I had always known the word “brainwashed”. And I was confident I understood it well enough. But I finally grasped the depth of the word from my encounter with a tour guide. Call it my eureka moment.
You see, every year, when I can, I visit some place in Ghana and spend about a week in the place. I like to travel around my country and know its people and places.
That year I went to Hohoe. I enjoyed the love of the people, and the love of God. Ghana is a truly amazing country. And its people are beautiful. We should be grateful for a country like Ghana, and we should work together to make her great and strong. But I digress.
Part of the things I did while at Hohoe was to go up the Afadjato. Before we went up, the tour guide treated us to some history. Among the things he told us was that there is only one path to the top of the Afadjato.
He also told us who was the first person to climb to the top of the mountain. I do not now recall the name of the person, but I do recall that from the name, I immediately recognized that it must have been a German national.
And the tour guide confirmed it was indeed a German who was the first person to climb to the top of the mountain. I report below some aspects of my conversation with the tour guide.
Me: Did you say there is only one path to the top of the mountain?
Tour Guide: Yes
Me: And you said it was this German, (call him Sar) who was the first person to climb to the top of the mountain?
Tour Guide: Yes.
Me: How did Sar know where to find the only path that leads to the top of the mountain?
Tour Guide: oh. [he mentions the name of an indigene for our purposes let us call this person Abui, for I have forgotten the name]. Abui led him to the top. I trace my ancestry to the Abuis. We have always lived close to the mountain, and have always assisted visitors who need to climb to the top of the mountain by showing them the path and leading them to the top.
Me: So how come you did not give me the name of Abui, your ancestor as the first person to have climbed to the top, but rather gave me the name Sar. Or is it the case that although Abui knew the path, and led Sar, he (Sar) overtook Abui and got to the top before Abui?
Tour Guide: oh no. But that was not the first time Abui was climbing the mountain. People were always climbing the mountain and going to the other village. I mean the village behind the mountain. People even marry from across. There are people who can go up and down the mountain several times a day to transact various businesses, including attending funerals.
Me: Are you saying that people were going up and down the mountain before Sar came?
Tour Guide: Oh. Yes. They were. They still do.
Me: I see. That is interesting. So the day Abui was taking Sar to the top was not the first time he, (Abui) had gone to the top of the mountain?
Tour Guide: Yes.
Me: So who was the first person to go to the mountain?
Tour Guide: Sar.
Me: From your own account, this man, Sar, could not have been and was not the first person to go to the top of the mountain. The first people to go to the top of the mountain are the ones whose footsteps made the only path to the top of the mountain. Which path predates the arrival of Sar, and which path Sar trod to the top.
Tour Guide: ( looks at me some way bi), and repeats, it was Sar, that was the first person to climb to the top of the mountain.
From his demeanor, he showed that it was inconceivable that the people of his village could be credited with being the first to climb to the top of the mountain, notwithstanding that he knew that the path was there before Sar came.
He knew that people always used that path before Sar came. But he was prepared to believe that Sar was the first person to climb to the mountain. And he was prepared to educate others to accept this gargantuan falsehood.
That was when I finally grasped, exactly what brainwashing does. But what “does I know”.
Read. Be free to question what you read. Be free to develop your own ideas. And be free to have your ideas questioned.
We cannot continue in this lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities. We can. We must think harder. And we must be prepared to work harder.