Prisoners without handcuffs

Let me tell you a little more about my crushes, by way of introducing my guest writer for today. Every series I watch I grab a crush or two for myself. With Magnus Bane and Alec of shadow hunters being my favorite of all time. I do have a thing for bald men too. Apart from those, got a thing for a particular tribe in Ghana, the fantes. Hamilton is a fante and by default should fall in this category. However he has managed to “MAX” himself out of it. That means he can be pretty annoying yet loving. Today’s post was birthed from one of our few conversations. Enjoy and I hope you love Hamilton’s work as much as I do.

Hello. How’re you doing?
And I don’t mean this as a form of greeting, expecting the classical response, “I’m good.” Really really, how ‘good’ is your life right now? Specifically, how good is your work right now? How good is your state of mind as you interact ‘physically’ with others? And how good is your planning for the future or, at least, the rest of this year? We know what the world’s main problem is right now but do we understand just how much of a problem that is right now? Just as important, do we know all the simple-but-not-so-easy things we could do to help get rid of this ‘Corona wahala’?

Before anything else, let’s talk about life. Let’s talk about physical health and how COVID-19 has forced you into a relatively sedentary lifestyle? Can we count the number of sweat-producing activities that the season has forbidden or, at least, discouraged? On one hand, there are fearful people who don’t want to go out for morning walks for fear of “collecting” Corona from some panting ‘Borga’. This same group might even spend a little more on Uber (which they don’t use too often) or courier services altogether just to avoid the trotro-induced contact with these Borgas’ cooks, security men among others. Then, at the other end of the spectrum are the rash, self-acclaimed fearless ones, who move about freely without observing any safety protocol whatsoever – Masks? Maybe under their chins. Social distancing? Definitely not. Handwashing? Erm … after eating, yes. Sanitisers? Apuu! Quite sadly too, this second group forms the bulk of our Ghanaian folk, even in Accra where we’re supposed to be moved by all these cases and death we read about in the news.

I honestly don’t know when it became fashionable to be reckless in the face of a pandemic that can be mitigated – or, on the contrary, aggravated – by our lifestyles.
Talking about lifestyles, I’m sure it’s very evident that not everyone we don’t see dressed up and going to work is actually working from home. Let me say this another way: not everyone’s work survived the lockdown and closure of borders and ports. I could show some optimism and say that these people haven’t ‘yet’ bounced back but, honestly speaking, this pandemic doesn’t look like just a ‘comma’; it looks more like a full stop to their jobs (and/ or businesses). This is just a reality we have to embrace as we assess how much this pandemic is affecting us. Maybe private proprietors of junior and senior high schools as well as tertiary institutions are going to make some more coins from the final-year students, but how are workers – and, of course, owners – of Montessori, IT schools and the like going to survive these times? [In any case, how many prudent parents are going to enjoy their peace of mind with their wards at school? Ei! Haven’t you been seeing how our younger siblings (or nephews & nieces maybe) clump together without face masks as they gossip about everything and nothing?]

I personally know owners and administrators of language institutions who appear quite clueless as to how to traverse these Corona times – to lay off every worker and start afresh when the dust settles (whenever that may be) or to pay only part of the salaries? Well, hold on a sec, how do they pay ‘some’ when ‘nothing’ is coming into the coffers? Similarly, I’ve spoken to a few hoteliers and, Chaley, the least said about them the better. Who say man’s not hot? The hospitality industry shouldn’t be far behind the tourism industry in the list of ‘COVID-stricken, Most Affected Sectors’.

Indeed, being forced to shut ourselves from the rest of the world has affected so many people living in Ghana. Currently, many Ghanaians might have to miss out on the option of high-quality foreign education. With borders closed, I’m wondering if language students in Ghanaian universities would still go to Benin, Cuba, Russia or the (currently dreaded) China. Away from our ‘year-abroad’ students, are we also going to have volunteers help out not only in schools but also in NGOs dotted across the country? Personally, if some of us can get to make some coins from translation and working with non-English-speaking individuals & groups, it’s thanks to such volunteers and teachers who come from these countries (and, of course, Ghanaians who have also studied abroad). Sadly, it seems our younger siblings in school now are going to miss out on such opportunities next academic year – and, possibly, some subsequent ones.

Now that we know what’s at stake, let’s acknowledge the problem at hand. Many are dying unnecessary deaths (not to say that anyone’s death is necessary o. I beg!) Many are dying preventable deaths and many more could die through you or me – unless everyone stay safe and encourage others to do same. How would you feel if, after contracting COVID, you recover fully in no time, but not so your neighbours to whom you had transmitted it? If you’re the rash, mask-over-chin-and-not-over-nose type, how would you look at their bereaved families, knowing that you directly or indirectly killed them because you wouldn’t adhere to safety protocols? Let’s all do our part. Let’s not wait for the apparently ever-promising, never-fulfilling ‘aban’. Let’s not treat staying safe like getting married – a necessity but not an emergency. Let’s not treat observing safety protocols like renewing your rent, that you can pay some now and do the rest later. Let’s not do it half-heartedly like some stingy boyfriend who celebrates his girl’s birthday with some whack wine, rationalising that “it’s the thought that counts.” Let’s all put our best into this fight against Corona virus, knowing that indeed, You Only Die Once.

(The writer, Hamilton Kwaku Blankson, is a lover of languages and a believer that we all can do more and be better.)

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