"It is easy to become a satellite today without even being aware of it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power - the power of dollarism. You can cuss out colonialism, imperialism and other isms, but it is hard for you to cuss out dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, your soul goes away." - Malcolm X
he gentleman looked thirty-something. He was dressed very conservatively - three-piece suit, jacket, a very colourful and very loud tie, plus all the works.
"And so you want to get an American visa
To go where they say the living is easier
Since you were young you've been told
You can get anything there
But, it's not so.
See, the matter is very steep for all
Equal opportunity is the call
But words without deeds is like garden
Full of weeds
So you better take heed
So you better beware
You better take care
Cause you might be heading for a nightmare
Why do you slumber from January to December?
Dream only last while you sleep
You better look before you leap." - Jimmy Cliff, 'American Dream.'
I observed him from my vantage position. Now and then he studies a leaf of paper and smiles deliriously. I was intrigued.
He doesn't look crazed to me though; but you never know. And those irrational smiles!
Holding my drink firmly, I zigzagged around the tables, curtsying to guests. I emerged in front of him and bare my ivories to him in a toothy smile. "How do you do?" I asked and settled down in an empty seat in front of him.
With a wicked smile dancing on his handsome Ewe face, he scans my face. He seems to like what he saw and declared: "My broda, I go buy you drink."
"Rainy day on the Lotto?" I ask my greatly bemused companion.
He looks at my face, glances at the paper, gives another of his mysterious smiles and shakes his head. "My broda, this one e pass Lotto, sef." He tells me, waving the paper like a prized possession. "Who say God e no dey, ehn! Me, Godwin, son of Gadabo himself, I go go America, ah!"
The guy was drinking Coca-Cola; I knew that it'd be difficult to get drunk on that. Perhaps he'd been imbibing somewhere else. He doesn't look drunk to me, though. He holds the leaf of paper very close to his chest, so I couldn't read what was on it.
"You going to America?" I asked him, trying my best to pry the secrets from him.
"By HIS grace, I go go. My ancestors are not asleep. Even if na only one man they call for the whole of Ghana, dat go be me." He vows, beating his chest vigorously.
I still didn't understand his riddles so I formally asked him to explain. He takes some time deciding whether or not to impart the secrets. He cast a long look around the tables, the way they do in spy-movies. Satisfied that there were no enemies lurking in dark corners, he tells me his story.
The paper he's cradling was the receipt for his application for the American Green Card Lottery. The whole of Africa had been granted fifty or so thousand places and, according to him, millions are fighting to get aboard. The paper was evidence that his application had been accepted - like thousands others. The raffle would soon be drawn.
That, however, was enough reason for Godwin, the son of Gadabo, to celebrate.
"So you want to go to America?" I asked
He gave me a scornful look. "Why did you ask me if I want to go to America? Who no wan go America, you no wan go? You see man wey no wan go America before?"
"I know of many people who are not dying to go to the U.S.A. Why is it so important for you to go to America? Why all the crazy smiles?"
"You lie me, bad!" Godwin Gadabo cries like an outraged housewife. "No man who has the chance will not choose to go to America. Whether you jealous sef, or you be craze."
"I am not jealous and kindly let my doctor decide the state of my sanity. Tell me, why you want to go to America."
He smiles a very wide smile. "God in heaven, this man ask me why I want to go to America! Plenty reasons. Do you think that I do not like better things? If I can get to Yankee, all my problems are solved, period. Don't you see all our burgers? Don't you see the big cars they bring home; the big mansions they put up? I know people who go Yankee for one year, and they build fine storey building for their village. They bring two or three cars and they have more dollars in their pockets than many of our local banks. Do you think that Godwin, the son of Gadabo himself, wants to die in poverty? You think sey I no like better things?"
I gave him a wry smile, "Your optimism is commendable, but it's not everyone in America that has a car and a big mansion. There are also poor people in America."
"Blasphemy!" Godwin, the son of Gadabo ejaculates. "Poor people for America, you lie me. Have you ever been there? I think that you are just jealous. Don't you watch the movies, where do you see poor people in America, tell me? I came here to celebrate my good luck, and here you're trying to pour sand on my gari."
It was my turn to laugh at the simple-mindedness of my companion. Men like these, just a shade from idiocy, get their opinion from make-believe movies. Could they really believe that all movies are real?
"Do you believe everything you watch in movies?" I asked Godwin, the son of Gadabo.
He looked genuinely shocked by my question. "Do you think that white people are lying when they make their movies? If there are poor people in America we should see them in the American movies, don't you think so? Unlike in our Ghana, everything in America is neat, tidy and big. Everybody has his own car plus his own palace. You don't have to work hard. Don't you see that they don't work as hard as we do in Ghana? You see them, when they need money, they take out their wallets and put a plastic into a wall and money comes out. White men are magicians! And you are asking why I want to go to America. Do you think that I'd like to die in poverty?"
"But there are also poor people in America. There are people in America trying hard to make ends meet." I insisted
"Maybe you lie. Or, maybe they don't want to work. In Yankee, there is big opportunity for everyone. Poor people for America, tcheew. You lie bad."
