Big vs small thinking

01 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Big vs small thinking

eBusiness Weekly

Clifford Shambare

Whenever I get the chance to book a seat in an aeroplane, I always endeavour to choose one by the window, some distance from the wing. This position allows me to have a broad view of the world below me.

And whenever I am watching television I opt to watch programmes such as those on space exploration and the National Geographic Wild — NatGeo Wild — as well as The Travel Channel. Add to this, the fact that I am fairly well travelled. This attitude and practice has opened my mind to a world well beyond my immediate surroundings.

The other day I decided to ask Google a question on an issue that has fascinated my mind for some time now; this is the issue of raw materials. This time I wanted to know more about China’s apparent greed for natural resources. What I saw then really shocked me. “China Consumes Mind Boggling Amounts of Raw Materials”, wrote the Base Metals Chart of the Week article dated September 10, 2015. (

That article showed that China, with 13 percent of the world’s GDP and 20 percent of the global population at 1,4 billion people, consumes the following proportions of the global total of raw materials — well above its position in the world on these two parameters; 48 percent copper, 46 percent steel, 23 percent gold 49 percent coal, 13 percent uranium, 12 percent oil, 30 percent rice, 22 percent corn, 17 percent wheat.

Joshua Nkomo 

The same article went on to explain how China has, and still is, gathering those raw materials that are thought by those economic systems that are rich and advanced, to be the ones that determine who will be in charge, of this side of eternity for the next millennia, that is if we live for that long!

For quite some time now, I always make it a point to buy and read the Economist a world renowned American economic magazine. During the period since 2000 or thereabouts, this magazine has been closely following the phenomenon of climate change at the global, if not universal, level. The information I read in this paper on that subject, has opened my mind to a world beyond [man’s] casual thinking [process] regarding the workings of the universe.

Regarding this same matter, in the book; Super Brain, by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi, there is a statement that says; “[..] While doing his research on the universe, Albert Einstein . . . tried to read the mind of God[ . . . ]”.

My attitude regarding this matter has enabled me to think beyond my immediate environment with regard to space and time — a realm in which people like Einstein spent much of their time while they lived. It is within this kind of realm that one becomes aware that all this digging/excavation/probing of the planet Earth, if it continues unabated will, at some point, bring us to a not so pleasant end.

Ghanaian politician Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972), circa 1955. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Through such thoughts, I have been alarmed to realise how (we) blacks are lagging behind the other peoples of this world in the current period, in regard to almost everything that affects the existence and development (or otherwise) of the human race.

Through this same (thinking) process, I have come to understand — much to my dismay — the reasons for our current attitude to many aspects of life in general.

My purpose for writing this piece is to do two things: One is to dig deeper into the origin, nature and form of this attitude, as well as its possible causes. The other is to try and make suggestions as to how we can get out of it.

In his book; “The Race Myth”, Joseph L. Graves argues cogently, that there is no such thing as race. But he fails to explain why black people have been poorer than the other light skinned ethnic groups, if we may call them that.

That being the case, however, there is ample proof that in the past, black people have contributed immensely to human civilisation. Here there are quite a few examples. The ones that easily comes to mind are the Kushites of Egypt and Sudan, the Moors of Spain and much later, black American inventors Booker T. Washington, Granville T. Adams and other later day ones in that realm.

So given this fact, what are we to say concerning the current relative backwardness of the black race? Are we to reason that they are inherently underdeveloped mentally? Or is the matter to do with the environment in which they live?

All these are questions that have occupied the minds of those parties interested in this matter on both sides of the racial divide for a long time now. In this matter, Zimbabwe presents us with a rather fascinating scenario if we care to probe it.

On attaining (political) independence, this country was ruled by Robert Mugabe for a period of thirty seven years. To my mind, that man had the capacity to think big. In this regard, he followed the steps of Kwameh Nkrumah of Ghana, a country to which he had been a teacher for approximately ten years. Whether Mugabe was emulating the former’s thoughts or not, is difficult to say now, suffice to say that their minds converged on Africa’s position in world political and economic matters.

Here is a statement that provides with a hint of this big thinking by Nkrumah; “By far the greatest wrong which the departing colonists inflicted on us and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable states which bear no possibility of real development . . . We must unite for economic viability[ . . . ]”.

On his own part, Mugabe was cued on the matter of resource and economic ownership for, and by, Africans in general, and indigenous Zimbabweans in particular.

In this respect, he saw eye to eye with Joshua Nkomo, the man Zimbabweans had coined “Father Zimbabwe”. However, to my mind, the latter appeared not to be as assertive as Mugabe on such, and a few other related issues. Mugabe proceeded to implement strategies that he deemed to enable black Zimbabweans to take over the country’s economy.

These are: a desegregated education system; the expansion of the same system, placing emphasis on the building of technical colleges; the indigenisation and /or empowerment policy and the promulgation of fair labour laws.

He was doing all this on behalf of the black Africans, but paradoxically, these are attributes that the young black Zimbabwean is using to attack him and ZANU PF, the party that he helped to form (and) that he subsequently led.

