One of the things about being born in a third world country is this; you’re conditioned to adopt a scarcity mentality. You’re taught about the win-lose mentality from an early age, you’re taught that win-win is something that appears on TV or fairytales, bascially, the figment of someone’s imagination. At the end of the day, you either get eaten or you do the eating.
While there are many socioeconomic reasons for that — the biggest one being corruption that cripples African economies and keeps on widening the gap between the rich and the poor — this mindset trickles down so it becomes common for middle-class people to view themselves as poor even when they’re privileged.
Once I had a conversation with a middle-class person and the subject of helping out this other poor family came up, and their response once, “We’re the ones who’re poor. We’re the ones who need help.” Needless to say this particular family had a huge-screen TV, cars at their disposal, even their own businesses, so I don’t know why they labelled themselves as poor even though they were obviously privileged.
In another story, I saw a father tell his kid when the latter decided to volunteer during the summer vacation, “Why are you volunteering for something you could be paid for?” The father couldn’t fathom the concept of volunteering and thought it was a stupid idea but again, this mentality comes about from a position of scarcity; where you treat everything you do in life as you would treat a t-shirt sold in a department store (attached with a price tag). In another situation I saw another father tell their kids not to share his things with the other kids in school. Again the father drove an Audi and had a personal cook at home.
I personally see that it all stems from the same mentality; that of scarcity, that of a very small, very limited pie…
And a scarcity mentality isn’t healthy for anyone’s psyche;
– You’re ready to throw anybody under the bus as long as you can save your own skin
– You’re not willing to help anyone lest they become better than you
– You’re not willing to train those under you lest they take over your job
– It makes you believe your job is the only place that can and will pay you so…
– You’re always in a state of anxiety because you’re afraid to lose your job
– You’re willing to go after any sleazy get-rich-quick scheme such as MLM’s
– Basically, you become a suitable candidate for Xanax.
Again, this is not to say that poverty is not real. It is real in our countries. For instance, in Kenya, approximately 42 % of its 44 million population, live below the poverty line.
And it gives me hope to meet people from the other end of the spectrum, who understand that life is tough for everyone, but they appreciate their position of privilege and so they try to help others as much as possible, like this father whose kid came back from school complaining, “My classmate stole my pencil.”
And the father said, “It’s okay. Think of it as charity that you gave him.” Because maybe the kid was given the choice between getting a new pencil and getting food for the day…
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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.
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