Thursday, February 15, 2007

It Is All In The Mind...(2)


I have tried to explain why I write. Unfortunately, it is appears that some folks have not fully grasped it. So I will go on record again: I don’t write for fame. I don’t like to be paid. I don’t like to get recognition. I write simply because this is something that I feel is a calling. It is a noble calling that I have to fulfill.

As I also said it, I don’t write because I have all the answers. I greatly appreciate comments from readers. Those comments balance my thinking and provide the other side of the coin that I might have overlooked. Had I been dictatorial, I would have been deleting those comments that oppose my views. But I strive for democracy and I would not do that.

So let the best idea win.

Given the long string of comments that have been flowing through the last post, I will extend the discussion in a whole new post. So this post will be a response to the issues raised by a contributor, Dr. Anonymous who said this:

There are over 1,000,000 of problems in Tanzania depending on how you will choose to classify them. The issues of extreme poverty, unemployement, and low output are the ones deserving immediate attention because their solutions would help to raise the standard of living, quality of life, and level of democracy.”

I don’t think so.

Honestly, I have to commend Dr. Anonymous for trying, but those are symptoms or results of an underlying deeper problem.

Let’s take poverty for instance. It is undeniably true that Tanzania has plenty of resources. If that is the case, what is the issue then? The issue is the Tanzanian inability to utilize the resources to improve lives. So when we talk about lack of ability, we are not talking about physical strength here, we are talking about lack of deliberate policies, strategies, discipline, and the attitude to make things happen. Those are issue of the mind. Those are issues that are tied to our thinking.

Right thinking always lead to right actions. You can’t tell me that a government that would rather spend billions on expensive cars instead of improving health care and agriculture is serious and thinking right. A stupid person would always paint a falling house colorfully instead of strengthening the foundation. Our government, in a clear sign of stupidity, has always done something similar to that. If “kilimo ni uti wa mgongo wa taifa" (in this case the house foundation), wouldn’t you do everything you can to strengthen that? Why do we still have hunger despite a huge arable land?

Hear this: I once had a conversation with a guy who has been in the Tanzanian government for a long time. He came to the United States to visit his son. In the conversation, he happened to say this: "Unajua, wanasema bonde la Kilombero linatosha kabisa kuzalisha mpunga wa kulisha nchi nzima". And I said to myself, why isn't Tanzanian government exploring and fully utilizing that potential then?

Tanzania has been a recipient of donor monies for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, about 40% of our budget depends on donor funds. The major question is what have we done with the money. The core question is how we have utilized those resources to better ourselves. The fact that billions of shillings are misappropriated by various ministries (that has been consistently the case in recent years according the Auditor General’s report) shows that we are far from having the right attitude and the right mind about accountability and seriousness in alleviating poverty. And that is the issue of the mind.

Let me give a true story to illuminate my point.

Over twenty (20) years ago, a certain American missionary in our small town sought donor funds and established a very cool irrigation system for the village. Since we lived close to Lake Victoria, the mzungu brought solar panes to power water pumps that would draw water from the lake. The irrigation program started with a few mission hospital employees, and the plan was to expand the program to other residents in the village.

As I recall, the irrigation plan ensured steady supply of stuff like rice, vegetables and fruits all year. As a matter fact, the project was so cool that Aboud Jumbe, by then the VP, visited the project resulting in a national attention. You would think folks appreciated what the mzungu did and that they would do everything to protect the investment, right?

Not really. A few and known young men in the village started to steal the solar panes. Despite the fact that everybody knew whom they were, no measures were taken to ensure that solar panes were recouped. Even worse, none of the were culprits severely penalized. I guess that is because none of the citizens spent their pennies to buy the solar panes and establish the irrigation system. Today, the thieves are still alive and kicking, but the irrigation project finally died. The mzungu gave up and is currently back to the United State of America.

The moral of the story is this: A person who cuts the hands that feeds them is stupid. What is really sad is that stories like this are numerous in Tanzania and we all can relate to them. Not only do ordinary citizens do that, government officials also cut off the hands that feed them.

So this is the question: would you pump more money in the village highlighted above or simply help them get rid of stupidity? Or better yet, do you think the problem in the village was lack of capital or lack of better attitude?

With a better attitude, this small village in the shores of Lake Victoria would have been asking this question: Hunger? Unemployment? What are you talking about? Instead, they fell back right where there were before the mzungu tried to show them the way.

It is all in the mind…whether we agree or not.

Photo: Mroki

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

That`s a big laugh Metty, you don`t think Extreme Poverty is a serious problem in Tanzania and other African countries?
Low out put is not a very serious problem?

