By Baba Galleh Jallow
Dreaming is for many of us a scary prospect. Not dreaming of the sleeping sort, which is totally involuntary and therefore easy; but dreaming of the thinking sort that seeks to find solutions to collective social problems and bring about collective social success. Many of us of course dream, and often dream big. But most of our dreams are centered around us and what is dear to us personally and to our loved ones. We dream of success and we work hard on achieving success because we believe that we can. And we can. What matters is what kind of success do we dream of? Is it success for us only and our loved ones? Or is it success for the greater good of society, of the nation to which we belong? Most often than not, we tend to dream of success only for us and our loved ones. Dreaming of collective success for society is for many of us too intimidating to engage in.
It is a sad fact that most often than not when it comes to dreaming of success for the collective wellbeing, we balk and stumble and grumble about the impossibility of the gargantuan task. We balk at the thought of what momentous challenges we must face and overcome, what slippery mountains we must climb; what pains we must suffer to get there; and we immediately banish all dreams of collective success from our minds. We regard the numerous challenges we face and must overcome and remove from our path to collective success with mind-crippling trepidation. We fear that tackling these challenges will take away our secure sense of being. We fear that overcoming these challenges will obstruct our individual ambitions to achieve our own personal ambitions. We dread the prospect of change that will manifest as a space in which our personal status and privileges will somehow be diminished because they will be subjected to the greater good.
We fear change that will magnify other identities and present other possibilities at the expense of our own individual identities and personal preferences. We are so petrified by the possibility of change that we actually search for more challenges and obstacles everywhere to convince ourselves that dreaming of collective success is an exercise in futility. Where we cannot find any real challenges and obstacles to add to the already large pile of challenges and obstacles we face, we manufacture imaginary ones to convince ourselves of the futility of dreaming of collective success, of trying to think outside the box and of doing things differently.
And because we are opposed to dreaming of collective success in our minds, we become somehow intolerant of others who dare to dream of collective success. We loudly grumble that people have unworthy motives for saying this or trying to do that, regardless of the often obvious merits of what they are saying or trying to do. We go out of our way to decry other people for dreaming of collective success and roundly accuse them of being greedy for status, or power or wealth. We insist that everybody must know their place and just do things the way things have always been done. We advocate the spurious advisability of a parochial tunnel vision that ignores everything not located directly within its path, however narrow, however diminishing of human potential. We declare visions failed even before they are fully articulated, almost before any actions are taken for their actualisation. We try to impose an enforced mediocrity on our fellow beings and never even pause to think how our antics can harm society at large. Because we are too timid to dream of success for the collectivity, we get trapped in a never ending cycle of failure and incompetence, of a frightening incapacity to manage the ever growing pile of obstacles and challenges stunting and arresting our development as a society. And in our own small minds and tight spaces, we sheepishly grin and gloat over how we are going to make sure that they fail: all those so-called dreamers who think we are fools.
And so we not only banish all dreams of collective success from our minds, we try to sabotage other people’s dreams of collective success by pointing to imaginary holes in their minds and imaginary bottlenecks around their thoughts; we grossly misrepresent their motivations, and we stay wilfully deaf and blind to their real motivations. We highlight the imaginary wrongs of going there when they should be staying here. We raise imaginary red flags against any departures from the ordinary, common ways of doing things even if those ordinary, common ways never get anything done. We warn of imaginary traps on the path, imaginary dangers lurking in imaginary shadows, and imaginary bottomless pits we all would fall into if no one listens to our imaginary pleas for sanity. We paint innovative thoughts and actions in the dark grey colours of reckless, selfish mindlessness. And we self-righteously highlight the common and the mundane as the only acceptable modes of social thought and action. We prioritise a manufactured probity over true human potential, and we recklessly utter puerile and dangerous incoherencies that could derail the very society we purport to love and defend, and thereby imperil the lives of unborn generations just to satisfy our bloated egos and our biting urge to deal with someone who dares to think and act otherwise than we do.
Perhaps without realising it, we become fastidious dream slappers unmindful of the fact that a society without dreamers of collective success is a society doomed to perpetual failure, social stagnation and common chaos. When a society discourages dreaming of collective success, it loses its collective mind and engages in all manner of self-defeating trivialities, behavioral contradictions and soul-demeaning bickering, scheming and plotting. People in such a society advocate beneficial change but insist that beneficial change is what they say it is and nothing else. They claim a monopoly on knowledge of what is best for society not because they know what is best for society, but because they insist that what is best for society is what they say it is and nothing else, an opinion which they habitually mistake for fact. They loudly insist that people who dare to dream of collective success are just pretenders who have no capacity at all to even think properly. And they loudly insist that such people must stop themselves or be forcefully stopped for the greater good of society even as they sabotage that very greater good by insisting on the infallibility of their parochial tunnel visions of what is right and proper to the exclusion of all contrary views and possibilities.
The good news is that those who dare to dream of collective success naturally remain unfazed in the face of the parochial antics of hostile dream slappers. They continue to dream of collective success and encourage others to dream of collective success. They know that by dreaming of collective success, society manifests its collective emotional intelligence and generates collective transformative energy. They know that dreaming of collective success generates a rich and beautiful culture of social creativity, enhances the national genius, and actualizes national potential. They know that a society that dreams of collective success is a society that generates peace and plenty in all the ways that really matter. They know that dreaming of collective success is the only way to take a society to the next level. And so they are able to quietly ignore the loud naysayers and continue to dare to dream and to act on their dreams.
When we dream of collective success we realise that we are much bigger and better than all the complications that threaten our collective future. We become convinced and act on the conviction that we are bigger and better than all the differences that inspire needless anger and hostility in us, the ephemeral peculiarities that cause us to adopt parochial and indefensible positions based only on our own personal interests and petty grievances. We realise that we are bigger and better than the small-minded non-issues that cause us to spew garbage from minds designed to manifest excellence and genius. Equally important, we come to know and accept in fact that dreaming of collective success must be backed by right actions for the common good to manifest as lived reality. And so yes, we must dare to dream: we must dare to think the thoughts, talk the talk, and walk the walk, however challenging, towards the actualisation and enjoyment of collective success for our society. And we can do it.
Dr Baba Galleh Jallow is the executive secretary at the Truth, Reconcilation and Reparations Commission.