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Offbeat – 19 July 2012

One of the challenges in Namibia is to introduce a culture of innovation. There are only so many cuca shops and shebeens that the economy can bear.

It’s Mandela Day, as I sit and write this, not a holiday but a day with some international respect. The intent of the thing is to give about an hour to doing good for someone. My take on the matter is that doing good is also a quick way to feeling good about yourself. Here’s my contribution, about 400 words, a rehash of something I have harped on before, and my personal cause. I hope both of us take something out of it.
Reading is utterly important. I know you are a reader because you have come here to read. In spite of that, maybe I can add something, possibly put some ideas in your head that you can pass on to others who are less fortunate than you and I.
There are about umpteen thousand studies that talk about how reading improves the ability to think. That is substantially less than the million odd studies that talk about fitness as a path to health. A huge number of people live with the knowledge that personal fitness is a way to physical health. Picking up from that point, don’t take thinking for granted. Pick up a book and give your mind a workout.
That fact established, let’s go a bit deeper.
A lot of people do read for self-improvement. They read academic pieces, self-help pieces and books on their professions. That’s about all they read. In the case of people like this, reading is a matter of self-improvement, but not a leisure activity. Because it is self-improvement, the pleasure of the act is diminished.
Let’s take that a step further. Some people regard self-improvement as synonymous with education. They go through their prescribed tomes as a matter of formality, steps along the way to certification or qualification. Once the graduate’s mortarboard and gown are set aside, so are the books.
It is no small wonder that so many Namibian organisations struggle with internal communication. People who do not enjoy reading will not want to read memos and circulars. People who enjoy reading will look at a pile of memos or a bunch of e-mails and feel a warm glow inside. They will know that the organisation for which they work really does love them, because it provides them with things to read.
If you doubt me on this, speak to real readers. You will find that even in the small room, they read the back of detergent boxes.
Now here is something else that is worth considering. Although many people follow the dictum of not reading frivolous fiction, they will go home and turn on the television. Does that make sense to you? I thought not. You are, after all, a reader.
One final dive down into depth.
If you read for pleasure, you will know that the story begs you to predict what will happen (and with a bit of luck you might just find a surprise ending). What this does is it forces your imagination into overdrive. The more you read, the more the ‘what if’ factor will kick in. You will probably note that after a certain amount of ‘what if’ enters your day-to-day thinking, that you use this to get ideas.
One of the challenges in Namibia is to introduce a culture of innovation. There are only so many cuca shops and shebeens that the economy can bear.
In order for innovation to take root, a culture of imagination is needed: tens of thousands of people walking around thinking, ‘what if’. Reading is one of the most important routes to achieving that culture. People who cannot ask what they might be able to do, are people who will not challenge themselves. They will be doomed to open another cuca shop, a shebeen or, worse yet, another little restaurant with plastic chairs, indifferent food and weak coffee.
You can help. Encourage people to read for fun. Share books. Tell people what is happening in the book you are reading. Build the stories into them. Reading doesn’t have to be ‘clever’ or literary. Above all, it has to be enjoyed.
If you feel passionately that you want a better future for Namibia, pass on the message that reading is wonderful, that it is enjoyable and that it is good for the health of minds.

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