Tuesday, May 17, 2022

In his second coming, unless Jesus Christ shows up in a Rolls Royce, Botswana will be damned

If in his second coming, the man who has had the biggest impact on the planet, Jesus Christ, were to show up in Botswana incognito like a thief in the night, riding on the back of a donkey and not the back seat of a Rolls Royce, he would most probably be dismissed as a contemptible  failure.

It is the devil dressed up in Prada, who would have the red carpet rolled out.

Botswana equates success with a big house, big car, big name and a big bank balance and big name brands. From an early age, Batswana children are recruited into believing that anything short of the big five does not cut it.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Sophie Moagi says “During our childhood, our goals and perspectives are derived and formulated from the popular, most prominent views of society. Just as society has told us who to be, and how to be it, it has also decided what is and what isn’t considered to be successful. All of these are facts that have been ingrained in our heads not only by adults since we were little, but also just by the society and the system we use to function in, in this country especially. We’ve been told this for our whole lives, causing our ultimate fear to be “not succeeding. “It is pretty much true that if you don’t get a well-paying job you won’t be able to make enough money to be considered “successful” in our society, at least financially. When we talk about people who are successful, that generally comes hand in hand with being very wealthy.”

Batswana have been spoon-fed a singular definition of success as solely the attainment of popularity or profit. Society equates the ideal image of success with the abundance of wealth, fame, and power. The effects of this false portrayal of success may not be apparent on a young mind. However, its influence should not be underestimated.

A bright and ambitious young woman wants to be a fashion designer but her parents insist that being a lawyer would give her a “secure future”. Slowly, all things that she enjoys are taken away from her —hanging out with friends, shopping, and instead she is expected to get up early in the morning to study, go to school and straight to tuitions from there, to return for more studies and then back to the same back-breaking cycle again. Society instills on young minds that parents know what is best for their kids and that the young woman would have wasted precious years of life on fabrics and getting stitches right while those years would have been better spent studying law and getting a stable job and successful life. As soon as they graduate from their nappies, youngsters  are stripped of their free will and handed a script on how to live their lives.

Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “The struggle with such a narrow definition of success carries into adulthood. However, with broader exposure and interaction with the world, many eventually find what they are good at and learn to take pride in the success that comes with it. As an adult, communication with those from all walks of life increase. We are able to appreciate how greatly successes that may be out of the norm, contribute to our society and make our world the versatile place it is today. But why should this awareness and appreciation have to wait until adulthood?”

When we deconstruct what success means in the general sense in society,  it entails money, promotions, fancy cars, etc. A ladder where the higher you go, the more you get. If that is the case, why is it that so many people step off from this ladder or find that every step up in the ladder makes them more and more miserable? The so-called success should make us happier, but in reality, it doesn’t. A lot of employees are struggling with depression and/or anxiety in their high-pressured jobs. They had possibly climbed the ladder of success and security to find it is an illusion.

Suppose, rather than telling them all the time, parents started asking young people what they wanted to do in their life, about their aspirations and their dreams. Their answers might be simple, concrete and far-fetched, but that is just the beginning. It sets their intentions which works at pulling them forward with much greater force than all the pushing adults end up doing. Humans are hard wired for connections, for belonging, for seeking out people who will accept them the way they are, who understand them and share what they value. Many young people are locked in a constricted world of regimented classrooms and heavy textbooks, which does not leave much room for seeking connections, fun and laughter.

It is important to note that most parents are not some insensitive tyrants. They are in actual fact well-meaning, loving parents who want the best for their child. They unfortunately buy into society’s propaganda of success. Children are expected to lock themselves up in their rooms, or in their tuition centers and cram. There is no personal agency, no purpose (except scoring high marks which is quite meaningless) and no scope for connection. Take any young person who is struggling with depression and you will find they have been stripped of agency, purpose and connection. And what turns things around for them is when they are able to connect to these vital ingredients for a meaningful life. This is true not just for young people, it is true for everyone who is stuck in the narrow definition of success.

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