This fellow is beyond redemption. "Look, young man," I cried, raising my voice. "Either you're inebriated or you are the biggest moron this side of the ape divide. Movies are simply optical illusions concocted to entertain. They do not represent objective realities, except, perhaps, to muttonheads like you. Take it from me, behind the Hollywood-inspired facade of general prosperity and contentment for all are serious, even grave, economic and social problems. You don't see them in your movies because that is not the image America wants to portray to the world. Those who want to portray their land as the Paradise on earth know what they are doing. The simple fact is that there is no society created by man that hasn't got its share of worldly problems. America propagandists create the illusions that their land is an Oasis of opulence, an Island of contentment, and a land flowing with milk and honey. They don't tell you about the streets and neighborhoods that are virtual war-zones. They don't tell you about the gigantic ghettoes. They tell you not about the Indian plantations. They don't inform you about the drug-problems, the street violence, the social, economic and financial pressures, the stressful lives people live, the deep sense of alienation. No, they show you only America-The-Beautiful where young men, with no apparent means of income, are driving around, wining and dining the whole day. They make you believe that everyone lives in palace with swimming pools. They want your head to dance with the vision of men driving one kilometer-long limousines, with beautiful damsels hanging on their shoulders. Of course, they make you believe that it is yours just for the asking. They show you how to get money from walls without telling you that you must have put the money there beforehand. They paraded glitters before your eyes, forgetting to tell you the rat race you must run before attaining them. The master-illusionists are busy concocting magic to wow you to hate your own country and dream of nothing but emigrating to America. Here you are gleefully celebrating your own enslavement."
"Me," Godwin, the son of Gadabo, wails, "who enslaved me?"
"No one is enslaving you but yourself. A great pity many Africans do not take their history seriously and they do not allow that history to be their guide. We always believe in the altruism of the Europeans. Our minds are so totally polluted that HE only has to whistle and we are jumping up and down like mindless dogs. You think that America is doing you a big favor by throwing a lottery at you. 'Come to our land of opportunity for all,' they tell you and you're vibrating with gratitude. Why don't you ask yourself when America developed such large humanitarian heart? If America is dying to give equal opportunity to all, it should start by giving it to the Indians in the plantations or the Black Americans they have quarantined in their numerous ghettoes and prisons. The white man is again doing what he has been doing since the beginning of time: Emptying our lands of all resources - both human and material. In years gone by, they came with guns and slave-ships and enslaved millions of our people. Now they only have to throw a Lottery and our best and brightest are falling over themselves to answer the master's call. If America has such a charitable heart and is dying to help, why doesn't it ask us to send them our illiterate folks so that they can help train them? No, all they asked are Africans with some education and some skills. Our professional class has emptied itself into Euro-America. Most of them are cleaning toilets and flipping hamburgers. Those are the crops with which modern societies are built. This is our greatest tragedy in Africa! We trained our youths at great cost, and when the time comes for them to help in developing our society, Euro-American bribe-masters come calling. After enticing away those of our people who could help us, they then send us their very expensive 'development specialists.' Development experts who are incapable of developing anything except their bank accounts. They keep us, with our connivance I should add, in perpetual tutelage and laugh at our historic stupidity
"Don't you think that they are helping by taking those who cannot find jobs? Look at how much our 'burgers' are sending home. Don't you see the amount they are bringing on holidays? Don't you see how many cars they are sending home?" Godwin argues.
I countered him with great emotions, "Our burgers are among our greatest tragedies! If they tell you the true story of Euro-America, I'm sure you'll not be caught celebrating for going there. I see how brainwashed our burgers have become in perpetuating the myth of a paradisaical Euro-America. I see them come on holiday and spend money as though it was going out of fashion. I see them spend a few years in Euro-America and become totally useless to the societies that raised them. I see the cars and the money they are sending. All they are doing is jolly and well, but we need their brains more than their dollars. We NEED THEM MORE THAN EURO-AMERICA NEEDS THEM. There is limit to what money alone can do in developing a nation. Knowledge, human knowledge, is the key. That is what is in short supply in Africa and, tragically, that is what we are exporting! Our human capital is what America set out to get and they throw a Lottery at us and, instead of our bemoaning our tragic fate, we are rolling out the drums in great celebration!"
"I think you hate America? If everything be so bad, why they go ask people to come to their country?"
"I don't hate America, I hate hypocrisy. I hate American hypocrisy. I hate American thievery. Have you asked yourself why Americans are escaping the paradise they have created on earth?"
He found some humour in my assertion and laughs broadly, his strong and sparkling Ewe teeth dazzle brightly, "Now, you lie. Americans escaping. Escaping to where?"
"I don't mean your everyday political or economic asylum-seeking. Which country has the world's worst drug-problem? If American is such a wonderful place why are Americans abusing every concoction known to chemistry? You have no need for drug if your life is fulfilling. Americans are the world champions when in come to drug abuse. They have succeeded in creating an Elysium on earth where human beings need pharmaceutical assistance to survive.
Wagging a thick fingered in my face, Godwin shouted, "You are a master propagandist. I think that you are trying to discourage me; in which case you are wasting your breath. You want to dim my star wey wan shine, God no go gree."
"God knows that it is impossible to tell lie against America, if only because the country is such a monstrosity. I only regret the waste - I mean our waste. Young man like yourself who should be aiming higher spend the best part of their lives dreaming of escaping to Euro-America, believing that their problems are solved if they can leave Africa.
"I know that you don't like the country but why are you trying to pollute my mind? I know that all you are saying are lies. If America no give we money, how come they say it?"
"You mentioned propaganda a while ago. With enough propaganda machinery you can say anything and make it stick."
The youth could take it no more. Giving me a disdainful glance, he stands up, inserts his ticket into a folder, wraps it in a cellophane holder for added security and readjusts his tie, "I am leaving before you contaminate me. Wish me well. I go go America whether or not you like it. I hope that you'll be around in few years when I come back. My people back home will compose songs in my name. I go famous. Kai! Godwin, the son of Gadabo, you go make am. Amen!"