The poverty mindset…

A lady posted this on my Facebook page and it got me thinking “My government paid for me to get my degree but not everyone lives in a rich country. This issue is very complicated. You are one of the lucky few”. This is in response to a previous comment I made “I believe strongly that Education is the only means by which we can break through poverty and the poverty mindset…”. I’m I one of the lucky few? I could go on about all the difficulties I have gone through to get to where I am, but I wonder really if that is the point she tried to make. What I take from what she said is something I link to the last part of my quote “Mindset”. The mind is a powerful thing. It is independent and most frustratingly, there is a conscious part to it and a subconscious part as well. How then does one control the subconscious when you are not even aware what it may be thinking or how it may be influencing your actions.

There is an interesting book titled ‘Thinking fast and slow’ by Daniel Kahneman that talks about the first and second brain and how they influence our reactions, deductions, perceptions, etc. For me getting people out of poverty is not really a difficult thing, but getting people out of the “poverty mindset” now that can be a herculean task!

Africa may be free physically. Our people managed to throw our captors and slave masters out, but are we free from the slave mentality? what is our default mode? what is our self-esteem? Again I go back to the point made by the contributor at the beginning of this piece. So, I finished Harvard. This is not the point. The point is that there are probably more people who have better qualifications than I have who may qualify for the program, but guess what, I was the only Ghanaian in my class! I am sure this is not for want of people who dream of the same opportunity. But dreaming and acting are two different things. How do you act when at the core of you, you suspect that you may not be good enough? and even when you whip the courage to apply, the society you live in will drum it down your head that you are not good enough and not only that, they may go out of their way to prove this to you by engaging in acts that emphasizes their point?  there is a little bit of self fulfilling prophesy going on here, don’t you think? For this reason, I hardly told anyone, including my family that I was applying, because they would have reminded me of all the reasons why I may not qualify, instead of a little focus on the one reason or two, why I may!

And so yes, I am part of the lucky few, because I choose to be that. We can easily give strategies for overcoming physical poverty and may very well be on our way to eradicating it in some parts of the continent. But what are we to do about our mental poverty? how do we tell our children that they are good enough and that they can do whatever they set their minds to and that failure is necessary for progress? that failure can actually be a catalyst that  spurs you on to try again and possibly do better? I remember watching the documentary ‘Rivers and Tides’ and the Artist, Andy says something like this each time his Art work is destroyed by the water ‘ I understand the stones better and each time I try again, I get better!” and then he says something even more profound ‘the river can make of it far more that I ever could’.  How do we motivate our young people to dream big and work hard and strive for the best because only the best is good enough for them? how do we encourage our authority people to realize that they are looting our nations because they too are poor mentality and their poverty blinds them to the realization that there is so much more in them they can give than take from the people? Physical riches does not lead to self actualization, does it?

Mental poverty is a serious condition. It is a tool by which you can forever enslave a people or enslave yourself and the best thing is that you don’t even know it is there…  you are a free crusader for its sustenance as you steadfastly go about conquering your world. Hey and you are king of that world too! I say the main fight for us is not to fight to eradicate physical poverty, for that can easily eradicate itself when the mindset is right. People who achieve, don’t achieve because there are no limitations, they achieve despite their limitations!, but your mental limitations, boy, you can have all the riches in the world and you will still be poor. Africa has many of the world’s resources, don’t we? you tell me what you think…


2 thoughts on “The poverty mindset…

  1. Brilliant post. Unfortunately the poverty mindset permeates every corner of the planet (including “rich” countries like the U.S.). It is not until people take control of their own minds and destiny that we can break through the layers of systematic oppression in every country and truly open the world up to global freedom and prosperity.

  2. As you know most of the communities (Bengali or Tamils) in this sub-continent are infected by ‘Culture of Poverty(hopelessness)’ syndrome, irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is seriously ashamed of or regret the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-Governance, bad work place, weak mother language, filth, continuous consumption of common social space (mental as well as physical, both). Do not ever look for any other positive alternative gesture/values to perform a real way of parenthood – deliberately stop giving birth to any child him/herself till the entire society improves up to the mark, co-parenting children those are born out of extreme poverty, instead. We are becoming parents only by self-procreation – mindlessly, blindfold (supported by some lame excuses), depriving the children’s fundamental rights(of a decent & caring society, fearless & dignified living). We are being driven by the very animal instinct, pushing persons for a nasty living, indulging the entire community to go perish. If the Bengali people ever opt for a freedom from vicious cycle of poverty, need to involve in Production of Space(Henri Lefebvre), form a positive sentiment to overcome the inherent ‘hopeless’ mindset, definite application of human dignity, decent & fair Politics would certainly come up. – SB, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah -711101, India.

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