I saw a documentary on AIT a while ago. And it was on a water fountain…yes a water fountain. The Governor had apparently called for the construction of a water fountain with glowing lights. The documentary interviewed a lot of people who were impressed with what the Governor had done. Apparently, the fountain represented the amazing progress in the State. The fact that a water fountain signified progress worthy of a documentary on national television should make us sob. Likewise, the egregious TV cast of poor women/men dancing for gloating public officials over the supply of subsidized kerosene was enough to make one gnash one’s teeth. It shows that we’ve anchored ourselves to the mediocre. Our mediocre has become our zenith. We’ve essentially fallen into what I describe as the low hanging fruit mentality i.e. a complete focus on targets or goals which are easily achievable and do not require a lot of effort to the detriment of harder, but more essential targets.
One of Aesop’s fables describes a fox, who driven by hunger, tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ So to comfort himself, the fox found a way to disdain the same thing he previously strove for. Just like the fox, we’ve slowly begun to disdain those high-hanging fruits which we view as unattainable and focus on low hanging fruits.
We settle for the low-hanging fruits because we either have no idea what the high-hanging fruits look like or because it’s too painful to desire them. This adjusts our expectations downwards. We are in a position where we learn not to expect greater things and we get used to the unfortunate things. When we hear about amazing achievements being made in other countries, we shrug and go back to wishing for roads without potholes. Gradually, we begin to incorporate these downfalls into our culture. Corruption becomes normal. Then it becomes part of our culture. Just like the kidnapping, ritual killings, sexual molestation and armed robbery. This should unnerve us all. The infallibility of culture ensures that we vociferously defend most parts of it. And before long, just like how we’ve viewed corruption as ‘here to stay’, we’ll view our retrogression as cultural and immutable.
In other words, the low hanging fruit mentality desensitizes us to the retrogression of our society and keeps us constantly comparing to the worst, until we become the worst. A dozen students in Yobe were killed last week. This shakes us for a while and anchors us to that horrific incident. Unfortunately, when next 5 students are killed, it doesn’t shake us as much. After all, we’ve already witnesses twice a dozen die. Just like a student who feels comforted by a D-grade because he last got an F-grade, we’re unaware that we’re still in a state of failure.
It takes critical and honest analysis for us to realize that we’re still staring at the bottom of the tree when there’s better at the top. When a tarred road or water fountain becomes the best we expect from our Government, then we’ve been scammed by our leaders. Until Nigerians stop being impressed by low-hanging fruits and request for those that are much higher, we’ll get mediocrity, we’ll settle for mediocrity and we’ll be mediocre. Keep this in mind, no country that compares itself downwards ever moves upwards.