KUMASI — A man whom you have heard of but never before encountered knocks on your gate. His arms are full with products to sell—sweet chocolates, which you savor. At first glance, his world is a material paradise where you have the potential to own any shiny object your eye desires.
Along with these trinkets, he carries a box of tissues encouraging you to weep on his shoulder and lament about all the problems your people and your country are facing. Whispering in your ear, he promises he can make them all go away. He assures you that he is your doctor, your pepper soup, the catalyst to sneeze away your catarrh.
To make your problems go away, though, he showers you not with gifts but with ideas. These ideas form the basis of his new world, one in which he is adamant that you and your people will flourish.
All the while, he espouses his values upon you. He especially advocates for what he calls a free market, which proves to be an untruth in the actual application of the term.
His free market supports privatizing public utilities like electricity and water, cutting back on public services like healthcare and education, reducing government spending on public goods, and having zero accountability of private corporations to the government or the public.
Nothing about his free market is free. It costs the consumer quite a lot, in fact.
Despite its true vile intentions, the word “free” in free market is contagious and very pleasing. No matter its implications, people like the term free market and are willing to buy into it.
Upon closer inspection of his words, you now notice that the man always cloaks the true meaning of his intents behind lofty ideas that have the equivalent agreeable outlook as the free market, but pinch the citizen all the same.
Certainly you have heard some of his ideas: democracy, human rights, humanitarian aid, gender equality, and so on? All are the man’s marketing campaigns launched to propel his neoliberalism into the global fulcrum. With these ideas, the man promises he will make all of your problems and your country’s problems evaporate into nonexistence.
His promises are never redeemed, to your dismay. Democracy only usurps power from the impoverished and the middlemen to bestow it upon the moneyed.
And where are his human rights campaigns–but nowhere to be found when millions are incarcerated for nonviolent acts or merely for the color of their skin?
Precisely how inalienable are human rights, you wonder, when they are effortlessly challenged by the stroke of a pen? The simple rights to sustain a living—to grow food on one’s own property, fish in a local tributary, even collect rainwater—are banned in some countries. Human rights seem nowhere present in this neoliberalism.
What good is humanitarian aid when it brings vaccinated chickens, Zika and Ebola viruses, and chickenpox blankets?
What use is gender equality when its sole purposes are to discourage women from having children—hopefully not many, if any at all—and to break down the family unit—by causing competition and greater strife between women and men?
If we desire such campaigns to do anything more than entrench the neoliberal dogma, then we too have fallen for the marketing scheme.
The man also comes heralding ideas that are deceptively packaged to appear as if they have universal consent—products called world this, global that, or international the other.
Surely you have heard of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN), and International Criminal Court (ICC). Surely you can name several other storefronts for neoliberal doctrines.
Initially, the superb marketing of neoliberalism made many receptive to its ideas. No doubt, the man’s product was subpar, defective, even lethal, but he sold it with such vigor that the world’s citizens, gullible as they are, were open to trying it.
Now these ideas have so polluted the world that the marketing campaigns of neoliberalism fool few anymore.
We now understand that when these marketing banners arrive at our country’s doorstep, when our leader is threatened with human rights violations, our country is said to need democracy or to be failing at achieving gender equality, we now brace ourselves for a rocky encounter with the brute force and impending violence that is neoliberalism.
Gone are the days when neoliberal marketing goes unopposed. Though we tire of some who incessantly chant its broken tune.
Our efforts to dissuade its proponents bring weariness to the cause of fighting the fiend. The miseducated, the unlearned, the puppets who grind on the side of our nemesis present a yapping hindrance to our oasis of a just world.
Fortunately, the propagandistic branches of neoliberalism squirm like the arms of an octopus but not of a hydra. When one arm or head is cut off, another will not grow in its place. It does not hold any powers of eternal rejuvenation.
So therefore, let’s not buy the man’s products. Have him go door to door without a single sale and soon he will tire of trespassing upon the property of people who have no interest in his business. The marketing campaigns of neoliberalism will cease to function if they can no longer stumble upon any trusting customers.
Very well-written piece. Grandmother Africa does not cease to amaze! Now about neoliberalism – this is only beginning to sink in. The ideas are confusing and difficult to spot. But for example a good balance must be struck between privatization and the size of government. Big government and a highly privatized society are both hideous.
Nefetiti’s thaumaturgical words are here to turn our heads towards the salesmen of neoliberalism. Fascinating read!
“Thaumaturgical” Am I seeing correctly?
Akosua you will make me have to visit the dictionary everyday
Very well written. Beautiful!!!
Solomon I also thought the same “Thaumaturgical” hmmm had to look up the meaning..my Sista Akosua will kill us oh!!!
On the subject of the post though. The stranger who knocks on the door with all these fake promises and neoliberal ideas is only successful because we as African do not have our own ideology and local solutions to our local problems.. So we consistently look to others for ideas and foreign solutions to our problems which obviously do not work.
