You find a sense of responsibility attached to your actions and try not to “disgrace” the family you find yourself in, illustrious or not. This responsibility comes together with the privileges that the individual enjoys as being a member of that family.

Accra, Ghana – Bojo Beach – Danilo Marocchi

So it is not debatable when an individual is asked a favor for a family member. For example, a human resources manager in an institution is required by general family duties and responsibilities to make sure an unemployed member of their family gains entry into their institution without much difficulty. Generally, this situation is termed “who you know” in our cultural setting. Now, though this looks like a reasonable thing to do, we realize that it is ethically unfair to other job applicants and very disadvantageous to that institution if the employed family member lacks the necessary skills required for the job.

Not only in this instance, but in many other situations, we realize that individuals are heavily biased in decision-making, even in criminal situations where a law enforcer feels a greater sense of duty to the family or ethnicity than to the constitution they are supposed to enforce. Many people have been let off the hook after committing very heinous crimes just because the enforcer has a family connection of some kind to them.

Accra, Ghana – Street market – Nataly Reinch

This attachment can escalate to the point of disputes and violence, sometimes stemming out of ethnic tensions that existed even before most of those involved were born. As members of the family, they inherit the hate and spite towards other ethnic groups, and as a duty play their part in the clashes that ensue.

We then become aware that extreme attachment to the family should be influenced by other systems to build a functional society. Although such affiliation provides a sense of belonging and a support system for members, this same tool can be twisted to plant a seed of discourse that will wreak long-term havoc within the larger society.

Accra, Ghana – Drying fish – Atosan

In Ghana, the problem of attachment to the family before the country as a whole still exists and is revealed occasionally in ethnic disputes that break out. But there have been efforts aimed at making the younger generation become aware of belonging first to the country and then to the family.

The hope is that we will one day have a society that identifies with the country while richly displaying the diverse practices that come together to make it up. A society that understands that unity is not uniformity. A society that considers everyone equal as Ghanaians. A society that considers itself a family of Ghanaians and creates that sense of belonging.

Kwasi Amankwah Awuah

Credits

Snapshot 1: Ghana – A gray heron – Artem Avetisyan (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 2: Kumasi, Ghana – At the market – Anton Ivanov (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 3: Elmina, Ghana – In motion – Anton Ivanov (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 4: Accra, Ghana – Scene from the market – Anton Ivanov (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 5: Accra, Ghana – At the beach – Gerhard Pettersson (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 6: Accra, Ghana – Bojo Beach – Danilo Marocchi (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 7: Accra, Ghana – Street market – Nataly Reinch (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 8: Accra, Ghana – Drying fish – Atosan (Shutterstock)

Cinemblem voiceover: Nathan Jackson

Locations

Home: www.perypatetik.net

Social: www.facebook.com/Perypatetik

Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes

Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.

Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.

Antonyan, Hayk. Polarization Does Not Equal Extreme – Armenia. September 2019.

Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.

Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.

Butt, Kashif. Shrinking Space for Dialog – Pakistan. October 2019.

Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.

Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.

Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.

Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.

Deiana, Sarah. The Unbearable Weight of Being a Woman – Italy. September 2019.

Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.

Escobar, Christian. Between the Sky and the Earth: Looking for Love – Columbia. October 2019.

Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019.

Husseini, Maha. Bilingual Par Excellence – Canada. August 2019.

Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.

Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.

Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.

López, Virginia Sanmartín. Why Live on an Edge? – Spain. August 2019.

Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.

Mwangi, Kenn. Religious Extremity and Exploitation – Kenya. October 2019.

Pavicevic, Nikolina. The Law of Silence – Montenegro. September 2019.

Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.

Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.

Ray, Sanjay Kumar. At the Crossroads – India. August 2019.

Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.

Çakir, Peren. Needing a Sustainable Future in the Midst of Political Polarization – Argentina and Turkey. September 2019.

Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.

Sekulić, Jelena. The Polarizacija of Serbian Culture – Serbia. June 2019.

Sem, Sebastião. Brandos Costumes – Portugal. July 2019.

Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.

Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.

Tammpuu, Mari. Thoughts of Two Generations – Polar Opposites? – Estonia. November 2019.

Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.

Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.

Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.

Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.

Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019

Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.

Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Feminism – Russia. August 2019.

Forthcoming

CW 46 – Dominican Republic – Aura De Los Santos
CW 47 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 48 – America – Talia Stotts
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Italy – Martha Corzo
CW 51 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 52 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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