The Missing Dialogue (II)
Consequently, a type of dictatorship reigned almost in all the third world countries, whereby in Africa South of the Sahara, this was “particularly, conspicuously brutal”. Irrespective of whether the country was ruled by an “America-friendly regime” or a Soviet-courted one”, elections were banned. For a change to surface, a ruling regime had to be overthrown by another from within. The word “coup” was so ingrained in the substance of people’s brains that it became part of their biology. In a family, according to one saga, a child learning to talk brought out “coup” as its very first word. There was hardly a change without violence of a sort. The changes on June 4th, 1979, and then again, in 1981, must have been of special interest and significance, with regards to the politico-dynamics of our Republic, but, how significant? Society seemed to have absorbed the events of 1966 and 1968, and hearing it from almost everywhere in Africa, and other third world countries, it seemed “a new world order.” But, the association with economic deprivation was an adjunct that was so unpalatable. There was silent dissent, and silent, because, there was fear. People knew that there existed other worlds where there was plenty, and they were called England or Germany. Hong Kong was on the tongue of traders who ventured that far. Experimentation with the civilian transformation in 1979 seemed a risk worth taking. It was also unique, because it took place all the same, in spite of a military regime that was intercalated into a planned transfer of political power (Gen. Akkufo, and then Flt.Lt. Rawlings). Another new era was ushered in amidst confusion, but at the same time, with an inkling of hope – First, among the proletariat, but in the end, among the elite too. It was from this that, for some reason, not that odd, there must have first been interest, followed by pressure from the West for a change for democracy! Nkrumah’s initial thrust that led so many Ghanaians into “that overseas”, and the drift of those who studied in the Eastern bloc that came home to begin with, but had a second exodus, stayed put in the West, this time around. It was interesting how among even Europeans living under capitalism, many would discuss mixed economies like Sweden, and at the time, the “young Israeli State.” As it turned out, Ghana too, under a military regime headed by Flt Lt J.J. Rawlings, the road was not any longer towards Bucharest, but, to Washington! After eleven years of “des-enfranchisation”, electioneering was introduced to the bewilderment of even his detractors. Next to that was the opposition winning “an election”, which observers branded as “free and fair.” Then, unlike the situation “ad infinitum” in Burma, Mr. Rawlings “gave in to the people’s will.” This act gave him and the people of Ghana a standing of great “élan” among democrats around the world, which some Ghanaians don’t find easy words to describe. The “Truth and Reconciliation Committee”, which was to heal the nation’s “wounds”, seemed to have done the work, but a work that was not fully understood to begin with. Trying to explain what “understanding” means, and why we probably did not “heal” to the extent that we would have wished, one would like to look at the “disadvantage due to illiteracy.” South Africa was in a more fortunate situation, because, in spite of the long-standing wear and tear of “Apartheid, and the fight against it”, they don’t today have 60% illiteracy. So, the road towards understanding the “recent past”, which we won’t be able to just wipe-off, but must absorb, is not uniformly easy to walk by all of us. The “revolution,” which broiled in Ghana so hot in 1979, and then again in 1981, must have simmered for many years thereafter. What people might hear, usually from what might have been only a rumor, was often passed on as “firsthand information.” Any attempt to trail such purported “first-hand infos” led frequently into cul-de-sacs. In effect, they must have been rumors then, and many have stayed as such, even until today. But, an awful lot must have really happened, and like in all revolutions, there must have been loss of life. It would lose meaning when quantified. An example: A young man returning from Ghana to his base in Frankfurt/Main, in what used then to be West Germany, narrated to his enthusiastic compatriots listening to him in the cab from the Rhein/Main airport: “I saw the skeleton of a man washed to the roadside at Dzorwulu (a suburb of Accra). His pair of Jeans trousers was almost intact,” he said interestedly. When asked how he knew it was a man, his answer was “Men usually wear Jeans trousers.” He was happy to leave it an “un-satisfying answer.” I heard the same version from a couple of young men, and all came from the same source. Revolutions always have casualties, you heard it repeatedly. The Iranian revolution of mid-winter, 1979, was the one event I managed to follow live, if you will. I was in a country with a free press, and not too far away from where the action was. The tumbling down of the Kingdom of the self-crowned “King Shah Reza Pahlevi I” of Iran was such a dramatic turn of events. The generals of his army, who, for many reasons, could not run fast enough for their lives at the crucial moments, were arraigned before foreign press in Teheran with the Revolutionary leader one evening. The next morning, a leading West German television station showed the naked bodies of the “tall, handsome former generals” robbed of nobility, you would say, resting stiff on mortuary slabs. Much as Europe saw it as a “chilly scenario”, it was the reality, and journalists like Peter Scholatur of ZDF-television had read about the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, as a young journalist. This time around, he was experiencing it and reporting it live as a sixty-year-old journalist par excellence. Altogether, thirty thousand Iranians, many of whom had been supporters of the Shah’s regime, but also many who might have been victims of the circumstances, paid with their lives. What price? Nationhood cannot be defined by many people. It is said that you need to absolve a university study, and not alone in Chemistry, Medicine, or Political Science plus Sociology, but knowledge in all should be necessary before one might understand what nationhood should be all about. What is more important is, today, there has been an addition dubbed “human rights”, and that is universal. All men and women are entitled to the same privileges. Is that possible? When there is poverty, not everybody feels it the same way, because, some would be buffered away from its shackles of want, need or hunger. “Your Majesty, the people cannot find bread to eat.” Her solution was “so let them eat cake!” Her statement is said to have cost her and her husband their monarchy and their heads too! Most college students in good schools are conversant with the saga of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. It was the French Revolution in 1789. They were deposed in 1789 and guillotined in 1793. In all revolutions the theme has been the “masses having no access to what is basic in life” The disenchantment spews out like a giant bacillus, but also chronically. In most instances, when it may succeed, “someone did not pay attention, and it (the error) may have lasted many generations.
To be continued…
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