Looking Back, Moving Forward

by Christopher Achuenu (ELP 2013) | Program/Grants Manager​, Better Healthcare for Africans Initiative, Nigeria

It has truly been said that the only constant thing in life is change, and whether you are prepared for it or not change surely does come. With change comes growth and like all growth it is usually uncomfortable, at least in the initial stages until the true dividends of the growth are completed or seen. In today’s world where tolerance, acceptance, and love for one’s neighbor are fast becoming such scarce commodities, it is only fair for us to truly look back so we can see how far we have fallen and remember how love and empathy used to be the order of the day. I remember when the entire community was responsible for training and correcting young children, it was truly communal life at its best. You would see a child erring and could freely correct them, knowing fully well their parents would appreciate your kindness to straighten their child up; but you would not dare do that today. In the same vein, it’s not all gloom and doom, because we have indeed come a long way in terms of positive change. Several tech giants have come and changed our lives forever, and more changes are still in the horizon, from dynamic cab hailing and sharing services to driverless pizza delivery cars, to successful launch of a tourist space ship that would enhance space tourism, to Alexa operating almost every electronic device in our homes, etc. We can truly say that we have come a long way. However, it is important to see the kind of people we have become while trying to do so much and achieve at our highest level. We have almost become mechanized robots at the mercies of profit and gain. We live in a world now where CEOs and corporate executives are more concerned about the bottom line and the return on investment for shareholders. This particular model of running businesses that emphasizes shareholders returns, which is several centuries old, is fast becoming obsolete and can no longer effectively enhance overall societal peace and prosperity. This old system which is still in practice today makes 90 percent of the entire world population run around for the remaining 10 percent (also referred to as the “1 percenters”) that control 90 percent of the world’s wealth, which is the exact same reason why a staggering number live below the poverty line. This particular style of business model leaves everyone focused on making money for the boss and completely eliminates empathy, which is an ingredient that is highly needed in todays’ world. We have become so un-empathetic. Empathy for one another needs to be the driving force; in a world where people have forgotten how to care and show concern for others, be it employees, co-workers, students, children and grandchildren, empathy needs to be our driving focus. This is because, while we may be trying to save the world on one end, we may be killing the people in the world with our cold behaviors. It’s only proper for us to be able to reach out in genuine care and concern to colleagues, to open our hearts and hands to fellow humans and share in true love. This brings to mind an African proverb: “A foreigner came to the African village and told the kids playing in the sunset to compete for some candies, and whoever gets to the finish line first would receive the candy. To his utmost surprise at the blast of the whistle they all held hands and ran together and got to the finish line together. He asked why they did that. They taught him, saying what good would it be to one person to get all the candies while the others had nothing.” (Ubuntu-I am because we are, humanity towards others.) Every one of us helping each other excel would make the world a better place.  Every day is an opportunity to show empathy, love, and concern to someone else. It starts with the little things, like paying for a stranger’s coffee, paying for the lunch of the car behind yours at the drive through, smiling at someone at the intersection, and so much more. In giving and being more selfless, we can truly make the desired impact we as agents of change desire to make. Hence, I look back to the time when life was much simpler and we didn’t read unnecessary meanings into every little thing to use for protest. We really do need to engage the younger generation and let them understand how much saner things used to be and show them the pathways we had for the future before all this craziness started.

On a personal note, I would say it’s of great significance for us to always reflect and look back, so we can see where we are coming from, what we have achieved, and what we still need to achieve, to position ourselves strategically for us to take more sturdy steps towards a greater brighter future.