HARDENING OF ATTITUDE

I read about “the hardening of attitude” somewhere (don’t ask me about the book, the author, when and in what context, for I can’t recall or recollect either of that). I simply acknowledge that the expression has been sticking in my mind for many years. I think the issue is worth discussing and debating. Similarly, I do recall a story that once upon a time a guru in sales trained a number of salesmen, and after a while, one of them came back to the sales expert to report that he could not do his job as he hates constant rejections by customers. The guru asked the newly recruited salesman how he knew that the customers hated his sales pitch. The salesman answered that he could feel this hatred in both customers’ responses and attitude. The guru told the junior salesman that he would be one of the best salesmen of his time. Surprised, the salesman asked his trainer how he could be that when all he received were terrifying rejections. The trainer told him that understanding what people like to hear (their needs addressed) is one of the critical skills in sales.  That is an excellent sign that he was experiencing this feeling of his customers’ rejections. Not understanding that one’s sales pitch does not sell is a tremendous liability in human interactions. “Hardening of Attitude” is the assumption that there is only one way of doing things. It means “my way or the highway”. It means no room for debate and improvement. It means never re-inventing the wheel. It means the other person’s opinion does not count. It means take it or leave it approach. It means no room for compromise. It means breakdown of communication between family members leading to failure of marriages and family bond between parents and their offspring. Anyone who lived through the unlucky experience of having eccentric partner in marriage or business knows what I am talking about. It means communication barriers between bosses, their staff or employees. As an example, at one time in my working life I have had a boss, who had no idea of how a computer worked, never typed a letter and only knew that there were computers in existence and saw me using one. Suddenly, my boss decided to become computer literate and asked me if I could train him on the machine. When I began the first lesson, he started lecturing me about computers. That was an extreme display of personal echo and hardened attitude towards reluctance to change. It means no learning, renovation, modernization or invention. It means no growth or development in any particular field of human endeavor. Life becomes mundane, routine and boring. We call bosses or persons with hardened attitude as “egocentric” We see people, who describe the world through their favorite word “I” everyday. We often meet with person or group of persons, who continually use the words “we” and “they” to “otherise” other people outside their circles, culture, or even their social or professional class with no room for change of attitudes or any possibilities to re-think about their deeply held and entrenched positions on personal relationships, political and social issues of the day. We say these people are extremely “sociocentric”. Still, there are many of them; there are even entire nations, who think that their ways of acting, their cultures are better, considering others’ as either “eccentric” or below “standard”. Some of these nations consider themselves as highly advanced and “civilized”. Such hardened attitudes had been even major sources of world conflicts, wars and break-down of diplomatic relations. My reading is that such attitudes rank 2nd to pursuit of national interests. Call it a “prejudiced national echo”. How do the Somalis stack up in this “hardening of attitudes”? People described as uniquely “poetic” by well-known historians, anthropologists, explorers and writers ( Richard Burton, I. M. Lewis, , Lidwien Kapteijns, Bogumil W. Andrzejewski,  Enrico Cerulli, Said Sheikh Samatar, Abdi-Sheikh Abdi, Ahmed Ismail Samatar, Nuruddin Farah, just to name a few), must have, certainly, a fair share of prejudices and attitudes among themselves and towards others. Some of these writers depict these people as extremely “proud people” for the Somali nomad recognizes no authority other than his own Creator. Such hardened attitude or belief in his human superiority is, perhaps, the main cause of his eventual downfall and collapse of his social and political organizations – and first and foremost, the Somali State. There was no measured and balanced view of his reality. With the appearance of a dictatorial regime in the realm of a “born free” nomad, the world went upside down for the proud men and women of Somalia. Citizens were reduced to robots conforming to the prevailing regimentation that could be only designed, devised and operated by an unheard of police state. I know some would argue that I ignore the role of the leaders who instigated and spearheaded the community violence in the most vicious civil war following the fall of the repressive Military Junta. The critics, however, dismiss the fact that this was the result and historical legacy of the Barre Regime. As thousands were victimized and hundreds of thousands fled the country, they instantly became refugees in foreign lands unprepared for such sub-human treatment they could never have dreamt of. As the most vulnerable members of the society like women, seniors and children were exposed to all the dangers and suffering caused by lack of protection in an abysmal environment of statelessness, the famous Somali “pride” and dignity were  irreversibly damaged. Time-tested traditional values and human self-worth are becoming the stories of the past, and those, who are old enough to remember, a nostalgia and déjà vu.  As a result, people today suffer in mass from post-civil war trauma with little awareness of the epidemic due to the lack of interest or adequate studies on the immigrant population, and limited access to qualified medical services in refugee camps. One could only sit with Somali Diaspora communities across the world to listen to the non-ceasing debates along political/clannish lines in coffee-shops to gauge into the sad state of these endangered human species in display, where no one speaks of the needs of the local communities and the future of children and next generations. In these shouting sessions, one would immediately notice that there are no meaningful discourses as no one would attentively listen to any one in a normal debate. By listening to them to try to make sense of what they are saying or what the issues are, one would feel that these sessions are the best examples of the fallacy of “red herring”. Another would say that participants are kids suffering from the condition of ADS (attention deficient syndrome). I leave this issue alone to the much qualified experts to explore. In general terms though, it is high time for Somali communities to learn from this bitter experience, and rise up again from this self-inflicted comma to restore their dignified existence by revising and reviewing their attitudes for change. And please listen to the concerns of each other and stop pitching on the wrong messages in order to have productive, constructive and interesting debates on issue of vital importance. By Ismail H. Warsame e-mail: ismailwarsame@gmail.com Twitter: @ismailwarsame

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