We are paying for yesterday’s mistakes and our children will pay for today’s

Author, Benjamin Rukwengye. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

  • This is especially true for a majority of the old cars on our roads, which is reinforced by the fact that your average car owner is actually not any richer than the pedestrian or boda boda guy that they are desperate to get off the road.

I was talking to my team about the theory – and consequences – of a cascading effect. For propriety let’s use the example of a car. Many people who drive know that on occasion, they have ignored their car when it starts to make certain discomforting noises.

This is especially true for a majority of the old cars on our roads, which is reinforced by the fact that your average car owner is actually not any richer than the pedestrian or boda boda guy that they are desperate to get off the road. In fact, when mine starts to show signs of weakness, I have often joked that if I have gone to work while feeling unwell just because I need to get paid, surely my car should be able to get me to wherever my next hustle is, even if it isn’t in good condition.

But that is usually the beginning of the problem. Because you see the car is a system. The tyres don’t simply rotate on their own. The steering wheel turns because other components are in sync. Your window goes up or down and the door locks or opens because it is powered by and enabled by the same system.

That interconnectedness is what makes your car an efficient machine, ensuring that it consumes the right amount of fuel or gives you the appropriate mileage before your next round of service. However, it is also exactly what makes you vulnerable to the car “dying” on the Express Highway or in the middle of nowhere at night. It is how you end up stranded and needing money to pay your mechanic, which you hadn’t planned to spend when you woke up that morning.

The reason here is that when one thing is faulty, you might not notice it at the start – because the system is able to absorb and make up for some of the failings. But then you will get warned – by strange noises or unnatural responses – which you might ignore because you don’t have money or simply because “I know my car”.

Eventually though, because the system is interconnected and therefore the efficiency of one is dependent on the efficiency of the other, it will break and you will pay a lot more than you would have – had you taken care of the fault in the beginning.

In case this doesn’t make sense, let us approach it from a work angle. Supposing you need to submit a bid document by Friday, June 30. But to compile all the necessary documentation, you require the input of five other members of your team. Everyone does their work but one of you, for some reason, procrastinates or falls sick, has a burial or just isn’t in the mood at the time. So, they either don’t submit their bit or give you one that isn’t up to standard.

As a result, you make a last-minute submission that is ish ish, or actually fail to submit. The bid gets rejected, so you don’t bring in the money, which means you can’t make payroll, which means you don’t have money to pay your child’s school fees and rent or whatever provisions at home, which causes tensions between you and your partner and eventually maybe even a fallout. To deal with your problems, you resort to drinking and because all your friends are going through the same economy, you fall off the rails until one day, all they can do is share old photos of happier times with you, in addition to the RIP messages on their statuses.

Does this make sense now? Essentially, systems function because everyone is pulling their weight. When one is unable to – for whatever reason – it is easy to notice and remedy the situation by either lifting the bit for them for a while or replacing them altogether. The cost of inaction when there is a minor fault by one can have grave consequences for everyone – the majority of which you might not even be able to see today.

Can you now imagine this at scale – like at the government level? Do you realise how everything you are suffering and complaining about today is a consequence of small decisions taken or not taken many years ago? And if you think this is bad, think about how much worse it will get because that’s what happens when you drop the ball. That is the cascading effect.

Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. @Rukwengye

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