Liberia: the country I have come to love and know

Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr.

I live in a very interesting country called Liberia. And I must admit that I have come to love this country the more I get to understand its people. It is a country in which every single Liberian knows exactly what the root causes of our problems are and knows exactly how to fix them. But astonishingly, they do nothing. No one is prepared to take personal responsibility or action to solve any of the problems even though their diagnosis of the problems clearly demonstrate that personal responsibilities and actions are required.

For example, Liberians complain that we should not be importing pepper from Guinea. We all agree that we have enough rainfall and plenty of fertile land and so it is irrational or inexplicable that we are importing pepper from Guinea. But astonishingly, we are not making pepper farm or garden. Do we expect the Government to make pepper farm? How do we stop importing pepper from Guinea? Should the Government degree or legislate it? Meanwhile, lots of folks are unemployed and complaining on a daily basis of economic hardship when right before them lies enormous economic opportunities.

Another example has to do with products made in Liberia. Liberians complain that our economy is in the hands of foreigners and that we don’t make anything locally but ironically, these same people are not willing to buy products made in Liberia. There is a Liberian company that processes locally grown rice but when employers buy these rice and give them to employees as benefits, the employees complain that they don’t like the rice. They would prefer the imported rice as compared to the locally produced rice. What in God’s name is this? How will we ever empower Liberian owned businesses that are producing locally grown products if we don’t buy from them?

What is confusing is that we know the problems but refuse to do the needful to address them. We rather spend more time complaining and condemning than taking personal actions to solve the problems. This is what it means to be a Liberian. And the more you understand this, the more you get to LOVE the Liberian and Liberia.

This is why I agree with President Weah that we need a national conversation on the mindset of Liberians. He argued that we need a national discourse whereby various opinion leaders can talk to Liberians about the virtues of patience, personal responsibility, personal actions, patriotism, love, respect for one another and a host of other things. I think we should start as soon as possible.

I also agree with my long time friend and founding CDC member, Gertrude Mulbah, who explained to me that a national conversation, using a proven scientific approach that creates a new way of thinking by disrupting the current Liberian “neural pathway” is needed. She argues that the only way to get folks to change their actions is by changing the way they process information and make decisions. And because Liberians have their decision making process hard coded in their existing “neural pathways,” the only way we can change them is by disruption and recreation of a new “neural pathway.” I agree with her.

Liberians will have to learn to match their “belief” and with their “behavior” as Rev. Sam Reeves of the Providence Baptist Church put it so eloquently on Sunday (October 28, 2018). We have to do something to begin to change our national conditions. And I am arguing that those things are largely personal responsibilities and actions. There is nothing stopping anyone from making a pepper farm or garden. I am not talking about a planation; just a farm or even a garden. This can earn you some income. Every child in the street is aware that we are importing pepper from Guinea. How can we stop our foreign exchange from going to Guinea for pepper? This requires no Government action!

But why Liberians are never able to do these things is still perplexing, bemusing, vexing, and discombobulating.

Anyway, that is the Liberia I have to know and Love. We will talk, condemn, and take no personal actions even though the solution is within our collective, individual domain.

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