Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Experience Dignity

When I was working as a youth director it was always amazing how in tune with the youth culture the business world was. They want to sell products and they spend a lot of time and money (more than the church) understanding youth culture and then figuring out how to manipulate it. If you wanted to know what youth wanted you really just needed to watch the advertising aimed at them. It was pointed out at a youth leaders conference that we met once a year to learn about the up and coming while the marketing groups met three times a year to do the same thing in their field. So…I have learned to pay attention to advertising to understand what people at least think that they want and I think there is one company in Kenya that has hit the nail on the head. Easy Coach’s motto is “Experience Dignity” and they are a bus company that operates in Kenya.

I think the thing most lacking in Tanzania and possibly most of East Africa is dignity. This is because there is a cultural system in place that sends a continual message that whatever you have has been given to you. You have not earned it, you do not deserve it, but because of the benevolence of those above you, you now have what you need or at least what they think you need. This system most likely had roots in the colonization of this part of Africa and has most definitely been continued by many non-profits and NGOs operating in Africa, both faith based and secular. However, I have seen it even within the Tanzanian culture where NGOs are not involved. If you are given a job it is not because you are qualified but because you know someone that was able to get it for you or because of the richness of your employer. If you are able to attend higher education it is because the government has extended that opportunity to you. This mind set is present in the vocabulary and posturing of almost everyone I have heard talk about it. Most things in this culture are phrased in terms of being gifts and this has now become the mindset of not only those giving the gifts who want to feel important, but also those receiving them so that they have been conditioned to wait patiently until someone decides they are worth giving something to. I have written before about this, but I think I have now developed a more concrete desire of what I would like to see changed. I would like to see people “Experience Dignity.” I want to see people enter into the partnership of work where the employer benefits from the skills of the employee while the employee benefits from the business or organization of the employer. I want to see the bright students of this generation be able to take pride in their thoughts, ideas, and possibly even vision for the future in a way that allows them to step up to the stage of higher education with the attitude that they have earned it. I want to talk to people who can describe the benefit they will bring to an organization as if it was their ability that gave them a right to be there instead of the hand out of a boss. The World Bank did an international survey once that focused on the causes and effects of poverty. Most of the poor people they interviewed said that they thing most lacking in their lives was not stuff, but dignity and equality in their society. I think it is pride that has given America its place in the world and I am interested in seeing what would happen to Tanzania if the people could “Experience Dignity” in their community’s and the country could “Experience Dignity” within the global village that is becoming closer and closer every day.

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