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Stop playing the blame game – it’s for losers

Jun 08, 2008 Success, Sunday Nation

I am writing this in the dark, afflicted by a power blackout. It seems a good time to pass the blame around. So let me start, obviously, by blaming our notorious power company, which has been a blight on this country for decades. Let me also pass some blame to my landlord, who seems incapable of maintaining decent power back-up in our building, regardless of the inconvenience caused to hundreds every day.

I’m beginning to enjoy this blame game. The more I think about it, the more I feel the victim of things out of my control. I am not as rich or accomplished as I could have been, and I feel others are to blame. Take my father, for instance. Why did he not realise that if he had bought a few thousand shillings worth of shares in my name in the 1970s and 1980s, that I would be a multi-millionaire now? And why did my recently departed mother give away money, food and clothing virtually every day, to all and sundry? With more sensible parents, I would be better off today.

Thinking back, my education also limited my chances. What was all that nonsense I was being forced to memorise and then regurgitate? Whose idea of education was that? I particularly blame my history teacher, who would walk into the classroom, write thousands of words on the blackboard that I was expected to copy, and then walk out again. He detached me from a proper knowledge of my past, and I am a lesser person as a result.

Of course, I want to blame my country as well. It is a tinpot place, decrepit and amoral. It has been led by looters and blunderers for decades, and they have constrained me. Had I lived in a better country with more competent leadership, I would undoubtedly have prospered.

But let’s not just blame the leaders we elected; let’s go further back in time. Those colonialists have a lot to answer for, don’t they? They plundered this fair land and forced people into enclaves. They ran the place like one of their damned country clubs, where only the members are allowed to prosper. My forebears were not members, and so I am handicapped today.

If you think about it, colonialism never really went away, did it? It merely changed its shape. These days, I feel colonised by western powers and their crafty financial institutions, who have ensured that I remain a dependant. My country is firmly in their control, and so therefore am I.

Finally, doesn’t my creator have a lot to answer for? I mean, what was He thinking? He could have made me better-looking, or given me a better brain, or made sure I was born in the lap of luxury in an advanced country. What am I being punished for?

Had enough, folks? I thought so. I certainly have. Playing the blame game is one of the worst things you can do in life. It is the most dispiriting and debilitating way to spend your time. You will find plenty of people to blame – but none of them will really be at fault.

Had my father not showed steely determination in not bestowing any material wealth on me, I would have been a wastrel. It is the necessity of living off my own wits that has made me. And my mother, by being a natural giver who gave freely to all, made me a far more generous person than I would otherwise have been, and changed the meaning of my life.

Many of us are habitual blame-gamers, and we are crippling our own development. Here’s what you really need to know. Every day when you wake up, a completely fresh twenty-four hours lie ahead of you. All things are possible. If you choose to wake up gloomy, that is a choice you make. No one makes you gloomy except yourself. If you want to brood over your lost love or your history teacher, go ahead. But remember you are expending valuable time and mental resources thinking about things you can’t change. And that is a fool’s errand.

Our history, our parents, our heritage, our education – they do indeed shape what we are. But they have nothing to do with what we could become. If we looked forward rather than back, we would find that all possibilities still await us. We would understand that many of the world’s most accomplished people did what they did without stable parenting or top-notch education or capital resources. So what stops you?

Africa will truly develop when it stops playing the blame game. We must look away from history, geography and biology. We in Africa must stop blaming our past, or our location, or the evil white man. We must wake up tomorrow and use it as the first twenty-four hours of the future. The blame game is a loser’s game, and Africa must look to the future.

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