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Progress and change – 50 Years On



S. Mothibi

It is said that at its height, the Roman Empire was vast, stretching all the way from the northern tip of England, to the northern regions of Africa, and parts of middle-eastern Asia. Ruled by Caesars (the most famous being Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus who established the Roman Empire in 27 BC), classical or Ancient Rome was a successful empire at its height, but it soon fell into debauchery marked by endless revelling, internal conflicts for positions of power in politics, increased poverty levels in the plebeian masses, and general increase in greed levels amongst the nobles for land and property. Many of the Roman citizens were doomed into serfdom, a lot perished in the rebellions that were savagely stamped out by the armies bearing their scuta, gladiola, and spiked clubs. At the end of the day, the most civilised empire in the history of time became a model of regress and decay, and though it lasted over 423 years it fell due to malaises it created itself. The Roman Empire, however, still influences the way the politics of this world are run, the legal systems of the day still adopt its models, and it can therefore be used as a background when one needs to gauge their levels of progress and change as a country. The question this week is: How far have we changed and progressed as a country since October the 4th 1966?

Being frank never killed anyone, unless such one is surrounded by delusional individuals that find honest truth uncomfortable, and I believe we should be blatantly frank when it comes to incising the issues of progress and change. We should start from the level of the individual, to the level of community, and then to the level of the state and the nation when we analyse the extent of our progress, and the level of our change.

Being roundabout when we should confront issues pertaining to progress and change head on will not get us anywhere as a nation, and I believe, avoiding a problem still in its infancy will just give it time to grow into a monster we will not be able to deal with in a few score years. I look to the way we are socialised as individuals in our society and, drawing from the early years in school, one issue stands out; we are taught to compete for meagre resources by the educational system in place. The dearth of the old spirit of communalism (as found in the concepts of Letsema and Ubuntu) has largely contributed to the demise of these two virtues due to the way children are taught in primary, intermediate and tertiary schools. Being communal in outlook and behaviour is instead of being venerated frowned upon, and whoever sets out to be sharing and considerate of the needs of others is looked upon as a fool. The hecklers will just cackle, “you can never change the world…”, or give the dispirited statement once sung in a beautiful Bruce Hornsby song, “that’s just the way it is…” things are just what they are, and so, if you try and adopt that old spirit of sharing and caring for everyone, you are bound to be left behind by time and progress; because a larger part of the modern generation is bent on grabbing whatever is in sight for their own private self-enrichment. The old faithful spirit of communalism that got this country and nation where it is today is no longer in vogue; individualism is the key term in fashion. That is just the way it is, unless one wants to play the ostrich with his head buried in the sand.

When the wealth of one is at the expense of many it is outright wrong, and when the gap between the rich and the poor becomes an abyss, it is a travesty that should be done away with on the 4th of this October; for we can never claim to be the most peaceful nation in the world with bellies growling in hunger. We can never sing of peace, rain, and prosperity when our silos are empty due to recent droughts, when there is no rain in the skies of the Kingdom in the Sky, when prosperity is only visible on the national coat of arms, and hordes of unemployed educated and uneducated roam the streets.

We are sure to be seen as a bunch of pretenders if we enjoy the festivities of the 50th independence anniversary but forget to map the way forward toward the first century of independence. The truth as seen from my perspective is that, yes we have fought for democracy and proper governance these past 50 years, but we have in the process lost our sense of individual responsibility towards the welfare of other individuals within our communities. Instead of fighting for the progress of all of our society from the level of the individual, one finds that the individual in a lot of ways sets out to progress alone at the expense of the entire society, in brief; we have become a selfish community, that has lost the sacred belief that none should be left behind when it comes to progress.

If the current trend of selfishness carries on, believing that Lesotho will make any significant change or take vital strides towards progress will remain a pipe dream. I know as fact that some believe that being selfless is impossible in the light of the prevailing economic conditions, but I have come across individuals whose selflessness has proven to me that we need more of this virtuous and charitable character if we are to reach our true dream of peace, rain, and prosperity as envisioned by King Moshoeshoe I. Being individualistic will never get us anywhere, and wealth gathered and hoarded in the presence of the poor without being shared might just become a danger to its possessor. This is not a threat, but it is a real possibility we have to be aware of.

