Hastily Drawn Conclusions

Now, not to proclaim this column a bastion in the subversion of culture and writing conventions but I am hoping to come damn close. We are going to have to start with baby steps though, because cranking out the opus magnum that will go on to define this series on the first try is impossible. As for what this series is about? It is what it says in the title so do not overthink it. And in the spirit of drawing conclusions based on little, or no information — let’s jump right into it.

Seeing ‘Myself’ In Pop Culture

Mr. Nancy (American Gods) dishing some tough, brutal love.

Quick note to Amazon, Google, Starz — basically whoever is in charge of targeted American Gods YouTube ads, I already had this earmarked as must-watch tv when news broke that it was being adapted as a tv series so maybe show the ads to someone else who needs the nudge to go check it out? Thanks. I am coming clean to let my American Gods watch party know I have already seen episode 2. I most likely would not have confessed that if Mr. Nancy’s opening monologue wasn’t the most glorious piece of television I had seen this year and I had to write about it. It was the character of Mr. Nancy and Gaiman’s , Anansi Boys that got me into fantasy books. The discussion of minority inclusion in popular culture is one that keeps coming up and will continue to resurface. Speaking personally, I was never really conscious that my narrative wasn’t depicted in popular culture. I’d be lying if I said I thought much about it because it was not as if there was a conspicuous absence. There was always music. It was relatively easy to find artists and songs with which I could relate to. Even with television, movies and other mediums, there were always characteristics I could latch on to identify with a character. Be it a personality trait, gender or even race. It is understandable to have never thought much about the impact being represented in pop culture has. Hell, even I who can claim some level of awareness continue to brush that aside. After all, why let that small fact stop me from enjoying a good movie/tv show/book?

Watching Mr. Nancy, talk to the captured slaves from the former British colony, the Gold Coast who had summoned him to help them reminded me why representation matters. Perhaps it stems from our need to belong. Or because it allows to take ownership of a community that you see yourself a part of. For me, reading American Gods and discovering Mr. Nancy was the Ghanaian trickster god, Anansi was a mind-blowing moment. Anansi was very much a part of my childhood. My weekends were not complete as a child without watching By The Fireside. Anansi was the star of that show as stories and tales of his legends and exploits were not only told but acted out. So to have this aspect of my culture, a seemingly insignificant aspect of my being be brought to life by Gaiman’s words was an amazing experience. No prizes for guessing who my favourite character in that fantasy world is. Fast forward less than a decade and I got to watch Mr. Nancy in his full glory on the small screen. Yes the connection to an idea encapsulated in any medium can be powerful, but to feel ownership as well? To have the sense of familiarity? A shared experience? That is priceless and one that more people should have. And that’s why I say when a character can be adapted to recognize a culture or a group of people, let it happen. These are usually changes that do not change the overall story or a character’s arc. But know what beats making changes to established characters? Introducing characters that are representative from the get go.

Going Cashless In Ghana

It’s time to embrace being a cashless society

It is said of good ideas that the surprise is often that it took so long before someone thought about them. It would be presumptuous of me to call this a bonafide solution — but you can do so in the comments. Before presenting the solution, let us first address the problem(s) we are hoping to solve. Mobile money has taken off in many pockets on the African continent. East Africa remains the continent’s leader in it’s adoption and implementation. It has not been for a lack of trying in Ghana. All the four major mobile network providers offer some version of mobile money service. All allow transfer to each other so it is not really a hinderance that one get’s locked into a network because of their mobile service provider. Also, there are various levels of integration with traditional banks in order to facilitate adoption and encourage it’s use in the general public. This concerted effort (intentional or otherwise) has yielded some positive results. The general public is at least aware of mobile money as an alternative to cash, our prefered means of paying for goods & services. Our first problem is how to get more people comfortable with using mobile money for their daily transactions. Not just for money transfer because it is easier than sending a bank transfer.

Our second problem (and I will be first to admit) is an oddly specific one. This is a phenomenon that deserves it’s own discussion but we will go on ahead and make sweeping generalization. Collecting offertory is a vital part of every church service in Ghana. So much so there are multiple instances during a sermon and/church event asking the congregation to come and give. It hasn’t escaped my notice however that for a place where we are all supposed to be seen as — and treated as equals. There is a distinct stratification of the congregation whenever it is offertory time. Especially in those (increasingly common) instances where the church members stand up to go give specific amount as called out by the pastor. Also, there are enough times where a member feels moved to give and should feel free to do so…preferably attracting minimal attention.

The solution to our problems as identified in the earlier paragraphs? Have churches institute mobile money as a means (eventually, the means) of collecting money in the church. It even has the unintended benefit of ensuring that the total amount collected can easily be tallied up and recorded. No more (well, Less) instances of financial malfeasance by church administrations. I guarantee it. I won’t be surprised to find out that churches will find they have more time to deliver the sermon and other activities as most church auditoriums require military-level precision to get people in front of an offertory bowl. More importantly for me, the church is supposed to be a space where those who come to partake in worship can do so without feeling inadequate. Removing the stigma of being judged because you did not stand up to give x-amount when the pastor called or sat firmly in your seat during the 2nd (3rd even at some places) offertory goes a long way to make churches nationwide much more welcoming. I see you nodding your heads in agreement. I believe my work here (for this week) is done.