Where has common sense gone?

Where has common sense gone?

Common sense is the expected   capacity from all normal human beings to  understand, appreciate and judge things as they unfold without using specialized knowledge.  Every normal human being is expected to give sound practical view of the challenges at hand. With common sense we are all expected to apply practical knowledge and understanding that will guide us to live in this world in a positive and safe manner.  Unfortunately the expected common sense among all normal human beings is no longer common for reasons discussed below.

Life experience

The quality of common sense one will possess will depend on the life experience one has gone through. The experience must be broad enough to allow one to face various challenges of life in order to learn how to overcome them. For example one will never know how to treat cough using traditional herbs unless one has lived in rural areas where cough is treated using local herbs. I guess parents are being a bit over protective of their children to the extent that the children are not allowed to experience life in all corners. I remember during my school holiday I was allowed to go spend the holiday my uncles, aunts, and grandparents in order to acquire knowledge. Most of the common knowledge I have,  I acquired it during these visits.

For example you cannot appreciate the value of traditional circumcision of men unless you have gone through it and experienced it. Circumcision in hospitals does not exactly give the same lessons.


Circumcision ceremony among the Bagisu in Uganda.

General knowledge

I acquired most of my general knowledge through listening to the discussions of elders. When I was young I was allowed to listen in but not to participate in elders discussions. This enabled me to develop my listening skills. I was also given a chance to practice some of the skills. In this way I learnt how to hunt, to prepare banana wine, to prune bananas and coffee and  to sell things in the market among others. Now days formal meeting of elders called to discuss community issues are quite rare.


Elders convey to give a ruling during a past court session. Photos by Anthony Mwachiro

Common sense is no longer common because of lack of exposure

I have experienced with a number of people I have supervised over time that common sense is no longer common mainly because of lack of exposure as discussed above. You have to take extra care when you are issuing instructions to people first to confirm that they have an idea of the issues at hand. I remember sending a staff to verify for me the number of acres ploughed by a tractor over a month. He confirmed a figure of 600 acres as ploughed by one tractor without raising any concerns. He assumed a tractor was ploughing 20 acres per day non-stop for 30 days! This is quite impossible. I later came to realise the staff did not have any idea about ploughing of land using a tractor as  he came from a family of cattle keepers  who did not grow crops. I have found a way around this by first hold training meeting with the team to awaken the common sense before sending them to the field.



John Muhaise Bikalemesa

Director: Big Drum Advisory Services limited