I was commuting on one of the country’s most populous metropolis. The stately trees planted on the dividing kerb smeared its green on the atmosphere. The sun’s shine had a remarkably golden hue; falling on colored and rusty rooftops alike to give off a sharp shadow that lay idly on the tarred roads. The traffic I was in already wore on for nearly an hour at midday. “People are supposed to be at work and not on the roads!” I soliloquized. Already itchy to know the fate of my day, I peered out the window to meet a queue of cars ahead and behind—their engines were switched off and windows rolled down. It was even more astonishing to find that no vehicle owner came off their automobile to show curiosity about the traffic.
Around me, young boys and girls in their droves, clothed in dusty school-uniforms were running in opposite direction. Like wild dogs let loose from a cage, their legs were all I could see—skinny, brown and on their heels. As the traffic cleared a bit, we moved few blocks ahead and I began to hear the sound of large stones falling on the hard roads. Then I saw black metal blades that were thrown in the air—plastics and pieces of dry wood. It was clear to me that there was a riot.
From my lane, there were students from different schools, each chanting on the top of their lungs. The bolder ones were in front with axes, daggers, bottles and sticks; challenging students of the other school to a duel in the middle of the road. As the brawl intensified, cutlasses and pebbles were flung into the camp of their adversaries. It was a horrid scene!
The commuters in our once- quiet bus began to express dismay, disappointment and even shock. It became a conversation on politics and how the government had failed them. Some sang praises of the good old days and how irresponsible children had grown. In the midst of the endless chatter, my mind was lost in a forest of thoughts to the future we hang on the heads of these kids who, today know no more than to pick clubs for a street fight. I thought about the nation they were to build and how they tore it apart instead. Their schools came to mind. They must have left their teachers in absolute fear as they raced out from the gates cursing and fuming—breaking and destroying anything in their trail.
These thoughts are not rare or epiphanies about a breakthrough scientific research. They commonly cross the mind of the politician who seats cross-legged in the hallowed chambers of a plush office as he reads on social media of bloodshed in broad-day light from student violence. He thinks and keeps thinking. These thoughts—they snake into the conversation of passer-bys as they wonder what could make young children who barely left breastfeeding a decade ago now embrace broken bottles. Everyone from far away visitors in the neighborhood like me to permanent residents who know these kids will be bound by a single thought—the one that asks what else is right since kids now find their answers in violence even in the absence of war.
Apparently, everyone has a metaphoric fist beneath the chin and a sigh in the chest—thinking. We seem shackled to the prison of our thoughts and lay at its floor while we feed our minds consummately with what is falling apart. The very process that should kick-start social action against what’s wrong around us has left us perplexed, stuck in transit and tucked us away from doing the things that makes us fix it.
The consequence of prolonged thinking has become the reckless children we see on the streets, the schools that do not work, the government that is not responsible, the health-care that is dilapidated, the run-down municipal bore-hole system, the poverty that escalates in percentages by the year and the suicide rates that escorts such statistics.
To the writer, the plague of endless thinking is the festering sore of an unwritten book. To the singer, it is the unsung rhythm that sits still in the crypts of the soul. To the doctor, it is the patient in the morgue whose life would have been saved but for the impulsive need to hesitate.
To the lawyer, it is the person in jail whose freedom ran aground from a trial where the defense froze while thinking of the best move. The sentence was passed, the cold metal cuffs wrap the wrists and justice sinks in death behind the rough textured iron bars.
The grotesque nature of thought is that when prolonged, it births hesitation and when hesitation grows it becomes neglect. It is what the changes we seek in our lives and society suffer from—neglect! The nation is thinking and in the fervid search of how best to go, we have lost the passion to fix it. The worry has grown in our minds; the problem has swelled so big and they have made our hands numb to work. Our thoughts have knocked us out in hibernation where we hope to wake up one morning and it will be summer; with food aplenty and frank prosperity.
In an age governed by the presence of thought leaders, I’m challenging you to take a sweeping look at the pattern of your thinking and the demise of the things that enjoyed nothing but your worry over it, your concern over it and your thought over it. This takes you on a journey where you find that thinking isn’t enough.
The picturesque qualities of the dreams we have make us miss the crucial place of the work to achieve them. This is the curse afflicting the progress we hope to see. It is the fineness of our thoughts that makes thinking a solace rather than reality. So, we prefer to dream rather than do. Unfortunately, my entrepreneur friend, Samuel Darko would always quip: “The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.”
You don’t run with a vision. Everybody seemingly has one. You run with a passion—a desire to work something out. The proverbial rolling of the sleeves to bring a vision to bear is the result of an individual who has recovered from the vegetative state of prolonged thinking. The dirty work of cleansing our neighborhood of rampant indifference, rescuing our kids from ravaging illiteracy, repositioning oneself for entrepreneurial and professional success, fixing the broken institutions that produces the putrid mediocrity that settles on most graduates is now. You have thought long and hard about it. It’s time to do something about it.
Dr Olulade Ebenezer,
For Fellow Nurses Africa.