What do you mean that they are just sypmtoms of the problems.

If a was interviewing you for a great job, I would not offer you a job at all. Something must be wrong.

Mbwana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mbwana said...

I think your example is an unfair one- but highlights that poverty and progress in Tanzania is a multifaceted problem- the reason the people stole the panels was because there are pressing issues that need to be addressed first.
Framing it another way, as a question- would Tanzania be ready if some benefactor donated a Nuclear power station that aimed to solve the country's power needs? Clearly not- TZ, although it might seem that it needs a power station, has many other issues related to power that need to be solved first before accepting the western solution. Similarly, all potential issues with regard to installing solar panels in the village need to addressed first, like will these solar panels tempt theft etc... in the village? Well meaning solutions from abroad can easily not fit a problem area. I'm sure more thought could have been given to solar installation that would have prevented the theft from occuring- or maybe the village was just not ready for it. Attitude is omporant bu we must remember that external aid has its problem- a lack of understanding of the fundamental issues pertaining to the area they are operating in.

Mashala said...

Metty this is my opinion.

Tatizo la kijiji ulicho kitaja, nitatizo linalo wakabili watanzania wengi kwa ujumla, and I will not call it stupidity, but fear of unknown and fear of change. Most of us don’t fill comfortable to move out of our comfort zone.

The main thing is not learning to avoid changes, fears, and bad experiences kama ya wana kijili ulicho kitaja and call it stupidity, but how to learn from them and how to widen our comfort zone so it will include change. It is crucial not to let problems overwhelm us, but instead learn from them and discover how to use them in our favor.

Sisi watanzania are often afraid of things that affect our existence in a negative way. The question we must ask ourselves is how to cure our fear of change?

Unless we try to do something beyond what we have already mastered, hatuta weza kuondo umasikini wetu kwa urahisi au kujenja demokrasia iliyo imara.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Mbwana
Thanks for paying a visit and I greatly appreciate your input.

I am sorry you were of the opinion that my example wasn’t fair, but as a first hand witness of the project, solar power supply was the only practical solution to the food problem in the village. So I was very, very fair. I can tell you this: Those folks stole the solar panels not because of any pressing issues. If you regard a need for quick money for booze a pressing issue, then I can just rest my case and quit blogging.

It is true that “lack of understanding of the fundamental issues pertaining to the area they (external aid) are operating in” could be problem, but we cannot take that as a blanket excuse. When the problem is lack of food and food is provided, we have to embrace that as intelligent people. Some solutions are no rocket science or complicated like Nuclear power.

I would be very afraid to term certain solutions “western” (unless you want to be very political). A solution is a solution. If it works and is practical, we have to go for it regardless of its origin. Besides, that is the reason we have international trade (comparative advantage anyone?). Some folks can do certain things better than others. That is the reality of the world we live in.

Setting aside the example I have given, what would you say about folks who steal and sabotage telephone lines? Would you say that Tanzania is not ready for telephones? What about Southern Tanzania folks who recently started sabotaging the Benjamin William Mkapa Bridge, despite the fact that they cried out for the bridge for a while? Would you say they weren’t ready for the bridge?

See, you can never justify poverty for acts that escalate poverty even deeper. You don’t kill fire by fueling it. If you do that you must be a very stupid individual. Not surprisingly though, we do that a lot in Tanzania. Funny enough, we find reasons to justify our stupidity (generally speaking).

This is my conviction: if Tanzanians need to advance, a change must occur in our attitude. We have to start rebuking stupidity, which has become sort of a norm. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility for lack of socio-economic progress in the country. Once we have done that, then we can start looking for other factors beyond our control. Unfortunately, we have left our attitude unchecked while we are running for other reasons.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Mashala
I know the word “stupid” is a trigger word, but I am using it deliberately to call a spade a spade (I'm sorry this blog is not politically correct)

Please tell me I am wrong. If you cut off the hands that are feeding you (and you are a normal human being), shouldn’t we be justified calling you stupid?

Please educate me on how that is even close to resisting change.

Hiza said...

“So this is the question: would you pump more money in the village highlighted above or simply help them get rid of stupidity? Or better yet, do you think the problem in the village was lack of capital or lack of better attitude?”

Metty, I still could’nt get here- so what is the problem? You put lots of mifano and history. The bottom line: Tanzania is facing two major issues: 1: Leadership. 2: Education. Most viongozi are looking to balloon their stomach. Most of the villagers are uneducated and Viongozi are supposed to show them on how to utilize available resources.

