Escaping the Mind Trap of Our ‘Village Attitude
In igniting the fire for an “Attitude” change campaign, President Ernest Bai Koroma has embarked on a challenge of monumental proportions – for Sierra Leone, and, indeed, for all Africa. The President is engaged in ‘social engineering’, or, ‘social psychology’, or, ‘psychological re-tinkering’ of the thought processes of Sierra Leoneans. It is necessary to get the citizenry to change their attitude from recklessly using government property to taking care of them as if they were there personal property; to respect authority in the manifestation of the lowliest policeman, for example; but, we have to have the courage to think on the Big Challenges of our warped attitudes to nation building, and to confront them, and mitigate their deleterious effects on our society. One of the worst attitudes of the average Sierra Leonean is what I termed as our ‘Village Mentality’.
‘You can take the man out of the village....’
have heard of that trite saying with the barb of denigration: ‘You can take
the man out of his village, but, you can’t take the village out of the
man’. In the 20th Century that would
manifest the condescension of the
British educated elite in
unpalatable reality which we must confront is that ‘
attitude to the country as a foreign construct is what undergirds
the flagrant predation on the state by the elite, the lackadaisical attitude
to sustainable development that would embrace the entire country. After all, most of the elites have only
just literally emerged – first or
second generations – from their villages into the city. For most of them, the national capital city
is a ‘foreign land’. The ‘state’ is
also ‘foreign’. So, it is easy for the
elite to sustain the culture of predation on the state. ‘Democracy’ in nearly all of
‘Democratic elections’ are really ‘Tribal Wars’ for the village minded
The tribe that is dominant in the winning of ‘democratic elections’ deep down is sure that it has won a ‘civil war’. Thus, once in control of the state at the center, the ‘victorious tribe’ perceives its predatory attitude on the state as ‘legitimate war booty’. An elite who is part of the victorious tribe who wins power at the center (through democratic elections; or, military coups) and does not personally enrich himself (and, shares some of his loot with his kith and kin in his village) is viewed with the same contempt as a warrior of old who goes to war and does not return home with the chopped off heads of his vanquished victims on his spear. Those who the non-Africans would describe as being ‘filthily corrupt’ are the very ones who would be hailed by their village people as heroes of the tribe, and, are rewarded with parliamentary seats, and lobbied for to gain cabinet positions. In the eyes of their villagers, they are NOT corrupt people – but, ‘warriors’ who have won a ‘civil war’, and ‘earned’ their ‘war booty’. The ‘honest’ man who does not take his ‘war scalp’ is derided as a weakling; a fool; even, a ‘mad man’. . Except we fully understand this ‘attitude’ of the average Sierra Leonean to the state we now claim as ours – ‘Sierra Leone’ – all sustainable effort at national development would elude us.
What is ‘attitude’?
It would certainly be helpful if we at least have a smattering knowledge about the pedantry of ‘attitude’. Generally, psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. That can include evaluation of people – the ‘other’ tribe; white people; pastors; politicians; footballers; drug users, etc. It can also include what we think of the crucifix or amulets; gold and silk; Mercedes Benz cars and mini- skirts. It can also include what we think of events – our civil war; our independence day celebrations; our school’s thanksgiving day, etc. The important thing to note is that out attitude to these variables are “learned” – from the womb, so to speak; from our society, from our schools and churches and mosques, etc. Researchers in the realm of psychology also suggest that there are several ‘mind variables’ that can be said to comprise “attitude”.
There is the emotional component of attitude – how the object or person of event makes you feel. What if for decades you have been made to believe that the tribe that neighbours yours would be excessively cruel during civil wars; and, you have once or twice seen a member of that tribe brutally beating another person. Even if you meet a person from that tribe thousands of miles away from your home you are likely to adopt an attitude of fear or wariness to that person.
There is the cognitive side of attitude. That is, what information or beliefs you have in your memory of a person, events, or object. If it has been hammered into your head that Muslims are unforgiving and inclined to violence, you attitude to a Muslim would likely be trepidation, especially if you are a devout Christian who has been inculcated with the belief that one of the virtues of Christianity would be to be forgiving....
is the behavioural side of attitude. The way you appraise an ‘object’ or person,
the information you carry on a person, or event, would influence your behaviour
to the person. Do you think people
Don’t forget: attitude is learned. For us to change attitudes, to unlearn what we have learned as attitude, it would be helpful if we grasp how attitude is learned. We wade into the treacherous waters of human psychology here – CONDITIONING. Attitudes can be learned through ‘classical conditioning’, or, ‘operant conditioning’, or, simply, through ‘fallamakata’ (imitation). Expounding on this would call for several articles, not a few lines here. For now, I soar into the realm of the imagination as to what we can do to ‘cure’ ourselves of our suicidal village-minded diseases which has stymied national unity and sustainable development in our country.
Imaginative Attitude Change Thrust
every ‘big public holiday’ – Christmas; Eid-ul-fitri;
Easter; Independence Day, etc. – the President should take the lead
to....’escape from the village trap’.
This December, instead of holidaying in Makeni,
Bombali District, the President should go and spend
the festive season on
Hon. S.E.Osmond Hanciles
Deputy Minister 1
Ministry of Education, Science & Technology
Tel: +232 76 660993,
+232 33 182639