There are two most significant natural journeys in human life: Birth and Death. Even though these two milestone events are closely related, albeit in odd ways, ironically each has entirely different trajectories. Birth has precise destination regime. It also signals addition to the family/society.
Death, on the other hand, is a lost or subtraction from the community. On top of that no mortal human being can say for sure he or she knows the exact destination of where a dead person ends up beyond the grave.
Irrespective of how some Ghanaians spin death or the departure of the loved one, it still cannot be a fitting occasion for an opulent display of wealth and waste of productive time under the puny pretext of celebrating the life of a dead family member or friend. Human life is lived and celebrated while we’re fully conscious of things around us on earth.
Perhaps, the Jews and the Muslims understand the phenomenon of death far better than their Christian counterparts and the large segment of the secular world, especially the showy Ghanaians. It explains the reason behind Jews and Muslims’ show of simplicity, prudence, and true dignity toward their dead. Obviously, these religious groups have respectful understanding of how to pay homage to the dead via funerals.
The passing way of a person is supposed to be a somber moment for coming to grips with the loss of human life, and in the process use the time to embark on sober reflections of our own mortality here on this livable planet. Yet in Ghana nowadays, the death of the loved ones is not dignified and somber occasion any longer. Rather, it is an opportunity for some of these “mourners” and their “sympathizers” alike to exhibit their egoistic sensibilities, wealth, “high class” status, fame, including demonstration of extensive network of connections in high places within Ghanaian power structure. Again, Ghanaians’ funerals today are not about the dead; so, let’s not lie through our teeth at this point.
Truth is, Ghanaians have serious cultural problems, as we speak. Deaths or funerals have become events for the organization of expensive buffets and catering of unhealthy foods, where in many cases people eat to add some more bad cholesterol into their bloodstreams. Truly, funerals in Ghana enable many people to congregate in order for those who have insatiable appetite for alcoholic beverages to drink as much as possible and thus overwork and abuse their livers to death.
Ghanaians bizarrely and senselessly squander money and precious time on funerals at the expense of the poor living family members and friends. Many Ghanaians are hungry and some just need 10 Ghana Cedis to help them cruise through the day but can’t afford it. Yet soon after someone dies in the family, people mobilize enough money or will go on borrowing spree to put up extravagant funerals tagged as “celebration of life” of the departed one. The sickening paradox here is that in most instances when the deceased person was alive, his or her life was never celebrated.
This makes one wonders if something is creepily wrong with the average Ghanaian psyche in this age of the 21st century hi-tech environment. No doubt, this century is an era of innovation, big ideas, progressive and critical thinking including cutting-edge, value-added production backed by sound macro/micro economic policies, all aimed at advancing the interests of contemporary societies. Sadly, it appears many Ghanaians are more interested in, and busy strategizing and finding innovative ways of organizing the most costly, “once-in-the-life-time” funeral for their deceased loved one.
Ask any average Ghanaian today about the state of Ghana and its sociocultural transformation, or how the nation is progressing in general and the usually vague response is that “Ghana has changed or is changing fast.” Then again, you question if our concept of real modern change borders only on the introduction of the malls, possession of cellphones, loose talks over mushrooming FM radio stations, social media, mobile money system, biometric technology, high-rise buildings, interchange roads, or on the creation of some other cosmopolitan structures?
Although all these foregoing designs highly suggest a changing society, they’re not fait accompli till the changes embrace the most vulnerable, the least, or the poor who are living among us and struggling daily or can’t afford to meet the basic human needs in terms of square meal a day. For a good number of Ghanaians, the country is a living hell for them. They can’t afford shelter, healthcare, basic education for their kids, unemployed, and the like.
The disproportionate bunch of people has no hope or economic opportunities, and feels neglected by their families and the society as a whole. Nonetheless once the death strikes a family member, miraculously people find money somewhere to waste on the most expensive funerals ever. It is not an exaggeration to say Ghana is one of the few places on earth in which the dead is accorded more respect and importance than the living human being. On that score it is better dead in Ghana to be treated like a king/queen than catching hell living as poor and financially broke.
Let’s keep an eye on this emerging development: Very soon every corner of Ghanaian cities, towns, and villages, will see erection of mortuaries and funeral homes. In other words, many foreign investors will invest heavily in funeral business instead relatively more productive and employable ventures because they have opportunistically figured out that Ghanaians are bizarrely obsessed with their dead, including wasteful, expensive funerals.
The first time this writer watched documentary on one of the US TV stations regarding how Ghanaians waste money and productive time on funerals, I felt dumbed, ashamed, and embarrassed as someone born and raised in Ghana. This is 21st century world where serious countries think forward but it looks like Ghanaians think backward with their stone-age funerals. These empty aristocratic pretentions through wasteful funerals need to stop, because it makes Ghana a subject of international ridicule.
Author: Bernard Asubonteng is US-based social critic; send your comments to him: firstname.lastname@example.org