For decades, the symbol of the true African man was envisioned as a Black bare-chested man with a hoe hanging across His shoulder. Whether it was the farmer, the wrestler, or the hunter. A man was defined by his brawn and the exertion He put into his work. Even though we have long since moved away from that era, the concept that the quality of men are graded according to the exertion in their jobs hasn’t quite left us.
I remember leasing a piece of bare land in a rural area somewhere in Anambra State of Nigeria. We had wanted to start up an organization and there was no available building letting space for us to use. I and two other young men decided to go the hard way; we leased this bare piece of land, bought some wood and some tarpaulin and began building a structure from the ground up.
I remember the feeling I had as the structure began to go up; the roof, the windows, the tarpaulin ‘walls’, the doors … I felt a rush of fulfillment and accomplishment. We used that building for two years before we finally moved and that building still stands till today and is still being used. We must have done a great job right?
It was Colin Powell who said; “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”. This is hard to argue with generally, but there has however arisen in some parts a disparity in the definition of what hard work really means.
Someone said that ‘Men are made for the hard things’, the sense in which this was said connoted that “work had to be hard” to be termed as ‘hard work’ and that would seem like a no-brainer illustration at first, but then it begs the question; “what if you enjoy your work or if it was downright easy but still fulfilled you and paid as well?” … are you then less of a Man because of that?
Let me paint a backdrop to my inquisition as to the connection of Men with hard work and why I have decided to write this; with trends rapidly changing, we have come a long way from the era of African working men and their house wives, the gender gap is closing and even overlapping at some points…literally.
The shifting trends in technology are making work more and more dependent on machines than they are on men, the failing economies of certain nations especially in Africa is making work less and less relevant than they used to be and making people more and more reliant on get rich schemes. The hitherto unshaken image of the African man with his work tools as the symbol of manhood is crumbling and quickly too.
Take technology for instance; the increase of technology in Africa and with the imminent breakthroughs in AI, the term ‘work’ is sure changing its definition world over. In some nations, the economy is literally grounding to a halt, In Nigeria for instance, inflation is ravaging the country and the harder one works, it seems the fruits are less relevant. In such nations, get rich schemes are the way to go; Betting on games, gambling, playing the lotteries… etc.
Azubuike, a young Nigerian Graduate, who had worked as a truck driver for years and had given up on a regular job earlier this year after hitting it big on a bet on Merrybet Nigeria, a foremost Nigerian bookmaker. Said; “Hard work is a myth, I have been there and done that … once you start making money you will see… then whatever you do to make it legally must be work enough”
What really is hard work? Should the modern African Man be cut some slack as has his European counterparts in some places? is Money the end of hard work? Is there something about Men intrinsically that is fulfilled by working hard for something rather than getting it easy. I mean we all appreciate a handout once in a while, but always? So many questions, here are a few thoughts of mine.
Work is inevitable; there is nothing that is gotten without some form of work, whether it is hard work, soft work or smart work. In a movie, a young boy’s father didn’t believe he could make a living from dancing, simply because it was his passion and according to his father; ‘not a job’. He referred to his own job at a laundry as an example of making an honest living.
It was Andrew Wilkinson the Canadian politician who said; “You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart” We all want to be able to look at that wooden structure and beat our chest and say; I built that from ground up, but if we could have leased a space in a building we wouldn’t be any less a man.
With the number of tech resources available to us, are we being lazy by using machines for everything? Sure our ancestors depended on manual labour to get things done, but it was their dissatisfaction with their methods and concept of hard work that started a path towards many of the technological advancements that we now have.
Work in the 21st century in my opinion is “getting things done” and whether we describe it as hard work, soft work or smart work is a subjective view of how the work felt to us. I don’t need to be able to carry a 500kg weight lift in the gym; I don’t even have to go to the gym to be a stronger Man.
No one needs to have his masculinity defined by the measure of work he does; let me put it this way; “you don’t need hard work to be a man or to be successful, you just need work.” Is it legal? Does it fulfill you? Does it pay the bills? Yes? Then you are good to go!
However, while I don’t think that any particular job or work should be termed as hard work and others soft … I do believe that a Man’s ambition would determine how much effort he puts into what he does and the more effort he puts in, the more success he will get naturally. I believe in working hard in whatever we do, but I don’t believe any particular job is harder than the other or any man inferior to the other because of his work.
That being said, Let’s get to work fellas.
Photo: Getty Images