‘’...ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’’...Mathew 23: 15 [King James Version].
As a youth many years ago, my earliest encounter with the Chinese was on the screens of cinema theatres that were in vogue at the time. Any cinema fan old enough at that time would affirm that Chinese films were thrillers that held people spellbound with spine-chilling karate fights, acrobatic jumps, floating, sword combat, eerie traditional songs and dance in elaborate costume.
In those days, we in the rural areas wished we could physically encounter a Chinese to express our admiration for these thrillers. But such opportunity did not exist because no Chinese was ever sighted in the town where I lived. To make up for this lack of encounter, we resorted to imitating their actions and mimicking their language in a rather crude re-enactment of some of the scenes we watched.
Many years down the line, that which appeared distant and perhaps unlikely to happen has now become a reality. The Chinese have finally arrived. But, much to our chagrin, they are not here to shoot films, perform acrobats or teach us the karate fight but to settle and conduct business.
In the cities, towns and villages, the Chinese are fast becoming an integral part of our society. Interestingly, this phenomenon raises the prospect of intermarriages that could enrich our cultural diversity in the future.
The prospect of this integration however suffered a setback just last week when images of Chinese nationals rounded up by the security services were shown on the television.
The reason was simple and straight to the point: these Chinese had overstepped the limits of their privileges and gone into illegal mining operations. As video clips of the rounding up were shown on television, some of these Chinese were seen clutching AK 47 rifles, apparently in an attempt to defend themselves from the security personnel they had mistaken for armed attackers.
As I watched these scenes, the above strongly-worded scripture which was spoken in criticism by the Lord Jesus Christ to the Jewish leadership of His time dropped in my heart. Jesus berated the hypocrisy of the leadership and, by inference, taught about the principle of begetting one’s own kind.
First, He implied that a seed and a fruit are constitutionally the same because a seed brings forth a fruit. Second, a fruit will always be bigger than a seed in line with the Divine law of multiplication invested in creation. Third, anything good or bad in a fruit is an enlarged form of the very essence of the seed.
The term ‘proselyte’ referred to a gentile or foreigner who had converted to Judaism. The effort to convert foreigners to Judaism represented the high point of religious service. The intensity with which the leadership pursued this sacred duty is represented figuratively by the expression, ‘’...ye compass sea and land’’.
This shows that the leadership worked hard to bring foreigners into the faith, apparently to enable them experience the goodness of the Lord the same way as they had. However, by His words, Jesus poignantly reminded them of the terrible paradox fraught in their religious service.
The leadership, for reasons best known to themselves, had failed to cleanse their own hearts with the word of God but had gone ahead to do so for others in an attempt to bring them into the faith.
In consonance with the principle of ‘Like begetting Like’ their service became self-defeating. Far from producing the finest of converts, they succeeded not only in replicating their hypocritical character in the converts, but regrettably, turned them into Frankenstein monsters.
As I mused over this revelation, a veil seemed to open up before me and with it came a comparison that was absolutely unmistakable. The Chinese have become what they are because of what we are.
They never knew they could freely dig for gold in Ghana until a Ghanaian told them. They never knew about visa requirements until a Ghanaian showed them how to go through them.. They never knew about what is called ‘galamsey’ until a Ghanaian lectured them and took them to those places. They never had guns until somebody acquired them for their use. In effect, the Chinese we saw on the television were symbolically an indictment against our own conscience.
Unwilling to tell the truth about their presence here, we have made them sacrificial scapegoats to appease the conscience of the same people who had misled them onto a path of financial adventurism that was as unsustainable as it was risky.
Even more significant, is the horrible incongruity that attends our trade with the Chinese. It is a known fact that Ghanaians who travel to bring goods from China, reportedly request inferior goods based on their own specifications to be made for them.
The motive behind this betrayal is invariably the same everywhere; to make as much profit as one possibly could from a comparatively small amount of capital investment. And indeed, this is done without regard for its implications for the consumer.
In the distribution network, many people have joined this gravy train, sometimes against the dictates of their conscience. The success of this deception has encouraged the Chinese manufacturer to churn out tons of brilliantly deceptive inferior products on demand by some of our own importers.
Currently, we have inferior or fake products for practically everything we use, except of course human beings. Even then, in view of current trends, we cannot discount the remote possibility of synthetic babies arriving on the scene one day with the label,’’ Rejected baby for sale; fresh from the womb in China’’ Perhaps, it is only when this happens that many of us will be persuaded in theory that the distance between Heaven and Earth is indeed a short one.
Interestingly, when an aggrieved consumer return an inferior good, the Chinese manufacturer takes the flak for it.
If, on the other hand, the deception is undetected, he receives a pat on his shoulder for being a good trade partner.
The saga of the Chinese throws out in bold relief the saga of the Ghanaian. It is a saga of passing the buck on practically every unpleasant issue that emerges on the scene.
It is fast becoming a syndrome in Ghana either to refute an allegation as entirely untrue if one is not caught on audio or video, or failing that, to blame it on a faceless person somewhere.
As a nation, we have to our discredit a litany of excuses for things not done well or not done at all. Included in this were the 1998 to 2002 cold-blooded serial killings of scores of innocent women in several locations in Accra.
Without any substantive proof, the public was informed that foreigners were responsible. Official investigations however did not implicate any foreigner. The only suspect arrested was one Quansah whose whereabouts are not known to date.
Then we had the saga of the Fulani herdsmen with their rampaging cattle. Here too, nobody could tell how they entered the country and who it was who failed in his duty in that direction. Official focus was on how to get rid of them but not on how they entered the country in the first place.
Then we had the saga of the Chinese and all the noise about who brought them in, who did not and, like the Fulani, how to get rid of them too. Now, only recently, we are confronted with the spectre of fire outbreaks in several markets especially in the cities. Perhaps, in tune with this same spirit of passing the buck, should we begin to look for foreigners to blame?
The Chinese may have their problems but they are great builders. They may be aggressive and possibly lacking in the ethics of international relations, nevertheless their government has promised to give us a loan to build our roads.
They did not come here on their own volition: we brought them in. The wrong elements among them are here because there is an epidemic of a syndrome called ‘material success at any cost’. Our society is bogged down by this syndrome, unable to contain the increasing weight of this Tasmania devil trait that seems to operate at every level of national life.
No institution is exempt from this, not even the Church. Even if we change government a hundred times, the problem will never be solved unless there is a total recognition that our economic woes are self-inflicted.
If our leadership, either by omission or commission, allows a few individuals to gorge themselves up with resources intended for all, the country will become vulnerable to all kinds of spiritual attacks and our collective well being will be at stake.
We need to take cognisance of this basic human psychology: the more people are despised for not having money, or hailed for having a lot of it, the more this success syndrome will persist.
We must stop playing this make-believe game of spiritual schizophrenia in withdrawing from reality and blaming others for our troubles. If one horse has left the stable, we should work to prevent the others from leaving the same way.
The blame on the Chinese is simply a reflection of our own inadequacies.
By: Rev BEN WIAFE-AGYEI