As a house cannot thrive on a weak or a failing foundation, so will no country thrive on a failing or weak family system. For years, the African family system provided social and economic support for its members. As a result of this practice, that bond of brotherhood, uncleship and cousin-hood was firmly established. This culture cemented a sense of oneness and belongingness in our communities.
Thus, a person who hails from a particular community was seen as a ‘property’ of that a particular community. Consequently, the society offered him or her identity as well as social and in some cases economic support. However, over the years, this practice is seen to be dwindling and consequently has had negative repercussions on the fortunes of many nations and Ghana is not an exception.
No country, I think, can achieve social and economic growth at a faster pace if its family structures are weak. According to Article 38.1 of the Lithuanian Constitution, “A family is the foundation for a society and country.” Therefore, for our country to be rich and have peace, there is the need to start from the family. That nation has to be constructed on a well-established superstructure and that well-established superstructure refers to a strong and healthy family structure.
For that reason, it safe to say that the health of our nation is a measure of the health of our family structures. Our national identity, today, mirrors what is the look and feel of the extended family system currently in existence. If the nation is failing to control its members, then it means the family is failing to control its members; if the nation is failing to protect, educate and feed its members, then it follows that the family is failing to protect, control and educate its members.
Why this conclusion?
It is conspicuously clear that the days when young ones and family members were proud of family identity and values are gradually waning away. In times past, young men and women were particular with their family identities. The society itself imposed its values on its members and required of them to uphold these values wherever they found themselves and failure to do so resulted in members being punished or sanctioned. This practice transcended families and communities.
Therefore, a person was not only seen as a family member but also as a son of the community. I am not very old, but I remember that growing up, we used to be punished by any parent in the community whenever we went contrary to the norms of the society. This practice had a great effect on our lives as we knew that we were not only accountable to only our parents but also to our extended family and society at large.
Today, what do we see?
There is growing concern that the extended family system is getting extinct. Presently, people are more focused on the nuclear family system and so people who think that they are only accountable to only dad and mum end up using unprintable words in national discourse as they feel they are not accountable to society in general. People also engage in all manner of practices that are against the collective interest of the nation because they do not feel they belong to a group.
Today’s society has become individualistic unlike the communal spirit that used to be in existence. The days when your uncle or auntie could call and scold you for doing something wrong are almost buried. It’s almost as if there is competition among the family members with regard to whose sons and daughters are doing well. These unhealthy competitions are what have escalated onto the national scene and are causing great harm to the nation.
No building is complete without a good and strong foundation. In other words, the state cannot function effectively without the support of a strong family system. For a favourable social and economic environment to prevail in the country, there is the need for the state and the nation to play a complementary role. Families in times past were known to cater for the educational and economic needs of their own.
Support for family members was not restricted to the nuclear families. Families knew the importance of education and so contributed to cater for members’ educational needs to the extent that some families would sell family properties to ensure that they offered their members the best. There could be reasons for which some family members have ceased to offer such support but these decisions have come back to hurt all of us.
There are many people who could receive similar support they expect from government from their own families but would not get such support because of the breakdown of family systems and values. Many brilliant but needy students could go far with their education if they are supported by the family without waiting for government support which may delay or may never come. Recently, there was an instance of a student who got 8 A’s in WASSCE and yet had no hope of furthering his education.
My question is: “Are there not two or three people who could offer such a brilliant boy an opportunity to further his education?” Should such a brilliant person become the subject of discussion on the social and print media? Is it his fault that he performed very well? How many of such people are in similar situations but have not come to the knowledge of the general public?
Many graduates who are unemployed today could receive support from the family if the family provided the support it used to provide. People who have diverse psychological issues could be helped if the family is to provide its social support. The spate of suicide will reduce if the family is to help its members manage their frustration. Many broken homes will be saved if the family is to carry out its oversight responsibility to the family.
Armed robbery will be minimized if families influence their own positively and bring out those who go contrary to their values. It’s important to note that whoever leads the nation, ministries, health institutions, educational institutions, political parties, etc is a product of the family. Now the question is “What has society offered them and what can a broken family offer all of us?”
To conclude, I would say that a person cannot offer what he or she doesn’t have or has not been given. No one can offer love to his or nation if he or she has been denied that. No one will show patriotism if he or she has not experienced it. No national will offer hope if his or her family offers him or her none. No one will show faith in the country and its economy if his or her family shows him or her none.
No one insults the President, Ministers of States, Leaders, chiefs, Religious leaders, Bosses, etc if they uphold their family values. If you cannot insult your family head or your father, then you cannot do any of these to any other person. Research in anthropology shows that “Monarchists have argued that the state mirrors the patriarchal family, with the people obeying the king as children obey their father.” Thus respect for one’s family head will reflect in our respect for those in authority.
Love begets love and hate begets hate. It is good that there is a Ministry for Culture and it is high time the ministry in conjunction with the Ministry of Education started a campaign for national and family consciousness. For the state to be strong, the family system needs to be strengthened, If you ask me about the health of the state, I will tell you it reflects the health of the family system in the state.
The writer is a communicator, researcher, speaker, and a teacher. He is currently the Internal Communicator for The BEIGE Group. He can be reached on phone: 0242501676 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org