Development and prosperity are eluding us Malawians, why? We do not have the character and motivation. The most recent branch of psychology is behaviour modification. John B Watson (1878-1958) is the person accredited with originating behaviour modification. He was professor at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University.
Currently, the most popular if not controversial method of behaviour modification is taught by Professor B.F Skinner of Harvard University. In sense, behaviour modification is a practice that has existed long as there has been the human race. We practice behaviour modification where we correct our children’s behaviour, when we give up smoking or drinking.
“Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven,” Jesus told Nicodemus.
It was an advice to modify behaviour. There is a lot that is faulty in our national character which unless it is modified will continue to be condemed to perpetual backwardness while other nations forge ahead.
For a person to achieve something great in life, he or she must have things, the wherewithal and the character. In the wherewithal I include two basic intelligence and the material possessing to support that intelligence. Secondly, the person must have the requisite character.
We have come across persons with a good deal of intelligence and sound education, who have achieved little or are abject failures simply because of how they behave. At work they are not diligent; they steal and quarrel with their colleagues. Socially, they indulge in heavy drinking and illicit sex.
Correct behaviour of thousands or millions of citizens is what amounts to good national character. If citizens misbehave, the nation does not grow. There is a good deal of misbehaving amongst us which needs to be modified.
First we must do self analysis and recognise bad traits in our national character.
Kleptomania. This is the urge to steal even where there is no need to do so. We do not get surprised when an empty bag fails to stand upright. Similarly, we do not get surprised when a starving person steals, but when theft is committed by someone earning good salary, this is most shocking. White collar crime is widespread in Malawi.
When several men and women were arrested in what has come to be called Cashgate, we thought other members of the public would be deterred from the crime, but incidents of thefts on a grand scale continue to make headlines.
Jealousy. Jealousy is a natural weakness, but expensive and widespread jealousy inhibits economic and social development. In rural societies, a person who works hard on his farm and harvests a bumper crop is accused by the jealous ones of using magic. The recent wave of murdering people with albinism has its origin in ancient superstitions. Behaviour modification will entail giving up superstitions.
Work-average. When I see men and women seated for several hours before a television set, watching games in Spain or north England, and when I see men playing the hole game for the whole afternoon, I wonder whether they do not know that this is idleness and that neither an individual nor a nation can prosper out of too much leisure.
In addressing the American people, President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) said: “I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and efforts of labour and strife. This is what our leaders in all walks of life should be saying to the Malawi nation. We are addicted to leisure activities. This is wrong.