Understanding how things work

Understanding how things work

Admission of ignorance or accepting as fact that one has insufficient knowledge with regard to a specific or given issue or entity is a sure sign of wisdom and a gateway to the basis of harmonious human interaction: understanding how things work.
In the past week, I came across a document chronicling the history of the medical profession in Lesotho after a brief talk I had had with Dr ‘Musi Mokete. This experienced doyen of Lesotho’s knowledge in terms of heritage and history also happens to be one of the pioneering members of The Friends of Morija Museum and Archives.

In one of the talks we have had on the history and heritage of this country the name of Dr Wilson T. M. Sebeta came up and I took the effort to find out who this figure is. He is the first Mosotho to receive a degree in medicine from the University of Edinburgh in 1915 and for all of his life served “his people faithfully at Mokhotlong,” until his death in the early 1930s.

This brought up the question in my mind: why is it that Lesotho is often looked down upon by other African states when it is in actual fact home to the pioneers of knowledge and understanding?
From Morena Moshoeshoe who pioneered reconciliation not only as a philosophy but actually conceptualised it from the level of theory into a practice that lives to this day, to Thomas Mofolo who wrote and published the first works in vernacular Sesotho in the ‘whole’ African continent starting in 1906 (Moeti oa Bochabela, Pitseng, Chaka and others).

Lesotho has pioneered a lot in terms of opening the gateways to knowledge in fact, but the catch comes when one has to understand why it lags behind in terms of economic development, health and social welfare, education. It does not make sense how one can be the first to step forward only to be the last at the end of the day.
The occurrence of this means that there was a certain gap in terms of the continuity of knowledge, that there is kind of leeching of the core concepts of the knowledge system one has begun by those that come to attain of its benefits.

If one state keeps on playing the role of the pioneer and being seen as a tree whose fruits and leaves can be taken without its roots being nourished, then such a tree shall with time become stunted and at the end of the day die of malnourishment. The death of a state stems not from lack of funds but from its citizens not understanding the true worth of their natural, cultural, and economic heritage.

That Basotho are at the most basic a welcoming nation should not mean that whoever comes into the land should adopt the attitude of the pilferer that smiles in their host’s face only to empty the kind host’s coffers and their kraals when the host is not looking or is unaware that their guests are actually finger smiths (pickpockets) bent on robbing them of whatever riches the host is unaware that they posses or do not know how to exploit them for the benefit of their vulnerable citizens and their children.

It is human to help those that come begging for help, but it is plain stupidity to let them do as they please on one’s turf. Émigrés and migrants are afforded the best care and help by this state’s ministries in terms of ensuring their comfort and well-being.
This has been the practice of the Basotho from Morena Moshoeshoe I’s time to the present day, but it does not make sense to me why we are at the present moment at a point where we have to bend to foreign will and terms as Basotho.

From the sale of water to South Africa, the legalisation of marijuana, the benefits of diamond and other mining, the sale of wool and mohair and other minerals, the massive losses in terms of human and natural resources, Lesotho is losing out on the benefits and the profits because there is in reality no effort to understand how things work.
I was knee-high to a grasshopper when Morena Leabua Jonathan was ousted in a coup, but I clearly remember how good the days were. Come 1993 and a new political era came in, and the best I have seen these past 25 years is regime change after regime change and the visions (2000, 2020, and the now fashionable but far off 2063) expressed are actually a muddled fudge that has no clear form.

How we shall reach any goal set without first understanding who we are and what we have in our coffers baffles me and those individuals I engage with in our talks and arguments.
Foreign aid is celebrated as the liberator of the economy, but the truth is that it comes with terms and conditions that are in reality to the benefit of the donor nation or company in the long term, and that Lesotho remains in perpertual debt or remains indebted to whoever offers aid, is largely because Lesotho does not understand that it is capable of starting things from scratch as it has done dozens of times in the course of the kingdom’s history.

If we had the first writers, scientists, printing presses, skilled labourers, and other professionals from as early as the mid-1800’s, why then do we have to rely on foreign aid and skills whilst our professionals languish in the clutches of unemployment? The answer is that we have a ruling class that does not understand the true worth of their possession in terms of natural and human resource.

The loss of the understanding of the benefit of rooted cultural identity leads to mental rot, the kind of rot that has a king believing that they are a pauper, and which ends up convincing a wealthy man that they have to learn the beggar’s language to conform or to sound politically correct.

In stark naked terms, the lack of the understanding leads to one losing their pride to the extent that they are willing to stand in line for hours to cross into a country where the citizens cannot build something as simple as a toilet out of their own pocket.

