Church and Spirituality

If you have been following this blog for sometime now, you will recall that I recounted my experiences in the church on this blog and made certain conclusions. I have also read the entire Bible twice (from Genesis to Revelation) before making those conclusions. My perspectives hasn’t changed. For the sake of my new followers I shall now tell of my conclusions; then and now.

I was born and raised a Catholic. I was in the church for nearly 17 years. My mother wanted me to become a priest or atleast join the knights and ladies of the altar so she insisted I go for catechism every saturday. Catechism did not interest me. On saturdays, I made paintings or some craft instead. However, I was a member of the Catholic Youth Organisation. The things I saw and experienced in the church made me question my beliefs. While I was busy worshipping the Lord Jesus, others were busily “discharging.” I thought Christianity was all about Jesus but I was wrong. Hypocrisy, pride, dishonesty, fraud, enviness, discrimination based on social status, greed, competition, violence etc. I found all these in the church. There is not a single one of these for which I cannot reference a striking incident. So I realised the church doesn’t make the people, the people make the church.

Some of you might argue that not all churches are like that but I can tell you majority of Ghanaian churches habour those characters. Since I left Catholicism, I have been invited by friends to other charismatic churches including Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Apostolic, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Anglican, Mormon, Jehovah Witness and the list goes on and on. Still, I felt I was only being fed half truths. There is no spirituality greater than being true to yourself. I always tell my undergraduate students that you will never be punished for speaking truth no matter how ugly it may sound. 

Recently I had a brief but productive conversation with a man who is studying to become a Rabbi. His conclusions were that most people attend church to actually seek the fulfilment of their emotional needs not God. If they are all worshipping the same God, as they claim, why denominationalism? Religion and politics are similar and both have very little to do with morals. I think without religion good people will remain good and evil people will still be evil.

Seven or eight years on, I still occasionally find myself in a church when I’m persistently invited and I don’t want to disappoint my inviter or if I can’t take the numerous invitations anymore. But even then inside the church, everything seem to me like a carefully orchestrated drama/play. In a couple of hours everything is over and we are all back to reality. My church days came to an end and I call that the death of “false spirituality.” I have a new spirituality now which is to learn from nature, to always speak truth as nature has taught me and to never intentionally hurt anyone.

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What I have learnt after 8 years of writing (concluding part)

1. If you want people to actually make time to read your book, sell it.

2. The commonest question I have been asked at writers’ events etc. is “Why do you write?” 

3. I don’t introduce myself as a writer unless specifically asked.

4. To write creatively is to discover something within you, which for very good reasons, has been buried in childhood.

5. Writers are not antisocial – people avoid them.

6. Don’t get carried away by every literary journal that approaches you for your work. Most of them are not courageous enough to publish your truth.

7. You can have 5 million fans on social media and still be lonely most of the time.

8. If your writing can speak to only one soul and make them feel better or see things clearly, you have done your job.

9. Those who are not disposed to understand your story will not understand it. Those who are disposed to understand it, will, whether or not you explain yourself.

10. It’s not good enough being famous. The question is what are you famous for?

What I have learnt after 8 years of writing (Part 2)

1. You write to forget, not to remember.

2. To write one good book is better than writing several bad ones.

3. If you take writing seriously your family will sometimes wonder about your sanity.

4. Depending on what you write, many editors and publishers may reject your work.

5. Many great writers (including Shakespeare) were only recognised posthumously.

6. Thinking occurs randomly but writing must be coherent to make meaning. This is what makes writing difficult.

7. Some things are better left unexplained.

8. If you were meant to be a writer or an artist, you can’t avoid it. Either you are one or you go crazy.

9. Chinua Achebe said: “Writing begins in self doubt and ends in great wisdom.”

10. As you spend more time writing and editing, you begin to lose friends but that’s good. The only friends you need are the ones who understand you.

* My only regret is not leaving this country earlier, where reason has been exiled. In the entire city of Accra, of a population of 5 million people, there is only one functioning public library – and the books there are about the two world wars. People just don’t read. Regret? What am I saying? It’s not like I’m married with kids. I can move whenever I want.

What I have learnt after 8 years of writing

1. Writing is its own reward. Unlike music, writing deals with reality. If you’re not being realistic in your writing everyone can tell.

2. Don’t write if you don’t want to be judged.

3. To publicize your deepest thoughts is antisocial if not abnormal. Humans by nature conceal their thoughts. That’s the universal behaviour. But you cannot heal what you conceal.

4. No matter what you write, you will have your own audience. Your writing will touch those who can relate to your experiences.

5. Chinua Achebe in his own words said,”I consider writing a term of imprisonment.” If you choose writing, you will be alone most of the time.

6. As you continue to write you will begin to discover yourself – your roots, your stem, your leaves and ultimately you will know what kind of tree you are and it happens this way only if you’re a unique tree.

7. There is no right or wrong way of writing as long as you can get the message across.

8. Generally it’s not advisable to have personal conversations with those who read your books because those conversations will be considered an extension of the story in the book. The typical reader doesn’t differentiate between the writer and the speaker in a book.

9. Never compare yourself to others. Your mind or soul already knows what you’re capable of. It’s up to you to follow its lead.

