Thursday, February 01, 2007

"A Fool Is As A Fool Does"


That is an American saying. I am not sure if I know of any Swahili equivalent. The saying highlights what I have come to admire about the American culture, and that is the strongest and the brightest idea wins. It is not the fastest talker or the loudest in the crowd. Because the American culture believes in making logical decisions, a person who fails to exercise common sense is deemed foolish or stupid, regardless of their age, gender, academic accomplishments or any other social status

I once had a conversation with an old Kenyan college buddy of mine. We just happened to marvel at how changed one’s life become once you step on the American soil. It is not clear when such a mental u-turn happens, but I am sure the change is so gradual that it is difficult to notice.

A change that one goes through hits you when you interact with folks that are “fresh” from Tanzania, for instance, or even going there. A simple conversation that you could have with an American or even a Tanzanian, who has been in the Diaspora for a while, could turn into a huge cultural fiasco that you cannot contain. For example, having a logical conversation with a typical Tanzanian is difficult. That is because you cannot ask for someone to give you a logical explanation for his or her position on an idea or concept. If it is your dad, it is granted that age will be thrown in the mix to thwart your strong logical position. If your parents sense that they are about to lose a mental battle, be advised that threats of curses and stuff will be thrown your way so that you can stop challenging the status quo of your dad or mom’s thinking.

My theory is that we struggle so much in Tanzania, even among seemingly educated folks, because critical thinking is not part of our experience. Feelings and norms tend to be the deciding factor, and not pure intellectual analysis. That is not to discredit feelings and norms, but it stinks when that those elements are taken to the extreme.

The reasoning for bringing this American saying up is simple: there are plenty of education folks in Tanzania who would easily and justifiably fall into the fools’ category. And that is not because they can’t read, write, or hold PhDs. It is because they act like fools. You think I am kidding? Let’s just review this story published by Daily News on January 10, 2007. I had planned to reflect on this way back, but got held up by other issues.

The story is about how the Ministry of Energy and Minerals was optimistic that following the RDC’s ownership swap between the Gire brothers and the Dowan Holding of the UAE, nothing bad would happen. Let me quote the reason for such optimism:

We went to South Africa to South Africa and did the technical inspection and three engines to produce 60 MW were in good shape. We did not, however, do any tests”.

Just stop right there. Notice anything?

Let me break it down for you. These guys went all the way to South Africa to perform a “technical inspection”. Why in the world didn’t they perform any tests? How then did they conclude that they engines are in good shape? By looking at the paint? Reading some materials? If that was the case, why not just send somebody from the Tanzanian embassy in South Africa to go take a look at the engine and fax or PDF some manufacturer’s specifications for the completion of the “technical inspection”? See, I don’t see anything technical about this inspection if they didn’t perform any tests.

See, a fool is as a fool does. So let’s use a car buying experience to highlight my point. Who goes to a car dealership and buys a car simply by looking at the car’s body paint and reading some papers or listening to a salesperson pitch? If you are intelligent enough, and knowing that the car is probably necessary for your economic and social well-being, wouldn’t you take the car for a test ride?

You know what sucks, they Ministry calls this due diligence. Are you kidding me? Let’s be real. These folks went down to South Africa to get their per diem. That’s it. No more, no less. So they came back and handed over a report to Tanesco’s Board of Directors, who also blindly endorsed Dowan Holding due to their “satisfactory financial and technical capabilities”. Well, I can’t say anything on Dowan’s financial capabilities. Nonetheless, we know for sure that Dowan’s technical capabilities stink.

If not, why are Members of Parliament up and arms?

I don’t like everything about America. Likewise, I don’t like everything about Tanzania. But at least for now, I can tell you that Americans recognize that fools are those who do foolish things, regardless of the social position, bank account balance, age, gender, etc. I am yet to find a reason to not to regard these people who conducted a “technical inspection” in a non-technical way as fools.

If there were a pill that folks could take to transform their minds, I would have supplied that in Tanzania long time ago. Seriously.

16 comments:

Patrick GK said...

Metty,

Well, what the ministry officials did was just a "visual examination" of the equipment, hardly due diligence if you ask me.

I wonder what their explanation for not doing any tests is! And I wonder whether any explanation towards that end would be justified!

Well, let me keep on wondering...

Jaduong Metty said...

Patrick,

I couldn't stop and wonder about the same thing. I mean, it makes me doubt whether anybody is ever serious in the Tanzanian government.

If I have to be honest, this is was just an indication that we are still miles away from progress.

