David Owoyemi: Confessions Of The Rat Race (3)


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“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

– Kahlil Gibran


You might be wondering, what is responsible for the phenomenal success of the Rat Race. How did an ideology grow into an empire with a far reaching influence on humanity? I often wonder about how humanity could be so blind to the Rat Race conspiracy. How could she be actively involved in building an institution that has so much enslaved her? If only she knew. Well, you’d better spread the message I am about to give you.


But I will tell you tgreatole truth and you’d better share the message. The Rat Race Empire has been greatly strengthened by at least four key players which include Parents, Schools, Ignorance and Fear.

(i)                  Parents

Over the years, parents have played a pivotal role in building the rat race empire is Parents. They have been the primary coaches who prepare and usher each generation into the rat race. Despite the good hearts of most parents, their contribution to the Rat Race has largely been a result of ignorance and conditioning. So you can’t really blame them. However, the truth still has to be told if humanity must overcome the Rat Race.


In building an institution with a lasting influence through the ages, the Rat Race needed spokesmen in every generation who would propagate the ideology and raise the next generation of ‘rat-racers’. Parents were the most qualified for this task. Ironically, while there was no formal recruitment process for this assignment, it turned out that more than 70% of parents in each generation have participated actively in this work. They chose the Rat Race by default because that was the tradition, and they were proud to pass on the baton to the next generation.


Raising generations of rat-racers

Since babies don’t come with manuals on how to raise them, most parents tend to rely on whatever manual they found. Often times, their manual is a product of existing social and cultural norms, their experiences, knowledge, subjective and religious beliefs and so on. They always believe they know what is best for their children and that what worked for them will always work for their children; that the principles and practices that applied in one generation can be transferred to another irrespective of the times. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.


One of such principles that parents have given to children for generations is the 3G code. It says, ‘GO to school, GET a good grade, and GET a good job’. If only they knew they were helping to build the Rat Race.

When most children arrive on earth their lives are already planned out like a script that reads: Birth – go school – get job – raise family – work hard – make money – retire – die. Since most  of humanity regarded success as the availability of means or resources, it made sense that the object of the journey called life would be how to make or gather as much resources as possible in order to meet one’s needs, take care of one’s family and share with others, if possible. Parents believed that the 3G code was the best way to achieving this.


History showed that by getting a good job with regular and predictable flow of income in form of salary, it was possible to plan, manage and accumulate resources over the course of some years. And by having an education (meaning schooling), one would have better job opportunities, thereby enhancing one’s prospects. Since what mattered most was accumulating resources, it wasn’t important for a child to know what WORK he was designed for, but what JOB or career he could pursue (where he would be most useful in helping to build another’s work). So parents invested heavily in education to prepare or position their children for good jobs and children kept trying to meet up with the standards required by job givers. If job givers want high grades, parents and the school focused on producing children with high grades. If they wanted skills, higher degrees, and so on, that is what parents wanted for their children. It was all about being job compliant.


For some time this formula worked but as the times changed it became obvious that the 3G Code was no longer relevant. Yet, parents continued to raise their children to follow the 3G code. The supply of job seekers continued to increase, hence surpassing the supply of jobs. Good jobs became scarce and the value of good grades began to diminish. The reason for the low supply of jobs was that as a result of the ‘job-seeking mindset, very few people were creating work. Hence, so many vacuums (problems) abounded which were not being filled or solved. There was so much work to be done and yet so many people looking for work (JOB) to do.


In the end, the 3G code did more harm than good. Thanks to the efforts of parents, it contributed immensely towards the expansion of the rat race in so many ways, some of which include:

i)                    It fostered a dependent mentality

There are few things as sensitive as molding the mind of a child because whatever is continually emphasized soon becomes a template to follow. By emphasizing the 3G code, parents seem to be saying to children, ‘There is a JOB waiting for you out there. Prepare for it. Just do well in the classroom, and the world will give you a job.’ Children begin to have the mindset that it is the responsibility of others to provide work for them. While there could be so many vacuums or problems around them, it is unlikely for them to see it as an avenue for work because they have been conditioned to believe that organizations is where work is. This dependent mentality is one of the causes of high rate of unemployment.


ii)                   It emphasized the need to work for money

Many children grow up knowing just one purpose for work – to earn money, because it was all about the paycheck at the end of the day. When money became the motivation for doing work, work lost its meaning, fulfillment became hard to find, and potential under-utilized. The 3G code emphasized the need to ‘work for’ money as the avenue to gathering resources. It kept most children in the dark as to other avenues to gathering resources, so they were confined to a continual, often lifelong search for JOBs that guarantee the most returns. The most productive years of their lives is therefore invested in helping to build another’s work or doing something that is unrelated to their true work.


By the way, a job is an exchange. One party gives time (the greatest resource), skills, intellect, experience and so on, which are largely unquantifiable while the other gives only a small fraction of the returns made from the endeavour. I must let you know that there has to be something more than money you are getting from a job for it to be worthwhile no matter how much the job pays.


To be continued…

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