I will give an example from my home town Lushoto. WE have plenty of fruits, and most of these fruits are ending kuozeana due to luck of 1) market, 2) Electricity, 3) Initial Capital. Tell me who should we hold responsible? Is this “It is all in the mind”

Let me finish work- be back to see your comments.

Hiza

Patrick GK said...

One doesn't really need to look far for real life examples supporting the fact that "it is all in the mind"!

Once we start thinking right, we'll have the right attitudes and we'll naturally do the right things. And how does one start thinking right? Here is where I think the key is: Education.

Education, whether formal or informal will go a long way towards transforming one's mind, one's family and eventually the entire country.

I would venture to hazzard that the villagers(or should I say the culprits) did not know the importance of the solar panels as far as the sustainability of the irrigation project and its impact are concerned.

Maybe, just maybe, they were not educated on the need to maintain and preserve the project or maybe they were but thought, "hey this mzungu will bring other panels kwao zimejaa tele"

Now if the latter supposition is the case one would be hard pressed not to call them "stupid".

Maiki said...

The Third World is a state of mind. It is not a geographical place. It is not the plumbing in a man's house. The geographical place may be a stage for Third World living, and the plumbing may be a symptom of Third World limits.

The "Third World" itself though, if the metaphor is to be predictive at all, is a collection of designs for living -- that is, cultures -- which dominate the thinking of particular, critical masses of people.

There are quite diverse patterns of thinking, cultures, making up that class of phenomena we term the "Third World", but they have enough in common to form a rough category in opposition to the "Advanced World". Perhaps the defining characteristics are sets of self-imposed prohibitions, power structures, attitudes to change, work attitudes, views about scientific method (a way of thinking in itself), attitudes to technology, encouragement or restrictions on individual initiative, and a host of other psychological factors which define individual and group relationships to the wider world. The important thing is that this constellation of phenomena is "software", rather than the hardware of water pumps, ATM machines and trains that run on time.

In every culture, in every country, at every time in history, a very large number of people have the dominance of mental styles which I have labeled Third World. However in some countries and cultures, a sufficient number of people are empowered by more systematic, yet more liberated and adventurous modes of thinking. They are not necessarily morally "better" people, but they put their mental equipment to use in ways which generate more effective and adaptive results than the Third world paradigm allows. They create an "Advanced World" environment, sooner or later, wherever they happen to find themselves. If, by some misfortune, one of these "Advanced World" minds finds itself dumped on a patch of bare earth in a rusty tin hut with taps that leak, then he or she will find a way to fix the taps, paint the hut and plant a garden which is improved year by year.

Just as the so-called advanced states have (and always will have) significant numbers of people without the drive, initiative or mental agility to improve their environment, so also, very obviously, every state labelled Third World in popular estimation has (and always has had) an important minority with just those qualities needed to create an advanced state. Their tragedy is that the weight of communal opinion, authority and established practice in their culture blocks or undermines their potential.

There have been many models proposed and tested for bringing nations and cultures to a "developed status". Unfortunately, the bulk of these models have been built on the assumption that "developed status" equates with per capita income and the number of supermarkets per square kilometer. The practice of foreign aid, where it is not merely a blind by the donor for capturing markets, has largely worked by throwing buckets of cash at poor nations. I have spent a good part of my adult life in so-called developing nations, and seen the results of this idiocy.

The geographical Third World is now a mosaic of principalities and fiefdoms, controlled and exploited by an utterly corrupted class of comprador aid-parasites. This layer of indigenous aid-parasites, in their air conditioned Toyota Land Cruisers and villas with armed guards on the gate, filter contact of the local culture with the outside world. External capital inflows, governmental and private, pass through their hands. They do not believe that THEY have Third World minds. With visiting international dignitaries, they have a disarming and humble patter about the problems of their societies. Yet they are implacable enemies of real change in the communities which they dominate. Change would destroy their privileged position, and those local minds with the potential to create real social advancement are suppressed in the most brutal ways.

The problem with our country is that we have agreed to dwell on a "THIRD WORLD STATE OF MIND." Remember, "As a man thinketh so he is... period."

Anonymous said...

What should Tanzania do to succeed in liberalization of its agricultural sector, given that over 80% of its GDP comes from famers who are really financially unstable.


Hicho Kizungu alichokitolea mfano mzee Metty na kukasifia hakana mpango na hakana lolote.

Kibabaishaji tu, nawasifu sana hao watu wa hicho kijiji kwa kumwibia na kumfanya arudi kwao Marekani. Nani anapenda kunyanyasika? Eti anasaidia kulisha anamsaidia nani? Si kweli.

