In my quiet moments, my mind wanders to parts unknown and I usually find myself searching for the truth. The truth about what is it that ails us; afflicts us. Why are we back-pedaling when we are supposed to be surging forward, making strides for ourselves, our children and the unborn generations? That is exactly what other developed nations' forefathers did for today’s generation. I yearn for same for my country, for the continent I hail from. But it looks like a far-fetched dream, far from being attained.
Let us be honest with ourselves. Our stories have not been told with gleeful delight. When the news is about us, and before it begins to be told, you know right away what it is going to be about. I am greatly piqued when I see the devastation, the hunger, the misery, the plunder, the wars and the human degradation that characterize everything we do, and unfortunately have become an indelible part of our story -- the African story. It is equally disturbing when these are shown on international news stations and beamed to the whole world to see. Anytime I see such harrowing stories on TV, about us, I drift into sorrow land unable to contain my discomfort. You cannot fault the news gatherers who report our stories but ourselves for making the news.
How did we get here?
It is safe to ask the questions: what went wrong? How did we get here? Where did we miss the mark, is there redemption for us and most importantly are there any truth behind our sad situations that merit exploring and examining for the purpose of understanding the root cause. Do we have the courage to change course when we discover the truth?
I have been on a quest to find the truth and will attempt to state what I have discovered. They are not the usual, tired and hackneyed mantra we have heard: laying the blame on someone else, especially on colonization and colonial masters. The truth hurts, but it is the medication we need if we desire to change the course of our destiny. So brace yourself as we examine the things that are holding us back.
Attitude is king
"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." …Thomas Jefferson
"For success, attitude is equally as important as ability". …Walter Scott
As a child, I was poor and did not know why. As a teenager, I did not have the basic things of life. I was made to believe that it was a normal way of living. As an adult, I continued to lack for a while. Everything around me was poor or poorly done and it is the same today.
Raised in a culture that frowns on asking questions or probing for answers, we accept whatever is fed us. I was made to believe that fate dealt us a cruel hand, forgetting to remind us that each man is the architect of his own fate. I was made to believe that my skin color played a role in my deplorable state, our deplorable state; that the white skin is innately endowed with more creative abilities than that of the dark skin, but I know God did not make me or any dark-skinned person inferior. If God did, that was very uncharacteristic of Him as He is the fearfully awesome God who makes “all things beautiful." The truth is, God couldn't under-perform nor did an inferior job when creating me and other dark skin persons.
We cling to these falsehoods to explain away our problems. Falsehoods that have altered our perception and affected the way we think and treat people with white skin. We hold them in reverence and fast to whatever they say, meanwhile we show disdain to our own. It is not their fault, it is ours. They did not impose our way of thinking on us. We did it to ourselves.
How long are we going to allow ourselves to be misinformed? How long before we challenge the status quo? And do we have what it takes to go against the grain, against the mindset?
When we probed -- yes, we had the courage to probe -- me and other Africans who studied in the West -- we discovered that our skin color had nothing to do with it; that we did not have inferior intellect or lesser cognitive development and function than our counterparts in white skins. In class, we bested some and some bested us. It was not a question of intellect but sadly a question of attitude. In that department we are woefully outclassed, outsmarted.
When they say works begins at 8 am, they will be there at 7.45 am waiting with bated breath to begin work. The African is always late, always with ever ready excuses to justify the lateness and in most cases unsuccessful in escaping the wrath and scorn of the supervisor. When they set out to work, their performances remind you of an admirable and upbeat attitude. When they are assigned duties, they discharge them without complaints or whining and their performances make you wonder if they have ownership stake or vested interest in the business. Sadly, it is a totally different story with us. Working for livelihood feels like a favor we are doing, not an exchange of our talents for payment. Where it matters most, we are found wanting. Positive attitude is foreign to us, doesn't register on our radar nor does it hold any special place in our hearts.
Does attitude matter? Yes, it does. It is our missing link. It is the difference between them and us. It is the difference between poverty and riches, the difference between peace and war, hunger and abundance. It is the difference that sets them apart.
