JIM’S JOTTINGS: On ‘Humility’ & The Ghanaian

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If not for the fact that almost everything in 21st Century Ghana is seen through a binary lens, I would have dared to share my latest episode without necessarily looking over my shoulder, qualifying it and trying to make it as politically correct as possible.

But let me talk about it anyway.

Let me talk about how humility is a great currency; about how my people will reward humility before they do good sense, confidence and competence; and about how humility will get you places and opportunities even skill often cannot.

Let me explain.

While it is generally not considered wise to pour out our daily experiences in write-ups, I can’t help but try to shoehorn in some anecdotes to drive home my point. See, every time I have had dealings with personnel in both public and private sectors, I have gone farther ahead by acting like a dimwit than being my educated, enlightened self.

Now, I speak English more than I do any local language and, thankfully, I also happen to have a passable command of it. You’d think that’s a good thing, ordinarily, but it has worked against me more than you could imagine. I am not joking, even though I wish I were. When I’ve dealt with people in the odd small-business transaction, the outcome often depends on how I ‘come across’ – manner of speech, choice of language, etc.

Humility!

Enter most government offices, act subservient and even schmooze if you have to; it’s the only guaranteed way to get people to help you. Go into same offices, act like you expect professional, efficient, well-informed service, and you will be met with resistance.

Humility!

In my neighborhood, when you run into trouble with law enforcement, the surest way to have officers descend on you like a ton of bricks is to speak to them in perfect English, acting all I-know-my-righty, and challenging them on what they charge you with. However, plead with them, pretend you don’t know a thing about the law or what rights you are entitled to, speak vernacular (fluently, if you can), and suddenly they respond more kindly.

Humility!

Even in our public discourse, the thoughts and opinions that garner the most consideration are not necessarily the soundest, only those with an almost embarrassing deference to authority and popular consensus. Here, the thing to do when faced with a problem that seemingly floors us isn’t to apply ourselves in thought and action to get around it. Rather, it is to wait on ‘experts’ and those ‘who are specialized in these things’ to tell us how to resolve it (needless to say, ‘these things’ often go unresolved).

Humility!

Now, to our homes. When our elders speak, we pay attention — not only when they speak with great wisdom, but even when they say the most nonsensical stuff (wait, don’t I owe some elder an apology for even saying this?).

The reason?

Well, simple: they are older than us.

Humility!

Fact is, we have come to embrace a way of life that seems to prize feelings over productivity and efficiency, trivialities over the important things, and short-term social engineering over long-term social progress — all in the name of humility.

But where do we get this from?

Does it help us at all?

And, if it doesn’t, what effects are we suffering?

A society cannot hope to get anywhere meaningful before it works its way to meritocracy. To get there, a cultural shift is needed. If we understand that it actually pays to be assertive whenever appropriate, rather than being subservient at all times, an insistence on improved standards from ourselves and those around us would result. If I’m okay with constantly receiving poor service from you, you’d be just as content with continually offering such.

Domino effect, see?

Until a change of such a mindset occurs, by all means, let’s all buy our way to satisfaction with the one Ghanaian currency which knows no depreciation: humility!

Jimmy Aidoo – Daily Mail GH

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