When the cellular phone was introduced in the 1990’s, it became a roaring blaze, a successful invention and gadget everyone wanted to hold in their hand and keep in the pouch on the belt. The cellphone in essence became an accessory of status, a symbol of advancement, and we just could not get enough of it. With the passage of just a decade, this trinket became more than just a device though which one could make calls or send and receive text messages, it became a full mini-computer through which multi-media messages and video calls could be made. It became smarter, and currently one can do just about anything a computer can do on the smart phone, but the functionality and advantage of owning one has a flipside; the phone has become an avenue through which cyber and physical crime can easily be committed.

Those that use mobile banking have on several occasions become victims of cyber crime, from having their bank accounts emptied by criminals, or having their e-mail accounts hacked into by unsavoury criminals always on the prowl for unwary victims. Children too have fallen victim to paedophiles and pederasts whilst surfing popular social media websites, and some have been kidnapped by human traffickers that lure them with empty promises. And these social media websites have also become platforms of social unrest and terrorism of sorts, because of the ease of access to what is being shared on the websites. A good innovative technology is now threatening to tear human social fabric and land us in trouble if it goes unchecked, and I believe government policy should take into account the negative effects of technology so that effective countermeasures can be put into place.

Upon graduation, one had the high hope that the certificate bestowed upon them on the day they wore the cap and the gown would be a ticket to the moon. The years passed, the letters of applications piled, and the certificates gathered dust in their frames on the wall, the transcripts gathered mould in their manila envelopes, and hope began to fade as the reality of unemployment set in. Current statistics place the number of unemployed individuals with tertiary qualifications at over 10,000, and this figure is significantly huge enough to instil a sense of hopelessness and mistrust on the value of education in our country.

The question one would ask is simple: What do we go to school for, if not to be employed to make a living? Why waste time in the classroom when one could be engaged in some vocation that at least puts money in their pockets and money on their tables? One senses a lack of commitment on the part of the government to implement measures to curb the negative flow of unemployment. Not enough is being done to stem the tide of hopelessness unemployment washes into the minds of graduates who often have to be content with employment in occupations they did not study for, at a salary scale that is way below the legal rate for individuals of the qualifications they have. The catch phrase is ‘do the best you can with what you have… be content with you get… there are those that are less fortunate than you…’ I find these statements insulting to my intelligence, intelligence gathered from spending over 20 years in classrooms with the hope that someday, one day, I would get a job befitting my qualifications.

That there are youth development programmes in place is good, but it is not enough, the government should take a more practical stance when it comes to the provision of jobs for the masses of unemployed. Keeping the masses busy with meagre salaries will just sow seeds of discontent in the educated unemployed, and it might in the end lead to the formation of a new class of ‘educated’ disgruntled individuals prone to committing acts of crime because it seems the only way available. I know for a fact (from personal experience) that those lists one registers their name on upon graduation in public service sector do not work; I have waited in vain for ten years to hear my name called: the call has never come and will probably never come.

Had I been some individual of lesser mien, I would have by now given in to cheap wine and listlessness, but time has taught me to wait in progress. I just wish the government could have such programmes where they help the youth through the unemployment phase that lasts until they are involved in some form of meaningful occupation that pays reasonable salaries and wages. Getting a job every five years when there are large scale projects or campaigns is not employment in my view, it is reminiscent to getting crumbs from the master’s table after five years of watching him and the guests feast through the window, and only being able to watch through the window and not being able to enter because there are hefty guards with ferocious dogs at the door. I hate the ‘I am on the outside, I am looking in…’ effect unemployment has on the mind of he or she that knows what it is to be shut out of the system despite having appropriate qualifications.

The main issues at hand these days are unemployment and increasing levels of poverty, and such a government as is in possession of the power to reverse these two maladies should be quick in the correction of the effects thereof. Patriotism of today has like every other entity become an entity of sale; it is bought with the provision of jobs and welfare for those that need it, otherwise, they may just find a master who understands their true basic needs. That we see increasing numbers of street children and orphans in the streets is not a good sign; it may be blamed on AIDS, but hey, a disease can be treated together with its symptoms. We should never be quick to point fingers but be slothful when it comes to dealing with the real problems that plague our society. Of progress and change in the past 50 years? I wonder what you see, and would gladly pay a penny for your thoughts.

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