On laziness, genius, other matters


Whenever you visit a village and see there barns full of maize cobs, the people looking well fed, you safely conclude that the people of that village work very hard. Those who do not put much effort into cultivating their gardens do not reap bumper harvests.

Most rich people are hard working though it is equally true that some hardworking people do not become rich for a variety of reasons including the misfortunes of life. Equally true is that some people acquire plenty of property through dishonest means; the Cashgate story is an obvious illustration.

Work and industriousness are often there where nations prosper. This is especially the case if most of the citizens have a strong work ethic, do not waste time in idleness, orgies or law breaking and disorders.


Some Malawians have openly boasted that we are a hardworking nation. Does this mean a big percentage of our population? Many times at my place of work or where I live I have come across there or more people playing the game known as bawo in Swahili or ntchuwa in Malawi. It is a pebble and hole game and is said to be popular from Cape to Cairo

It is not clear to me if this is one of the games which contribute to good health. There is not much physical exertion involved. Perhaps it exercises the mind since it involves a competition in which the winner accumulates more pebbles than his rival. Basically, it is a men’s game.

Whenever I see people exchanging pebbles for hours, sometimes from mid-day to sunset, I wonder whether they are contributing to the creation of wealth. Playing with stones which neither grow nor multiply is a lazy person’s occupation. Are the people playing this game almost daily doing this because they are lazy, and they shirk from engaging in productive work deliberately?


But what are the characteristics of a lazy person?

A lazy person is not necessarily a weak person. Many lazy people are robust and in good health. They just happen not to have no inclination to work. Writers on motivation like Napoleon Hill of the United States tell us that people we call lazy are actually those who have not found a vocation. Unless the job a person is given interests them, they cannot work on it with m a x i m u m concentration. Everyone owes it to themselves to find a job that is challenging and interesting.

If we tell people who spend hours playing the bawo game that they are wasting their lives and time, they will probably tell us that they have failed to found some useful work to do, and that playing bawo is better than sitting idle or getting bored. Very likely if someone sets up a large business nearby and invites these people to supply them with clay or sand and promises to pay them handsomely, these people will put away the bawo and go to work.

There must be thousands of people all over the country who live apparently lazy lives because they have no opening for their energies. There are, however, also people who have hectares of land to till but prefer to spend time in idleness. They do not like the work. Instead, they prefer to sponge on the diligent and prosperous. They have sharpened their tongues, moving from one person to another, spreading stories most of which are destructive.

It is true that when people are given skills, for say, making bricks or making furniture, they can engage in self-employment. Some of those who have acquired such skills have got discouraged when they have found no market for their products or services. It is never enough to train people and then abandon them. There should be a follow-up to see what difficulties they are encountering post-training. Publicise the opportunities available and you will find people who were living idle lives being very active. No one but a fool despises opportunities to better themselves.

***** “ S o and so is genius.”

We have heard such a statement made of a person who appears very clever at solving a difficult mathematics problem, whose scores on the Intelligence Quotient test exceeds 150 percent. Nowadays, it is being averred that no one should be called a genius until he or she has achieved something in the field.

Real genius is in symbolic relationship with capacity for hard work.

People who have done wonders or contributed to knowledge are in the majority of cases quite ordinary. They just have extraordinary determination to work and succeed. When the American super inventor Thomas Edison was told he was a genius, his reply was “genius consists of 99 percent perspirations and one percent inspiration”. Those who have written his biography said Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the incandescent lamp.

Benjamin Franklin wrote: “God said let there be Isaac Newton and there was light.”

When Newton was asked how he discovered the riddles of physics like the theory of gravity, he replied that by keeping a problem continually in his mind whenever he was in his laboratory, he sometimes forgot his lunch. With him as many distinguished people a hobby meant simply changing from one task to another not engaging in fruitless activities.

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