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The other side of the fence

 “Do not bring fences down before you know why they were put up.” – African Proverb

I am sure we have all seen or experienced situations in life that resonate with this proverb.

We usually see such situations in politics. Every time a new president comes into power, there is a complete overhaul of the cabinet and public administration. Every leader wants to bring in his or her preferred people, rules, strategies and those of the current regime are usually automatically thrown to the garbage box without much consideration of the opportunity costs of such changes.

Politics has just been used as an illustration in this case because when such changes are facilitated by politicians a magnitude of people are made aware of the changes. But then we have so many fences in our own lives that are on a smaller scale theoretically speaking, but practically have a tangible impact in one’s life at one point or the other. We come across these fences and bring them down without first stopping to objectively consider why they were “erected” in there in the first place.

I once heard this very funny anecdote of a man who moved into a new compound and found that the compound was demarcated from his neighbours’ by a grass fence which he found to be below him and unnecessary, that was in his opinion.

The man quickly bulldozed the fence down without consulting the neighbours. The following morning, he woke up to find his yard and flowers completely bulldozed in return by the neighbour’s fierce dogs. He charged into the neighbour’s yard and was immediately seen running back to his house, screaming like a little kid, and four huge dogs in pursuit.

So you see, whoever initially erected the fence had their reasons. Now we come across such situations in different places in our lives. You find an organisation employs a new boss and before he evaluates the norms he has found in the organisation, he quickly rushes to bring in new norms.

He found all the employees getting airtime every month and he quickly cuts the airtime in the name of cutting avoidable costs for the organisation. Next thing everyone is queuing at the reception area to make calls and all productivity is stalled, not to mention he is now already in everybody’s black book.

We meet certain people, colleagues, friends, neighbours, partners and we find they have their own way of life, they have certain personalities, and they keep certain people around and avoid others. We come in and start making changes and pushing them to do things differently without even thinking about it. We go to a new set-up and find a situation there and we do not wait to look at the situation but rather think our ideas are better.

I once moved into a new neighbourhood and soon made new friends, but there was this one girl who seemed to be nobody’s friend in particular. I could not figure out why but I only noticed that everyone else seemed to avoid her. She soon took a liking for me, and she was obviously extra sweet trying to win me over.

I started wondering why the rest of the girls were mean to this sweet girl. Little did I know I had a pest in my hands. Once she had won me over and I had my guard down, her true colours came into the vivid focus. She made life a living hell and was always at my doorstep. She was a spiteful, greedy and emotionally deranged person. We soon become bitter strangers faster than we became friends. I wish I had kept that fence as I found it and spared myself the trauma.

The lesson I learnt from this proverb and one or two experiences and observations is that it is sometimes wise to observe a scenario and situation without rushing to make changes. In life you will find that hardly anything is as it is without a reason behind.

The reasons might be important or trivial but it is essentially paramount to look at the ulterior motive behind the erection of any fence we come across in our lives before making decisions on how to proceed. Mind you, there might be rabid dogs on the other side.

I rest my case

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