An analysis of how black Zimbabweans regarded Mugabe at the different stages of his rule presents us with a fascinating scenario. As it turns out, this attitude partly explains why blacks in general, are in their current predicament. Let us delve into it here.

Mugabe recognised the criticality of the ownership of the means of production as articulated by Karl Marx. Some analysts were aware of this fact, this is why they dubbed him a Marxist. Some of them went as far as suggesting that he was a communist.

Most of these people were Westerners, mostly (as) represented by the Rhodesians who happened to know him much better than any other Westerner, having dealt with him at close range, in the process harassing him, detaining him and meting some rather indescribable physical treatment to his person.
Interestingly, the thinking of black Zimbabweans on this issue (of empowerment) was not clear at that time.

Nor is it clear now, although a good proportion of those in (opposition) political party circles are aping the Westerners in condemning him.

Some of Mugabe’s unique qualities that set him apart from the rest of the African leaders for all time, were his courage, clarity of thought, and the capacity, and determination to implement his thoughts, regardless of opposition from the super powers.

The natural resource ownership and exploitation of same, was one area in which Mugabe showed his foresight and mettle. I remember one day that I watched him [on TV] responding to a query from one of the attendees at a meeting for war veterans on their “(Government] promised 20 percent share of land and mining claims”.

He said poignantly; “I thought you went and fought, and won the ownership of this country — land, minerals and all — but now you want 20 percent! But 20 percent of what, and from who? We sent your children to university so that they could become engineers and (be) able to exploit your mineral resources, but now they have decided to work for foreign companies who are now virtually looting us of those same resources”.

As regards the character of Mugabe, there are a number of aspects that expose our thinking as black Zimbabweans. We often concentrate on his weaknesses, most of which only surfaced in the later half of his life when he was approaching senility.

In the process, we condemn him on many fronts. We even find him (to be) a good excuse for our current failure to own and to run this economy — another paradox.

This attitude has caused our children to (virtually) drag us back to that state of a colonial position and mentality. Indeed, some of them are calling for re-colonisation by the British; what a tragedy!

Today in this country, our youth have fallen into a short term mode in which small thinking is the diet. In this mode, one only thinks of getting a dollar to buy a plate of sadza for today only.

If ever and whenever, they strike big fortunes — as is often the case with artisanal miners — they go wild, spending them on trinkets, luxury cars, booze and women. When the money runs out they rush back to look for more, ad nauseam. Obviously, there is no room for big ideas in such attitudes and behaviour.

To get out of this mode, we need to go back to the drawing board of our educational syllabus and start from there, in the process drawing up a more appropriate one. But then, at this stage you may be asking yourself why I seem to be ignoring or downgrading the current Education 5.0.

In my article Zimbabwe’s Chicken and Egg Conundrum, I made a brief comment on this subject. I pointed out then, that it is all to do with systems, values and culture. So what does that mean, you may be asking? It means that one’s environment — physical and mental — determines, to a large extent, their success (or failure) in endeavouring to make progress of any sort.

To better clarify the matter, it means that to make real and lasting progress, you need to create an all round enabling environment with support systems and all. But this sounds a bit daunting as far as it takes considerable time and resources to implement such a strategy.

But remember what I have always said about the need for co-operation in this country.
To me, there is no alternative to addressing that need soonest.

In this case, consider the matter of innovation that is the cornerstone of Education 5.0. Innovation is the adoption of an invention by industry. So here we have one or two challenges.
First of all, there seems to be a misunderstanding among the education experts regarding the meaning of the term “innovation”. They seem to confuse invention and innovation.

As a result, they are placing the function of innovation in the wrong hands — the students — whereas this is a function of the industrialists. Interestingly, the symptoms of this error are showing up almost instantly. The latter are showing no interest in being involved in the exercise, hence the current impasse.
Here an interesting question arises; what, and whose inventions are we innovating? The implication of this quandary is that we haven’t started (doing) anything yet. This is especially so if we factor in the matter of patents, licenses and franchises.

At this point another related matter crops up. There is the case of Daniel Chikumbutso who has invented a motor car that nobody in the country is prepared to take up to innovate. Consider here, what this route if followed, could mean to us as a country and continent.

At this juncture we have inadvertently stumbled into the arena of political economics where we find ourselves clashing with the big guns. As an illustration of this assertion, some comments have been made from some quarters to the effect that; this invention ‘does not obey the laws of physics’.
The other comment is that; “Nothing serious ever came out of Africa”! And remember, Zimbabwe is not the first country to suffer this demise.

There have been inventions in such countries as Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, each with its own model of motor car which however, was not taken up by any serious innovator.

So at this stage, it cannot be a wild assertion that in this day and age, we blacks are not yet able to think big. We seem to see the world through other people’s lenses.

I shall address this issue in other articles in this publication if I get the chance to do so.
Shambare is an agriculturist cum economist and is reachable on 0774960937.

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