Friday, 14 November 2008

Money, money, money...

It's funny how the world works, how history affects our culture and values. This becomes very clear when observing how money and status are dealt with. In Europe, especially Britain, it's all about old money and pedigree. You may be dirt-broke but with a Lord before your name, you're everything. You won't be respected for driving a Hummer but rather a Jaguar, Rover (or whatever the Queen rolls in, sorry, I don't know cars at all!). The bourgoisie will never let anyone in based on how much money they've made, only based on their noble background.

In Sweden, because of a very recent background of being (relatively poor) farmers and labourers, being rich and showing it off is still considered offensive. "Det sticker i ögonen", (loosely "it pains the eyes") to see someone driving around in a huge ML in the city, or wearing too much bling.

America, has and will once again be considered the land of opportunity. Even though it's been centuries since it developed, America will always be the land of the noveaux riches, where you will always be applauded for coming from nothing and showing off how far you've come by flaunting your assets.

It seems in Ghana we are struggling to decide which of these cultures we will align ourselves with. You have the posh families of Accra seeming to follow their colonial roots, meaning it's all about who your mother and father are, not what you've achieved or how much money you're earning. Meanwhile this battles with the Naija/Ashanti/America mentality of 'flaunt what you've got', which leads to some rather painful decorations in homes of gold, gold, gold, clearly indicating "look at me, I'm rich!". And then of course, there's the Ghanaian jealousy, which to me resembles the Swedish jealousy, although the Ghanaian one is slightly more resentful. Either way it means one must be careful to show just how well one is doing to avoid making too many enemies.

I'm not sure where I stand. Naturally being raised in Europe, I'm not quite used to the whole flaunting and bragging mentality, but sometimes find it very refreshing and entertaing. Still, it seems until something is done about the bitter jealousy in this society it's safer not too stand out too much!


posekyere said...

Beautiful, Maya, beautiful!
Believe me bling bling is as African as is Mount Kilimanjaro.
You have it so flash it, girl.
If the little, pitiful people protest tell them to grow up or put up.
At least, you can begin the flashing business behind the high walls of Accra and then one day you come out with a bang.
Jealousy should not be rewarded with comformity.
Live the beautiful life inside out not outside in.

Maya Mame said...

Thanks Posekyere, I love your wisdom. Will definitely start flashing my stuff at home and transcend it to the outside world!

Qué? said...

Thought provoking post, Maya.

I'm pretty sure the whole 'which family you come from thing' predates colonialism:

The Ashanti, for example, had wealthy trading elites who might have gone on to form a 'middle class' (for want of better words) were they not decimated for having the gall to beat European trading companies at their own game. While their wealth may have been taken from them, I'm pretty sure their traditions remained, hence the pedigree thing.

You're right though: most of today's so-called 'posh' families trace their pride firstly to circa-independence struggle ancestors before looking further back.

Any Ghanaian will tell another who flaunts his or her wealth a little too much the equivalent of the African-American phrase, "you ain't sh*t"... but that will not stop that same person from doing exactly the same thing if they happen to stumble across some wealth themselves.

Very amusing.

For all of our own ostentatiousness though, I think Ghanaians are pretty united in our general disdain for Nigerian displays of wealth.

It could just be plain jealousy though. It's a daily struggle...

Maya Mame said...

Qué, your comment made me laugh! Apart from the insightful information you've given me, what made it funny was the truth in the last part of it: it is so true that we all despise the Nigerian 'flaunt what you've got' mentality, and I doubt it has anything to do with jealousy, it's about the in-your-face way in which they do it.



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