By Mwangi Wanjumbi
Everybody knows about the seven greatest wonders of the world, which include the Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging gardens of Babylon and more. The great wildebeest migration of the Maasai Mara has recently been added – n some quarters – as the eighth wonder.
Perhaps a ninth one should also be added to recognise the perennial hungers in the Horn of Africa. This may sound out rightly awkward. Nevertheless, we need to pursue that direction in order to permanently prepare the rest of the world for predictable cycles of bailing out desperate African populations from the jaws of death.
Alternatively, we need to concern ourselves with finding out why drought and hunger have to constantly dehumanise us almost in predictable patterns. Actually, what causes this sorry state? Many intellectuals, public administrators and economists may attribute those hunger challenges to poverty. Nobody can deny this. It is however unfortunate and simplistic to associate poverty with limited financial or material wealth.
Poverty of the mind may be the more appropriate cause of the tribulations at hand. Insurers attribute every accident into what they refer to us proximate (immediate) cause and remote (far flung) cause. Challenged material possessions and the weather patterns may therefore be our immediate enemy, even though the remote causes are the basic culprits. Why say this?
We need to think very hard especially outside the box, for us to eliminate this predictable calamity. But, where do we start? Continued research indicates that most of our problems are culturally oriented. In other words, they emanate from our value system. This system is driven by our norms, believes and routine habits as well as our mindsets. That includes our perceptions about money, economic activities, the weather, the universe and all other attributes of the environment around us.
The sum total of everything that we do becomes our culture or way of life. Therefore, accepting to routinely let entire populations suffer from hunger and avoidable deaths depicts a sorry way of life. It is even dishonorable of our leadership. That is why some people have been caught trying to deny occurrence of hunger-oriented deaths, even when the evidence is glaring.
Nevertheless, we need to realise that cultural studies attribute a few dominant cultures, which like in insurance could be the bedrock of our suffering. Firstly, our society is predominantly past rather than future oriented. We are more driven by the past experiences rather than being able to predict and act in order to improve on the future.
Past oriented cultures are greatly challenged in strategic planning processes. Perhaps that is why little attention or none is paid to our strategic food reserves, despite prior warning of adverse weather. In any case, the world has always come to our aid during situations of desperate hunger and deaths. So, the “we-need-not-worry” attitude has prevailed, and hence the constant hunger cycles. Other times we claim that our sufferings are Godly acts. Yet, God has nothing to do with environmental destruction leading to global warming and therefore changing weather patterns.
Secondly, we are perceived as low uncertainty avoidance cultures. This means that we avoid taking risks especially when the outcome cannot be predicted. We are therefore largely guided by the fear of the unknown. Ironically, predictable hunger cycles will disorient everybody that is future oriented but, sadly, not our leadership. Thirdly, we are assumed to be averse to progress and change. The two again present discomforts that make us do nothing towards seeking change. Most likely, we only wish it away instead of seeking to identify any likely opportunities and exploiting them as appropriate.
Fourthly, our orientation towards science and technology is seriously challenged. Sometimes, we do not even respect it. We are currently engaged in debates on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) when many are dying in the northern parts of our country and elsewhere. One wonders whether those vulnerable are better off dead of hunger or alive fighting the effects of the GMOs.
Incidentally, those who appreciate the discipline of world civilisation know that discovery of the GMOs, the human genome (decoding of the human gene) and blood circulation (by William Harvey) rank very highly in achievements towards the improvement of the welfare of humanity. A returning student from Malaysia recently explained how a genetically modified chicken is hatched on a Friday and is fully grown by Monday ready for a full meal for a family – I am yet to prove this. But, much as this may look unbelievable for Kienyenji chicken lovers; it is seemingly the food readily available in the second world, only courtesy of the GMOs.
Further, we are used to stories of how Americans make rain in their ranches (through drenching the clouds with water pumped using jets that later fall as rain). Today, weather technology ensures that rain falls where it is desired and not just in the sea. Forget that we never bother to harness our own water during heavy rains.
What am I saying?
Let us all realise that culture is dynamic. It changes to suit changing circumstances. We must therefore embrace dynamic leadership which recognizes the need to change with the times. We must embrace change that will align with the global environmental trends. Indeed, we have no choice but to quickly re-align our cultural orientations with the fast changing world. Luckily, we do not have to re-invent the wheel.
Certainly, adopting the culture of continued change and progress as well as advancing science and technology will reduce the impact of crises management situations. In this day and age, we should not be debating let alone witnessing the dehumanising phenomenon of hunger driven deaths. Indeed, let us focus towards reducing the remote causes of our challenges, which continually keep taking us backwards.
(Mwangi Wanjumbi is a Management/Leadership Training Consultant and CEO of Newtimes Business Solutions. http//:www.newtimesconsultants.com)