By Dr. Ian Clarke
Perhaps some people, or for that matter, some nations, are born with a ‘preparation’ gene while others lack it, or is being prepared something that we learn? When we look at different people or different nations and cultures there seems to be great differences in terms of their level and awareness of the benefits of preparation.
If we compare Germans to Ugandans, who would we say are better at planning and preparation? I have a daughter who always plans and prepares well in advance for whatever event or trip is coming up. I also have a wife who is always well prepared. If we are going on a trip she starts packing her case several days beforehand, and will know where everything is well before we set out. I am the opposite: I tend to pack an hour before I set out, and then run around looking for my ATM card and my driving license.
My daughter seemed to get her preparedness gene from her mother, while Michael, our son got my gene, because when he was younger he would go on a the trip with no planning whatsoever, which resulted in him getting into some interesting predicaments. So I preached to Michael the need for good forward planning. Eventually the penny dropped, and he coined the phrase ‘Previous planning prevents poor performance’ or P to the power of 5.
I cannot help but notice that many Ugandans don’t plan or prepare, but just launch into things and hope that they will turn out OK. As a result problems, which could have been avoided, go wrong. This is because many people are used to living moment by moment, so the habit of planning does not come easily. It is common for employees to tell me that they need some essential supply when it is about to run out.
‘But why did you not tell me last week?’ I will remonstrate, while they look at me blankly with that expression that says ‘what is his problem? It got finished.’
The concept of forward planning is not innate in them, while for me it is fundamental.
We all know about Ugandans who have missed their flight because they were late – and planes don’t wait. I can’t count how many times people have turned up late for meetings muttering,‘The traffic!’ But when we know that there is likely to be heavy traffic we can plan to set out early; the worst that can happen is that we will arrive early.
Another excuse for everyone being late is ‘The rain’, as if we have never experienced rain before, and we get completely taken by surprise. I could understand this if it snowed, but it rains all the time, and there is that new innovation called an umbrella, which we can use to shelter us, but we have to plan ahead to bring it with us.
When I travel upcountry I leave early, not because I need to, but because I know that if I leave late I will spend two hours in Kampala traffic, so I plan, and leave early, to avoid this. How many times do people set out late on long journeys for no particular reason, only to find themselves driving in the dark – which is much more dangerous than daytime driving because vehicles have poor lights, or lights which dazzle, and other vehicles have no rear lights, or trucks are broken down in the road.
Statistically it is dangerous to drive on Ugandan roads at the best of times, but finding oneself accidentally driving in the dark is just stupid. About twelve years ago I was part of an expedition that rafted down the Nile. At one point we found ourselves on the river in the dark, surrounded by hippos. I was very unhappy about this development because I knew it could have been avoided if we had set out earlier on that particular day – it was a risk that we did not need to take.
Our lack of preparation demonstrates a careless attitude to our own lives. There are many people who end up having sex without a condom, not because they don’t wish to use a condom, but because they did not prepare, so in the heat of the moment there was no condom to hand, and they just took the risk and went ahead. This is how people contract HIV, or girls have unplanned pregnancies.
No one sets out to give themselves HIV; they just get careless, because that is how Uganda is. Most pregnancies in Uganda happen because men want to ‘feel’ the woman, so pregnancy becomes an unplanned side effect of pleasure. Is this lack of discipline acceptable in our society?
Is our exponential population growth rate acceptable as a side effect of carelessness, especially when the men who are careless take no responsibility for the resulting children? We may say ‘This is Uganda’, and we do our things our way, but are carelessness and lack of preparation characteristics that are making us backwards as a nation?