Tuesday 18 May 2021
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The danger of “Dolorism”: denial of risk and peril

Knowledge shouts at the world. The world is full of knowledge. However, applying wisdom requires much more work through continuous self-reflection and renewal of attitude towards self and others. As his contribution to the world, Jim Collins (2009) imortalised his thoughts on the stages of organisational decline in a book he poignantly titled “How the mighty fall”. The five stages that Collins (2009) considered as a perfect incarnation of organisational decline, or incline if appropriate actions are taken, is enlightening. For the sake of clarity, Collins’ (2009) Five Stages of Decline is reproduced underneath:
cline high-lighted above are not only applicable to organisations. They can apply to individuals, nations and countries. Like a terminal staged disease, the five stages of organisational decline are difficult to spot at the early stages but easy to treat. However, the terminal staged disease is easy to spot in the final stages but difficult to treat.
Decline, or what is commonly referred as failure, starts with hubris (excessive pride) born of success, which is likely to lead to undisciplined pursuit of more (greed) until at a point where danger signs begin to appear. At that point of danger, or to use everyday speak, at a point where the cracks begin appearing, the attitude and interior disposition adopted determines whether a capitulation to irrelevance and death stage will follow or not, that is, whether a stage of a failed company, individual or nation will follow or not. That is why the behaviours adopted at that point in time are instructive to careful observers. It is not about words anymore but about evidenced and demonstrated actions that counts. Will one adopt a disposition of listening to critical voices and admit that something is wrong and, thus take corrective action or a strategy of discounting or explaining negative data away follows? National, organisational or individual success or decline is largely self-inflicted, and recovery largely within the control of the person, organisation or country through the attitudes and behaviours adopted at different stages of situations. Dolorism or denialism has been singled out by others as enemy number one that blocks national, organisational or individual recovery and success. Dolorism, or denialism, is defined as the natural human tendency to exaggerate one’s pain and attribute them to another, quite often by refusing to listen to critical voices and discounting or explaining negative data and reality. In the 2017 Namibia, denialism manifests in different pertinent national discourses. Invariably, the consternation around the national economy which, to borrow the words of the Honourable Minister of Finance, is in a precarious condition is one in which denialism manifests. The question being deliberated on is whether it is fitting to hold independence “celebrations” in view of the precarious current economic conditions. It is a legitimate and practical question that affects the livelihood of many and not a theoretical and notional question. As such, it requires national circumspection by all without excluding anybody.
The debates flowing from the above-highlighted question stirred in me the idea that a budget, if not followed up with a mental attitude change is, largely, a notional and paper exercise. A budget will only be completed if accompanied by a kind of a corresponding decolonisation of the mind process and culture change. On its own, compiling and tabling a budget is like drawing up a new year resolution. For instance, one can resolve to lose weight. However, the seriousness of losing weight can only be known if one is often seen going to the gym.
Without that, the resolution will remain a resolution in the heart and diary. In a similar way, the plans contained in a budget will remain plans unless accompanied by corresponding demonstrated practical actions. The failure to manifests demonstrated practical actions links to the problem identified earlier by others as the reason why Africa fails to solve her problems.
Quite often, analyses are conducted at an excessively abstract level. Put differently, there is a frequent tendency to wallow in tendentious and rather sterile discussions about ill-defined notions instead of studying realities as they appear practically as daily-lived experiences. A concrete approach of studying the actual behaviours and responses of the main actors in a situation might be a far more convincing and far more likely to make sense of what is occurring in the practical sense.
The critical discourse on the question whether to hold independence celebrations in 2017 should not be explained away and dismissed but rather the pros and cons be critically examined. Personally, I feel it is one of the opportunities to bring across the message and practically demonstrate the reasons why the budget cuts were necessary in 2016. It is an opportunity to practically translate the astute words of the Minister of Finance, who by the way showed his poetic best by warning the nation against “dance with the rattlesnake” where the initial moves maybe be very pleasant but in the end, when the snake has bitten, it becomes lethal.
Did we as nation reflected and understood the wise message of the Minister of Finance hidden in the parable of a rattle snake? To continue doing what we have been doing in the past, like holding independence celebrations when the tide has clearly changed, is to continue dancing with rattle snakes. The seriousness of budget cuts can be evidenced in a situation such as this. The answer what to do lies in the parable of rattle snakes, that is, jointly removing them from the dance floor before they bite. Denialism should not be the new normal.
The budget tabled of N$62.54 billion may be overstated. There can still be significant reductions if savings from culture change and mental orientation programmes in the way of doing things (spending) are to be taken into account. The real expenditure outlay may be only N$40 billion.
Therefore, the cost cutting measures that started last year have to be entrenched and made the new normal. It is no use moaning about how little funds were allocated to this and that institution. What might be productive is to accept the allocations under the circumstances and finding new efficient ways of operating within set limits.
About the Author
The author, Matthias M. Ngwangwama, originally hails from the Kavango East Region. He matriculated in 1988 at Rundu Senior Secondary School. His educational qualifications include National Diploma in Accounting, a Bachelor of Technology in Accounting and Finance and MBA. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. His area of specialisation is organisational effectiveness, with focus on organisational development and design, organisational culture, leadership and African Management Philosophy.

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