How we rise and fall

How we rise and fall

Met a friend I have known from the first days I spent living in the city, where the simple village boy soon transforms into a hetero-metro-sexual man as per the classification of the modern times. This is the type of man focused on the practice of grooming one’s self according to the basic requirements of the city where appearances are everything for those that instinctively need to assert their identity, that is, those who have their hands and fingernails manicured, and their feet and toenails pedicured.
Alien in nature but simply adopted for the sake of not standing out from the crowd, through that simple social process called fitting in, the village boy becomes a different individual soon as they reach the peripheries of the city: instincts kick in and tell him that, “this is the city!

Be of the city/in the city”. My friend used to own such a place where men and women of the city would go to groom their selves (well before this age of ‘selfies’…the man in the mirror was the ‘selfie’ of age back then), and the place (his salon) was full all the time, him being a celebrity groomer of some sort in having an edge of pedigree amongst the first-class citizens of the city.
The reality we share living in the city is that there is the constant ‘rise and fall,’ ‘fall and rise’ movement that means that one should always hold on tight to their dreams if they want the propensity to succeed to stay constant in one’s mind.

This degree of constance in terms of focusing on one’s goals is reflected as the hope to reach one’s goals. If one lets go even for a second, then their dream is bound to be lost to others where the vain declaration that “so and so stole my idea…”, or to the winds of time where the answer comes in the form of a weak, “I fell on hard times…” become the regular speech one makes on a daily basis after the failure.

It is the wisest move not to obey the sinkhole theories of a more tepid age in the past where the world could afford to live at a snail’s pace because they understood their technologies fairly well enough not to be bothered by them to the point where they would have to rush just to feel normal.
The reality of the present times is that one should stay more up than down if they are to succeed in whatever endeavours they may choose to undertake either in the natural call of nature to fill the belly for the sustenance of one or to busy the body for reasons of good health.

To succeed in the broad sense termed as ‘life in the city,’ one has to believe in not sleeping before they reach their dream.
The pursuit of ‘Happyness’ as adopted by the more ‘cultured’ of the colonised masses of the early days meant losing one’s freedom as found in the sedentary life of the traditional village, for the more upbeat life of the ‘modern’ man living in the streets and walking up and down the avenues of the city.
The poor knowledge was that life living in the city was faster, largely due to the requirements of the ‘industry,’ that unceasing human activity where one has to be busy for the sake of being able to deliver services and to attend to the needs of the clients and customers.

This quality means that life in the city never actually reaches a point of pure standstill (total rest), but is always in some way on a movement towards some point or destiny. For the individual that wittingly or unbeknownst has to live within the confines of the city, there is no escaping the clutch of the city ways and patterns that constantly demand that one should be on the move if they are to eke a reasonable standard of living.

The movement should be constant and one should learn to adjust to its ways, both in hesitation and in haste to suit the time demands of the task at hand. Failure to adopt this pattern means that one soon finds themselves lagging behind in terms of time and achievement.

The concrete jungle Bob Marley and the Wailers sing of becomes a reality one lives with on a daily or most days basis, grabbing a cab there and catching a bus here on the various journeys and excursions between home and work, home and the city, home and the pub, home and the park where we stroll.
These are different scenes of the city where home is the point A and the other space is a point B on many of the days. The movement is as sure as that of the door on its hinges, most of the time never-changing, punctuated only by the odd holiday or leave that comes on a rare occasion.

Other than this, the grind goes on and on and on until one has to be accompanied to the graveyard for their final moment of rest. I am in love with the life of the city, the very hub of economic activity in any given state, the cauldron where the brave make it through the hardest of the circumstances and the cowards fall by the wayside to languish in some karara pub where the patrons quaff endless Babatons of the potent hops brew spiked with battery acid and such other chemicals that have the drinker grow fine down on their faces and cook the liver to the point where the drinker hobbles around with a yellowed skin and browned teeth.

Of the struggles in the city, a million pages have been written on how they come and so, I choose not to beat this dead dog of a story but rather, I choose to trace the trajectory of how one rises from being a zero to being a hero, and also how we possibly end up being a zero again after attaining the coveted status of being called heroes. At the root of this is the incessant spirit of colonially inculcated habit or behaviour: competition for everything, over everything.

The city forces one to be on a constant competition mode, to fight for the scraps the plebeian masses receive from the capitalist feudal lords. It is a mean excursion, and those that make it are actually just plain lucky or are so stubborn that they do not give in even under the most challenging of circumstances.
These are the ones that survive the effects of the PHD (Pull Him/Her Down) syndrome that plagues the continent; one is never safe if they succeed, for there is always some visible or invisible clique of PHD’s that is plotting one’s downfall that one should be wary of.

