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Building bridges into the future



“Ole days are good . . . good ole days . . . ” from the perspective of the individual standing right here in the current moment, the so-called; the present which the human mind often fails to acknowledge as the most opportune moment in which one can act out that which needs to be done in the most efficient manner: for the present is here and the wise one knows that it is close enough to be touched, to be hammered into shape if needs be, to be kneaded or sculpted into whatever shape and form one requires or the demands of the moment necessitate.

Why the present generations of man seem to have a fixation with the past makes one wonder if the future will have a real history, or whether what the future generations will consider their history will be just a rehashed version of what the current generation is busy ruminating as they do in their veneration of the old and past instead of getting up and grazing what is available in the present.

It is true that the present times pose a bleak picture in comparison to the glorious picture the past often presents itself as through the lips of those that were fortunate enough to have been there when the past was their present.
In art, in politics, education, in philosophy, in religion, policing, and other institutions, the African generation of today seems to have a fixation with the old way of doing things.

The improvements that are made in the running of these institutions are based on old models which, if one were to ask themselves on their relevance, the answer would be that the methods applied are often inefficient simply based on their archaic nature.
The current moment demands that one applies up-to-date strategies to solve problems in the present instead of resorting to referring to old books to understand what is currently in motion.

Doing this is in my books similar to first failing to read the operation manual of a piece of equipment and then having to go back to the same manual each time the piece of machinery has to be used.
The monotonous act of having to refer each time wastes time, and it means that the set goals will not be reached on time, that is, before their deadline.
‘African Time,’ must perhaps be the most disgusting statement, philosophy or credo imposed into the psyche of the colonised by their coloniser.

Well, the coloniser had the benefit of having his pocket watch, his monocles, and his telescopes (which we now do have), and so, the coloniser could rail the ‘native’ about their lateness or their tortoise pace when it came to doing things the colonist way; the native now has those same tools of time and sight; why then are we still stuck on the failed idea of doing things slowly because TIA (This Is Africa) and things should be done as slowly as possible?

This deplorable behaviour is expressed in the long queues for everything. One queues at the bank on a Monday just because the tellers are babelaased from the weekend binge, one queues at the clinic because that is how it has always been done, one’s remains in the queue to be taken home from the morgue because that is how it is done. TIA: we queue for everything.

The queues are a symptom of time sickness; our institutions are ignorant or choose to ignore the importance of time for its true essence is misunderstood; time moves forward, clockwise or counter-clockwise: time never moves backwards.
That the country, the state, and the continent never understood this simple wisdom is the reason the continent is so ‘backward,’ why the continent never seems to move of its own volition but moves only at the behest of the ‘former’ coloniser.

The sickness of time means that instead of moving to their own rhythm, those afflicted with the condition of procrastination end up having to follow the movements of those that have embraced the present and in a way found their own rhythm.
This pattern of ‘catch-up’ has the whole continent in the clutch of development paralysis, largely due to the simple fact that the continent somehow waits for approval from ‘former’ imperial powers before they use whatever it is they have in their possession as available resources.

I have often heard tales of musicians that have gone on to become superstars because in their present, the only available materials available were a tin can, some nylon wires, and a piece of plank.
Out of these scanty resources, these legends fashioned their first guitars and went on to become ‘world-class’ guitar maestros. Instinctively, the master knows that they cannot wish to make something out of nothing, everything is made out of something, that is, something is made out of something, nothing begets nothing; it is only in those false mystic senses that nothing can beget something.

If one has the wish to create something for tomorrow, they have to take stock of whatever available resources can be used to make their dream in the present a reality. The gathering of the material is done conscious of time; for time is the only constant in the whole universe and the prudent never ignore its importance.

Gather, but gather not for too long for time flies (tempus fugit), and whatever it is you may have gathered may prove irrelevant when it comes to the execution of the plan.  It does happen that one gathers only to find out that what they have gathered is no longer needed, because they took too long in their gathering and forgot that time does move forward at its own constant pace . . . tick-tock, tick-tock . . .

The continent, the state, and the country are facing a crisis because instead of solving matters that need to be sorted timeously, long hours are spent in debate over them.  The ordinary citizen goes on to suffer, to live in utter squalor, to face unemployment, to live in hunger, all these are done whilst the politicians of the state argue over who is right and over who is wrong.