I crossed the Maseru/Ladybrand border on the weekend to accompany an elderly relative with their luggage across on a journey to Cape Town, and being number 10 in line, I thought I would be past the scanners and cameras in just 10 minutes.
It took me 43 minutes to get past the official with my passport and a fake smile. I was fuming, wondering why it was so easy to cross this border in the days of apartheid when it takes this long in these liberated days.

I wondered why our government is so silent on this clear case of discrimination for the masses. I have crossed into other lands via airports, and believe me it does not take this long to cross despite the scans, the x-rays, and the body searches one has to go through at those airport checkpoints. We suffer because we have a docile leadership that does not honour the idea of national sovereignty to the core.

It is the knowledge of the basic elements of an entity that aids in the understanding of its operation, for this manual or guidelines help one to fathom its depth and its breadth, and to know what steps to take to ensure that it performs at its full potential.
Without the knowledge of the basic patterns of operation, one stands to lose for they shall be stuck with a tool that does not work or cannot do the type of work for which it is intended or designed for. Being in possession of what others want to further their business interests naturally means one has the upper hand, and the basic rule of business lies in the question: what is in it for me?
One need not be apologetic about discussing these terms, and one need not wait ten years for the benefits to start rolling in, for in such an equation it means that one is either being cheated or being made a fool out of.

It does not make sense how Lesotho should be getting less than the investor in terms of rewards and the investor gets a lion’s share. This did not happen with the digging of oil wells in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

This does not happen with our fellow former British Protectorate Republic of Botswana whose people have taken it upon themselves to get the lion’s share out of the minerals mined from the soil of their land. Only Lesotho operates on a 25:75 percent basis whilst its unemployment levels are above 40 percent and the citizens live on less than a dollar a day.
It helps no one to be polite when the negotiators negotiate to one’s detriment and not to one’s benefit. Boasting about how smart we were whilst we reminisce in frayed collars and parched shoes only means that we are fools that have been bewitched with the beggar’s curse: for a beggar forgets that he too has hands with which they can fashion their dream to their own desire and expectation.

The moment one decides to beg instead of work, then whatever means to get out of the clutches of poverty that they have at their disposal lose meaning.
It is until some marauding stranger comes along and uses those same means available to the host that the host begins to realise their benefit, but as is the case with Lesotho, it is often too late for the one-sided terms to benefit of the stranger are already written and agreed upon.

This however does not mean that the terms cannot be revisited and rewritten. I was already past middle age when I realised that my teachers in school had taught me only of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus but had somehow forgot to teach me of Morena Mohlomi.
I from that moment took personal effort to understand my cultural roots, and with the advances I made in understanding these roots came the realisation of their true worth in making me a better individual and businessman.

With this realisation came a new understanding that the best tool I had in my keep was myself, that I did not have to depend on anyone to progress however slow it may seem in the sight of others that are watching (for they are always there watching, positively encouraging or negatively judging one’s progress).
Myself has my mind, myself has my hands and my feet, myself has courage to take on the hardest task without question, myself has enough resolution to guide me to an intended point of destiny or to reach a desired destination.

It does not matter how slow myself may seem, but the faith and the hope that I keep in my heart and soul urge me on.
This is one of the reasons why I take my time to understand how things work so that I can use them to full benefit. I have seen a thousand cowards flee to neighbouring South Africa to pursue careers after they have been taught by this land’s taxes. The basic argument is that there is better life in those filthy shanty towns and crime-infested suburbs.

I think not, for I know different, I have seen different: Lesotho is rich enough for all of us, the best we can do is give ourselves time to understand how a poor migrant from some far quarter of the world manages to gather millions of Maloti to invest back in their homeland whilst we sit watching and wondering.

This country is a beggar only because young women and men do not bother to understand how things work to the benefit of all the citizens senior and junior.
We cannot depend on the political or leader class for our emancipation for one basic reality glares: the leader class in this country are the products of colonial education and therefore, they will in more ways than one share the tendency to believe that the saviour will come from their colonial lords.

The expression, “He that lays with the dogs shall surely catch the fleas,” rings true with regard to the issue of how one behaves.
With a few exceptions, one is more likely to be like that which they spend most of their time with than that which they observe from a distance. This generation did not get to see the colonial lords, they were born in the time when ‘freedom’ became a reality for most of post-independence Africa.

I believe it is time they began to act like free men that have enough time to understand how things will work to their benefit and not to the benefit of the lonely stranger with one-sided terms. True knowledge of how things really work is the only bet we have. But first, we have to know ourselves, what we have, and how it will work to our benefit.

BY; Tšepiso S Mothibi

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