Last week, the most extraordinary event concerning Botswana took place. While it made the front page news of Sunday Standard, it barely raised eyebrows in other quarters.
It certainly failed to generate the kind of excitement and debate I had anticipated. The event in question was the ranking of Botswana as the most peaceful country in Africa on the Global Peace Index (GPI). Personally, I am still fascinated by how this came about; and what it means for us as individuals and as a country.
Perhaps as a result of working in peacekeeping for so long, I have often found myself thinking about how to avoid conflict, or forge sustainable peace.
One striking thing that I have observed in my work is that, in many cases people who profess to have taken up arms due to political or economic marginalization are usually very eloquent about the historical causes of their grievances. They are less articulate about what they want, and their visions for their lives and their country. As a result they find it difficult to attain peace, because they have no clear idea of what peace really is.
Some of us have similar tendencies. We are very good at stating what we are against, without ever stating what we are for. We fail to use what we do not want to identify what we do want. Our negative point of focus keeps the same undesired situations in our lives. We have no clear ideal to strive towards, and effect, positive change.
Our ranking on the GPI proves that many of us have grasped this very fundamental concept. Enough of us have decided that we want peace and have moved towards that vision. What you see in Botswana today, good or bad, is the result of our collective thoughts and efforts. So if you want to contribute to even greater improvement, consider changing your point of focus to make it more positive.
For example, if you perceive your leaders as unfair, what does a fair leader look like? Keep those details in mind and focus on how to make them a reality. Similarly, if you feel you are under threat, what represents security to you? What does freedom look like? Hold these images in your mind and when you’re inspired, contribute your ideas and expect to see the desired change.
Do not get swept up in tides of popular negative sentiment. Frankly, reality is rarely objective. The real question is; how do you perceive your environment? Is it friendly or hostile? Whatever your response, you are right; and you will start to see the evidence of that in your life. If enough of us perceive our environment as friendly, it can’t help but become so, for whatever we focus our attention on grows.
Botswana’s ranking on the GPI is not only the result of our collective thoughts; it also provides us with the uncommon gift of an almost idyllic setting in which to improve our lives. We don’t have to worry about being displaced by a war. In fact, under our current conditions, we have no excuse not to thrive. Our problems have precious little to do with our environment and everything to do with our attitudes. If you don’t believe me, look around you.
How is it possible for some of us to lament the lack of economic opportunities, while others make more money than it is possible to spend in a lifetime? Why do some people complain about the lack of jobs, or tyrannous conditions, while others receive several lucrative offers at the same time; and can’t seem to help but thrive? If you are bent on blaming nepotism and corruption for these discrepancies, think again; and if you will suspend self-righteous anger for long enough, you will realize that the real turning point, both for ourselves and for our country, lies in our attitudes.
So what will your attitude be? Will you wallow in self-pity and complain about the aspects of life you don’t like, or will you learn to appreciate the gift of peace and use it to your advantage? Try focusing on the fact that most nights, you are safe; and that you rarely, if ever, go to bed on an empty stomach. See the ongoing development as a sign of expanding opportunities which you too could be part of. Identify what’s going right; and how it can be improved even further. That is how real progress is always made.
Think about how peace has impacted your own life and find things to appreciate. Strive to cultivate peace in your life, because peaceful individuals make peaceful nations. Seek out and accentuate the positive as a way of making it stronger in your life ÔÇô that’s what positive peace is ÔÇô and soon you’ll realize that your life can be great no matter who’s in power, for nobody has greater control over how your life turns out than you do.