The Psychology of Silence in Ghana

by Ernest Armah

According to Abraham Maslow, humans have a set of needs which requires satisfaction. These needs are in hierarchy, from the most basic to the highest including physiological needs, safety needs, love needs, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Though fraught with challengeable postulates, Maslow’s theory provide us a room to think deeply about why we behave the way we do.
At the fundamental level of the hierarchy are food, water, and shelter. To sound simplistic, this triad ought to be met before an individual could proceed to the other hierarchies. If not, the individual gets stuck at the bottom.
One can’t begin to make abstract demands on an empty tummy. First things first. The brain requires two times the amount of energy than that of other cells in the body. To prevent mental stress and exhaustion, we need three square meals a day. Three balanced square meals. Now, how many Ghanaians can afford three square meals a day much more a balanced diet?
Our authorities have assured us of food security however where would we stand on the scale of food sufficiency should we cut food importation off? In the recent Global Food Security index published in July 2013, Ghana came third on the rankings with a score of 45.4% among 28 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. This is a below average score which looks comparatively favorable. Despite this, I would like to go by the evidence which is on the face of this statement. While these numbers look favorable on paper, it is important to reiterate that several Ghanaians do not have the means to enjoy the required three-square balanced meal a day. The basic need of food is not being met.
Someone may say that I am confusing two things; purchasing power and food affordability. I have one response to that – if a country is food sufficient, you won’t need much to buy food.
Besides food, water is also indicated as a basic need. In a recent WaterAid’s report titled “Keeping Promises: Why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments”, it was stated that out of the about 24 million people in Ghana, almost 21 million are without access to safe toilet facilities. 50 percent of Ghanaians use shared latrines whilst 19 percent do ‘free range’. The issue of sanitation is closely linked to the limited supply of water because, recently, Ghana experienced another cholera outbreak. How many children do we want to lose to diseases brought about by unclean water before we sit up and put up cogent measures?
Compounding these issues is the lack of decent accommodation that this country of 58 years is still grappling with. Our housing deficit has seen the outgrowth of slums and conversion of toilets into rooms by vile entrepreneurial landlords. Is it even worth mentioning outrageous rents charged by some landlords?
The argument I wish to present is clear. Without the basic needs of food, water and shelter being met, Ghanaians are incapable of development that would usher them into the pursuit of their higher needs. Until, then, Ghanaians will remain quiet and complacent while detrimental national policies, stagnated economic growth, low accountability, embezzlements of funds, gross demands on citizens, and heavy tax on the honest few prevail.
What need emphasis though is how these basic needs which have not been satisfied keep Ghanaians busy and heckle them from pursuing higher needs such as pursuing their intuitive sense of their purpose and destiny, and making a lofty contribution to the society they were born and bred.