The reality of the moment is that there is rampant disease, rising unemployment, falling levels of living standards, and the best the masses and their politicians seem to want to discuss are the wrongs of eras long gone and never to return.
Of the children born today, nothing is thought of; councils of unqualified judges sit around discussing who is wrong: the wheels of time are moving for, as the old adage goes, “time and tide wait for no man.”

Few examples done, the main issue of the argument comes to the fore; bridging the three eras of history: the past, the present, the future.
To build a bridge, one must make sure the abutment and the pier are firm in their foundations, and that the girders are firm on the bearings so that the kerb can support the traffic that will cross such a bridge.

In human society, the lores and the mores, the customs and the traditions all form the pier and the abutment that support girders that support the kerb (the laws that guide the everyday interaction of the society’s members).

The foundation of all of these is found in time (history), without which all the structures of the bridge have no basis. In the case of Africa; the concept of time was deliberately erased from the minds of the people and a new concept of time as defined by the coloniser was introduced.
Most of the core mores and the traditional laws were intentionally deconstructed, so that the colonised would be more pliable tools in the hands of the imperial lords.

Without the vital parts in the bridge of time, Africa’s sense of identity ended up collapsing; Africa could not pass knowledge forward as it was meant to do. The present created by colonialism was that, “all things European are good…do away with things traditional,” and the native was left as a headless chicken without direction.

This is one of the reasons why the African politician often resorts to advice from international bodies, when the solution could well be in the midst of the masses that elect him or her into power.  There has been a clearly marked tendency amongst the current ranks of political figures in Africa to refer to the past instead of finding solutions to problems prevalent at the present moment.

Whether or not this behaviour is intentional I do not know, what one can guess is that the past is a good direction to escape in when one finds the current problems too complex to solve.  But the question remains; how can we get to the future if we keep on looking backwards instead of here-to-fore? The runner never runs backwards to reach the finish line, for this movement in itself renders the process hard to do and also places the runner at a higher risk of falling.

Bridges are constructed to solve the problem posed by rivers which may in their flow hamper the flow of traffic or movement between places. Some rivers and gorges cannot easily be crossed and so necessitate that a structure that makes their crossing possible is built.
The current generations of mankind on the continent do not seem to understand one fact that time cannot be stopped and does not end here.

The obsession with past glories or sins will get us as a continent or country nowhere, for in our quest to understand the past, other parts of the world that are focused on making a positive history for their children will move ahead and leave us behind.
Instead of using the present to find long lasting solutions that will serve the future generations better than the past solutions are serving us in the present, the current fascination with honouring past glories means that when the time comes for the African to pass something on to the future generations, there will be nothing to pass on to the progeny.
I know of governments that have spent a score years celebrating stalwarts of their freedom and liberation wars at the expense of the masses that voted them into power.

Unemployment, landlessness, disease, crime, corruption and other maladies are the order of the day. Meanwhile, celebrations go on in memory of some dead liberation war figure whilst the people suffer.
It does not help anyone anyhow to tell tales of how the past was in the name of making them aware of their history and how they got to the given point in time. Tell the tale only for a short while, and then get back to the business of how the present can be used to achieve a future that is better than the sordid past.

The old arrangement where names of heroes shall be sung just so that they can be used to blind the gullible to the realities in the current time should be done away with.

Instead, we should form a progressive future-focused continent whose policies foster the growth of the present so that future generations can find a land whose claims of having plenteous natural resources a reality.  Africa claims to have abundant natural resources, but the best pictures one gets of the continent are those of emaciated refugee-camp children.
Oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in 1938 in Saudi Arabia and the region became a leading oil producer globally.

The citizens of the region enjoy the benefits of their natural resource because they seem to have always been forward thinking; knowing that the future is determined by the decisions made in the present.
One cannot just let fate decide what will happen in the future, presence in the present means that one can make the decision to ensure that the future is better than today.

Comparing oneself with others is the same as building an expensive bridge where a simple footbridge would have sufficed. The present is a gift, the past is gone, and the future, the all important, is yet to come.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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