Arrogance vs Aggressiveness


A powerful country decided to bring 40 doctors to work in Mozambique. There’s no question they are needed. For reasons that only the reason knows, the Ministra do Trabalho (labour minister) decided to impose a few conditions. Being one of them the proof of their qualifications, I think Mozambican authorities suspect they could be only basic technicians, cashing most of the promised aid as if they were real doctors. Whatever the motives, the storm is over our heads.


The other part didn’t like and has been producing all sorts of menaces. The debate is on fire. That powerful country is threatening to cut all the aid (USD300 millions-year), while most Mozambicans are taking the minister side with two arguments: 1) They are sick and tired to be told. 2) It’s time Mozambique stops begging and starts to live on the existing resources. I kind of agree, but I’m afraid there’s more arrogance in such declarations than feasibility.


Nobody knows how animosities could escalate to such extremes or when they are going to end. And I won’t give you a genial insight (I don’t have one, anyway), except for the above title and maybe tell you something less political and hopefully more entertaining.


Over the years I could feel a big difference between Northern and Southern mentality. Maybe because of the weather, Northern people tend to be more active and aggressive. I don’t think they are well aware of that aggressiveness and I even believe most of them regard it as a quality. On the other side, people living in regions where the weather is less severe seem to develop equal doses of laziness and gentleness. It should be good if both parts could take those differences in consideration. At least I try.


From time to time I have to read texts coming from people not aware that their words can offend people with a different sensibility. I always try to soften the edges, because I do believe that we can say what we have to say with politeness and diplomacy. Recently, I had to change the words of someone in a way to fit the local mentality. We all know that people are poor, naked and starving, but they don’t need or want an outsider pointing at it. They know too. We all know that governments perform badly, but they don’t want to hear it from an outsider. The same way Europeans wouldn’t like to hear a visiting African criticizing their endless social and political problems, come to that, environmental too.


As soon as I finished reading that text I send it to the author saying: “I respected the original, as usual, and only introduced a few subtle changes.” For an average intelligent person I wouldn’t have to explain that, besides mistakes and inappropriate language, I had to soften the criticism. Instead of pointing the finger at this and that, why not just say that there are pressing questions to be addressed – especially when the publishing objective is neither social nor political?


I suppose you are guessing what happened next. That person sent back the text reintroducing all the negativity I had erased. I cannot tell you how furious I was… In my opinion, there’s only one thing as bad as aggressiveness: stupid arrogance. Not knowing your own place is a sad way to be.


Yes, I protested. Paul advice was: “Chill out and stop worrying… You know what happened when that person was working on a project in Mozambique? One day, tired of demands and aggressiveness, Mozambican workers locked that person in a room and told they would only open the door when good mood and manners returned…” Imagine how I laughed!