As we journey through 2012 and the promise and challenges it offers, I could find no better theme for this year than “When Minds Meet” to highlight the urgent need to improve our conversations on what matters.
My own experiences have assisted me in sharpening my understanding about the human mind and the need to create a vibrant space in which minds can meet and engage in meaningful conversations based on the premise that every mind counts and ideas, facts and perspectives can advance the human cause when they are voluntarily generated and freely shared.
It was Theodore Zeldin, the author and historian, who observed that: “Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform, reshape them, draw different implications from them, and engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.”
In a letter to James Madison dated January 30, 1787, Thomas Jefferson stated that: “The people cannot be all, and always informed. The past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is a lethargy; the forerunner of death to the public liberty.”
I have chosen to focus my thoughts on what can be done to allow more African minds to discover the facts that reside in many minds, but never find expression because the typical human instinct is to withhold facts rather than use such facts and experiences to build new knowledge systems to the benefit of humankind.
Creating new cards through conversations requires effort. What separates post-colonial Africa from its peers is the limited or lack of informed conversations on the kind of issues that promote progress and prosperity.
It is easy to fall into the trap that the obligation to bring facts to the table lies with the next person. There is no doubt that my story will be part of the narrative of our generation.
Given the nature of life, my natural voice has a temporary shelf life compelling me to spare no effort in telling my story in my own words so that future generations my draw lessons from our experiences.
The privilege of writing carries with it obligations to choose the words and images that best capture the essence of the message.
The future is always kind to those who choose to use their actions to leave life imprints that can assure others that nothing is inevitable and guaranteed in life.
The past cannot be relived, but knowing about it secures the future. We often take for granted the forces that have played a part in shaping and defining the present.
It is not unusual that human beings have the propensity to appropriate the present state of affairs to the actions of a few forgetting that the present is a consequence of both the actions and inaction of the aggregate.
Human civilisation has taught us that creativity cannot be prescribed. It comes naturally from the ideas and thoughts of human beings. The subject that has occupied my mind for sometime relates to the role of corporate citizens in nation building.
A corporate citizen is an artificial person that only exists if the rule of law is in existence.
Unfortunately, the knowledge base about corporate citizens and the role they play in building inclusive and cohesive societies is often subordinated to the role politics and politicians play in the state.
A successful corporation is only measured in terms of its ability to deliver goods and services to willing market participants.
However, it is difficult to measure the performance of political actors and yet more is expected from them by society.
The role of corporations and the motives of the players in the corporate space are often misunderstood in as much as the role of the State and its actors.
How can we bridge this disconnect? Although it is a tall order, the few African players who have been privileged to play in the corporate space have an obligation to add their voices and faces to the conversations about the role of markets and justice in advancing the cause of nation building.
I have tried in my previous articles to deal with the philosophical issues surrounding the role of corporate and State actors in nation building.
Many of the State actors rise through the ranks using different rules while some employ slogans, intimidation and propaganda as weapons.
This is largely so because the majority of thought leaders on business issues generally frown upon the people who offer themselves to serve using the medium of the State.
How do we equip our teachers to know better about the corporate side of civilisation? We can only do so when we begin to incorporate corporate issues in the many discourses that take place between human beings.
If one were to measure the corporate content of the daily human conversations, it is not difficult to establish why corporate citizens are disliked.
The deficiency in the corporate content in conversations must squarely be blamed on the inability of corporate actors to connect with the general public.
Our experiences in the corporate world are limited to the memories of a few players. Such memories are generally not shared in books and newspapers to inspire young people to make the kind of choices that promote the prosperity of Africa.
Who are the drivers and builders of the African story?
If we do not invest in building new knowledge platforms, the future may never know how food is delivered to the table, for example, and what is required for the supply chain architecture to perform effectively and efficiently.