What will jolt us into action?

What will jolt us into action?

A friend of mine recently got me to think about Taleb’s “black swan theory” in a very unusual way. This theory refers to “unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences”.
The theory also says that “history proceeds by jumps, triggered by the singular, the accidental, the unseen and the unpredicted and, whilst gradual change remains our normality, in fact, actual change is almost always outlandish”.

The more I listened to my friend and the closer I looked at things through the lens of the “black swan theory”, the more I was convinced that given our current trajectory, significant socioeconomic and political change in Lesotho is unlikely. Significant change will only happen when we have a “black swan event”.
Until then, we will continue to have the same old “s***” we have always had. As the years go by, only the stench will be different i.e. less stinky when the better guys lead and nauseatingly smelly when the bad guys lead us.

Poverty, economic stagnation, underdevelopment and other social ills such as corruption, moral decay, impunity, polarisation, etc, will remain our daily struggle well into the foreseeable future.
Our new government as good intentioned as it may be, will not make the stench go away because our current difficulties even though at times ugly and uncomfortable, are tolerable i.e. not “black swan events”.

This means that in the next five years, we should expect only gradual and inappreciable change. There is no real pressure on us to change “outlandishly”.
The stench will vanish the day there is change on par with the transformative change that has taken and continues to take place in places like Rwanda and Ethiopia which coincidentally, have both had their “black swan events”.

An estimated 1 million people died in 100 days during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and close to 8 million people became famine victims and 1 million died during the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia. These were no regular occurrences. After these calamities, business as usual could no longer suffice. But because we are yet to have our “black swan event”, things in Lesotho will unfold nonchalantly i.e. business as usual with only minor alterations. This is borne out every day by how we complain and pontificate how things need to change but we never take the action required to bring about the desired change.

Note for example how most of us will complain about poor service at an establishment and yet happily continue to patronise the very same establishment we complain about.
Consider as well how we like to complain about corruption and yet we have no qualms with buying someone paid to render us a service a “cold drink” to entice them to serve us in some way e.g. either to do the job they are paid to do or to circumvent some process or procedure for our benefit.

We say we want our economy to grow and yet we don’t support our own local businesses. We instead support (patronize, give tenders, buy from etc.) foreign owned businesses which repatriate profits. We bemoan widespread hunger and high food prices when vast tracts of our land sit fallow. We make excuses instead of putting our land to productive use.
We whine about how we have fallen behind Botswana and Swaziland on major economic health indicators, yet we kept voting back the same bankrupt leadership for years when we could have voted them out and voted in new people with better ideas and plans.

We have high incidences of heinous and violent crimes. We say we abhor violence and criminality yet in the same breath, we also say, it is ok that those who should be at the forefront of preventing and stopping violence and crime, to be violent and unlawful. I am going to dwell on this a bit because I am absolutely horrified that we have time to argue about the acceptability or lack thereof of “ho tokhotsa masholu”.

If we truly desired a country that is free of violence and crime, we would unconditionally condemn ALL violence — there would be no justification for it under any circumstance.
If we were being truly repulsed by inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, we would talk about accelerating legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to ensure a proper justice system is in place and not these other things.

We would channel our collective efforts and energies towards strengthening the functioning of our justice system. These simple examples show that it is always (and it has always been) within our control that we change things for the better. But instead of changing things, we complain and pontificate — because we delight in our “s**t”. It might irritate us on some occasions, but we can live with it most of the time.

Only a “black swan event” i.e. “the singular, the accidental, the unseen and the unpredicted” will bring about real change and not this “putting lipstick on a pig” that we are so fond of doing.
What this “black swan event” will be, none of us can tell. But when it happens, we will know it because it will be no regular occurrence. It will be of a large magnitude and consequence. Every single one of us will be sick and tired of the “s**t” we endure today.When that happens, Lesotho will for the first time, head down a different path i.e. a path to real growth and prosperity for all and not the few, peace and stability and justice for all.

Poloko Khabele

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