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Cultivating development

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“I am the driver of/for development… that the process of development is or can be made possible is through me as an individual citizen…” so should the lesson be to every individual citizen that lives within the state, from the old to the young, from the young to the old, in a continuous cycle at whose core is the will driven by the need to develop; for ultimately, the basic purpose of human existence within nature is to progress and not to stagnate: for nature even at its most basic is moving forward toward some goal and returns to its origins in a cycle we call existence.
The river begins its flow as a stream, and the stream begins as a well, and that well has its source in a trickle or a flow that itself gushes forth some aquifer deep in the rocky ground.
Thus, one can conclude that the process of development lies not in the strategies or their implementation, but the process in its origins is birthed in the minds of the individuals for whom it is intended; the team that coordinates the implementation just act as the midwives to the idea forming the contents of the strategic development plan. First, the individual citizen should be made aware of the significance of their role in the process of development.

I remember well as an undergraduate having to write a research paper on genetic engineering technology as a means of promoting development. I was fascinated but highly vexed by the term ‘genetic engineering technology’, for back then; it was still a novel idea to me, and it looked complicated due to its many terms with a lot of meanings attached to them.
The acronyms GMO, GET, and others added to the confusion, but upon getting a simple definition of what the technology entails, I realised how uncomplicated the whole process was, and in fact human society had been doing it for as long as human society had gotten the hang of domesticating crops and animals.

Mixing same species of animal or plant had been done in human society either to get new hybrid species that could withstand the demanding conditions in the climate or in the intended task (think for example, mixing donkey with horse begets the mule; a hybrid species that combines the qualities of the two and is in reality stronger than its primogenitors…in reality, the mule is more efficient than either the horse or the donkey, and it is a prime example of simple genetic modification by combination).
Back to the topic at hand, what can be done to promote the process of economic development in the current era?

First, the individual needs to know of the true meanings of economic development in terms of impacts and benefits in everyday life.
Development should not be presented as a political affair, where the people are addressed by figures that speak in acronyms and complicated jargon terms. The simple aspects of economic development should be noted as simply as their meanings are, in terms of the processes and effects relevant to the economic situation of the society of individuals they are aimed at.
Sounding educated without exactly being legible is in actual fact useless, and the nasal twang of the speaker has no impact in the process of delivering the knowledge salient to the understanding of economic development.

The knowledge that is vital to the understanding of economic development needs to be delivered in the simplest of terms; that is if development is to take off from the ideal state of strategy for transformation into real action.  It is virtually impossible to operate an unknown device without the manual, and the initial meetings between the development coordinators and the masses should lay a clear communication foundation based on simple speech, for in truth, no one can do or be engaged in what they have a vague understanding of.
The great author Walter Rodney, in his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (published 1973) states:

Development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being…  However, what is indisputable is that the achievement of any of those aspects of personal development is very much tied in with the state of the society as a whole.
From earliest times, man found it convenient and necessary to come together in groups to hunt and for the sake of survival.
The relations which develop within any given social group are crucial to an understanding of the society as a whole: Freedom, responsibility, skill, etc. have real meaning only in terms of the relations of men in society.

Before the project takes off, its understanding by individual members of the community for which it is being initiated should be noted as paramount. It is only when they understand the project that they can contribute to its success and maintenance.  Self-sufficiency after the initial investment should be the main goal, not dependency on the donor, because in truth, they have done their part by sourcing the funds needed to ensure that the project takes off the ground.

Once it is walking, it is the sole responsibility of the recipients to ensure that it runs smoothly.
One has viewed development projects come, and that same one watches them go and fade into oblivion despite the excellent strategic planning papers attached at their beginning. Why the fail is often attributed to a lack in funds, equipment, staff, and other contingencies, but the solution could well lie in the minds of the people development is aimed at. Development initiative has for a long time sounded like a handout, where the donor nation is expected to pump in the funds and the local community receives them to execute the initiative.

This donor-recipient mentality still carries on, and sad to say, the truth is the funds are treated as the dinner plate of those that head the project, and this leads to their running out even before the initiative is past the crawling stage.