History never disappoints. It is replete with stories of people adopting new attitude to change the course of their lives and destiny. We heard a president's call on his fellow country men and women to think what they could do for their country rather what it could for them. It was a call that energized a nation, leading to a new attitude of citizen. We heard a civil right leader called on his fellow country men and women to see past the color of the skin and look at a man's heart when deciding to form judgement. It was a call that led to a change in attitude toward how we treat each other and led to the integration of all races. But, my favorite of all is the anecdote about a mother and a child on a quest to change destiny.
Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon and recently announced presidential candidate in the Republican primary, started life poor and was raised by a single mother. As a kid, he was always bottom of his class. His mother could not read nor write but she was frustrated with her son's poor academic standing. She had had enough and was determined to do something about it --Something drastic, to change the fortune of her son. She insisted that Carson would read a book a week, summarize the content for her perusal. Little Carson thought the mother could read and so did as he was instructed. Carson’s performance started to improve, and he gradually moved from the bottom of his class to the top. Carson would go on to college, studied medicine and became the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head.
What did it for Carson was neither a change in his environment nor a change in the family's financial position - they continued to live in the same poor neighborhood and were poor for a long time - but a change in the attitude of a mother and a child. A change in a mother's attitude unleashed hidden talent in a son. If the mother had not intervened, Carson would not have ended up a neurosurgeon but probably an uneducated black man walking the streets of US with his talent untapped. His accomplishments would have remained hidden and there wouldn't have been Ben Carson we know today. The import of the message is that talent needs attitude to strop it to success, to bring it into focus.
Without the faintest doubt, attitude is the key or the driving force behind the success of everything we do. Attitude defines and delimits our level of success. Two people with the same talent can have varying degrees of success depending on the attitude apply to their talents, or person with a lesser talent can leapfrog the person with more talent if his talent is combined with the right attitude.
So, when we say attitude has the potential to hone or bring into focus our talents, Dr. Ben Carson's story is evident of that truth. Without doubt Dr. Ben Carson belongs to the pantheon of great neurosurgeons and it is all thanks to ATTITUDE and a mother who had the foresight to intervene on behalf of her son. We need our leadership to intervene on our behalf to save the Africa continent from a downward spiral.
It is important to compare notes here. Mrs. Carson's lack of education and inability to read and write is akin to our leadership's lack of vision, an impoverished economy and rapidly deteriorating conditions. Her deplorable situations did not impede her from finding the courage to change the fortune of a bad situation and turn it into positive. She did not go for a loaner financial help. All she did was realizing that, despite her limitations, change in her attitude towards how she supervised her son's school work was the catalyst to finding a way out for him.
Little Carson reminds me of a continent full of talents, full of potentials with some of the best natural resources the world is endowed with but sadly always bottom in health, bottom in peace, bottom in everything. It is not the end for us, just like it was not the end for Ben Carson. It is just that our hero, our Mrs. Carson has not arrived yet. When she does come and right our attitude we will be on a trajectory never been experienced before. We are not inferior or created inferior. We are products of an awesome and fearful God who is an expert in making beautiful things. We are not a lost continent. It is just that we have temporary lost our way. We need the likes of Mrs. Carson to show us the way.
When you have discussion with people about why Africa’s problems are what they are, the discussion quickly veers off to a discussion about poverty, lack of money and resources as reasons for our debilitating situation. I have news for them. Poverty, lack of money or resources is not our bane. Poverty is the end result of underutilized talent, just like young Carson’s poor grades were the end result of underutilized academic talent. When we apply the right attitude to talent it leads us to wealth, it reduces poverty, hunger and it eliminates misery.
Let’s refute the distorted claims
Next time someone wants to explain away Africa's barrage of problems by using poverty as the reason, tell him poverty has nothing to do with it. Tell him our attitude towards work, towards the way we treat customers, manage resources, treat each other and our attitude towards life in general are reasons why we are not making the desired progress. Or when someone, holding on to the distorted and erroneous view that our skin-color plays a role in accelerating our demise, mention to him that Carson’s mother did not consider the dark skin of her son as a factor inhibiting his academic progress. As long as we continue to erroneously believe that the presence of abundant money will solve our problems, we will continue to chase the crumbs from the table of our colonial masters - whom we are fond of blaming for our woes - and not be able to search for answers for problems that afflict us.
When we know what truly ail us we will then be able to find the panacea for it. For a long time, we have been misinformed that someone (Whites), or lack of money or lack of resources are reasons we are mired in our current predicaments. THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD: IT IS OUR ATTITUDE.