There’s a book I recently finished reading by some crazy-haired genius called Malcolm Gladwell. The title of his book is “The Outliers,” and it is quite revelatory.
According to Gladwell, “Outlier” is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience, and he uses his book to explain people who are outliers, “men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience…” he says.
We’re used to accepting Outliers successes as a result of natural genius, business acumen or whatever innate ability they seem to have.
Gladwell goes a step further and unravels the various set of circumstances and other people’s contributions that actually play a major role in producing these Outliers.
It is not just a result of individual traits. One chapter I found particularly interesting explained the weird phenomena that is Jewish New York City Lawyers.
These corporate big fish ALL seem to have identical backgrounds. They are Jewish men, born in the Bronx or Brooklyn in the mid-1930’s to immigrant parents who worked in the garment industry. I won’t give any spoilers as to why this is so; I suggest you look for the book and give yourself the pleasure of a good read.
After reading the book, I thought – is it possible that a generation of Outliers has been, or is being produced in Rwanda?
Because what I took from that chapter was that circumstance, opportunity and the dynamics of a society can be responsible for the creation of people or a generation characterised by remarkable success. You see, the Rwanda of today is unlike how it has ever been.
For once, we have a generation born into a corruption-free, divisive-free, instability-free society, embedded with values of hard work and opportunity.
What you have is person growing up in a country whereby a combination of hard work and imagination can actually get you far. Systems and institutions are reliable and accountable, and it is no longer about who you know, or what you are born into.
To illustrate, a bit of a spoiler then. These Jewish lawyers all had immigrant parents, whose hard work and humble origins instilled in their children values of ambition and industriousness.
They were all born at a time of the Great Depression, which produced a small generation that later inadvertently worked in favour of these individuals. Similarly, you have a country that recovered from one of the worst human atrocities in the 20th Century.
Institutions and infrastructures are built to ensure this never happens again, and the politics of the past is replaced with that which looks to the future, and which is committed to bringing out the best of its people.
Children born in this era have an advantage over their Rwandan predecessors, based on different circumstances and values. Today, there is an unmistaken sense of vibrancy and opportunity in the air.
Youth in Rwanda have little time for petty politics, or ideas that are stuck in a past mired in divisionism. There is a much bigger picture which for the first time, every Rwandan can be part of.