There’s this guy, right, a doctor of philosophy and a president. And he said he wants to build a house, you know? But not a real one. (Well, the plan includes real ones, but in the details.) It’s like a metaphorical one! One for all Namibians! Like a Namibian House! You see where this is going? It’s time again to talk about that house where we all belong, and where opportunity rains from the ceiling in much the same way that rain so regularly fails to drop from the sky. One where we can all catch these buckets of opportunity, and build a nation up, and no one is left out. But we like, need to be ready. We need to have these buckets in our minds, metaphorically, buckets we can share from, or this house will come crashing down around us. Or drown – we need buckets, is what I’m saying.
Buckets of honesty, loyalty, kindness and generosity, that we can catch and share with those around us. But we need more than just those buckets – because while they are good, they all seem OH SO VERY SERIOUS. We need a bucket of fun! A bucket of laughter, of humour and joviality. We need, as a nation, be able to laugh and be jolly.
Because being serious all the time causes a lack of perspective. If you cannot laugh, it is likely that you also lack humility. Laughter brings us joy as we note a mistaken assumption – we see a simple truth in a new and unexpected way. It makes us examine and correct the assumptions we make daily – and expands our understanding of the world. Humour corrects social behaviour, as it points out mistakes in a public way, making us aware of them. And because it is done in such a jovial way, we do not consider it an attack upon ourselves, and thus find it easier to accept and correct our own behaviour. Humour, at its core, is humble.
Laughter itself, however, comes from a different instinct inside every one of us. As Larry Niven so famously put it, laughter is an interrupted defence mechanism. Laughter and mirth is the natural response whenever we have faced a fear, and overcome it. It releases the tension that built up inside us while facing a serious situation, and allows us to gain a new perspective on whatever fear we had just defeated.
We should never forget that we are at our core emotional beings. We might consider ourselves rational beings, but as neuroscientist António Damásio showed, emotions are a crucial part of decision making – if you can’t feel, you can’t make up your mind. Thus, if you’re constantly serious, you will never realise that the emotion of fear might be irrationally founded, and never take a chance, a risk, to move forward. Laughter and light-heartedness is thus needed to prevent ourselves being trapped, and perhaps, inspire us with some lucidity in our own behaviour.
Economically, companies have long known of the effect of laughter and humour in the workplace. Where in times past people were considered to be ‘not working’ whenever laughter was heard in the workplace, nowadays companies strive to create a happy and jovial working atmosphere. Without laughter, without the camaraderie, people work just hard enough not to get fired, and get paid just enough not to quit.
Yes, camaraderie. Laughter promotes social bonding. Laughter, after all, is contagious, and when a group of people laugh, barriers are lowered. We instinctively bond with people who share our sense of humour. We know they share our same, flawed worldview because they laugh at the same jokes as we do, and thus, they become part of our ‘in-group.’
When you thus contrast a starkly serious workplace, where seriousness is the order of the day, with one where the employees laugh, and build bonds, you’ll find other contrasts as well. The jovial workplace will be the one with creativity, where innovative products are built, where people are happy and perhaps even eager to come to work – a productive company. The other… well, you’ll find the status quo reigns supreme, people are cogs in a machine and are glad to get out at the end of the day. Which one do you think will show more growth?
As it is with so many things, what works for employees of a company, is also true for the citizenry of a country. The Harambee Prosperity Plan requires us to pull together, in camaraderie, to move forward, and to boldly go where no country has gone before! It will require of us to face our fear that this plan won’t succeed, and try anyway. After all, even if we fail, we would have put a smile on the face of everyone who we had helped. And as they say, if at first you don’t succeed… skydiving is not for you.
A smile is the path to the light side. A smile leads to laughter. Laughter leads to joy. Scientific studies have shown laughter to have physiological, psychological, social and quality of life benefits. Side effects are limited to none. Consult your doctor if you think you might need laughter. Use only as indicated. I’m kidding – I believe you consult a comedian if you require laughter. Or a friend. And you can use it any which way you want.
It’s true, some days are dark and lonely. But laughter will help to show you that it isn’t that bad. Why, they’ll ask you, should you smile and be jovial now when you know tomorrow could be worse? Why simply – because tomorrow could be worse. So let us strive to be a people surrounded by smiles and laughter, as we make our country a better place. How can we not, with our Founding Father’s jovial smile etched into our memories? Because while, yes, it is a very serious goal, and certainly one that inspires sobering thoughts, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to do it this way? After all, why else did the chicken cross the road?