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Thinking in English : Standing on the shoulders of ... well ... ok, ... Ama

Posted by paa.kwesi on Sat, 02/10/2007 - 12:53

One of the things that I am teaching myself these days is to drop my too-known, I-will-start-afresh attitude to progress. I realize this attitude does not bring real progress because it discards the lessons of those who have gone before too easily. And the more I try to unlearn this bad habit, the more I realize it is so very prevalent around me. Every second person I meet has a bright idea, which is good. But ask them, "hey, I heard Ama is doing the same thing, or tried to do something similar" and the response is "oh, I don't even know who Ama is, but not that it matters". Or worse still, "oh yeah, I know of Ama, but my idea is way better". Asked to describe what Ama is doing, and they draw a blank. I draw a blank.

Looking back at our history does provide clues on where I picked up this attitude--there are countless examples of "starting afresh" with no real commitment to continuity. Most fatally, we all seem to think there is something magical about us that was not present in the last generation so that if we exhibit the same traits as the past generation we will somehow produce different results. Our politics is the most rife with spectacular examples. Take education. Every change of government brings with it a new idea of education. That is good, because it shows that the new people are thinking about fixing the old things. What is not good is disruption, and playing with people's futures. Each educational "reform" attempts a clean break from the last leading to mass wastage. If you fail your exams this period, the next year will have a different format and a different syllabus. Of course, this means that your chances of success are reduced because you end up being able to use very little of what you have studied before. You probably can cite even more disturbing examples than these.

So these days I'm training myself to think thus: Jack, how does what you are doing improve, even in a little way, over what others who have come before you in the same area tried to do? If I get a good idea, the question is, how does this new idea UTILIZE what exists and builds infrastructure for others perhaps to build on? Indeed, the practical outcome of this new training means that most of my new ideas are archived because they are simply unsustainable--"a flash in the pan", if I may quote my JSS English teacher Mr Ampah.

The ideas that stick around are almost boring to describe, but they are fulfilling to complete and much more durable under my examination.



Say that again Paa. No wonder 50 years on we are still using landmarks set up by Osagyefo. The Kotokas and all who followed thereafter have nothing to their names and nothing substantial to show for their reign save big Swiss bank balances, fat bellies, jowls and cheeks and the average man on the street who has thightened his belt so many times there are no holes to poke anymore.

The copy cat syndrome and foundation breaking is rife in society.
When Ama has set up a wooden block (an analogy for a progressive idea or project), Akua will come by, make a snooty comment about it and how she could do better; then progress to make a similar or bigger block of wood and hog all the remaining space but this time put on some paint or veneer. So in comes the harmattan or rain (analogy for changes). The paint peels, the veneer cracks and all is revealed...its the same damn block of wood Ama set up only uglier because the varnish is gone streaky and cracky.

The same applies to the foundation breakers especially in politics and instances of hierachy. New king, new law they say. Hence instead of the foundation set by a previous sovereign being built upon, off comes the flag and the ship has to be sunk and a new one built or a new site has to be found and a new foundation began. In the end all you get is clusters of unfinished businesses scattered all over the place without a project manager.
This kinda complex is what is pulling us back. We all feel the need to glorify ourselves and we lose sight of the fact that two or three heads are better than one.
And in the absence of not wanting to join forces then we could at least give praise where it is due and cheer others on instead of always thinking we know and can do better.