I have been in a quandary all week after watching the new version of ROOTs and my question throughout the whole movie was.. Why did the African standby for such an atrocity to occur under what circumstance will it be ok to have you whole village, children, wives and husbands taken away???? And why could a small nation like Britain be able to make seafaring boat that could reach Africa and the Africans couldn’t and still haven’t been able to do the same if infact civilization began in Africa.. Until we create our own, care enough about our own and emancipate ourselves from mental slavery we are doomed.!!! Hmmmm excuse my tenses and my English(I need some tutoring from my Sista) but I am sure you get my drift
Hahaha Sista @Grace ayensu, we struggling for how differentiate between strangers and guests and u r talking ideology? We did have that though. It’s more less what the green parties have revived. But lack the understanding of its entirety. A common theme in all of preclinical african believe and respect was, for nature. There was a cycle of continuance between society, culture and nature. I recently did an interview with former soviet philosopher who lives in a place where Lenin had employed former Africans intellectual studied in the soviet Union, prominent among them is lumumber, to try to implement an utopian project based on this iideas… Its meant for nubuke foundation but I plan publishing it on grandma
Sista Grace, you’ve asked the million GH Cedi question! What happened? Why did slavery happen the way it did? And why are we still opening the doors to the strangers? All are great questions. I have no answer.
But you’ve also nailed the problem – our absence of our own ideology. In the absence of a Ghanaian ideology, or what it means to be Ghanaian, we imbibe strange ideas. This is to a fault and leaves us susceptible to corruptible ideas. The lack of identity is our biggest problem in Africa. What is Ghanaian besides Waatsey, Banku, Akple, TuoZaafi and Fufu? Ideas matter. Ideology is important. Or we become toasts to dangerous ideology.
Grace Ayensu Danquah, I think that Narmer Amenuti and Audu Salisu have attempted to unearth the underlying lack of ideology in a few essays: https://grandmotherafrica.com/our-historic-fall/. But your question is the most important question.
Thanks Solomon Azumah-Gomez. This was certainly an insightful essay. Perhaps Grace can will lend a helping hand to expand these ideas from Narmer Amenuti and Audu Salisu.
I’m still researching on this… For part two
@NefititI I have poem you should read. I wrote it some years back when a black woman was pushed onto an underground rail track by a white couple and the couple where set free by a judge. Somewhere in the middle of your piece, certain things resonate with that poem. I have sent the link of the essay to a friend. Thanks for a wonderful piece.
That’s such a tragic story. And Audu we’d all love to read your poem. Care to post it here?
A Theater of Melanins and Melancholies
A theatre of crimes against melanins, giving birth to melancholies
A theatre of the absurd, in which millions of children of our kind sleep to the moonlight and wake to the sunshine
May the souls of those who did not wake be kept at good places
Those who woke, we take them on our journey in search of hand-to-mouth opportunities
Change, we agree is constant
We grow everyday yet every second day we feel little as a people
Voices of little people once again angered by decisions of those who elected themselves custodians our motherlands
Made cheap brew the category for choosing the best cities in the world while advocating respect for mother earth
Imperial Vienna, where the wings of my uncertain youthful days bloomed slowly, always fall in the first 10.
Ask the black woman called Nelly which city is the best in the world
Perhaps with all it’s hostilities, she would say Vienna in defense of her minimum wage and her anger towards those who vowed to continue the legacy of Jomo Kenyatta
She held Uhuru in her arms at birth but has had to fled those who vowed to continue the legacy of Jomo, Nkrumah and Lumumber.
They continue to fail the daughters of Africa staging theatres of melancholies whose only crime is melanin
Like all others, she had to fled in search of greener pastures
Like all others she thought she had found a home in Vienna
But a crime against her could not amount to a crime against humanity, said the imperial Viennese judge
Recorded images of a woman minding her own business, pushed onto train tracks, fell shot of an evidence
Once again, that the culprit is called white and the victim is called black has been truly underestimated
Once again, that the white judge who set the culprit free consider herself and culprit the makers of the rules, has also been underestimated
Come tomorrow, you’ll wonder why we look at democracy with skeptical eyes
You’ll wonder why we think of human rights as a colonial deity
Bohemian thinkers talk about the wind of change everyday while we die in police custody
Once more they took to the streets and voiced out disapproval of the verdict
But nothing changed
My sista calls the paradox of exporting democracy to Africa and denying human rights at home, an abomination of the century
To Nelly, a deserved justice denied
To those who believe in integration and multiculturalism, just another setback in the process of diversity
A crime against Nelly
In deed, a crime against melanin, giving birth to melancholies
Stay tuned, this subject matter does not cease
Make a date with another episode of crimes against melanins, giving birth to melancholies
I just can’t tell you the next main protagonist yet,
but stay tuned because it could be me or it could be you next!
Nice poem! I see the overlap with the post, especially regarding human rights and faux democracy. The parts about race really make me stop and think…
“theatres of melancholies whose only crime is melanin”
“the paradox of exporting democracy to Africa and denying human rights at home”
Powerful words. Thanks for sharing!
The line “a crime against her could not amount to a crime against humanity” sums up what the U.S. Black Lives Matter movement is going through right now. Definitely still relevant, unfortunately.
Like Nefetiti I wish we would all stop validating these so-called international organizations that claim to serve us all but just aren’t productive for anyone except the elites.
Are they even really productive to the elite????????????
We don’t have elites in africa. We have people in leadership positions. As Franto Fanon said. Instead of an inward look after independence, the biggest mistake our leaders made was to try to be like the European bougoise and use the fame frame of thoughts with which we were colonized
I would think so. They do help the political elite and ruling classes manage data about us (World Health Organization) and control our resources (International Monetary Fund).
Grace, I would think it might not be beneficial to the elites of Africa. But you know this saito leaders – only short term sight and short term memory. They see kelewele, and it’s kelewele all the way till you tell them it’s time for kalabule and then it’s kalabule. Only to realize later later kraaaaa that kalabule is not food oh.