columnBy Chris Smith
LIFE is a strange and ever-changing reality constantly confused, especially in this increasingly electronic world, with masses of new “information” and “events” portrayed to challenge beliefs and principles.
Even more challenging, that requires increasing levels of value judgment as to its veracity and importance. The old environment of time-proven journalists who gained credibility over years now has been, almost overnight, blasted with information (news?) from unknown sources backed by 24/7 video and volume. What is to be believed?
This problem is naturally compounded by the “merchandising” effect of political groups, self-interest, organised crime and whatever contaminating the input with slanted, untrue and PR geared to achieving their own ends. Social media gossip is now often exposed as malicious at best! Even academic output is contaminated by evil. Such is our world whether we like it or not. While I was working I watched this with fascination only as being an employee, especially at senior level, restricts your ability to openly challenge this rising tide due to job needs and corporate policy. Globalisation was equally influencing much of the classic media through ownership influence which was increasingly challenged by, and I hate the term, the “civilian journalists”. Where was the truth?
Thus, after I retired and had done my bit of exploration of Africa on my motorbike, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to present a weekly column of my thoughts by an organisation, The Namibian, which has given me free rein and only once, in four years, edited my input! And indeed to write in a country which, within the limits of libel law and a pervading level of common sense and politeness, allows me to comment as I wish. I have also learnt from readers’ comments and numerous conversations, that just moaning and groaning about our well-known Namibian realities and “failures” is not the way forward. Thus I like to think, apart from a couple of moaning articles, that alongside our problems, I try to offer constructive ideas to help the way forward.
I have also learnt that trying to accredit oneself with results from the column is not on! The best that can be claimed is that the ideas prompted others to think differently and more constructively. Anything more is just arrogance. Equally, the weekly choice of subject has always been left to me; never have I been asked to address a particular subject or line of thought. Of course the beauty of openly publishing your thoughts in the public arena is that they are forever and there are occasions where opinions expressed later turn out to be wrong either because of poor basic information from the public media or silly thinking. Fortunately readers do not hesitate to correct me!
The real value of a column is that it allows me to enter into the necessary democratic dialogue process with an independent view as a citizen.And on a subject I view as currently relevant. I could go on about the EU getting a Nobel peace prize when all it has done has transferred wars to its ex-colonies or prank calls by Australians leading to the death of a dedicated, principled and dedicated nurse who hide behind the law, citing unintended consequences, no I shall stay local!
I look with pride at our recent Swapo leadership process and our almost immediate regrouping of our ministerial portfolios. While I will never join a political party it is good to see how our president and the coming leadership have initiated a change process starting now! What change is most important?
Our governance and oversight process is fundamentally flawed. We should, while planning a new parliament building, combine our two assemblies, one representative, one proportional, into one, reintroduce the Public Service Charter and bring the MTEF performance-based budget back to a real way of determining performance, fewer words, more numbers. Now! Then we can deliver. Let’s go.