And I will keep pounding this idea: we are as good as our thinking is. Thus far, our thinking stinketh.

Anonymous said...

Mjinga haambiwi maana
Muiga Tembo Kunya hupasuka msamba
Elimu ni bahari kila mtu ana yake
Kikulacho ki nguoni mwako

Kaeni huko ulaya mjenge kasumba zenu na kuhusudu utamaduni wa kina ngoswe, wee kama ni mmakonde ni mmakonde tu hata kama hujachanja uso, tukuza umakonde wako, hamna haja ya kukandia culture za watu, we don`t have a stupid culture or a culture that entertain stupidity. If you wanna talk about corruption, talk about corruption, i don`t see where culture plays part in your story. What do you understand by culture?

Watu waongo wajinga vichaa wapo katika kila nchi, hakuna cha marekani wala ulaya, wezi na waongo wapo kila mahali. Kama mtu ni mjinga ukimuita mjinga umemsaidia nini? Kama hao wamarekani wanaipeana ukweli si kwa kila jambo wapo walio wanafiki kwa sana tu. Binadamu ni binadamu popote pale alipo, Huko ulipo zipo stori nyingi tu za ubadhirifu, utapeli, na uhuni wa kila aina. Hamna pande ya dunia ilio bora kuliko nyingine ni wanadamu tu wanajidanganya na hisia zao potofu kuhusu ubora wa maisha na hali ya maisha.

Wahenga walisema njia a muongo ni fupi
Mla nawe hafi nawi bomu likilipuka anakuachia mwenyewe!
Zimwi likujualo halikuli likakwisha!
Wahenga wetu ni majiniasi kuliko hao majiniasi mlio nao huko ulaya kwenu kwenye utamaduni wa maana. Vijana mnapenda maendeleo ya nchi yenu lakini mko too critical of your own motherland, why don`t you come down here and show us what you have got to offer this nation? The nation can not offer you anything that you would appreciate, show us your guts, come over, stay in the village and use your education to bring prosperity. After that you can go and hang out at the beach of your choice, you can not expect too much by putting garbage in, garbage in garbage out.
To build our nation, we don`t need to borrow brains or change the way we think, there is nothing wrong with the way people think or do things in Africa. They can be very productive and feel proud with their culture, however different they are.

This is what we can learn and act on it;

India is good in service industry and China is good in manufacturing industry. By working with Indians and Chinese we can gain how to turn things around in both sectors which are doing poorly right now, We have so many people who were educated in China and India. Those people who were educated in Asia, can start businesses and work together, those people who were educated in Europe can start business and work together, and those people who were educated in America can start business and work together. by doing that we`ll create a field of competition for talents and see who are capable of bringing real progress. Those who never went to India, China, UK or US will form a different group, and those who went to other countries like Japan, Germany, SouthAfrica, Mauritius, will form another group. There`ll be about six to ten different groups competing to bring change in Tanzania, andc later in Africa.
I hate when you people stay over there like you are in jail and not realizing that you are still acting like slaves, because, you feel you have a false freedom to pursue you dreams and happiness. The truth is you are not, you are just another sucker in another land, driving a better car living in a better house but poor! Too bad!

Anonymous said...

Umeme, is a problem, but just a short term problem when serious people get into business, all these stories that make every one sad will disappear. Who should start acting? Don`t ever feel inadequate to get started, once you get an idea, organize yourself and start acting on it, organize other people, and move on. Show some leadership skills yourself, don`t point finger to nobody, they`ll notice you are existing by your actions. Actions speak louder than words.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anonymous 2:25 PM
It appears that my post rubbed you the wrong way. Could it be the reference I made about the American culture?

My central theme, and I would repeat - is to just challenge the way we think and do things. That is culture. Unfortunately, you have reduce culture to language, marriage ceremonies, and traditional dances.

Very unfortunately, you think that we don't need to change the way we think and do things in Africa. Would you rather borrow someone's money than their mind? If don't need to change they way we think and do things, why do you suggest that we LEARN from China and India? (By the way, learning leads to the transformation of the mind, which eventually changes one's cause of action)

You have the right to your opinion, but my position is very clear. YOU ARE AS YOU THINK. We stink in Africa because our thinking stinks. And there are plenty of examples to justify my stand.

I don't think there is anything wrong criticizing those in power. They chose to lead. And it is my right to give them feedback. The problem is, those folks, do not like to be told the truth. Case in point: HakiElimu, an NGO that is doing a great job, just got canned for what? Telling the truth?

