Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Abɔdam so ne ho mfaso nye dɛn? (tr: Is there any value in craziness?)

I have plenty to say but not enough time to write it out, so I'll write what should have been today's entry after work and post it tomorrow morning. But here are two quotes that always set me thinking. They're both by Kerouac, an American writer whose name and writings are synonymous with the beat generation.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes - the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things.

Our own Kwaw Kese calls himself Abɔdam. Is he on to something? Judging from the many awards he's holding in the picture, i'm tempted to say yeah, maybe a little. But then an older (arguably wiser) man that I spoke with thinks that the Kwaw Kese kind of music is trash and the way to measure that is check who is listening to his 2008 songs in 2010. He says that good music lives on for decades. If that's the case, are Ghanaians buying his music for lack of anything better, or are we all just wanting to partake a bit in some abɔdam?

I'd like to know your thoughts on the following:
1. Do you think you're this kind of person that Kerouac talks about?
2. If so, why, and how did you become that? If not, why not?
3. At the risk of launching into a "this is what Ghana needs" discussion, I'll ask, do you think it will make any difference if we have more people like this? Can we learn anything from the crazies?
4. Is this kind of lust for life overrated? or do people like this really change things?
5. Are there Ghanaian (or african) writers who talk about this kind of person or is this some foreign invention that has nothing to do with life in Ghana? Is Kwaw Kese it? If not, who is? Who do you know that lives like this?

When I was in college, someone slipped me an anonymous note reading "At some point in our lives, we need to stop existing and start thriving". For a the young Ghanaian man or woman, what would thriving mean? And how do we reconcile that with Kerouac's idea of thriving being some sort of crazy living that makes things happen? Just think about it. America can talk about periods in its history when people have behaved crazily. talk abt the hippies, the beat generation, etc. I'm not sure that that is necessarily something to aspire to but it seems like out of such living, many talented writers, singers, business people have sprung. The life in Ghana appears a bit too uniform from one generation to next. Can one live a normal life their whole lives and then end up becoming extraordinary? Something's gotta get your juices flowing and I don't see that this life as we know it is it. Please correct me if I'm wrong and provide me examples of times when Ghanaians have really bought into a bigger idea or notion and lived it out in our lives. Are we just a boring people? I'm dying to be part of a generation that shakes things up and I see no outlet for all this energy. Was I born on the wrong continent and a wrong time? It looks like someone locked us in a room and put a sign on the door saying: No craziness here. hehe.
I know exactly what I need. A space. About six people who like to talk, about Ghana, and life. Six people completely unlike me. Something to learn, something to teach. Young people, maybe an old person or two. Confused about life, living on the edge, creating art, music, businesses, anything, where they're making something that didn't exist before they showed up, failures, why do i get the feeling this would be so easy to find in Paris or even Italy? People who challenge me. People who own books like "bu me bE" I need to find the people who aren't so put together. Who haven't already figured it all out. Not already on the "success track". I know i'm looking in the wrong places, but I just don't know where to look.


  1. WOnyOwOnyO!!!

    Fa wo nsa bO w'adwen mu na ka dE ABODAM!!!!

    I definitely agree with the second part of what Kerouac said.
    Sometimes we have to be rebels, I actually like being a rebel, more often than not. Not all rebellion is good though.

    I'll better what Kerouac said and say "because they (sometimes) change things for the better. That's the kind of rebellion we must embrace.

  2. Artsy types are usually crazy enough--find a musician friend (not the type trying to sing R&B in Accra--the Kwaw Kese type).

    My personal opinion (as everything I say invariably is I guess) is that good change comes by doing what is 'right'. Good change is being a round peg in a round hole (the 'right' thing) when everyone says "but square pegs have been doing just fine all this while". Case in point -- Reggie Rockstone says let's do hiphop music in the local language which everyone understands and now you have Yahoozee stars all over the continent. A whole industry thrives on that (obvious in retrospect) idea.

    Being 'crazy' is usually just a function of how many people are doing the same thing--the less company you have the crazier you are. But I suspect you want to be the kind of crazy person whose ideas become mainstream. There's little joy in being crazy without end, unless you're really 'mental' I guess :)

  3. Conformity is deeply rooted in the fabric of Ghanaian upbriging. I personally believe God instilled some craziness in each one of us. unfortunately being Ghanaian almost means trouncing what is within conformity.

    So then when others dare to be, they are called crazy or abnormal. I learned that God created put us in the Garden of Eden and instructed us to work. Hence we were created for work. And if the definition of work is the organization of resources for human flourishing then we each owe ourselves this much--to allow what is inside to show and be a little crazy.

  4. @Yoofi: i tried a new hairstyle this morning that i know people would consider crazy because i doubt anyone else in Accra today is wearing their hair this way. So i asked my mother if she thought people would talk about me, and her response was that if i care what people say, then i should conform to their expectations but that if i don't care, then i can do what i want with my hair. I see her point but i disagree. Abt the hair issue in particular, i think i'm right and they (the society) is wrong, so i care about what they think but i'd like them to change their thinking so that how i keep my hair will no longer be "abnormal". It is very much in line with Paa Kwesi's idea about being a round peg in a round hole. I feel that keeping my hair the way i do is the (obvious, in retrospect) idea. I'm as surprised at them as they are at me. Why am i the one who is considered crazy? They're the crazy ones:)

  5. oh and welcome to Wo Se Ekyir discussions, Yoofi. We hope to be hearing more from you:)

  6. I think there are loads of crazies around...they exist in randomness. These are spots of brilliance surrounded by a suffocating blanket of the picture called generalization, we miss these spots of brilliance; all we see is the darkness and the ignorance!

    There should be a rallying voice that cries out 'COLLABORATION! COLLABORATION!'...our collective brilliance is what will illuminate our continent.

    So when you seek six, know you have already found one!

  7. Craziness is relative to the society one lives in. What may be considered normal in one society may be abnornal or crazy in another society. For example Ghanaian women use hair extension or treat their hair to become straight like european hair and it could be considered crazy in one generation or another country but now it seems normail in our country although it is not natural. So craziness is a relative term