Change of Attitude (Part three)

23 April 2008 at 04:24 | 1191 views

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria, Bergen, Norway.

“Examined from a social perspective, this analogy can represent society and given the fact that decay is at the crux of the matter and that it involves time and space, then we can infer that the Sierra Leonean society is at this point in time and space undergoing some form of organic entropy.”

Taking the above from my last article and also quoting, with the author’s permission from the last article of Amadu Massally, where he stated thus: “We must not confuse attitude with behaviour as the first line of reasoning otherwise we run the risk of confusing efforts with results. To change one’s attitude by itself is not enough to bring the kind of country-impacting change being sought, or that is necessary. Like one of my friends told me over a phone conversation "people can change their attitude but do not believe in, or accept, it."

So why not focus on results, which are directly linked to our behaviours, and can be measured?

One can simply question the measurement of a change in attitude as it is as intangible as ever. Or is it being used as a synonym for behaviour? Obviously, then, the phrase "attitudinal change" needs to be defined and established. What we understand it to be is that we expect people to change their attitude towards one another and towards our country. Like flipping a switch, for example! But what are the results from doing so? How can we gather and interpret them, for instance?

The solution, we believe, and what we think the President and his government should be calling for, rests in the change of our vital behaviours towards not necessarily everything, but the most critical ones.

It has been proven over and over again that to change the world we have to change our behaviour - our vital behaviours. I shall continue with my discourse of the issue on the scientific plane but with an emphasis on some very pertinent points and attempt to distinguish between some interrelated concepts in the Behavioural Sciences which pertain to Attitudes on the one hand and Behaviours on the other hand.

Before continuing this discourse, I would like to go to my previous article by quoting the concluding section in which I wrote::

“Sierra Leoneans must do some individual introspection and also an institute or special body must be charged to research into the multiple factors and parameters that will enhance this much needed change from a state of entropy. It is such a big task that political statements cannot bring about the required results as energies put in from that platform will always tend to be entropic given that the immediate external environment which is the society will render any plan or act suspect, given the fact that there is the present lack of the organic catalyst which is a product of lack of trust and an acute divergence in political and social views and goals.”

My reason for bringing up this quotation is to make or rather repeat the point that the task of and the need to change is an inundating and very necessary one that must begin now. It is a task which can be likened to that taken when Thomas Jefferson and others wrote the constitution of the United States, applying principles of democracy built in faraway Europe and which today has produced one of the world’s most free and progressive societies. A task that every Sierra Leonean need to understand and appreciate in context and relevance, one which should be initiated by the present government but which subsequent governments, irrespective of the political status quo, must continue and respect.

It is an issue that begins with certain pertinent questions and which in the process of answering these questions will produce a lot of related and /or adjoining questions. It is an issue of which type and style of governance and political economy we want and will build for Sierra Leone.

These two important questions of governance style and statecraft typology must always form the focal point of oscillations of any thing that has to do with attitudes in as much as and as far as Sierra Leone is concerned.

Why must these two take precedence above all others?

The answer of course is matter for a whole book that can go as far as 300 or more pages. It has its historical as well as its cultural perspectives; how these affect our ways of thinking and how this mode of thinking affects governance and the development of a unified, sustainable and democratically structured political economy that can be specific to and of that geographical entity we call Sierra Leone.

Of course, like the saying goes “man is the master of his own destiny” so is every collective of man, society, is a master of their destiny. Mastery of our destiny depends on how we put our mental processes to work.

I remember one public debate in which I took part in Norway.Somebody asked a question relating to why there is so much poverty in Africa in contrast to the fact that Africa is endowed with a lot of resources. I felt very much embarrassed but had to say the truth as far as I can relate it within logical parameters. My answer was that maybe we do not make use of the most important resource in man which is the power of the mind and went on to justify it by saying that we have a very good climate but have been overcome by over dependence to the extent that we accept whatever happens as God destined.

Honestly as a Pan-Africanist, I felt some kind of emptiness within when I was faced with that question as I do not believe in the western civilisations theory of manifest destiny but had to admit to some extent we have justified that wrong belief by not doing our home work well.

So if the power of the mind is the most important resource and one that can only be exhausted by the total annihilation of the human race how are we using it in Africa and why is it not producing the results that will bring about our dreams of development but in contrast bring wars and misery to us? Is it because of bad governance, bad attitudes to governance or both?

A critical examination of the present state of things in Sierra Leone will, I am sure, reveal that it’s both of the above that are the issues.

Why both, is another question that will reveal and lead to a lot of other questions. These emerging questions and their adjoining components will of course give a clear picture of how severe is the present state of affairs which in my last issue I postulated and tried to explain scientifically.

However it will be worthwhile to look at these two questions individually and examine the underlying mental processes giving rise to them as they obtain in the Sierra Leonean context.

If Sierra Leone is in the present state that it is as a result of bad governance and what are some of the mental processes that cause and sustain this bad governance?

Bad governance or what has been identified as bad governance has always been an issue in Sierra Leone. Of course the political and social development indices show that she has been a victim of regimes of bad governance since independence. Also history shows that in as much as regimes of bad governance have been the key factor for the stagnation in development yet the very attitude of the government on the one hand and the populace on the other has been the key reason for the institutionalisation of bad governance.