I need to be convinced the failure to solve power problems in Tanzania in an intelligent way is equivalent to brilliance. I need to be convinced that that was the best Tanzanian govt could do.

Just a point of clarification: When folks in the Diaspora challenge what we do in Africa, it should be understood that we do that out of love for the Continent. Too bad it seems to some people that "tunajionesha".

Besides, what is the point of sending a brother to study abroad an expect them to come back and be the same? Si wangebaki tu Bongo basi ?

Patrick GK said...

At annonymous 2:25pm,

Looks like you had a point but then your emotions got in the way and you took off on an unnecessary ad hominem rampage.

When you finally got yourself together you basically said the same thing Metty's been saying all along; that we need to learn from others who've done and that my patriotic friend is nothing short of changing one's thinking, wouldn't you agree?

aulelia said...

do you guys think there is hope for the tanzanian government with kikwete in charge or will we suffer with tribalism?

finally glad to see a tanzanian blogger around!!

Anonymous said...

You don`t learn to transform the way you think, as the way you think is influenced by a number of factors including genetical, cultural, historical, social and economic status,and so forth. If my family send me to Oxford and Harvard to learn, they don`t need me to lose myself completely. I totally challenge the narrow view of the way africans think. You can use your mind to transfer or transport knowledge and broaden your horizon. I disagree that Africans have to change the way they look at things as they are unique people just like the Jews or Arabs or Europeans. You don`t go to West to be westernized, if you are I would consider it a personal loss.
It sounds like some folks in here are not proposing tangible ideas or plans but criticize some factors without adequate or valid analysis.

Anonymous said...

There is no general way that people do things in Africa. We should stop making assumptions that have no legs and then make conclusions based on poor assumptions. African is an extremely diversed continent, you can never generalize how those people think and ask them to change. You would perhaps be right, if you was advising one person. On average all Africans don`t think the same way. If you have learnt that concept somewhere, it is a very myopic view. It is a very prejudiced way of looking at the continent and its people. Please, if you are trying to analyze issues make sure you are equipped with necessary tools.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Aulelia
It is hard to say that the presence of Kikwete will change Tanzania that much. That is due to the fact that he is still operating under the CCM culture and the Tanzanian culture in general.

I'm yet to see him stand out as a new thinker. The fact that he recycled some ineffective ministers and failed to handle the RDC issue effectively draws me to believe that we still have a long way to go.

@Anonymous 1:21 PM
I can understand your argument. We don't need to change who we are as the people - but we need to change our focus and approach to certain things as environment changes.

The Chinese are still Chinese and Indians are still Indians - but they made a fundamental change in their approach to economic progress and we can see the difference. That's the change we are talking about. If a change in attitude is required, then your skin color or cultural orientation doesn't really matter.

As I said before, I don't like everything about America, likewise, I don't like everything about Tanzania. Challenging the way things are done in Tanzania through the learning I acquired in America doesn't make me a traitor.

Anonymous said...

African thinking stinks? What is the evidence? How can you arrive to such an idea? What is is your flow of thought and process of coming to that irrational,illogical, and unemotional conclusion?
You should honestly apologize on your blog to the African people if you care about earning their respect now and in the future.

Anonymous said...

Folks in the Diaspora are okay in their own terms, beliefs, and reasoning. Very few of them have shown they can do something for their countries and stop the talk.
How can they help the poor people and reduce poverty or just create employment in their own villages?
Too much talk is nothing but talk, how can you jump into criticizing big issues before showing an example at least at the village level? Have you guys in Diaspora tried to orgize yourselves and help in any way to improve quality of village life before jumping to Dar es Salaam life? Try to use your knowledge wisely if you have real knowledge. Never get transformed and try to transform people, Your originality of thought matters a lot even in the western world. Don`t be copycats. Learn but question what you learn no matter what. I never said we should transform and become like chinese or Indians, I sai d we should be ourselves but learn to be competitive with Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and who ever appers to have made some good progress and advancement in the economy, that is what I said. Learning from Chinese is not equal to transforming the way you think and become like them, What if they fail, how many times would you have to make those mental transformations? Aren`t those inferiority complexes? Please, let Africans be Africans.

Anonymous said...

Metty, you have not defended your original position by saying that, Chinese are still Chinese but they have made their fundalmental approach to economic progress.
Can you briefly explain what fundalmental approach would be appropriate for Tanzania and how it can be implemented rather than criticizing Tanzania`s culture? And by the way what is Tanzania culture? We all understand how unique people from the North South East and West are.
Mzaramo, Mnyakyusa, Mchaga,Mzigua,Mpare, Msukuma, Mngoni, Mhehe unamweka vipi katika culture ya Watanzania?

