• November 23rd, 2019

Mental stamina in a noisy world


In my last piece, I simplified the forces in the world as extroversion and introversion. 
I owe this characterisation to a general belief that introverts are a weaker species. 

However, personal branding expert William Arruda says that “strong brands are as common among introverts as they are with extroverts.”

 I now shift my concern to how one, whether extroverted or introverted, can get to be heard in a world that is noisier, distracted and nonplussed. What does the infamous boast of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” mean?

Respected columnist Professor Jairos Kangira referred to some of the noise in his previous article. 
He reflected on robots, the 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution), and its expected successors. 
Professor Kangira correctly asked where Africa would find herself in this maze. In his book, Turning Back the Clock, acclaimed Italian semiotician and writer Umberto Eco, refers to the noise in the world as “carnivalization.”

“The fact is that even work has been Carnivalized…where helpful little robots, doing what you once had to do, make the work hours seem like leisure time. It’s also Carnival for those who drive cars that talk to them. Sport has been Carnivalized…by becoming not the interlude it was meant to be, but an all-pervasive presence. Politics has been Carnivalized. As parliament is steadily deprived of power, politics is conducted on television, like gladiatorial games.” Interestingly, in the noisy world, even “gossip has lost the glamour and power of secrecy, lost its nature as a social safety valve and become pointless exhibition.”

Further signs of danger are reflected by Julian Baggini who states that “to protest about this atomization of life seems quaintly Canute-like (used to describe a person who tries, unsuccessfully, to stop something from happening). The world is not going to unplug itself when so much can be accessed on the move.”

   Accordingly, Eco complains that “it seems to me that one of the great tragedies of mass society, of the press, television, and internet, is the voluntary renunciation of privacy…mass media has degenerated into a playground of exhibitionists.”

Not surprisingly, other scholars call for mental perseverance – not just grit – in order for one to remain “more consistent and better than your opponents.”

   The Atlantic’s Bianca Bosker says “noise is never just about sound; it is inseparable from issues of power and powerlessness. It is a violation we can’t control and to which, because of our anatomy, we cannot close ourselves off.”

My interest in this difficult subject lies in the need to adequately equip both students and the public alike with life skills, the knowledge and perspectives required to understand the forces, ideas and institutions that shape our fast-changing world.

   This week, I looked at a job application that calls for applicants who “can implement forward-looking and informed decisions while keeping in mind (and accepting full responsibility for) the likely impact of their key decisions.”

This need is underscored by the former MI6 head Sir John Sawers, who recently told a Digital Transformation Expo that “there are three fields that I think are shaping the world. They are a return to what I call ‘Great Power’ politics; the change in the western politics; and there is the rise of technology and how that is changing and driving our lives.” I hope that Africa is missing from Sawers’ comments because of the Expo’s location. If it is agreed that “cyber is both an attack tool and a crucial part of national defences,” it goes without saying that Africa needs to be appropriately and sufficiently equipped.

I am also curious that journalist Morris Kiruga has decided to slow down celebrations on Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s achievement as the hundredth winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Kiruga wonders whether the Prize will truly strengthen or weaken Abiy’s work on peace, international cooperation and the continuing efforts to end his country’s conflict with Eritrea.”

   Kiruga is careful to add that “while the Nobel committee’s hope is to strengthen him, it may also have handed him a poisoned chalice.”

The nature of today’s world challenges us to ensure that the leaders, stewards and shepherds being groomed for the future are imbued with strong leadership, team and people development skills. It is only when they have this capacity that they can confidently, and with agility, navigate the complexities of the world.  


Staff Reporter
2019-10-25 08:11:13 | 28 days ago

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