Without new imagination, Malawi won’t recover

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I REPEAT: as a nation, we are screwed!

That is to put it quite politely, of course. In the year that we turned 52, and graced the occasion with monstrous placards masquerading as billboards across the capital city, we revealed our collective lack of imagination as a people. That the eyesore was allowed to stand, sanctioned at both national and local government level, means we – as a people – have allowed themselves to be led into a worse-off state than we already occupy.

But, to have expected anything different is to live in a Malawian fantasy, where national pride and respect for independence are treasured traits. We live in a country where playing a game of cards with people’s lives will win you affection and accolades, not condemnation and punishment. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that this country can be plundered with impunity – no questions asked; no answers demanded; no accountability sought.

In Malawi, therefore, public office has become a gateway to self-enrichment, which is a source of power in itself and ultimately, a means to oppress poorer and powerless citizens. It is an abnormality that has been normalised primarily because of the abject poverty of both material and mind that plagues this country.

Being poor and dispossessed will have you accept things that you would ordinarily not accept. Hence, many Malawians find themselves accepting and acquiescing to domination because in the face of great power and stolen riches – all flaunted and exhibited with impunity – they feel and imagine themselves weak, unable to mount any challenge and demand Justice.

The result? A demobilised, marginalised and disenfranchised citizenry that accepts it has no useful place in Society except to prop up oppressive regimes (political and capital) and provide them with the legitimacy they need to survive. Without this legitimacy, a lot of the excesses we have witnessed in Malawi would not have happened. It is, in fact, our collective inactivity as citizens that gives those who oppress us the confidence to keep robbing us because we necessary allow them to do so.

Had we been an active lot, always demanding accountability and accepting nothing less than the highest standards of both living and governance, those who oppress us on a daily basis would have to think twice before instigating action that undermines our agency, independence and national aspirations.

This, of course, is not to downplay the daily resistance that happens against the excesses of political and corporate power in Malawi. It is, actually, to recognise it and seek more of such from many more Malawians, especially those who occupy public office. This country needs your courage; it demands greater service from you; and it demands your love.

For how much longer must Malawi continue to suffer?

This is a question those in power have no interest in resolving because it threatens their privileged position as a select few reaping the harvest of what our country has to offer. Yet, it is a question of principal importance if the collective aspiration is to live in a socially just and democratic society. Therefore, it must be answered.

So, I ask again: for how much longer must Malawi continue to suffer?

A significant part of the answer lies in the extent to which we – as citizens – would like to see things continue the way they throughout this year and – to be more accurate – since 1964. If this is our fate as a nation – poverty, hunger, disease and shame – then we might as well ignore all of the above.

However, if the dazzling beauty of this country, its wealth in resources and its mass of people prove to you our potential to successful, healthy and joyous living, then there is no reasonable justification to accept anything that prevents our charge towards that destiny. Why should we accept and settle for less when Mother Malawi is ready to bestow upon us so much more?

One of the most devastating effects of poverty is the limitations and restrictions on imagination. To think rich while poor is difficult. To think happy while sad is almost impossible. To think life while surrounded by so much death is to partake in jest. This is the State of our Nation – our individual and collective poverty has imposed severe restrictions on our ability to imagine a better Malawi.

But someone has to.

However, it will not be those in power, for they are secure in their comfort and would not tolerate the idea of having to share their wealth – most of it ill-gotten – with others. In fact, they will vehemently resist any attempts at reforming Malawi into a socially just and democratic country. Be warned. Yet, something within us – the poor, dispossessed and marginalised – must rise, for this is our country too, and we must lay claim to our citizenship.

The last word of the year belongs to the great revolutionary, Che Guevara:

“We cannot foresee the future, but we should never give in to the defeatist temptation of being the vanguard of a nation which yearns for freedom, but abhors the struggle it entails and awaits its freedom as a crumb of victory.”

BY LEVI KABWATO 

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