10. You will never ever get truth from a politician, a religious leader or a business man etc. You can only get truth from a writer, a poet or an artist. The most profound truths I know I learnt them from other writers.

Has writing changed my life? Yes and No. Yes because it has helped me to understand why I’m the way I am. To understand yourself is the most valuable of all knowledge. No because in some ways I am still the way I am since I was born.

Bribery and Corruption in Ghana Has Reached Pandemic Proportions

Those who have money will live like kings or queens in Ghana. Ghana is really a free country and you can travel the length and breadth of the country ten times in a day with being bothered about producing identity. But that is not to say that Ghana is perfect.

Everything in Ghana can be bought or sold including truth, justice or innocence. My independent investigations reveal that bribery has reached absurd proportions. To volunteer for the government you have to bribe someone. Even if you’re tired of life and want to die you have to pay bribe because suicide is illegal in Ghana. Although no dead person has been prosecuted yet. 

Speaking of death, every chicken and goat in this country knows that to be recruited into the Armed Forces, the Police Service or the Fire Service you have to pay bribe to some gorilla at the top. Which means, if appointed and in line of duty you were shot dead by the enemy or got burnt (in case of fire fighting), you paid to die. Can you imagine how absurd it is to extort money from people who want to risk their lives in defence of the state? Yet every year many young people have to line up in offices and bribe public servants in order to be recruited.

So far, the most corrupt people in Ghana are members of parliament, especially those serving on committes that approve government projects. Every one of them is as corrupt as a decaying log. They only understand bribes and have absolutely no morals. And these are the animals that rule us. Voting is just a meaningless ritual performed every four years. More and more people are staying away from voting. But I don’t think that’s the solution. Whoever wants to eliminate corruption must necessarily have prosecutorial powers, which puts the blame squarely on the head of government – the president. 

Ghana’s Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) is a Vampire Sucking the Blood of Pensioners

According to my independent research the average pensioner in Ghana dies in the first 5 years after retirement and the qualifying age for full retirement is 60. Early retirement is set at 55 and in either case a pensioner normally receives about 20% of their average salary each month. Let me break it down. This means if you currently earn $1000 monthly, upon retirement, your pension will be about $200 or less per month. Let someone prove to me that this is not state backed robbery. 

Recently, there was an amendment to the pension laws (Pensions Act 766) which has further mystified the whole pension scheme to the ordinary Ghanaian. The fomula for calculating a retiree’s benefits in Ghana is the strangest in the whole world. I call it “voodoomatics.” Nobody understands it. Even actuarial professionals at SSNIT could not admit a complete understanding of it. Yet, on retirement a pensioner was simply handed a pittance with no explanations. Those who can afford lawyers usually challenge SSNIT and often their benefits tend to significantly improve but the others who cannot, well R.I.P.  The big question is, is this the best way to treat senior citizens after about 30 or 40 years of service?

Meanwhile the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has shares in several foreign and local companies in Ghana including 5 Star Internationally recognised Hotels such as La Palm etc. Huge dividends are raked in but pensioners do not seem to benefit. The Director of SSNIT is one of the highest paid persons in Ghana and no director in Ghana is free from allegations of bribery and corruption. If you must know bribery and corruption is now a way of life in Ghana. The entire business model of SSNIT can be summerised thus: They are investing contributors’ money in profitable business but at the same time have found a clever way to avoid paying fair benefits. Less payments mean more profits. They know the life exepectancy of the average Ghanaian is about 65yrs. If a pensioner dies at 65, they simply pay survivor’s lump-sum with interest calculated at a very low rate. That way they get to keep much of the profits for themselves. I believe it’s a vampire system supported by the state.

The Cocoa Marketing Board of Ghana Doesn’t Know Why it Exists

The Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) inspite of all the government funds it’s blowing up in the name of salaries and operations etc doesn’t know why it exists. At the time of our so called independence, Ghana was the WORLD’s leading producer of cocoa. As a result, the government set up the CMB to market, negotiate on behalf of the government and create a value chain for cocoa. But up to date I cannot say there is any meaningful value chain or cocoa industry. Much of the cocoa produced in Ghana is still exported and IMF dictates the price at which it’s sold. 

The MD of CMB should know that the CMB exists to negotiate a better deal on behalf of the Republic of Ghana. If you’re selling cocoa and the buyer wants to buy it at a lower price, what it means is that the buyer undervalues your product. So Either you look for a new market or you add value. And there are many other countries interested in buying cocoa from Ghana. The CMB has failed utterly to create a value chain for Ghana’s cocoa and they should be ashamed of themselves. They only know how to play politics and waste money. It’s better to shut up than to try to beg IMF not to reduce the price of cocoa because it indicates our ignorance and stupidity. For several decades there was not a single chocolate factory in Ghana inspite of the millions of tonnes of cocoa shipped outside. I’m told there is one now. Imagine the benefits, if Ghana had several huge chocolate factories producing and exporting chocolates to other parts of the world. This is what CMB was supposed to facilitate but they failed.

I am of the view that even if we bring the cocoa farmers themselves right from their farms to sit at a table with IMF and negotiate the price of their products, they will most likely negotiate a better deal.