Stereotypes of Success

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Young people of this time face some acute challenges, never seen before in history. For once, the emphatic African adage of ‘Can the tail ever lead the head?’ is being subjected to a tensile test and the orderly structure of society is rapidly shifting, or dare I say, worsening.

To start with, it is strongly contended that today’s child knows more than his or her parents, and this alone could mean so many different things. After all, this is the information age that is relentlessly propelled by information, communications and technology, now very much within the reach and command of all individuals, big and small. Naturally, how ca one contest this theory when we witness day in and day out, how comfortable the younger generation is in the laps of is most coveted paramour – the smart phone and the tablet.

But before one scurries away with this thought, awarding premature accolades to the young individual living today, take a moment to comprehend the burden that they now face, almost brutally. The difficulty of growing up in this era is that there are no barriers – a good thing n a sense and a bad one otherwise. The time that preceding generations took to receive, understand and apply knowledge passed on to them and as per their age requirement, has now been replaced by an unbelievable universal code, where every information is available to everyone at any time. The predisposition to this mammoth cache of information, predisposes younger people to fall prey to myths and stereotypes that the formulators of these platforms purport to process, and now there is no intermediary to explain or interpret a life occurrence.

Members of the elder generation suddenly understand that this change in how we bring up our children, has been part of a larger design, that essentially takes away the proprietary rights one has within their family. The power that technology and the associated instruments give to the younger generation, abruptly places them in a very isolated place, and the winds of globalisation disperse mindsets, values and thought processes to places and people it was not supposed to reach.

At the centre of his saga, is the Almighty media that controls information flow to the masses, ensuring that desired results, favourable to an elitist group, are well served. But then that is the big picture we are looking at. What about the condition at our level?

As we sat down to listen to some young diploma individuals from different backgrounds, we were stunned to listen to this particular presentation by a community girl who was trying to make the case for same-sex alliances. Her research and presentation was well done, but she was failing to align with her native value systems, faith and dictates of the divine scripture. Many of us may have experienced such culturally shocking episodes at different junctures, but the particular take-home lesson for me was how hard mainstream media comprising of the entire jukebox of movies, news, shows documentaries, print, social media, et al, was rubbing hard on every other culture, even ours, chipping away the last remains of shame and religousity.

Perhaps, our families are not doing enough, and resigning too quickly to the invasion that has wreaked havoc in homes. But that would be utterly cowardly to say the least, for we are part of the problem having failed to ourselves understand the changing times, the robustness of this anti-thesis message and finally that, when the dust settles, we ought to have equipped ourselves with the right knowledge and the right practices. Instead, we remain shallow to this day. Our squabbling about leadership, who is right and who is not, about nyaz, our over indulgence on ritualistic performance of religion, all these have subjected us to this plight, from which there seems to be no way out.

in the midst of these crises, we burden our children with more magma. Our gatherings are filled with talk about the who’s who of society. More often tan note, we rally around the monied class of society, reward them for their every little donation and generosity, we even qualify their talk as being the right advise. And whereas this as well may be true, for it is incorrect to postulate that the rich are not worthy of respect and honour, but to insinuate that only they are, falls within the ambit of what is known in psychology as the Survivorship Bias.

James Clear writes in his 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.

There might be thousands of athletes who train in a very similar way to LeBron James, but never made it to the NBA. The problem is nobody hears about the thousands of athletes who never made it to the top. We only hear from the people who survive. We mistakenly overvalue the strategies, tactics, and advice of one survivor while ignoring the fact that the same strategies, tactics, and advice didn’t work for most people.

Another example: “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.”

It’s entirely possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not because of it. For every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs with failed projects, debt-heavy bank accounts, and half-finished degrees. Survivorship bias isn’t merely saying that a strategy may not work well for you, it’s also saying that we don’t really know if the strategy works well at all.”

It is time we introspect – spending too much time judging and talking about others, leaves us with absolutely no time to improve ourselves. If we keep passing the spirit of survivorship bias to our children, we may as well have deceived them the most, more than the monstrous media we all claim to be behind the moral massacre of our times.

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