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‘life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness’

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I was watching Brene Brown’s talk on Netflix the other day where she spoke about how when things are going ‘too good’ for us we tend to fearfully look over our shoulder trying to anticipate when it is all going to fall apart or when something bad is going to happen to us and our happiness is snatched away. I can totally relate.

Are she and I almost alone in this or is it a common thing when you feel happy for doubts such as anxiety and depression to lurk in the background, whispering that it might not last and waiting for disaster to pounce? It makes me wonder what it is about happiness that we all find quite so intimidating?

Maybe it’s because worry is our default position?  In the words of Mark Mason “We are evolved to be miserable and insecure to a certain degree because it's the mildly miserable and insecure creature who is going to do the most work to innovate and survive”. When I feel that it can all be taken away and I mustn’t take anything for granted, I work all that little bit harder (probably a lot harder) to make sure I stay in the game.

But we aren’t supposed to be happy all the time and if we were how would we know what happiness really is as we would surely lose perspective?  Besides, would we really want to be happy all the time?  Although my gut feel reaction is a huge, big fat ‘yes’, I wonder if there can there be something like too much happiness?

Last year there was an article on WebMD written by a Dr. Robinson talking about too much of a good thing being bad for you. The article shares how too much exercise can damage our joints and even lead to osteoporosis in women; and sleeping beyond the recommended eight hours can increase the risk of heart problems  Normal activities such as having sex, washing your hands, and eating healthy food, when done excessively, can all lead to serious health problems. She even explains that drinking too much water, to its extreme, can lead to death.

In the field of psychology, we consider very strong personality traits, skills, and abilities as sometimes demonstrating how a good thing can become a bad thing. Self-confidence, conscientiousness, and intelligence, when taken to an extreme, can become maladaptive behaviours.  Self-confidence can come across as arrogance or narcissism while a person who is overly conscientious, can be perceived as a perfectionist, these have some times been referred to as the dark side of personality. But what about happiness – can too much of that be a bad thing and does happiness also have a dark side?

 “A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good” published in 2012 talks about how the pursuit of happiness does not always contribute to positive outcomes.  Research has shown that being, “too happy” or “too positive” can mean an intense level of happiness.  A person who is extremely happy, and always happy, may not be completely in touch with reality. This disengagement, as a person experiences intense levels of happiness, may lead to risky behaviours and dysfunction in certain areas of our life.

Some other findings of research have found that if you are too happy you pay less attention to details because, in a nutshell, happiness tells us that things are good and when things are good, we are more likely to process global information first instead of local information. This means that we see the big picture first before paying attention to the important, small details.  When we are in a neutral or sad state, it tells us that something might be missing or be wrong. This triggers to go through a more analytical process and pay more attention to life’s small print.
Other studies have pointed to happiness stifling creativity, participating in risky behaviour and a whole host of other negative things. Here are some interesting facts highlighted in The Washington Post: Experiencing high life satisfaction when you are young can impact the income you earn later on in life (suggesting that tougher ,and by inference, less happy, youthful  experiences will impact your future earnings positively); similarly, there is a higher likelihood for students who are extremely happy to drop out of school compared to those who are moderately happy; extreme positive emotions can make us more prone to stereotypical thinking, such as making decisions based on gender and cheerful people find it more difficult to detect a lie, thus being more easily deceived than those in a negative mood.

So here’s the thing.  Happiness is a transient state, a fleeting emotion that comes and goes, just like its opposite – unhappiness – and if you don’t sometimes feel the ‘down’ of the latter , you will never appreciate the ‘up’ of the former.   Like most things in the human condition, it all comes down to a question of balance, of yin and yang, of light and dark, of highs and lows.  Too much of one and not enough of the other is an unnatural state of being, even when the ‘one’ is perceived as being good, better or best and if ‘happy’ were synonymous with ‘satisfied’ our lives would simply stagnate.  Happiness is elusive.  It’s the chase, not the capture that is the spice of life and think how bland that would otherwise taste!

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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