The funds should in the right manner be treated as mere capital, an offer to start an initiative that will give birth to other initiatives that will sustain the original project.
It should be in the mind of each individual recipient that the funds are only there as an initial push of the economic development vehicle whose starter is rusty, the rest of its journey after the initial push should be the sole responsibility of the recipient; for who buys one a car and then foots the maintenance, fuel, and collateral bill?
Maintenance… as a simple term, it is an act of sustaining life by food or providing a means of subsistence.

The other definition notes it as an activity involved in ensuring that something is in good working order.
There are three basic human needs; food, clothing, shelter, and anything other than that is an extra whose necessity depends on issues often contrary to the process of progress, and in fact, these extras are those elements that actually disturb the harmony of order, and take out of the bowl meant to provide food, clothing and shelter instead of contributing to its sustenance.
If the project is aimed at providing food for the community, the focus should be on the development of the basic agricultural infrastructures and maintaining them at a level that ensures that they are operating at competent levels in the least.

Maintenance as a process means that one ensures the systems or the components thereof are in good working order at all costs.
How the officials travel to conferences and symposiums should not be the main issue, for the main matter in this aspect is the tilling of the soil to ensure that there will be a harvest at the end of the year.

All the in-between is dependent on the commitment and the relationships of the members as individuals or as a community group.
The reality is that sacrifice is a core element to the process of development; if the individual is not willing to sacrifice some of their freedoms or their luxuries for the sake of development, then the community will never attain of the fruits of development.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having excess funds at the end of the project, but this does not mean that the community should splurge it on luxuries as year-end parties and celebrations.
School-fees, uniforms, shoes, and such other amenities are basic to the education of the younger generations who are often lacking in terms of these salient items should therefore be at the forefront.

Development implies increasing the capacity for self-sufficiency and to regulate both internal and external relationships between the individual members of the community.
Dependency leads to the community depending on the donor for everything, and this means that at the end of it all, they are still in every sense stuck in the rut of economic development they could not get out of before the economic development fund.

Dependency leads to irresponsibility, because the idea in the background is that the donor will act as a safety net, should the funds run out before the project reaches either maturity or completion.
One can safely guess that projects do not run because the parties involved on the recipient side hold the regressive notion that the donor will be there to cover for all the failures.
The mindset should be that the donor only provides the initial impetus in terms of needed capital funds, the rest of the process is the sole responsibility of the recipient; where the funds are allocated according to the needs of the individual sector, and the day-to-day management of the activities within each sector is done locally.

It should not cost the donor in terms of oversight committee salaries, for in essence, if the individuals engaged in the economic development project understand their role and see it as a personal entity that serves them in the short-term and the long-term, then there is no need for them to be monitored daily.

It is only if the funding is seen as belonging to some foreign organisation, for the benefit of a foreign community that the recipients begin to misbehave in the management of the fund.
We have had instances where political speak encourages the locals to spend the funds carelessly and then beg for more. This is inhumane, for in truth, funds are a helping hand, a mutual kind of help that offers the local recipient the opportunity to get out of the miry depths of poverty, hunger, and unemployment.
Spending them at the behest of the foolish notion that there is more from where the original fund came, means that the continent will forever be in the clutches of dependency.
Blaming history does not solve current and prevalent problems, and being careless in the use of available resources means that the economy and the development of the careless individual will stagnate and never progress to the future.

The mentality that there is more funding from where the help comes has led to the regress of this continent, not because we lack the funds, but because available financial resources are oft allocated to activities outside the central focus point of the process of economic development.  If matters of prestige take precedence over matters of economic emancipation, entire projects end up running in circles instead of taking a clear trajectory towards progress.

Whether we agree on these terms does not exactly matter, for what matters is the progress of the nation in the present moment, towards a future that will be beneficial for all.
The only time we should refer to the past is when we reflect on success, not to justify regressive habits that find politicians sneaking soiled fingers into donated funds, as if those funds were meant for their aggrandisement and not the suffering masses at which those funds are aimed.

Development seeks cultivation as a patch of land does, but first; the citizens should be taught on how to be economic development focused.
Old issues are dead and gone, development issues stare us in the face, and they seek to be solved.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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