Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama - is the world ready?

By Etse Sikanku

Let's face it: We live in a nation long considered to be the most powerful in the world. Decisions made by an American president affect millions across the globe. Pundits have been questioning whether America is ready for Obama. The question that should be asked is this: Is the world ready for Obama?

Some may deny the existence of an American hegemony. Like the respected political scientist, Samuel Huntington, they may argue what rather exists is a "uni-multipolar system with one superpower and several major powers." However, the influence of whoever occupies the White House in international politics as chief executive of the American people is unquestioned.

Even before Obama announced his candidacy for election, he had already attracted attention, not only from America, but indeed from all over the world. Africa saw a connection through his father, so Kenyans claimed him as their own. Obama himself called the people of Kibera his "brothers and sisters." He is a political hero in Indonesia. The media across Europe have covered Obama extensively.

Indeed, it is thought the foreign media have never covered American elections with such intensity and so early in the race. At the Springfield rally, where he announced his candidacy, crews from Japan, England, Australia and other parts of the world were part of the 600 journalists - more than twice the number that covered Romney's announcement - at the Old State Capitol.

It is instructive for domestic issues such as the economy and health care to dominate electoral debates. Why else does the concept of national interest exist? However, considering the concrete implications U.S. policy has on billions of lives in different continents, it is quite inconceivable why issues as palpable and as rudimentary as fair trade and economic justice do not form part of the election check list. Americans must be as resolute and unwavering in demanding fair and less harmful policies toward developing countries from presidential candidates. For instance, despite all their work in the searing sun, peasants in Africa reap little or no profits from the work of their sore hands because of U.S. agricultural subsidies.

For all the whining over Obama's identity, the question to ponder is this: Will a black president be more favorable toward Third World countries? What do Africa and the developing world stand to benefit from a black president? Considering how popular Obama is in Europe, Africa and Asia, coupled with his naturally amiable persona and enhanced by his solid international background, will his presidency see the end of hatred toward America? Or will it compromise the nation's foreign and domestic policy goals? Obama may be a slick idealist, but he is also a brazen progressive. By putting him in the White House, the United States may very well produce its most-liked president since the reconstruction.

In the new international world order - where the only thing that binds leftists in Latin America, religious zealots in the Middle East and Arabian extremists together is anti-Americanism - it may be hard to measure how a candidate with the middle name "Hussein" will be received by the United States and rest of the world. Nevertheless, an American president with a more favorable outlook and appreciation of the ever-fluid and transient nature of global politics may just be the political jujitsu that could salvage the United States, rather than the most complex military artillery.

Barack Obama may only be a first-term senator with little Washington experience, but he understands that realism in American policy can be achieved without the risk of power politics. With his background and experiences, Obama is not a humanist per se, but he is not unreceptive to human interest policies, both at home and abroad, which will implicitly eliminate the need for animosity toward the United States.

In acknowledging that the power of the United States is finite, Barack Obama carves out as a foreign policy pragmatist, much different from neoconservatives who have a more straight-jacketed view of the world. Obama may not be a "foreign policy wonk" but will he be up to the task of providing the farsighted leadership that former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had called for from America when he said, "The system still cries out for farsighted American leadership?"

Charisma and charm may not win wars, but military correctness won't either. What is incontrovertible is that until American voters consistently demand of beguiling politicians what fate awaits the developing world - and are resolute in these demands - seeds of poverty, oppression and injustice will continue to foment violence and antagonism toward the United States.

Failure of the electorate to demand action is unlikely to stem the tide of hardships, calumny and resentment in countries where unhonored promises and the deepening gap between rhetoric and practice are stark reminders of how asymmetrical the world is we live in. It's a real conundrum.

Sex, Porn, and Moral Decay among Ghanaians!

Sex sells! And so does anything that bares semblance to it.

Ghanaians may be in denial over the increasing number of citizens involved in the business of pornography. Yet recent developments show the porn business is widespread among Ghanaian folks. Indeed, this may be the latest addition to the new catalogue of items that the nation is gaining reputation for. Ominous as it may seem, the rise in porn is again one clear act that exemplifies the gradual sinking and erosion of the Ghanaian pride and character to discomforting proportions. Since Vice President Aliu Mahama’s launch of the crusade on indiscipline, one is not sure if the cancer has increased or decreased.

What I can say, though, is that the call has followed a familiar pattern of crisis to revival, back to stagnation, and renewed crisis. His campaign has been needless to say, lacking in urgency, honesty, commitment, theatre and associated with the “do what I say but not what I do” policy syndrome that has crippled African governments and certainly meant for populist sumptuousness. Maybe was it meant to be another one of those “jobs for the boys?”

Discipline can be seen in two different ways—Discipline as a subject or field of knowledge and discipline as controlled and orderly behavior. My contention is that, perhaps, the Vice President had the second kind of discipline in mind when he launched his campaign. So what exactly is wrong with the Ghanaian society? Once known in its most recent post colonial days for its puritanical culture, the people of Ghana were immersed in grand self-belief for the highest principles of morality which transcended its culture, heritage, life modes, and national psyche.

However, with increasing westernization, globalization in the earliest years of the 21st century, Ghana has descended into a societal and moral abyss. With the nation’s recent reputation in drug trafficking, armed robbery, and corruption, Ghana is certainly joining the class of other African countries and even others in the west in terms of sex, porn, crime, and corruption.I’m sure many Ghanaians have realized the increasing involvement of Ghanaians in porn movies especially in places like the US and the UK.

