There is a sort of enforced happiness in Ghana. It reminds me of the badges the Hari Krishna’s once gave out with the command BE HAPPPY! Be happy at all costs, whatever it take. In Ghana, if you’re miserable, the instant response is to cheer you up.
But why should I have to be happy? What if I don’t want to be cheered up? To be honest, I can’t see any profit in it. Being happy, smiling and being nice to everyone is quite an effort. I’d much rather be miserable and anti-social. I aspire to be the archetypal grumpy old man and, when I reach the appropriate age, will see it as my right to be so! I want to evolve into Victor Meldrew from the popular UK comedy series One Foot in the Grave.
The level of sociability in Ghana is designed to keep you endlessly happy. All this greeting everyone you meet as if everybody is your friend, brother or sister! Is it supposed to make you feel good that so many people are your friend? All the joking and teasing is guaranteed to force a smile – inflicted on me against my will. I feel like I’m under terrorist attack. Suicide happy-bombers surround me and explode with glee, determined to destroy my miserable way of life. This must be the ultimate Clash of Cultures.
Surely another symptom of this cursed happiness syndrome is the constant functions – funerals, weddings, naming ceremonies – that it’s possible to spend one’s life attending. Any excuse to ‘have a good time’, to ‘enjoy oneself’. Like those places in the industrial world which promise ‘fun’ if you enter their doors. Come here to find ‘fun’. ‘Fun’ only available here. Keep busy enjoying yourself and everything will be OK. Your problems will just float away.
And it can’t be right that the churches sound like a party is taking place inside. Churches aren’t meant to be happy. The gospel songs sound like the cheap, uplifting, mass-produced pop, spewed from the computers of entrepreneurs. These experiences cannot compare to the fond memories I have of the musty, morbid solemnity of the church I attended as a boy. Sitting, for what seemed like hours, singing dreary hymns and listening to sermons delivered on a monotone.
Even the music coming from the radio is happy! Hip-Life, High-Life, Happy, Happy, Happy. The music’s light and fluffy drum beats and the synthesised sounds have far too much sugar in them – give me vinegar any day! All the songs seem to be about love as if love is supposed to make you feel good. No! Love should be about suffering, sacrifice and pain; there is little joy involved as far as I can see.
And don’t even get me started on the names of the radio stations – Happy FM and Joy FM! For the first time in my life I’ve started listening to angst-filled rock music. The more angst the better. I want anger, power, destruction. I want to tap into my inner misery; somehow it seems more authentic.
Ah, I’m already feeling better. You see I always feel happier when I’m miserable!
- I’m 52 and grumpy (professorbainbridge.com)
- The Victor Meldrew effect: a good moan makes elderly feel better (telegraph.co.uk)