Work is hard; talk is cheap
I remain unconvinced that those shouting the loudest for changes, would do a single thing differently from what is happening now; I’ve yet to see those people present alternate plans of action rather than simplistic statements of opposition. Shouting is easy, but implementing well-thought out plans is hard.
Back in the day, I worked on Capitol Hill for an anti-apartheid lobbying group. During that time, I had the honour to meet and work with several titans of political discourse. One of them was Congressman Ronald V. Dellums of California. One thing that the radical (and incredibly handsome) Congressman often said was that it was EASY to say what you are against, but harder to say what you are FOR. How right he was.
In Namibia, it is easy to say that our leadership did something wrong. These are just words. Anyone can write them and shout them, and doing so, is an important exercise of our constitutional right to free speech. But, if we want changes based on what we are shouting about, then more has to be done than just shouting and whinging.
For example, the solutions to the current economic crisis hammered out by the Minister of Finance and proffered by various economic experts over the last several months were hard to formulate. A lot of reading, research and analysis went into the process. Whether you agree with the solutions or not, the attempt to solve the financial crisis in Namibia is a tough nut to crack.
People shouting the loudest about how horrific the impact of the budget cuts are, often are not prepared to offer a single well-researched alternative solution. I have always marvelled at the seemingly ineptness of the various opposition parties in Parliament over the years. Their entire platform is just to oppose whatever SWAPO is doing or saying. That isn’t a policy and that isn’t an alternative plan.
Where is their research about why a Government decision will not work and what specifically needs to be done to make it work. It is nice to know what they are against, but it takes more work to articulate what processes and programs they would put in place to achieve it.
For example, I am tired of hearing about corruption this and corruption that when the alarms sent out don’t contain what must be done; a plan of action to battle corruption. OK…what laws within the Constitution should be in place to curb it (it will NEVER be completely eliminated) and how would you go about implementing it; who would do it; who would it affect; how much would it cost and how long would it take?
The opposition ‘asks’ questions in Parliament to the Government. Lovely. But, in my law classes in grad school, one of the first things I learned was to never ask a question for which I don’t already have the answer. Our Parliamentarians probably didn’t take such classes. Without doing the research and reading to find the answer before you ask the question, you are at the mercy of whoever proffers information regardless of how accurate it may be. It makes question time a bit of a circus show rather than a tool of representative democracy.
All too often in many different venues, people stand up and give subjective or emotive statements about why they don’t like something. You will hear: “I oppose this program because it is against the culture of my people; our elders don’t like it” or “We fought for the independence of this country so that we don’t have to accept such things” or “This idea is personally insulting to me.”
Everyone has a right to express their point of view. But what change can be substantively made on a statement of opposition totally devoid of an alternative plan of action?
Consider this: we all have seen the various demonstrations by workers with placards demanding the firing of a manager of the company. Now, imagine a manager with a 5 year contract where there is no clause saying: “we can fire you if a group of workers march to the office shouting nasty things about you.” You fire that person and the company will face a massive lawsuit and the labour commissioner may force the person to be re-hired with back pay.
Here’s the rub. Any management silly enough to bear the lawsuits that come with illegal terminations will forever live with the precedent created. Management employment decisions are not made based on what groups of workers demand at a given point in time. It is the business mandates (profit margins, good products, strong workforce, etc…) in running such a business that determine the rules and regulations. Any company that ignores this will be bankrupt in months. The harder task is for management and business owners to work directly, openly and honestly with their employees to obtain buy-in to what has to be done for the company to be viable. It is harder to sit down and listen to what the employees are saying and do the work it takes to forge a solution. All too often, people make easy grand statements instead of doing the work to find a grand solution.
Equally, workers who don’t like doing something they are required to do must curb the tendency to be superficial and loud. Instead they need to focus on presenting a coherent, well-thought-out alternative to whatever they dislike. It is easy for angry workers to call for a manager to be fired (even if it won’t happen) and walk away thinking they have taken action on a problem. But, it is harder for those workers to sit with one another, review whatever it is that is making them angry and formulate an alternative program or plan.
Presenting that plan in a meeting or in the context of a march with placards or even a threatened strike (if meeting requests are ignored), can be a jumping off point for a viable solution.
My point that talk is easy while taking action to make a change is hard applies to so many situations.
Consider education and the problem with high test failures that Namibia constantly faces. There are many families that sit quietly while their children consistently perform below expectations in school and then point fingers at teachers or the Government as the reason why.
And yet, those same families never assist their own children with homework, place a low value on academic performance, pile on housework and chores each day rather than allowing the child to study, and never visit the school or talk to the teachers about the child’s performance.
When a child does not perform well in school, yes, the teachers as a part of the learning community bear some of the fault. But those responsible for the home learning environment are equally responsible for the learner’s results. And yet, it is far easier for parents to blame the teachers for their child’s poor test performance than for those same parents to make a plan of action to support the education of their child.
No doubt, it is hard for busy, working parents to be consistently attentive to homework, discuss the school day with the child, meet the teachers regularly, and take the child to the library or read books and newspapers together. Talk is cheap; DOING SOMETHING about the problem, is hard.
The hard work is knowing what you want; what you are FOR. Then, it is still harder to read about a subject, talk to others and get information and take the time to sit back and weigh what you have learned with what you know (and what you feel) and THEN plan an action to address it. But it is in taking the harder path that the rewards are greater.