Reverend Jan. A. Scholtz
Descartes’ old maxim goes like this: “I think, therefore I am.” Much has been said and written about that and some have even suggested that we need to add to the maxim the element of belonging and perhaps say, “I think and belong, therefore I am, and African thinking is said to be saying: take away the thinking and simply say; “I belong therefore I am.” Whatever maxim you subscribe to, I want to say emphatically that society needs thinkers more than ever before. We are bombarded by ideas and commercials every day.
We need people who think and who influence society to think. There is wealth that can enrich us from the experiences of ordinary people. The inability to think makes us passengers of our own lives. Many businesses, politicians and even religious entrepreneurs use people as commodities to achieve their own goals. People who are thinkers don’t just criticize and whine; they learn. They start by questioning. Why do we do it this way? Is there a better way? What would happen if we stop that? Why is this working?
What’s the real “win” here? Asking questions is at the heart of thinking. Questions challenge assumptions. Questions uncover the invisible forces behaviours and actions. Thinkers also notice things. Why is there no music playing? Why were their greeters so old? I wonder why they choose not to paint that sign the same colour as the rest of their signs.
We have to learn to think, give ourselves time to think and to allow people to think and let think. Thinking must be able to lift the discourse in the nation or nations to rise higher than the personal attacks that we seem to be stuck in presently. It is frightening to listen to conversations in gatherings and workshops, especially over teatime and free time. People talk about where to do the best shopping, and find more possessions. Debates over ideas and formulation of public policy are being overtaken by conversation on consumption and possessions. Our possessions have come to possess us. We need to mobilise society to focus on something better, a bigger picture of where we want to be – a true and better life for all or we will all degenerate into a state where we will be at war with each other. As the South African singer Mahlathini says: “Omnye ukhomba omnye esweni, omnye uvikela iliso lakhe” (A life of accusations, counter-accusations and personal attacks.)
The writer of Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, people perish.” When vision is lacking, people quickly degenerate into their worst selves and begin to behave strangely, sometimes in violent and destructive ways. We can turn the tide. We need thinkers more than ever before. Thinkers who will emerge from their thinking like Martin Luther King Junior did in his “I have a dream” speech. We need thinkers who will emerge from their thinking to be the leaders that Seth Mokitimi longed for on 23 September 1937 before the Second World War:
“O, for a leader, who whilst alive to the chaos around will exploit to the full those forces which make for stability and sanity, a leader who will admit the overhanging clouds, but turn the eyes of his people to the silver linings and steady the timid and panicky by pointing them to the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha!” (In Gqubule 1996:54)
* Reverend Jan. A. Scholtz is a holder of a Diploma in Theology, B-Theo (SA), a Diploma in Youth Work and Development from the University of Zambia (UNZA), Diploma in Education III (KOK) BA (HED) from UNISA.
2019-06-14 10:42:38 3 months ago