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.