I am not a psychologist, so if I get some of the concepts wrong in this reflection, I am welcoming those who are experts in the field of psychology to help out by correcting me. In the end, my objective is for all us to grow and learn.
What has prompted me to write on this piece is my observation of the way most Tanzanians, including my very own relatives, tends to attribute their issues and problems to some external factors. Hardly do you come across a person who is willing and humbly ready to take ownership of their state of affairs. Everyone is just almost always on the lookout for that mchawi out there.
Unfortunately, our political leaders are not exempted. I have hardly come across an African leader who is ready to take an inventory of Africans’ own doing. You are more than likely to hear the old and tired rhetoric, such as how badly the white folks are exploiting Africa and how Africa could have been developed if it wasn’t for colonialism. You know the usual junk that flows, like river Nile, from the mouths of the so-called African leaders.
Well, I know that colonialism wasn’t the best thing that happened to Africa. But that Africans are not the only people that were colonized. History attests to that. I also think that it is crazy to blame the West for exploitation of Africa, while the same Africans are exploiting each other. So I threw this challenge out - to what extent should we blame Africa’s problems to external factors and to what degree should we attribute the Continent’s woes to self-destruction?
Guess what? No one has ever given me a response to that.
And I am not surprised. That is because responding to that question requires self introspection. Not in Ghana, not in Zambia, not in Tanzania, would you find a typical African willing to take a closer look inside. And that is where the biggest Africa’s problems lie. We are very afraid of ourselves, because what we see inside is not pretty. So we find a comfort zone is singing the same old songs.
But let me just speak to my peeps – Tanzanians.
Shifting or projecting of our problems to external factors diminishes a sense of personal responsibility. And I am not crazy for saying that. The fact that our president would proudly regard his trips abroad as a success simply because he secured some donor funds proves my point. The beggar’s mentality, which I have address in this very blog, is just an outcome of lack of self introspection and a sense of personal responsibility. If the government is not setting up realistic goals on when to end donor dependency, that tells a lot about our character and the desire for personal responsibility. It is very sad that we derive more satisfaction from what others do for us than the best we can do for ourselves.
Lack of introspection has also made Tanzanians reactive. I stand to be corrected, but I don’t see any indication that Tanzanians are proactive. That is because lack of introspection leads to a victim mentality. The victim mentality makes one feel that whatever happens to them is attributed to someone or something out there and not self. The worst part is that the victim mentality does not encourage the assumption of a leadership position. You can never be a leader (in politics, science, sports, etc) if all you do is wait for something bad to happen to you (giving you a reason to throw a pity party) or something good to be handed to you (giving you a reason to feel accepted).
Because Tanzanians, and most Africans for that matter, tend to glorify the victim mentality, it has become very difficult to identify and focus on their unique strengths and potential. You know what? Everyone faces obstacles and opposition. The world is a competitive place. Nothing comes for free and only those determined enough gets the prize. Most winners, however, focus on their strength while minimizing their weaknesses. The reality is that you can never fully identify and exploit your strength if you don’t know who you are. And discovering self requires plenty of introspection.
At the very end of the day, lack of self introspection brings down a very damning outcome, and that is lack of development. And this is not only at a national level, but also on a personal level. Progress and development requires adaptation to changing environment and boldly taking a lead in setting the future trends. Taking those steps is impossible if you think that your circumstance is controlled by someone else.
See, what introspection does is to give us an opportunity to connect our failures or success to our mindset, attitudes, strategies, tactics, tendencies, etc. All successful people do that. I know that most Tanzanians are quick to conclude, typically without concrete evidence or wrong political ideas, that problems in Bongoland are attributed to some evil wazungu. That is not entirely true. I think we should all look inside before we step out looking for that mchawi, because our enemy in most cases is ourselves.
How big is the problem of lack of introspection in Tanzania? It is humongous. Just read
this article .
Why in the world would the Tanzanian government be offended by the delay of donor funds? When was the last time beggars had any rights? That, amigo, underscores the fact that we can’t even be ashamed. Shame, of course, comes when we can look at ourselves and know that we messed up. When we justify shameful things, we are either stupid, insensitive, or we are just not from this world.
May be self introspection is also a sign of intelligence. If that is the case, then, oh well.