Beyond Talking Shop
I had finished from a conference and was leaving; I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on two participants asking what next after this whole “talk talk”. I have also had someone whom I sent a conference invite to, ask me if it was going to turn out be like the typical Nigerian talking shop. I stammered my way out of that one.
I understand our hesitation towards attending seminars and conferences that seem to revolve around the same issues with given solutions that no one seems interested in carrying out. Some of us would rather spend the time on something more productive or gratifying than the let’s-flog-a-dead-horse forums.
Whenever anyone shares their experience or opinion on a subject, there is a 60% chance that the opinion might resonate with you. An hour into any conference, you are already evaluating and rating the usefulness or impact of the workshop on you. Therefore, just before you make up your mind to stay to the end, you have already accepted that the conference is worth your while. After the conference you are left with the ‘’what next?” question. Nice speeches, moving talks, empowering messages but these may not go further than the room and in some cases where it does, it never lasts because nobody is sustaining them.
So how do we carry these dialogues beyond the conference arenas? How do we carry all these empowering talks into the street? How can we engage and educate our circle of daily contacts without setting up our own talk shop?
Most conferences on national building and development are about ideologies. As an attendee, your pre-conceived ideologies either change or you find a strong reason to tenaciously hold on to them. Sometimes you also find yourself questioning your stance on issues, and along the way decide to sit on a fence and wait it out.
Most ideologies are gathered or passed on informally. For example, you could be in a café minding your own business, but the two loud people over there are arguing politics. Without actually meaning to, you find yourself listening to them. Before they -or you- leave the café, you have subconsciously picked a side. You got to glean some information from them which has helped guide your perception on the issue they were arguing.
What I’m trying to say is: if the conference you attended has no call for action, it is left to you to do the education and engagement. Most people will rather discuss any other thing than share knowledge. Being an intellectual actually comes with a responsibility which is, educating folks formally or informally.
Let’s say you attend a seminar and there is a call for societal transformation. Would you form a team enforcing transformation on the public? No. If you do, it won’t work.
But imagine you share your thoughts with a friend, who shares it with a colleague who then discusses your thoughts with his/her child while the driver listens in. This driver gets home, shares it with a friend who comes over for a bottle of beer, this friend shares it with his neighbor as they watch football with his daughter in the living room setting up the plate of hot suya for her father’s guest. The next day in school, she overhears her classmates argue about something similar to her dad’s discussion, but now she is better informed about the ideology she has subconsciously borrowed, so she chips in. Believe me, she has got one or two disciples who will adopt her borrowed ideology and the cycle will continue till at some point in their life, every one of them might be forced to review their ideology.
So you see; we the attendees of these “talk shops’’ have our own role to play in keeping the discussion moving. Who knows, maybe one day -just one day- we will all agree on one course of action, unite our voices and move as one.