Only recently, new websites have emerged with hardcore, thick in the end, porn video productions acted by your typical “Ghana mmaa” or “Ghana women” purportedly shot in Los Angels and in New York. The video is titled Esewani Part 1 adventures of wapipi Jay and is displayed on the website wakikient selling for $15. Wakiki unashamedly prides itself in “Bringing you the First Ever Ghanaian Adult Entertainment Shot on Location in LA and NYC” adding “You Got to See It to Believe It!!!!!” It. has videos of Ghanaian men and women mostly between the ages 23-35 engaged in hard core porn. This time there are both English and Twi versions. The images are grotesque, to say the least. The scenes are sore, grim, and, by no means, riveting.Not long ago many Ghanaians would remember the issue of the Ghanaian flag being displayed on a certain porn website and the use of girls (Swedru girls and Bronx women) in several pornographic websites such as accrawomen, hems, ghetto getters etc.

Perhaps, Ghanaians would be shocked to realize that since the days of “” and the swedru girls, many more Ghanaian girls have been engaging in this embarrassing act to the detriment of their personal edification, the nation, making nonsense, for instance, of Aliu Mahama’s campaign for greater discipline. Porn, no matter what form it takes, is simply gross. However, internet porn seems to be the most common among the types of pornography existing. Since the internet is an international network and there are currently no international laws regulating pornography, each country deals with internet pornography differently. It’s not too clear whether Ghana has any internet laws.

Generally, if the pornographic content is legal in the jurisdiction that it is being distributed from, then the distributor of such content would not be in violation of the law regardless of whether it is accessible in countries where it is illegal.So why do people engage in this illicit act? Your guess is as good as mine. In some Western nations, it is not unusual to find say 900 theaters showing pornographic films and more than 15,000 "adult" bookstores and video stores, marketing pornographic movies. In the United States, for instance, Adult bookstores outnumber McDonald's restaurants by a margin of at least three to one. In 1985, nearly 100 full-length pornographic films were distributed to "adult" theaters providing estimated annual box office sales of $50 million. The industry is highly lucrative.

Again, in the US, for instance, porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. US porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of the three major news networks- ABC, CBS, and NBC (6.2 billion). Sex is sacred, porn is vice. From what I get, it appears as if economic conditions drive many young people who should be doing something edifying with their lives, into this activity. In our part of the world it is easy to see how unbearable economic conditions may sway people to engage in porn. Near dehumanizing poverty conditions feed the misery brought about by harsh economic conditions. Whiles some do it as a matter of survival, for others it constitutes the endless cycle of the “inordinate pursuit of wealth.” Unemployment is increasing, the best education eludes a lot more, and living standards and life expectancy are at an all time low. For many youth, the future is uninviting.

While for some it is a matter of bread and butter, for others it is nothing less than a reflection of the insipid selfishness and the crave for pugnacious opulence. Yet, if there was ever enough reason to do wrong, then evil is fair, elephants fly and the sea is indigo. . Or rather as Justine Webb of the BBC puts it “the arms trade is good for humanity, or first class airfares are too cheap.” Simply put, making a case for porn is the quintessence of making a case of dubious merit. It is unjustifiable. Mere greed, laziness, and an insatiable desire to get rich quick have pushed many into engaging in porn. Most youth today seem immune to hard work. Alternatives such as illicit sex though unpalatable means present a ready choice (s).So what are some of the consequences of pornography? Psychologist Edward Donnerstein (University of Wisconsin) found that brief exposure to violent forms of pornography can lead to anti-social attitudes and behavior. Male viewers tend to be more aggressive toward women, less responsive to pain and suffering of rape victims, and more willing to accept various myths about rape. Researchers have found that pornography (especially violent pornography) can produce an array of undesirable effects such as rape and sexual coercion.

Specifically, they found that such exposure can lead to increased use of coercion or rape, increased fantasies about rape, and desensitization to sexual violence and trivialization of rape.It is not only the issue of porn and the general malaise of morality or indiscipline facing the Ghanaian nation that is worrying. It is the increase in incidence and intensity that is most disturbing. That moral disorganization in post colonial Ghana has reached decaying proportions is no farce. It is not funny anymore! I am not advocating for a perfectionist society, or a utopian state. To lose our political, social, and developmental goals will be a misfortune. To lose our ethical ideals and ethos is carelessness.So what can be done? Prostitution should be legalized. (so rampant species can legitimately “release”), The state must enact and enforce pornography laws. In Uganda, for instance, newspapers containing sexually erotic photographs or cartoons have been banned from general sale. It’s obvious that pictures of half-naked women and graphic cartoons are common on Ghanaian newsstands and needless to say, popular with young people. Such material should be displayed in specially designated adult shops.

Maybe, finance minister, Baah Wiredu can then take a leaf from his Italian counterpart Giulio Tremonti who sometime ago pushed through parliament a new 25% tax on all hardcore pornography. “Ethical tax” they call it in France! Another suggestion is the establishment of censorship board (as is the case in Kenya) should be set up in to deal with the "flood" of pornography in the country's electronic and print media. In addition, we must evaluate our exposure to media (magazines, TV shows, music, cinema, internet cafes etc) with inappropriate sexual themes. Parents should set a positive example for their children, and take time to discuss stories, programs, and songs with them .Decency groups in whatever ways—local television discussions groups should be galvanized to fight pornography. These groups have been effective in many localities in ridding their communities of the porno plague.

Also, we should express our concern to local and national officials (through letters and petitions) about adult movie houses, internet websites, internet cafes, and book stores in our various communities. On the individual level, if we receive pornographic material in the mail, we should report it to the police or postal agencies and request that law enforcement agents take action. Even more personally, we should not patronize these porn websites or stores that sell pornographic materials.

We may even go on demonstrations to protest the careless display of sexually inviting scenes on our various media. Forceful measures must be introduced to ensure a stable, prosperous publication market, and to contribute to a peaceful and united society. And while at it, those who decide to engage must remember to “cover Mr. /Ms Lover”.

God save our republic from infamy!