The Power of Positive Thinking

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By Hage Geingob MY topic is about the power of positive thinking, or mind power. I think it is an important topic for all of us. If one wants to change one’s circumstances, one must harness the power of positive thinking. Gandhi said, “A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.” Our attitude predisposes us to success or failure. All great men subscribe to this thinking. According to Clement Stone, “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.” All successful men, women and organisations need to develop success consciousness. Leadership in the liberation struggle, whether they were in Swapo or any other party, believed in Namibia’s independence and they continued the struggle. In the end, in spite of many difficulties, Namibians succeeded in gaining independence. Can you imagine Namibia’s destiny if Namibians were not positive in their thinking? Or if Namibians had given up hope? Success consciousness requires that our thoughts focus on the type of success we seek to achieve. If one wishes to be wealthy, one’s thoughts must focus on success and prosperity. You might say that it is easier for a successful person to say that but I assure you, without correct thinking, success cannot come. Success consciousness shows us the way to action. Take a simple example. If you need a job, you could say that you are unqualified and therefore no one will hire you. That is negative thinking. Positive thinking requires that you focus on success and do what it takes to secure a job. If it means getting more education, get it. If it means sending out job applications, send them. But your motivating force has to be positive thinking. Success consciousness along with the knowledge about what you want in life would show you the way to action. Even in the worst circumstances, you have to think of the glass as being half full, not half empty. Positive thinking is vitally important for success. As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity: an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” That is, glass is half full, not half empty. I recall that Donald Trump, one of the richest men today, had fallen on hard times. A beggar asked him for some money. He gave him some, and said to the person who was with him that at that moment the beggar was richer than Trump. But Trump had success consciousness and therefore today he is rich again. Many of us who are positive thinkers have bank overdrafts. If I were to tell you about my overdrafts, you would be shocked. But, you always see me smiling as if I were in heaven. “Your mind creates your reality. You can choose to accept this or not. You can be conscious of it and set your mind working for you. Or you can ignore it and allow it to work in ways that will hinder and hold you back. But your mind will always and forever be creating that reality.” I would re-emphasise that positive thinking is important not only for individuals but also for communities, institutions, and even the country. I cannot imagine a President having negative thinking. You will never hear a President say, “We cannot do anything to control AIDS, or we cannot provide water for the community.” He has to be focused on success consciousness. During a crisis in the Okavango, the Minister of Defence was being accused of being over-optimistic by saying that the situation was under control when in fact it was somehow out of control. That is not telling lies. That is to keep the morale of the soldiers high. How can he say that the situation was out of control when his soldiers were still involved in normalising the situation? This does not mean that we should not be critical. Indeed, criticism is an important element for reinforcing success consciousness. For that to happen, criticism needs to be constructive. As an example, I would refer you to the government’s anti-corruption initiatives. The parliament passed the relevant legislation. Subsequently, a director was appointed. Even before he started work, his suitability was questioned – critics said that he was not the right man for the job. People with positive attitude would, instead, have congratulated and welcomed him and then pointed out to him about what they expected of him. That is the difference between positive thinking and negative thinking. Take another example, critics are again asking for a truth and Reconciliation Commission. In order to minimise racial and ethnic conflict in new Namibia, the government’s policy of reconciliation sought to find solutions to the issues underlying the conflict and worked to alter the adversaries’ relationship from that of resentment and hostility to friendship and harmony. The underlying strength of reconciliation as against other conflict handling mechanisms, such as force, adjudication, arbitration negotiation, and mediation, is that it is a voluntary initiative of the conflict parties to acknowledge their responsibility of guilt. One of the scholars identified the following core elements of reconciliation: 1. Honest acknowledgment of the harm/injury each party has inflicted on the other; 2. Sincere regrets and remorse for the injury done; 3. Readiness to apologise for one’s role in inflicting the injury; 4. Readiness of the conflicting parties to “let go” of the anger and bitterness caused by the conflict and the injury; 5. Commitment by the offender not to repeat the injury; 6. Sincere effort to redress past grievances that caused the conflict and compensate the damage caused to the extent possible; and 7. Entering into a new mutually enriching relationship. In the case of Namibia, it was not possible to fulfill the requirements of all the core elements of reconciliation because most of the perpetrators of apartheid, i.e. South African forces and South African administration personnel, left the country as soon as Namibia became independent. Indeed, DTA and others who were in the transitional government, and the police who are still in their positions today, would have had to be called to answer. That could have been messy. Also, don’t forget we were the first country before South Africa to make the transition through reconciliation. South Africa followed us. Since Namibia was an international territory prior to independence, the international community, too, was keen to create conditions that would bring about lasting peace, And was therefore in favour of blanket amnesty – so as to close a dark chapter in Namibia’s history. As a result of this effort, the Western Contact group stipulated in its Proposal for a Settlement of the Namibian Situation that South Africa must free Namibian political prisoners, and subsequently Namibians detained outside the country must be released by Swapo. Specifically, the proposal required that: 1. The Administrator General will make arrangements for the release, prior to the beginning of the electoral campaign, of all Namibian political prisoners or political detainees held by the South African authorities so that they can participate fully and freely in that process, without risk of arrest, detention, intimidation or imprisonment. 