Written By: Mohammed Humaid*
Article Date: Oct 7, 2012 - 6:48:20 PM
Thinking in the form of intensive and prolonged engagement on a particular issue that leads to insight has become a rare commodity in our time.
It’s having the ability to concentrate single mindedly on one question, problem or goal at a time, and to exclude all other diversions or distractions. Gandi, that great man once said, “Thinking is the hardest thing to do in this world."
This statement is as true today as it has ever been. One of the reasons there is generally less thinking in today’s world is that people don’t have the time to engage in serious thinking. In the age of the internet, room chats, face book, twitter and hundreds of TV satellite stations all competing to win the attention of the audience, leaving little time for people to think through ideas.
In Yemen, we live in the luxury of rarely having to exert our minds. At the work place, most of the civil servants indulge in chatter the greater majority of time; no one expects them to engage in serious thinking .
The work place rarely demands concentrated thinking. When there is a need to present ideas, it is done mechanically void of in-depth thinking.
Workshops and so called brainstorming sessions are not serious and demand little or no preparation. They are performed by nearly the same group of people who end the day congratulating their selves for doing nothing in a mystical self- delusion.
The way of life in Yemen is not conducive to intensive thinking, indeed many are incapable of doing it even if they had wanted to; most people in Yemen are qat addicts who consume high levels of toxins and insecticides that systematically and progressively kills their brain cells, and deposit harmful substances rendering them less capable of performing intensive metal exertion.
Some argue that qat stimulates thinking during qat chews. Experience as a former qat chewer and anecdotal accounts suggest that under the influence of qat, a rush of mental energy descends on a chewer but a chewers’ temperament and crowded setting does not permit intensive solitary mental engagement. Qat addicts usually enter a world of fantasy that bears little resemblance to reality. Once it’s over the addict is left a dehydrated heap of misery.
In addition to all this, our tradition and customs and political practices have for long contrived to relieve us from the hardest work in the world (thinking) and instead encourage us to glorify conventional wisdom and rote memory, repeating the same mantra in much the same way as our grandparents and their grandparent did before them.
Cultures such as Indian and Chinese which encourage individuals to train their minds in meditation, concentration and yoga have a huge advantage over cultures that don’t. The former have the advantage of freeing the mind and body of daily preoccupations that exhaust so much of our energy and focuses attention on a single mental issue.
Indians have exceptional gifts in mathematics. One must wonder if that was a result of training the mind to focus attention on a single issue and as a result have enabled them to excel in problem solving.
In the west, thinking takes a professional form. It is an industry planned and designed and driven by competition and the desire of the individual to realize his/ her potential. Thinking in the west is well coordinated, human resources are well developed. Schooling promotes inquisition and inquiry while industries and markets are all aligned to develop thinking and cultivate its fruits.
Education in Yemen rarely allows for deep thought or critical thinking to take place. It’s not forbidden it of course, but the school setting, crowdedness in the class room- ranging from 60-120 in a class room- leaves little room for interaction between the pupils and the teacher. It’s not uncommon that a teacher never gets to know his students.
We don’t have serious analytical thinkers in our history, we have poets because poetry is strongly associated with flattery of those who in power, who conveniently use this art to glorify their feats and immortalize themselves. A poet at the end of the day expects payment from his services, once his hand extends for payment, much of his art and thinking is compromised.
*Mohammed Humaid is a Fulbrighter, Economist and Journalist
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