SIMON KITURURU said...

@All.thanks! I think U all got a point.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anonymous 1:34PM
I greatly appreciate your challenge. That is what this blog is all about. Nonetheless, it appears that you missed the context in which I am speaking. As I writer I have the freedom of choice as far as my writing voice. I can select to talk in specific terms or general terms. I would think as a reader you could be able to discern that. Unfortunately you didn’t.

I have written more than 50 blog posts. Some of which are general and some specific. So if you want specific incidences to back my arguments, why don’t you kindly review my previous posts and judge for yourself?

From your comments, I am gathering that you think I am less of an African than you are. The truth is, I am as African as you are (I am working on the assumption that you are truly African). The only difference is that I chose to do a little self-introspection. It is unfortunate that you think simply because I am challenging our African thinking and ways of doing things, then I am less of an African. That, in its self, is a weaker mode of thinking. If I have to apologize to African people, then what does that make me? An American?

Furthermore, why don’t you present arguments (in the context in which we are having this discussion) as to why you believe the African thinking and ways of doing things is just fine?

@Anonymous 1:52PM
Most folks underestimate the contribution of Tanzanians/Africans in the Diaspora. Let me paint a picture for you. My mom lives in Tarime, Tanzania. I send her a minimum of $100 monthly. You know what she does with the money? She buys meat, fish, firewood, etc. The meat supplier then buys kerosene, etc. The point is this: the few bucks I send to my mom ends up circulating in the Tanzanian economy. Try to imagine the number of Tanzanians in the Diaspora and you will get a true picture of their contribution. The problem is that most people hardly take a critical look at issues. I am as active in the Tanzanian economy as anybody else.

We could be saying the same thing, but it appears the choice of words is getting on the way. Changing or transforming is essentially the same thing. I never said that we should be like anybody. My call is that we should change or transform our thinking. If such a change will come through borrowing knowledge from someone, let’s do it. I am not suggesting that Africans forgo their cultural norms, but we can surely get away with corruption and lack of accountability.

In one of my blog posts, I once said that African problem is very simple: We have failed to define where we want to go and how we want to get there. By calling for a change in thinking, I am not limiting that to learning from the Chinese or Germans. I am not even limiting that to Africa’s own version of change. But one thing is sure – Africa must make a paradigm shift very quick in order for the Continent to make progress.

@Anonymous 2:12PM
It is unfortunate you have reduced culture to very limited aspects of the word. Let me help. In addition to the word meaning values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions that a group of people, who are unified by race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion, the word also mean the accumulated habits, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people that define for them their general behavior and way of life; the total set of learned activities of a people.

You can decide to be specific or general when discussing issues. For instance, the GENERAL notion that folks have about Chaggas in Tanzania is that they love money. But is that true for every Chagga? Absolutely not. Americans are generally known to be selfish, but that does not apply to each specific American. The point is this: If I have to write my article in specifics, I will end up having over 38 million articles, each for every Tanzanian. You will agree that is impractical.

By looking at the context in which I was speaking, you can tell that I wasn’t referring to traditional dances, but the later aspect of the word culture.

You challenged me to come up with a fundamental approach that Tanzania needs to make. I can give you one to start with. Accountability should be introduced. For instance, Dr. Msabaha messes up in one ministry, and then gets recycled to another. Do you think that would ever happen in the United States of America? Don’t you agree that a fundamental shift must happen with regards to the way we view leaders’ responsibilities?

You can argue that this purely politics. But it is politics with an economic impact. We can go out and lure investors. The fact of the matter is that foreign investors do their homework. By now, everybody around the globe understands that you can get away with irresponsibility in Tanzania. The consequence of such irresponsibility is power rationing for over 6 months. Don’t you think that accepting irresponsibility is a stinking thinking mode that needs to be changed?

Maiki said...

Anonymous!

I like your quote: "I hate when you people stay over there like you are in jail and not realizing that you are still acting like slaves, because, you feel you have a false freedom to pursue you dreams and happiness. The truth is you are not, you are just another sucker in another land, driving a better car living in a better house but poor! Too bad!"

Yes..that is a very honest statement from a very brilliant mwananchi...remember..."As a man thinketh, so he is." I say so because the above quote represents the THINKING of the common mwananchi!! No wonder we are in great need for a renewing of our minds.

NEED I SAY MORE?????