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City of Banjul
Monday, March 1, 2021

Intellectual laziness

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With Aisha Jallow

“Five per cent of people think, ten per cent of people think they think, and the other eighty five per cent would rather die than think”.
Thomas A Edison
Thomas Edison was an American inventor who was considered one of America’s leading businessmen and innovators. He was born in 1897 as the youngest of seven children. The family lived under poor conditions and as a result of scarlet fever Thomas Edison suffered from hearing difficulties and became almost deaf as an adult. Thomas Edison was forced to begin working at an early age to help support the family. He sold newspapers, and even made his own newspaper which was amusing for the customers and it sold well. Mr Edison had a talent for science on the technical front and began to make a lot of experiments as a young boy. At the end of his life, (died 1931), he had more than 1000 patents and had become famous around the world.

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Thomas Edison never allowed his poor condition to limit his mind. He began with nothing and built up a very successful workshop by hard work and determination. He never accepted No for an answer, he was a bit of a ”bulldozer” to get his way, but that strong will was the key to his success. Thomas Edison had a creative mind and he never gave up experimenting. An amazing man who had a brain which was on highest speed all the time.
Most people are intellectually lazy, don’t think for themselves, and believe whatever they are told.

If you are too lazy to think for yourself, to think through and persist with the hard problems, do your own study and research, question the answers and information presented to you, you can forget about getting smarter.
Intellectual laziness means having little curiosity or interest in pursuing or engaging in new learning or knowledge.

A good example:
LAZY: Those who spend hours online looking to be entertained with games and social media sites that do nothing to challenge the mind or enhance their own growth.
PURPOSEFUL: Those who enjoy social media and entertainment online, along with informational sites, instructional videos and purposeful search for meaningful, often challenging topics.
NOTE: the real digital divide is not between those with or without internet access, it is the growing gap between people who seek to get smarter, and those who don’t.

”Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it”.
Henry Ford
Henry Ford, 1863-1947, did not invent the automobile but he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle-class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th century. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with ”Fordism”, mass-production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations.

How did you feel when you read the topic of this article? Did you get annoyed, did you feel like I was patronizing you? I’m sorry if that was the case, but that was not my intention. Instead I wanted to express how I feel when I meet someone who clearly is clever, but too lazy to use his or her brain more than for the easiest tasks. At work I meet these people all the time, every day, and these people are called teenagers. Not all are the same, of course. So many of the young people here haven’t had to struggle even for one day of their lives. They take everything they get for granted and gratitude is not a word in their vocabulary. It doesn’t matter if these youngsters are born in Sweden or elsewhere, too many have the same mindset.

For example: each pupil in our school get a laptop in the seventh grade and they can use it as much as they want until the ninth grade when they finish that school. As the pupils don’t have to pay for that laptop they don’t understand its worth. They drop it on the floor so the screen gets broken; they leave it somewhere so it gets stolen. This semester the school got 14 laptops stolen. 14! And the school year is not over yet! The computers are supposed to be used for our pupil’s studies. They can take them home to do their homework and that is a great advantage. Maybe I should say COULD be a great advantage, because the laptop computers seem to be more used for downloading games and movies. The laptops don’t have a very high capacity so after a while they get to work very slowly because of all the inadequate stuff there is in them. Maybe we can’t ask of the pupils to understand the consequences of their actions, maybe they are just too young. Still it annoys me a great deal when the only reply we get when the pupils are questioned about their actions is a: ”I don’t know! Haven’t thought of it.”

That is the problem so many times and it doesn’t matter if it is my pupils who have caused something or some other people – old or young. It is so easy to not think, only act.
Let us go back to this quote by Henry Ford:
”Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it”.

Nor he or I are speaking about thoughts of every-day chores like who should cook or throw away the trashs or what time to pick up the kids after school. We are speaking about thoughts on a deeper level, thoughts of where our actions will lead us, what will be the consequences of this or that. The problem with a society where most people haven’t been encouraged to think independently is a country that raised followers, not great leaders. The few people that become leaders can easily take advantage of the fact that the followers don’t have the intellectual capacity to question them.

The followers have never been allowed to question anything, in the home, school or in society so how could they suddenly be free thinkers? Freedom of thought is a great gift, but it comes with a responsibility. If the thoughts are flying free in the mind and you have never thought of the wider consequences if your thoughts suddenly would turn to actions – where will this lead you? Did anyone ask little Yahya Jammeh that when he was a boy? Didn’t anyone see what kind of person he was turning out to be, and corrected him! No one turns out to be a monster over night. You can see the signs in a child of 8-10 year olds, if not younger.

The lack of independent thought comes with a low self esteem and vice versa. Thinking independently is a skill that has to be trained, just as any other skill. Encouraging the children to think for themselves doesn’t automatically lead to children without any boundaries. Controlling our kids, with force or without, will lead to either revolt or submission. Treating our children as people with dignity will lead to well behaved and independent adults. Being a good role model will give us good kids. Being a role model who is reasoning with kids will give us wise and responsible adults. Children should not be seen as a person who has not yet grown. Children are our future, so we must ask ourselves what kind of future do we wish to have? What kind of future do we deserve?
Let kids do their mistakes while they still are kids. Let them speak out, discuss, question things and give them good answers. The answer is not at the end of the stick you beat your child with. You beat your child because you haven’t been properly trained to find arguments in a heated situation. You treat your children as you have been treated, you prefer them to be quiet and submissive. Is that a good thing? Before you answer yes, think for a while. It is very easy to beat a child to submission but what good will it do for your child’s future? Let’s play with the thought that you have a son and your son has a lot of friends. All these boys are raised up the same way; taught to never question an authority of any kind.

The boys will grow up to be young men and suddenly one day meets another man who has a very strong personality. This man has high thoughts of himself and even if his is the same age as the others they look at him as their leader. This leader doesn’t have any special education or any kind of skills that you could admire. What the leader has is charisma. He is able to convince the other young men to follow him and do as he tells them to do. At the beginning it’s fun to be a part of this crowd of young men. You meet every day, you chat and laugh, drink attaya and speak about the girls passing by. After a while things are getting more serious. The leader is thriving by all the attention he gets. He speaks a lot and others listen to him, without interrupting. The others have learned from early childhood not to interrupt a leader of any kind and they have been training that skill to perfection.

The young men become military because they like the life with camaraderie and obeying orders. The salary is not good and the exercise is hard, but they like this way of living anyway. What if this imaginative leader is a new Yahya Jammeh? What if your son and his friends, all these kids who once visited your home and played in your compound suddenly have turned out to be robot like, submissive soldiers who easily can make your life miserable? They are trained to obey orders, without a thought and without hesitation. You taught your son that when he was little, his friend’s fathers did the same. Isn’t this a thought that can give you nightmares? This is what happened for more than 22 years ago and it can happen again if we don’t decide to stop it. It can only end if we are aware of the risk. All actions has consequences, I say that over and over again. By choosing your actions you also choose the consequences. It is as simple and as hard as that. Raising children is not easy, but all children will one day become adults so what kind of adults do we wish them to be? Followers, leaders or monsters?

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