In the world where everyone is told to love and focus on themselves, empathy seems to have become a thing of the past. This is nothing but an illustration of how the 21st century has diverted the focus from the community to the individual. That is not to say the diversion was a bad idea, because the community is obviously made up of individuals, but putting oneself above everything else may eventually be detrimental to the wellness of a society.
Those who have been around pre-independence would agree that back then, a sense of community was stronger than ever. People were closer and had so much to share. It was so strong that one can truly say that a child was raised by the village. Neighbours lived as family and looked out for each other. In villages, people even had special sounds to make as signals in case of emerging danger or communication on certain aspects. Growing up at that time made one feel loved and looked after by the community; love for one another was in the air.
However, post-independence, things changed. People became more distant and factors such as one’s financial status or possessions became the determinants and the basis of relationships – needless to say that class became more important than the community. This could also be a spill-over from the fact that political affiliations may have had caused more division than unity, planting seeds of social segregation that even brothers or sisters may not see eye-to-eye due to political differences.
The most evident focus on the individual has especially been emphasising on individual success rather than the success of the pack. This may have eventually led to competition, where teamwork and collective action would have rather born better results.
The focus on self-love, for example, has been exaggerated to the point that it has reached the level of narcissism and this can even lead to serious mental health issues. This trend, however, is not a rare occurrence but has become even more of a phenomenon at the inception of the “selfie” – which, when closely investigated, could also translate into self-absorption, where, at every opportunity, the individual would do anything to benefit or win even if at the expense of another being, demonstrating very little regard or none for the life and wellbeing of a the other or community at large.
One other dark side of self-love is that it may lead to the focus on the self to a point of paranoia, where there is an inclination to seeing anyone with either differing views or disposition as an enemy; hence, of late, we hear people referring to haters, who often are imaginary/non-existent or out of suspicion without any evidence.
With that said, there is no doubt there seems to be winds of change and an awakening, especially among the youth, which seems to revive the sense of the community. It is seen in how the young generation is starting to have open discourse around issues related to mental health – not only politics. There is an emerging shift that is leading and creating a friendly environment for the youth to start talking about tough topics – be it on social media platforms and social gatherings.
It is this shift that brings hope and people together, so that whatever situations may come, the future generation may stick together for common good. This may, therefore, lead to addressing most psycho-social issues through breaking the silence on the implications that concepts such as self-love may have on one’s mental health and their general outlook on life.
Oshimwenyo is published every Friday in the New Era newspaper with contributions from Karlos Naimwhaka.