Kweku Sintim Misa (KSM) shared an insightful joke in a Leadership Seminar I invited him to as a role model guest. He said, in Ghana we set our mindsets so low it is pitiful and painful. Let’s consider this imaginary argument about a serious matter such as the lack of water in our communities.
The first person begins: “In La Bone, we haven’t had any water in three weeks.” The second person reacts: “Ah, you don’t know anything; in Ashaiman, we haven’t had water in three months.”
The third person, with pomp and self-assurance, outshouts both: “You guys are so lucky with your weeks and months; you haven’t seen anything yet. In Adenta we haven’t seen water in three years.” In the shout-fest, the loudest and the worst case scenario wins the argument. With ignorance and a hollow sense of reality elevated into the status of victory, the worst case pummels the others to recoil in defeat.
How, why and when did this tendency to compare and settle for the worst start? All nations have 24 hours in a day, but it is how the mindsets of the more serious nations use valuable hours for work to improve thinking, and raise standards of living. Poorer nations, in contrast, are preyed upon to ply precious moments paralysed on the knees, hands in the air, with wish lists on their tongues, begging for manna to drop from the clouds. The worst is when that futility is made to trickle down to our impressionable youth.
The irony is that we want the best out of our youth; but when a good number of our brainy sports drift out into incantations and fantasy to fulfil wish lists, it is time for intervention. Society is the pot in which a citizen’s character is brewed, (to allude to Kwaw Ansah of TV Africa).
It takes a village as they say, so when a large portion of the community thrives on base instincts (like imaginary rape-fests), deceptive bliss (like honey dripping from the clouds), superstitions (like vanishing genitals), and exorcism (like a “prophet” chastising an elusive serpent that some witchy old woman planted inside a child’s skull), please, it is time to regroup. There’s a lot of crass to ignore, in order to achieve that which is substantive and useful.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) termed that mass confusion “the phantasmagorias in the brain of men” and “the opium of the masses”. Psychologists use the term “Learned helplessness”, that is, the morbid sense of futility camouflaged in apparitions. Marx cautioned that such ignorance provide the fodder that enrich the stock in trade of “holy” men and many politicians, and perpetuate deceit and poverty.
It should give us pause to think that our youth - in the prime of their lives, who should be filled with optimism and ambition, and developing the skills to match 21st century realities - are plucking empty stars out of the sky.
At the end of it all, people‘s wish lists include prosperity and conveniences like Nokia phones, Samsung televisions and video players, refrigerators, made-in-India fans, and the like. Little do we understand the amount of education, research, work ethic, and effort that have been invested by Finland, South Korea, and India in the making of those wonderful things.
In the real sense, that lack of perspective and reality is the albatross that feeds the culture of poverty: so much to do, but so many without the quality preparation, and employable skills that make the designs and value additions of resources possible. To close the generational gap between indulgent adults and the 21st century African youth, quality education - for making good things happen and for saving nations - must be re-invigorated and brought to the fore.
There’s something inherently bizarre with the collective national mindset when refined gold bullions are airlifted out of a country, and replaced by container shiploads of other people’s trash in the form of electronic wastes, worn appliances, and factory rejects.
The very sight of Africa’s youth peddling such wastes as lifelong trades is a cause for environmental concern and intervention. African nations, in general, need the right kind of education to at least begin to reflect on such hazards.
There’s no model anywhere in the world that a people have achieved any measure of success with little or no effort. It is said, To tell where a nation is going, watch its youth.
But to abandon our youth to their own devices smacks of national irresponsibility. We have to at least begin to compare standards with the best, and not the worst. The best, the worst, and the ugliest examples are visibly around us. It is now a matter of choice.
By: Anis Haffar