As a nation, we are often too polite when it comes to addressing issues that affect us negatively, for example; there has never been diligent effort to deal with the unsavoury repercussions of poverty, unemployment and disease on a forum level.

What one sees are campaigns that far often than less seem to polish the countenance of the campaign leader rather than address the real long term effects of the scourges plaguing the society. The campaigns are well and good and the intentions behind them are honourable enough, but the fact of the matter is that they do not provide needed long-term solutions to the problems that are prevalent in different societies across the continent.

My friend is a living example of how different governments that ruled this state in the past 52 years of independence have never actually understood the power of supporting those exceptional individuals that have the entrepreneurial spirit. These figures actually give people jobs and their success is the success of many, as is their failure which brings down a lot of people if their businesses fail. There has always been the misconstrued assertion that state control of business will garner success for the larger economy, but the truth is that government is lacking in terms of policy and infrastructure to address the challenges of small businesses.

Many individuals have started businesses and registered them legally, but the businesses fail due to the fact that the taxman’s hand is too heavy on them, and there is often no education or information on how such businesses can get the needed support from the relevant authorities in government.

A salon is seen just as that, a salon where ‘women’ go to get their hair and nails done and its bigger impact in terms of providing relief to the larger economy seen through such a business’s employment of different specialists in the beauty industry is not acknowledged.

Though it is an everyday effort to run a small business, it is however a sad reality that such a business is not seen as an industry good enough to be given relevant tax relief and support in terms of funding from the government.

The amounts given as help are in many instances an insult if one is to be truthful to the basic needs of running a business. Without needed financial support, business soon falls and the people employed in it lose their jobs.

How one builds a business from scratch to the point where it becomes the talk of the town, only for such a business to fall to the status where the owner has to look for employment elsewhere means that there is actually no concern on the part of the ruling authorities for the welfare of small businesses.

That colonial spirit that excludes locally produced products and services on the basis of their political affiliation, caste, or class is what actually pulls this continent backwards in terms of progress.
Africans have an affinity to consuming what is not manufactured by them, and this means that they are always looking outwards when it comes to selecting products to consume. This kind of practice boosts foreign business at the expense of the local businesses that often have to deal with red-tape and subtle sanctions which hamper their progress in terms of output and influence.
We buy products from lands that are actually not meant to see us progress but actually enforce the spirit of perpetual economic dependency.

Having to depend means that we shall never actually be free economically even though we claim to be independent. Africa shall only gain its true independence soon as it realises the power of supporting local business on the part of the government-sponsored economic empowerment programmes.

That there are people you and I know who have been selling tasty food on the street for ages in a shoddy mkhukhu who have not advanced to the level of actually owning a decent stall. This means that we are not aware of the potential such businesses carry in terms of employing people, or that we have given in to the spirit of economic hopelessness.
We fail because we do not believe in what we see, we fail because we do not acknowledge honest effort and give it support, and we fail because colonially influenced jealousy actually turns us against each other.

Where one opens a stall that sells popcorn soon turns out to be a place of unnecessary competition, because one finds themselves surrounded by a crowd of others selling the same product one is peddling.

The basic argument is that there is no marked territory and everyone is therefore entitled to sell whatever it is they want to sell, meaning that they can just barge in on one’s territory and sell the same exact product one is selling.

This concrete jungle mentality kills the spirit of business diversity, because ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes the credo and those businesses that actually began based on the need to get out of the clutches of unemployment end up going under due to foolish competition from individuals that hijack ideas and projects.
We fail and fall because we are at the most basic still colonised, ruled by autocratic governments that never actually consult with small business pioneers but are quick to impose laws on how small businesses should be run.

These small businesses are actually the lifeline that feeds the masses on a daily basis, providing the larger economy the needed relief that enables the government to focus on larger long-term projects. A 2009 article on Thomas Sankara by Demba Moussa Dembele states that Sankara said:

“I think the most important thing is to bring the people to a point where they have self-confidence, and understand that they can, at last . . . be the authors of their own wellbeing.”

I think it is wrong to meet a once-thriving businessman poor on a Sunday morning, and I believe it is wrong for any government to impose laws on the weak just so that autocratic policies that serve one side of society can be implemented.

It is the government’s responsibility to see to the success of the small businesses in the state: unless such a government is made of jackals in sheepskins. Support the small man if we are to rise out of the mires of poverty into which we fell over the long colonial years.

By: Tšepiso S Mothibi

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