I was invited to present at the African Union on Peace and Green Africa Initiative- PGAI. I found this website convenient platform to make it available to the others who didn’t attend the forum to initiate further debate on the roles of psychological fitness for the peace and green and development.
When I start to think about what to speak on at a function like this on Peace and Green; I asked myself, what information would be useful to the young African audience without appearing preaching or inundating them with statistical figures and data on the trends of various issues in Africa, on the web of violence; different forms of interpersonal violence and abuse and so on.
Frankly, I tried to get out of it even though I like to engage and participate in events that further meaningful growth and development in our world with all its inhabitants. My hesitation was mostly because I did not think what I, as a psychologist have to share would be relevant to the focus of this particular forum and that I wasn’t sure if the audience would be familiar with psychological matters. This is of course due to my bias based on the lack of attention given to the science of humanity or to the study of human behavior in the Ethiopian Education system in spite of its critical importance and contribution in almost every aspect of human interaction.
But then again, recognizing the power of the African Youth and the importance of that realization and how it affects our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions, I say to myself if it is not relevant here then where? So, I started to think about what “Green” represents, i.e., one’s growth and healthy development to be able to function effectively and harmoniously with others, the environment. And certainly “Peace” represents harmonious understanding of one another and celebrating our differences that gives us all the colors we find ourselves sparkling in.
With this realization, I said to myself, after all, psychology is the science of humanity therefore is applicable and relevant in all areas that man engages in. You may wonder how so, but if you agree in psychology as the study of human behavior, then ask yourself what area is not relevant to psychologists; hardly any. For example, consider the contributions of psychologists of various specialties, i.e., environmental psychologists and their contributions in the global communities; clinical psychologists in alleviating human sufferings and work on restoring one’s ability to function and or identify strategies for coping with one’s condition; in the schools (where the very young mind may need support and redirection efforts to realize their full potential and maximize their mental or cognitive ability or where the unspoken stress and possible maltreatment, neglect or emotional and physical abuse that negatively and harshly impacts the child who may act out in a variety of maladaptive ways as a reaction); in the family (where there may be discourse that impacts selected family members); in the workplace (where harassment and burnout could affect employees health and ability to function satisfactorily to their capacity) ; in organizations ( where personnel selection and employees maximum performance and employee relations may be areas concerns); in the hospitals ( where intensive inpatient services are offered to stabilize those suffering from acute mental distress and those in crisis) ; in the justice systems ( where juveniles or adults in correctional systems receive treatment and rehabilitation services with a focus to prevent their relapse); in the rehabilitation centers ( to treat the chronic alcohol and chemical dependant individuals as well as those with brain damage who may need to relearn what they lost or retain what they have); in mediation services for uncoupling or divorcing individuals; in conflict resolution, in advocacy for human welfare, and in academia and research. Basically, in all areas of human functioning psychology is relevant. So how could I shy away from participating when asked to share my thoughts on Green and Peace?
I do not want to bore you in this keynote with data on the trends of the population growth and the ever increasing poverty level as we see the ever growing gap between the African rich and the poor, the number of the displaced, the exploited, presumed fight against diseases and so on. So, I decided to share my dream with every one of you and ask you to imagine a scenario. So my dear brothers and sisters, let me ask first who amongst you are from the famous John Lenin time? Please raise your hands. I can’t be the only one with the wisdom that only comes with age! Am I?
Whether you know of the great musician John Lenin or not, I ask you to imagine, where every African Union member nation seriously devotes satisfactory resources for the academic excellence of one institution of higher learning (university) simultaneously funded by the AU. Imagine every AU nation having one institution that offers a top notch quality education, where every African gifted with brilliant mind attends instead of going to the West looking for education. Imagine these well developed and educated minds going to the West to talk about their scientific research findings with their counterparts at the universities in the West rather than go there to be educated and most likely get indoctrinated with the philosophy or ideology the may not necessarily keep the interest of Africa and its peoples at best.
Imagine the numbers of the African Union member nations. Does anyone here know how many they are? Imagine excellent teaching institutions with great teaching resource material and highly competent educators at each of these universities. Imagine the quality education standards at Colombia, Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Oxford or Stanford or even better education standard at each of these AU universities. Imagine brilliant east Africans going to attend the top notch institution in an AU university located in anyone of the West African nations, and those from Central African nations coming to the East African nations and similarly the North East African bright student attending one of these best universities in the South African nations and vice versa. Imagine these AU universities located at different nations of Africa giving the option to the brightest and gifted Africans to further their higher education where the best and brightest professors and researchers are present.
The idea my friends, I hope is clear to you by now, it is to educate our brightest at home by establishing top notch educational centers funded by AU and its member states/nations, to afford the brilliant minds to explore and examine in order to bring about effective solutions to Africa’s needs and challenges right here in the continent of Africa by Africans and for Africans! Imagine how many brilliant students end up without quality education because of not getting a chance or resources to go abroad for their higher education. I happen to believe that the best future African leaders are those who are the recipient of quality education right here in Africa with the African perspective, free from indoctrination by the western ideology, especially in the areas of studies like political sciences. Do you suppose the historical account of western institutions and the professors to be more credible on the issues of Africa than an African scholar who got quality education from one of the AU universities we are imagining?
I spoke to you with what the color of Green represents- Growth, Hope, and Wellness. We all know that Green represents many good things to mankind and to all the creatures of the world and that our lives depend on it. I spoke to you about psychology as the science of humanity and as the study of human behavior. I am confident to assume that you all believe that man is made up to create his/ her destiny. We are responsible to accurately understand our past in order to know the present; so that we can imagine tomorrow fully prepared and fully aware of how our actions may impact our future. So, in this light, I ask you to contemplate on the brief imagination and visualization we just exercised.
As you visualize about these AU universities in each of the AU member nations, imagine the coming together of the Africans as students and scholars and their families frequently travelling from one AU member nation to the other, the cultural exchanges and the totally enriching experiences. Imagine the empowerment that comes from such interactions and closeness, where our differences diminish overtime.
Because my keynote is titled the psychological fitness for peace and green development, I would like to leave you with what Don Miguel Ruiz’s (1997) ‘4 Agreements’ that he extracted from the ancient wisdom of the native of Southern Mexico and believes would help people to live a more authentic and fulfilling lives.
- Be impeccable with your word- Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. If exercised deeply, it offers a powerful way to change your life.
- Don’t take anything personally- Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be difficult when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Dr.Beyenech Tsegaye has PhD in Clinical Psychology. She is currently providing psychological help and consultations at Dr.Beyenech Psychological Service, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.