Of fear and learning

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When I interviewed Lenti Morison in August, she spoke of the importance of learning from everyone we can in pursuit of our own personal betterment. And in our troubled South Africa, where racial tension keeps raising its ugly head, her advice was for people to invest their efforts into learning about our different cultures rather than denigrate each other.

This knowledge, she said, would help us manage not only our own actions but those of our staff. “Emotional Intelligence makes one’s job much easier and more pleasurable and makes a real positive difference to everyone around you,” she stressed.

That got me thinking. We all live with so much fear: of crime, of losing one’s job or not making budget, of the dangerous driving on our potholed, unkempt roads, and of the proposed land expropriations.

BigThink.com, a New York-based information web portal, says: “From our televisions to our political conversations, we are inundated with messages of fear. We feel more afraid of the world and our own neighbours now than we have in decades. But all that fear isn’t good for us. In fact, according to neuroscience, fear is killing us.”

I’m no psychologist, but I do know that fear can trigger fight or flight mode. And that it can lead to physical illness, a poorer quality of life, negativity and even hatred. PersonalExcellence.co says fight or flight reactions are necessary when we’re facing a real physiological threat. However, when it comes to self-perceived dangers, they actually hold us back.

“The problem is,” says the website, “about 99  per cent of the fears people experience today are non-physical fears – fears that only exist in our heads. We think we’re in danger but we really aren’t.” In its list, it includes the fear of people and strangers, of loss and of being hurt. Doesn’t this, if we’re honest, resonate with South Africans?

One of the most widely quoted lines about fear is from George Addair, who created his world-famous Omega Vec-tor Programs in 1978. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear,” he said, and millions of people, including his 65 000 successful graduates to date, believe this implicitly. Believe it and you realise you have choice.

So, while the facts are the facts, learning can change everything. It can create positivity where there is negativity. Learning and understanding could well be the opposites, the antonyms of fear, taken in this context.

Part of learning is figuring out and then accepting what can and cannot be changed. The law is the law, human rights are human rights. What can be learned is tolerance and communication. Which is where I again call on our President to tell us what’s actually happening around the most troubling issues in our country right now: land ex-propriation, unemployment, crime and lack of service delivery.

Slanted media reports and opinions abound, and this, along with the lack of straightforward communication from the top, is exacerbating the fear and negativity in our beautiful country.

It’s also affecting our economy. According to StatsSA, South Africa is now technically in a recession. Yes, the drought in the Western Cape has taken its toll on our agricultural production, but the land issue has also played a very negative role in the eyes of investors.

In thesouthafrican.com, Tom Head attributes one of the major contributing factors to the country’s poor growth results to land expropriation. Yes, an under-performing economy is also to blame, but fear around the unknown, the threat of violence and expropriation without compensation on top of our shameful crime rate, has hit our rand, and our national morale, badly.

There is hope, though. President Ramaphosa has attracted a significant portion of the R1 trillion foreign investment he promised and his cabinet is purported to be working on a stimulus package for the country’s economy.

According to Mr Head, the president has secured foreign investment deals of around R500 billion to date. His suc-cesses include a promise from the United Kingdom for more than R850 million, a deal with Saudi Arabia for R133 billion, which was then matched by an identical one from Abu Dhabi, a pledge by China for R196 billion and one from the Far East for more than R900 billion.

May this be the worst part of 2018 for South Africa, and may communication and learning become priorities for us all, from the top down.

 

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