2. All Namibian refugees or Namibians detained or otherwise outside the territory of Namibia will be permitted to return peacefully and participate fully and freely in the electoral process without risk of arrest, detention, intimidation or imprisonment. The South African administration in Namibia was to take the action first, followed by Swapo. Both parties complied with these requirements. Given this background it is not possible for us to establish any South African type commission. South African and Namibian situations were completely different. Namibia had the international community as the intermediary. South Africa had no intermediaries. ANC went back to the country on their own and South Africa’s defence and police forces, too, were on their own. They therefore needed an intermediary. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission became that intermediary. I believe that the critics should build on what we have achieved in Namibia through our policy of reconciliation, not unbundle it. Has South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation worked? During the hearings and after the work of the Commission was completed, many of the victims and their relatives continued to feel that the Commission had not helped promote reconciliation. As I had followed the proceedings of the commission with considerable interest, it was agonizing to see late Mr Steve Biko’s wife remark after the testimony of his killers, “Now that I know who killed him, I want justice.” Relatives of many victims repeated such demand for justice. There was little follow up on justice for the wronged, and therefore there was no closure. But going back again to the Power of Positive Thinking. TRC succeeded for those who are positive thinkers and failed for those who are negative thinkers. Recent studies suggest that reconciliation in South Africa has not satisfied everybody. “A survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation suggests that the majority of white South Africans are unconvinced that they played a role in apartheid abuses. And over 40% of those surveyed think apartheid was a good idea, badly executed.” The same study reports that 57% of the whites place responsibility for the atrocities on the doorsteps of anti-apartheid that there was no moral difference between an act committed in defence of the apartheid system and an act committed as part of the liberation struggle. Worse still, 46% of white South Africans believed that “the TRC was an ANC-inspired witch-hunt to discredit its enemies.” Thus, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa did not succeed in achieving reconciliation, bringing about closure, or even change the thinking of some whites. What is the point of apportioning blame when there is no accountability? In my view, compassion for those wronged is a more potent force. I will never forget my meeting with the Parents’ Committee. Some of them had lost their sons, some their daughters, and some their husbands in the war. They wanted closure. I “risked” my political future when I addressed the parliament on this subject. I had said that no war was good and that innocent people get caught on both sides. Any war depends on intelligence and therefore there is always a fear of infiltration of spies. So there were some spies on both sides. Some spies were caught. However, as this was guerrilla warfare, there was no due process of law. Therefore, some innocent people on both sides were caught up in the crossfire. Some were killed, others stigmatised as spies. I know it hurts to be accused falsely. But we should close this chapter. Since then we have done everything to be inclusive. For us all Namibians are equal and they have right to equal opportunity whether they were labeled as spies or as puppets during the struggle. Let’s think positively. Last 15 years have seen Namibia transform itself from an occupied territory to an independent, vibrant state. In this vibrant state citizens have enjoyed all the freedoms and their rights are protected. Today, taking a Namibian perspective, I would like to reflect on the positive consciousness that drives us. In the process, it is my hope that I would be able to reinforce positive attitudes of nation building. Over the years, we have strengthened peace through reconciliation, law and order and our commitment to inclusivity. We have strengthened democracy through our commitment to free, fair and regular elections. During the last elections, we have had a very peaceful and mature transition from one head of state to the other. Our government has remained mindful of free and open public debate and effective participation in the affairs of the state are encouraged. All citizens and social groups have the same right to participate in the political community. Rights and freedoms are guaranteed. We have diversified our economy and have made considerable success in promoting the involvement of our citizens in the economic life of the country. Through education, they are also being prepared to take Namibia forward. We have made progress in every social and economic sector, that is education, health services, sports, infrastructure, pensions, drought relief, provision of electricity, water and housing. These are some of the initiatives our government has been involved in. Our progress has been remarkable. I ask you to look at these positive developments and reflect on how we can build on our successes, and learn from our mistakes. That should be the way forward.

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