Going back to the words of Mr Amadu Massally: “We must not confuse attitude with behaviour as the first line of reasoning otherwise we run the risk of confusing efforts with results. To change one’s attitude by itself is not enough to bring the kind of country-impacting change being sought, or that is necessary.”, the behaviour patterns visible in Sierra Leone clearly shows that there is a deep rooted attitude in its conscious and subconscious levels which has been so much imbibed that it is now difficult to distinguish between what is and what ought to be as the two have been in juxtaposition in most cases and fused or been confused in very few cases.

Also, there is a general tendency to further compromise this very serious issue by blame casting and shifting. The governed blame the governors and the governors blame either the governed or the international community and no sustainable solutions are found as no one has ever had the will to ask for or look for a change. This lackadaisical and most times docile way of life is in itself an attitude problem stemming from our cultural and maybe historical beliefs. The attitude of exterior outlook for the answers to questions that have to do with us in both the individual and collective has developed in us behaviours of subjectivity and blind reverence which in turn create the enabling environment for lethargy.

For most people, when something happens it is the will of God, government or some powerful person or group. The blame is passed on and no answers are found as it is accepted that it has to be that way. On the other hand, when some relative or affiliate misuses an office, he has been blessed by God and must use that blessing to help all kith and kin at the expense of those who are out of his circle of influence. It is this attitude to governance or management that is the very reason for the misuse of trust and for politics being an issue of a chance to enrich a person and/ or group of persons thereby making it an issue of life and death in an environment where economic means are very limited and /or hard to come by.

The governor assumes a position of power to misuse and abuse it to retain himself in power whilst the governed assumes a position of a privileged under privileged member of the collective depending on which side he is and which of those sides has the upper hand at any given point in time. So for people to continue to be on the privileged side they over act their franchise rights and in most cases intimidate, attack or even kill perceived opponents to maintain their status. The perceived opponent on the other hand uses all in their power, both covert and overt to get to that position of privilege, in most cases using any method or malpractice or terrorism. This belief in the misuse or abuse of power has been a behavioural problem in the sense that it was imbibed in the social and mental status quo since colonial days and it continued to be the mode up to this very day even after political pluralist processes and democratic institutions are being put in place.

On the non political plane, the attitude of dependence on external sources is a very big limiting factor to development in the sense that nepotism becomes an impeding factor. Well, we have a problem of distinguishing between nepotism and that which is not nepotism and must accept that all over the world, people in power appoint those closest to them for political positions for several reasons ranging from protecting their group interest to using those human resources well known to them and whom they can control and /or influence. That is normal and can in any event be considered to belong to the class of non nepotism.

However, when and where this is used it must not reflect or be seen to reflect a situation that will cause an imbalance in the cohesive state nor must this be used by alarmists and disinformers to create undue tensions in the state.

Also, in the interest of futuristic cohesion it must not become an issue of political campaign to discredit any group as these are some of the unnoticed factors that breed conflicts.

The governor must guard against this by allowing the rule of law to prevail whilst the governed must not take the new found democracy in the wrong way.

In both or all of the above the Fourth Estate is a very key catalyst and that is why newspapers and their operatives must always keep their social responsibility above political interests. In other words, the press must break that shackle of “cannot bite the hand that feeds” and take a neutral position in addressing the issues at hand and with all objectivity and fairness to the national interest. If this cannot become a new modus operandi for the Sierra Leonean press, I would say they have the biggest attitude problem since the dissemination of information has a lot to do with stability and peace maintenance.

How can some of the above mentioned be addressed?

Some will say it has to come from the top but I say it has to be collectively addressed by all especially us who are lettered and whose opinions can influence the social intelligence of Sierra Leone.

The governors(by this I mean all political parties) must come together to address this issue as it is one that goes above and beyond the domains of politics. It is an issue for which a bill must be tabled in parliament for a council of experts to be formed like the Anti-Corruption Commission and be given a semi-permanent life term of reference that will allow the effects of the work of that commission to be implemented and monitored over a given period that transcends the life of the present government.

It is only when this all important issue is non politicised that it will take effect and be free of unnecessary ridicule, designs and manipulations to see it fail. It must be seen as one important democratisation step and the institution must enjoy some level of autonomy for it to have the desired effects on the Sierra Leonean mind especially the minds of the younger generation who must be effectively prepared for a world that is becoming very competitive and demanding on the use of the mental processes and which has no room for finger pointers and blame casters like our generation. The institution must at the end of the day be able to effect changes in the way we perceive our rights, duties and responsibilities as members of the geographical entity that is Sierra Leone. It must lay the foundations for an unwritten code of ethics and conduct that will be development friendly and conflict resolving.

I have said all political parties must engage on this because it makes no sense to cry this important step down now only to be faced with it in the near future.

Politicians and those interested in politics must be aware of one fact: their situation is like living in a glass house, they must avoid throwing stones! This class must from now on see with and complement each other on issues of national interest. They must shelve the attitude of pulling each other down to get support from the governed and so help to continue to maintain the attitude of having a bad attitude to governance which is translated into behaviours of misuse of public trust, propaganda and nation-damaging lies.

This implies that those in power now must use this awareness to effect change for development and those in opposition must not in any way or by any means sabotage this effort as they will one day be in that same situation and they may be sabotaged. If things continue that the people’s trust will be eroded and conflict will set in. That was the underlying reason for the war that destroyed the country.

At this juncture it is fitting to ask the next question, is it bad attitudes towards governance?

The answer here is also definite, YES! How and Why?