Abdu Jumbe na wenzake wote kina Nyerere na wengine wote walikuwa wanashindwa nini kutumia common sense hadi wakashange hako kazungu koko?

This is the issue that need more serious attention:

What should Tanzania and Tanzanians do to reduce the high volatility in the agricultural sector?

How can we/should we compete in prodcutvity with others using the agricultural sector as core our strength?

Low out put is a major problem that siginificanttly affect the speed of development and growth in Tanzania. For those who think it is just a symptom let them not diverge from discussing burning issues.

When people talk about social economic problems without pin pointing exactly what they mean by such lingo is pure nonsesne. be specific what kind of social economic problem that deserve the most attention other than Poverty and Unemployement?

High Unemployment rates and Extreme Poverty contributes to more than the following problems:
Violence,Crime,Ignorance,Poor health,Corruption,broken families,high dropouts rates of primary school, secondary and college education.

You don`t have to be white or black to be able to solve any problem. Problems solvers have no colors. So all black men/women and white men/women work together to solve human problems. I don`t care whether you are pink or yellow.

Again, farmers are supposed to have enough saved money to send their kids to college and even send them abroad if they want to. I wonder what went wrong in that sector especially in Tanzania and other African countries which depend on mining and agriculture?

Nigeria is one of the the exceptions because they have oil. Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya,Ghana,Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia can be given as examples of troubled economies.

If Nigeria has made some positive progress in liberazation of its agriculture and other sectors, why not Tanzania? Nigeria earned over billions of Dollas from AGOA. In Zimbabwe the inflation is over 1600%. Who is playing games here?

Anonymous said...

We can not depend on GDP as an effective measure of output, but it gives a rough picture of what`s cooking.

Anonymous said...

Be aware that recommending on changes that are not clear would increase failures and volatilities.

Specify what kind of change is needed. If you would say socio economic changes are needed or people should change how they think that is still not clear to anyone.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Hiza
I can’t argue against the importance of education and leadership. Those are key ingredients to making progress. But this is my take on both concepts.

Leaders do not live in isolation. Neither are they bred out of thin air. Leaders are part of a larger society. That being the case, it is safe to conclude that crappy leaders stem from a crappy society. That is due to the fact that leaders are supposed (ideally) to fulfill the societal vision. So the antidote of bad leadership is the transformation of the society itself. Obviously, they have been cases of exceptional leaders who have charted a new course for the society, but those are rare.

The pursuit of education is a personal responsibility. The government can build schools, but if kids drop out, there is little that government officials can do about that. The pursuit of education must be then stem from an individual’s drive and attitude. Which brings up back to the notion of the mind.

I like your example, but this is my take: your example makes the assumption that those Lushoto farmers are not responsible for solving their problems. Innovation does not require money; it requires the ability to think outside the box. The problem in the Tanzanian context is that we are afraid to be different. Let me ask you a question: when a farmer in Lushoto has sold their fruits and they have “plenty” of money, what do they typically do with the money?

@Anonymous 7:47AM
I am glad you brought the Nigeria and AGOA example, because it clearly tell the story. While other African countries jumped on the AGOA opportunity, Tanzania was almost the last country to do so.

The difference, as we have been discussing here, is our stinking attitude. We are too slow to act and too quick to point fingers at other factors.

We are not going anywhere unless we check our thinking and our attitude. Let's do that first and then start discussing external factors.

dmkarani said...

What I gather from postings here is that they constitute a LAMENT on account of our current sorry state of affairs. People have said that we need to re-think our way of doing things. Others have said that we have tons of brains in our country. Some want concrete, doable proposals in specific issues to improve our lot. All these are legitimate laments and need to be discussed seriously, but first things first.

When brain power, which I consider the most important assert of any nation in this age meet the need to re-think the way we conduct our affairs, the result will be progress emanating from good proposals. In other words, the painful discusion that we must go through before any good proposal arrives constitutes diagnosis of our current situation.

It follows, therefore, that those who want “ready”, good proposals to be put forward here will not find any! There is simply none, for we cannot look for answers before dwelling on the sources of our miseries! One said it right, that there could be a million distinct proposals, and that is the reason we need to be specific! I do not know if it is the same “anonymous” who said “there are geniuses here”, It is good that we have geniuses, but I suspect even them would not like the idea of a million different proposals! That is another way of saying that to improve our collective circumstances, we do not even need geniuses!

