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Less effective survival strategies

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There is no doubt about it, Zimbabweans are people who know how to “make a plan”.

So impressed was Google’s policy manager for East Africa Ory Okolloh, during her visit last week that she suggested other people around the world might be able to learn a thing or two about our coping strategies.

But Zimbabweans are also people who enjoy a rich sense of humour and one of the best things about this is our ability to laugh at ourselves. For this reason I know you will appreciate the less reverent depictions in today’s column.

While we are good at “making a plan” and coping with all kinds of crazy curveballs, from earthquakes (remember that from a few years ago?) to hyperinflation (who could forget!) we also have some ways of dealing with problems that are a little dodgy.

There is for example, the “look helpless” strategy.

This is employed by five-year-olds who are too tired to care and also by grown-ups who would prefer for someone else to fix their particular problem. Say for instance a couple of young women find themselves with a flat tyre as they drive along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.

They know exactly what needs to be done, but aren’t really looking to exert themselves and risk breaking a nail or spoiling a weave, so they pull over, open the bonnet (yes, the bonnet, not the boot!) and stand outside the car looking helpless.
Now unless there is something seriously wrong with the way the two ladies look, I can guarantee you that in no time at all, someone will have stopped and changed the tyre for them and they can continue on their merry way. It’s a coping mechanism — and it works!

One strategy that doesn’t work quite so well is the
“let’s-pretend-it-doesn’t-exist” approach to problem solving.

This is also known as the “ostrich approach” and is often used by politicians, and other bullies. So you see trouble coming and instead of preparing for it, you ignore it, and hope it will go away. Take for instance school fees. Right now we are all thrilled that schools have finally closed and both parents and children can take a break.

But we also know for sure that they will reopen without a doubt in September. Watch what we do. We’ll totally and completely ignore this rather stark fact, and then on September 10 we’ll suddenly go: “Hah! Schools are opening tomorrow” and rush around making the necessary preparations. Yeah. Let’s-pretend-it-doesn’t-exist is one of our less effective ways of dealing with the unpleasantness of life!

Then there is the “throw-money-at-it” model of problem solving. This is generally employed by the new elites and is expected to resolve everything from traffic violations to raising teenagers. The general ethos behind this is that if you give people enough money, they will do whatever it is you want them to. No!

Similar to the throw-money-at-it is the “throw-people-at-it”. This is used in business to solve any number or type of problems. Not selling enough products? Hire more people. Product not performing? Hire more people.

Price of product too high? Hire. . . oh no wait a minute, we’re about to go out of business! Now before I share the next one, let me declare up front that I am a big fan of prayer and fasting. I have known it to be effective in helping me focus and develop solutions for a wide range of problems.

However, I also believe that a lot of the time God gives us solutions to problems which we do not implement because they require us to make uncomfortable decisions, take a bold stand or face our own flaws squarely in the eye.

We then ignore the solution and instead resolve to “pray and fast” some more. We ask God to kill the devil, punish our enemies, neutralise demons and show us His glory, when what we really want is for God to protect us from the duty of decision-making and from taking responsibility for our actions!

Sure enough it’s a strategy that works, because we vacillate for so long that things simply take their course. And then we have the privilege of blaming God if the outcome is not what we
expected. And finally we have the “daddy-daddy-make-it-go-away” model of problem solving. This is the one where we hand over wholesale style all our power to a higher authority, hoping that they will act in our best interests.

We do this with the government and we do this in families. We also do it with our children when we hand them over to school authorities and expect them to parent them on our behalf.

We really are very special. And when all our other proposed solutions fail us, we simply make it fit, otherwise known as kujingirisa (I failed to find a Ndebele equivalent for this word!)

This survival strategy is best personified by Zimbabweans who live in England for a couple of years and come back with an American accent! You gotta love us!

.Thembe Khumalo Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers comments can be sent to localdrummer@newsday.co.zw. Follow Thembe on Twitter www.twitter/localdrummer or visit her facebook page www.facebook.com/pages
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