Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It Is 1636...

It is 1636. What do you think your great, great, great, great, great grandfather is doing in the remote parts of Usambara? I would just let you use your imagination.

While your great, great, great, great, great grandpa or grandma is doing whatever he or she is doing, just know that there are people in the other parts of the world attending formal classes and pursuing formal education. That is a fact. Just think about that.

According to Harvard’s website, this institution was established in 1636, 16 years after the arrival of Pilgrims in Plymouth. I have heard so much about Pilgrims, especially around Thanksgiving, so I had to dig a bit of the American history for my benefit and the benefits of my readers.

Also, my search on Wikipedia found that Pilgrims is the name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their leadership came from a religious congregation who had fled a volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm of Holland in the Netherlands to preserve their religion. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The colonists faced a lengthy series of challenges, from bureaucracy, impatient investors and internal conflicts to sabotage, storms, disease,and uncertain relations with the indigenous people. The colony, established in 1620, became the second successful settlement in what was to become the United States of America, the first being Jamestown, Virginia which was founded in 1607. Their story has become a central theme in United States cultural identity.

What is my point? My point is this: as Tanzanians we have to acknowledge the fact that there have been other societies and cultures that were and are still ahead of us. These cultures and societies have set up an environment for full utilization of all the capabilities and potential that God has endowed to human beings.

My objective is not to make us feel inferior because of that historical fact, but to make us think a little bit. I am convinced that we (society as a whole) do certain things because we hardly stop to think about life beyond our immediate need for food and shelter. It is not that thinking about immediate needs is a bad thing, but remaining at that level is just too low for the mental capabilities that we have.

I have not come across any research that has proven that people of the Negroid nature are naturally stupid compared to their Caucasian or Asian counterparts. The problem, therefore, has to do with the environment. Given one’s setting influences their perception, understanding and interpretation of life situations, nothing can change unless one is equipped with a new way of looking at life. I am convinced that the majority of Africans, and Tanzanians in particular, are still stuck in the world of 1636.

The above sentence is not meant to be demeaning. It is meant to highlight the fact that most folks are still making decisions based on cultural references. I know of that fact because I have relatives who have not been blessed to have certain academic and general life experiences. As such, their decision-making process is always been based on some cultural references, and not based on critical thinking. As such, as the environment changes, these folks are still stuck in the same, old thinking mode.

I strongly believe that one of the best ways one can be equipped with a new way of looking at life is to be educated. It is true that getting educated can get a nice job, but the most important aspect is the mental transformation that one goes through. Certainly, there is a clear correlation between the number of educated people in a society and the developmental level of that society.

This is my contention: regardless of the number of policies and strategies that the Tanzanian government would come up with, it would be very difficult for an average Tanzanian to benefit from them, given that the thinking and understanding level of a common Tanzania has not been transformed. Besides, when a society is educated, the government would not need to hawk the entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation and ingenuity will spring and ooze of society as the mental faculties are stimulated.

You don’t have to go far to tell that the Tanzania society (generally speaking) is still at a very the low level intellectually. Just look at how the society has failed to contain cholera. So what makes us think we can fully comprehend complex global issues? We can’t go back and create our Harvard in 1636. Nonetheless, we need to catch up quickly.

Just do a quick census in Tanzania. What percentage of the population do you think hold a university degree, 2%, or 5%? Think about that for a minute. So let the CCM folks go ahead with their Vision 2025, but the Tanzanian society will only change when the minds of the people are transformed and enlightened.

It is 2007, but I wonder if much has changed for the entire Tanzanian society compared to 1636. Think I am kidding? Just read this old story from Tanzania Daima. Or just for fun, muse with me on this old post of mine.

Photo credit: Mjengwa.

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