Yet another said the media (both old and new like blogging) does not have anything to do with societal transformation that we are LAMENTING about. Well, then, ladies an gentlemen, we have more to discuss that we bargained for!

Allow me if you may to quote at length JAMES ALLEN (Born late 19th century) “AS A MAN THINKETH”.

Quote

They themselves are the makers of themselves. By virtue of the thoughts they choose and encourage; that mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may have hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightment and happiness. All that man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts

Man is always the master, even in his weakest and most abandoned state; but in his weakness and degradation he is the foolish master who misgoverns his “household”. When he begins to reflect upon his condition, and to search diligently for the law upon which his being is established, then he becomes the wiser master, directing his energies with intelligence and fashioning his thoughts to fruitful issues.

Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit. Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.

In the light of this truth, what then, is the meaning of fighting against circumstances? It means that a man is continually revolting against an effect without, while all the time he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart. That cause may take the form of a conscious vice or an unconscious weakness; but whatever it is, it stubbornly retards the efforts of its possessor, and thus calls aloud for remedy
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.

The proof for this truth is in every person, and it therefore admits of easy investigation by systematic introspection and self analysis. Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.

A particular train of thought persisted in, be it god or bad, cannot fail to produce its results on the character and circumstances. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose hi thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.

A man can only rise, conquer, and achieve by lifting up his thoughts. He can only remain weak, and abject, and miserably by refusing to lift up his thoughts. Before a man can achieve anything, even in worldly things, he must lift his thoughts above slavish animal indulgence. Not having commenced manfully to control his thoughts, he is not in a position to control affairs and to adopt serious responsibilities.

In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. Chance is not. “Gifts”, powers, material, intellectual and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objectives accomplished, visions realized. The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart-this you will build your life by, this you will become.

End of Quote

Need I say more?

Perhaps we need to think carefully and develop an ideological orientaion which will guide us in our million proposals/projects so that we are, at the least, moving in the same direction. Some sort of coherence in our goals and expectaion; our way of thinking! Some way of viewing the distant nivarna where we are aspiring to be.

Maiki said...

dmkarani! I applaud your very well thought out post! I like this statement:

"In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. Chance is not. “Gifts”, powers, material, intellectual and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objectives accomplished, visions realized. The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart-this you will build your life by, this you will become."

You need not say more...it is a proven fact...."As a man thinketh, so he is!"

Mbwana said...

Metty- I am not aware of Bridge example- but I can certainly address the telephone lines one as down the same line of reasoning of not understanding the fundamentals issues or the effects of introducing a new policy. Back up a bit- why did people start sabotaging phone lines? Didn't they privatize an entity that eventually became TTCL and lay off many skilled workers who now suddenly had no income? Could they have anticipated that this would happen? It should come as no surprise that privatization of some 250 parastatals including areas in the telecommunication sector will bring about a strong reaction in a nation with a history of socialism. I happen to believe that the privatization policies were in the right direction, but not clearly thought out with regard to implementation. Those who sabotaged the phone lines were once skilled workers who were not taken into consideration more seriously during the privatization plan.
When I say "western" solutions, I mean that as Tanzanians, we must pay fuller attention to external aid and help we receive from the anyone outside our borders, most of these systems that get introduced to us may have not been designed for us in the first place. I am not saying that we should not use external help, of course comparative advantages mean that western countries indeed are better able to cater to some our needs in Tanzania- BUT we must scrutinize and ask whether a certain solution will effective address fundamental problems or in many cases not introduce new ones. A crude example- Italians make fine cars, better than tanzanians, but you would be crazy to buy a Ferrari and drive around Dar es Salaam, but a Toyota Land cruiser may be a better bet.
Solar panels sound like a good solution, and the person who introduced them there had good intention- but a bit more thought and care could have helped ensure they were not stolen- in the end Solar panels are expensive things- you cannot expect them to not get stolen if poorly un-guarded in village that is poor. I hope I have made my point- I am advocate of well thought out change plans, whether it come from within or external- create solutions that cater to attitudes and values we currently hold is better than introducing solutions that fail and blaming our attitudes. In the end Metty, I do believe our attitudes SHOULD and WILL change, just don't expect it over night.

Jaduong Metty said...

@dmkarani
It would be injustice to try being an expert and adding to anything you have said. I think the quote you have provided nails it!

@Mbwana,
Thanks for your input again. I am glad you recognize the fact that our attitude should change. That was my message and I am glad you grabbed that. I guess the difference between us is the timing of when that change should happen. And I personally believe the change should happen NOW. Otherwise, we’ll continue being exploited