There’s a saying which is similar across indigenous cultures of South Africa, in Zulu it is “umsabe umunthu” which means you must fear a person. The underlying sentiment here is not about fearing a person because of their physical strength but rather it alludes to their dubious behaviour and intentions for you once they hear about your plans; be they work, personal or overall aspirational life plans.
I am a person who wears their heart on their sleeve, my naivety is both my strength and weakness. I have never personally had my plans go awry because I told a couple of people about them- not counting my new years resolutions, I mean who achieves those anyway?
Anyway, it is common for people to publicly and loudly state that they are making silent moves and gaining wins because people do not know about them. My first question is, why then would one publicly state this if they believe making public declarations about one’s aspirations causes those aspirations to not be achieved and question two, how does the fact that other people know about your plans make them less achievable?
We are social beings, sharing is an innate attribute of ours but so is being protective. Our societies are naturally hierarchal; social order has always followed this paradigm in humans and animals. This way of living was perfect for a time when banks did not exist, cars and houses were not priorities and travelling was a matter of necessity not a luxury. We shared food, water and housing. Land, animals, women and children were resources that were fiercely protected by heads of the family, usually men. Knowledge on hunting, building, giving birth, taking care of one’s skin, how seasons change and sex were passed down from generation to generation not through degrees or the suppression of others. Knowledge was wealth because the usage of that knowledge meant acquisition of more resources and thus wealth. Knowledge acquisition, was again, a necessity and not a luxury or signifier of one’s social standing- of course elders and individuals who were beholden with this knowledge were revered and respected- but it was not something they would post on their village walls for likes.
We understood that everything was connected, the solar system, us, animals, the ground, water- everything was and is connected on a metaphysical level. We knew that people had a little bit of bad in them and a little good, we understood that killing an animal was killing a life and created rituals out of respect because we believed their deaths were somehow connected to us as humans, we gave rest to the land; migrating when we felt it had been used enough. During these migrations formations formed out of fights, battles and disagreements, therefore new languages and cultures formed, even so we knew we were all one, even creating a system for the afterlife and the joining of new families through marital rituals which joined both living and dead family members. We shared our joys and our sorrows, those who were happy with us in happy times and sad in sad times we knew loved us and had good intentions for us.
Fast forward to the 21st century and people would rather eat each other than share. Capitalism has turned families against each other, siblings into foes and nations into buckets of crabs, pulling each other down. It is not solely capitalism’s fault but the acceleration of societal change which has not changed that much, we still live in clusters for protection and pooling of resources but society is more individualistic, resources are scarce and social media apps are plenty. Love is valued by the number of likes and retweets one gets, worth is valued through pieces of paper we acquire from preschool up to university, these papers have externalised the validation of being a human; a grading system of sorts as if we are cattle. If one is not validated by these pieces of papers one is not seen to be a contributing member of society and their existence is not only questioned but shamed.
We are so attached to being seen and validated through the collection of pieces of papers with stamps on them that some even die for them or kill for them or go to mental hospitals because of them. This is not to undermine the value of education but only to question the current system of knowledge in place, overwritten by a foreign tongue while true knowledge dies in our mother tongues. We are attached to being seen as worthy and valuable members of society, building networks to climb up a currently rigged societal hierarchy. It is these attachments that make us say “umsabe umunthu”.
The belief that making public announcements on one’s plans will make it harder for one to achieve them is because of the fact that we are attached to people’s reactions, will they like or retweet, and if they don’t, are they jealous and planning a demise through witchcraft or other crafty ways? Our attachments to other people’s reactions to our failures and successes is also linked to our self-concept, if we believe people are against us and don’t want us to prosper then not telling them our plans works because then we find we achieve them optimally.
The reason why keeping our plans to ourselves works is because we focus our attention and overall energy on the tasks at hand, not on our attachments to others perceived intentions for us, doing so makes it near impossible to not achieve our goals. When our minds are cleared of negative thoughts and freed from our attachments to attachments, we are able to not only positively focus but we become innovative should we meet up with obstacles. Also, when obstacles are met, we realise it is not because another nefarious person in your circle of friends or family placed it there through witchcraft or other crafty ways (because you had not told them remember) and thus, we are able to objectively tackle obstacles and achieve our plans.
It is important that we review our attachments to people’s reactions to our lives but moreover, it is important that we continually interrogate our self-concept and strengthen that instead of making our brothers and sisters imagined enemies.