3/12/2016

Teaching America democracy

This, the task, feels like one that was before Warsan Shire who had to teach her mother how to give birth.

For, to most of us, America is the ideal for democracy. It is the place that does not only pride in being the most democratic, but also it appointed itself to be the dispenser of the democracy pill across the world. Rogue dictators who think they are gods or something divine only have America to fear. African generals and 'buffoons' who easily forget the principles of democracy are either threatened or manipulated by America and they remember their ways back to democracy.

One can eventually say that without America, our tatters of democracy would have been sewn into full garments of dictatorship. It is to America, and her allies, that we owe our periodical elections. It is to America that we owe a semblance to sanity in our politics.

Trust me, many leaders especially in Africa can either justify their actions or be challenged on the basis of how America acts. If America wakes up today and decides that once a President is voted in then they should stay in office until they die, I can assure you that before Americans understand such a law most African countries would have already had it passed in their Parliaments.

Even these noisy anti-imperialist chanters still make reference to America in one way or the other.

It is for this reason that some, like me, are worried with the way America is choosing to redefine democracy.

I have been following the US elections, from a very distant. I had actually opted not to comment owing to the way I see people busy commenting and taking sides on an election that they cannot participate in. I have told myself that there is already too many commentators on the election on my Facebook feed for me to join in.

But, you cannot really think that it is possible to completely not follow the election. I follow that election and always tell myself not to pick sides.

I am, however, intrigued with the rise of Donald Trump and the media reaction to it. The media reaction is the most interesting part. And, the reason is simple...

When elections are being conducted in places where America has prescribed the dose of democracy, it is the media that 'their' observers are really concerned about. And, it is for a good reason.

When there are elections in Malawi, the media is encouraged to be impartial in their reporting. Regardless of their party affiliations and political economy, media houses are encouraged to mutate into saints that are objective and impartial. Contrast this to the way the media is grilling Trump...

You just have to watch one television station - any - and scroll through all these established media houses' websites for you to see that impartiality is nowhere near the coverage of the US election.

Each media house is currently trying to outsmart the other in painting Trump the bad and dull colours. It is a war in which the ultimate prize is the fall of Trump and every other media house wants to be the one that fires the last shot that will take down Trump.

The other day Ben Carson decided to endorse Trump. The announcement was carried in tiny prints in the media. It was as if nothing actually had happened. You just need to compare with the hullabaloo that surrounded Mitt Romney when he went to town demanding Trump's head. Suddenly, the same media houses that had laughed at Romney in his failures to be the tenant of White house were falling over themselves to crown him the only true Prophet of our time, a saint, a truth speaker and even the US President de-facto.

I understand, Romney is newsworthy than Carson but the actions of the two when contrasted could not really outweigh each other with a bigger difference and margin. They could have been at par. But, it was the media that created a storm with Romney and decided to muffle Carson into a calm breeze. I can vouch that if Carson had decided to break all the ranks and switch sides and endorse Hillary Clinton, the pundits would still have been weighing in on the issue until November. They would have been finding all the tiny bits and links to Trump. Trump would have been blamed again.

We, therefore, who understand the need for the media to be impartial need to teach America something about democracy. We should send a team of our trainers in election reporting to meet with American journalists and teach them on how to report on elections. Tell them they do not need to inject their opinions in the reporting. Tell them they should keep their choices private. Tell them this and that about election reporting in a democratic context and, if they cannot adhere then we should tell them to renounce democracy.

We do not want them to create an excuse for the next African dictator to fully control the airwaves in times of elections spewing this and that propaganda on the pretext that 'even in US elections, the media was (is) biased.'

I should also add that I have been dismayed with the way the media has gloated over the violence that happened in Chicago when Trump was about to meet with his supporters. 

The American media needs to know something: a violence is a violence regardless of whom it is being administered to. Trump might hold unpopular views but that does not warrant violence against him or his supporters.

And, to the Protesters, they also need to learn the basics of a democratic election. People should have the right of assembly.

Here, where you planted the seeds of democracy which I can now confidently say have outgrown the tree from which the seeds were picked from, we let people hold rallies everywhere and let them speak their mind.

Of course, we have instances of violence here and there but we believe it is one of our ways of learning. Remember, we are just seeds.

We are, therefore, shocked that in America people can no longer stand another candidate speaking and meeting his supporters that the only way out is to disturb their rallies and make chaotic scenes. That is not just bad and primitive, it is criminal. In a democratic election, perpetrators should be arrested and brought to book. Or, if that is hard then we can let our Police come and drill your Police in how to handle themselves in this season of elections.

Such scenes, being celebrated by a media that has shaped the world view, will easily be replicated in African elections. Any question over such a conduct will be met with clips of supporters and protesters fighting in America. We pray that you handle that before contaminating our pure seeds of democracy this side of the world.

The posts on Facebook of people congratulating their friends in Chicago for the insane and uncivilised way of disagreeing should equally be stopped by Facebook. What is that? Celebrating violence! No, that is a criminal act that should not be tolerated.

Of course America, we understand this is not what you expected. But, you see, that is what the democracy you are spreading in the world does. It brings people you never expected, you least expected. It is, nevertheless, imperative on you to respect that. Democracy is about respect for the self and the other. Sadly, this redefinition is not talking the same language as what I am saying. Worse part is that this redefinition will cause havoc across the world.   

 

3/10/2016

No, this land is not beautiful!

I had to rush here, on this space, to write this.

Once, not so very long ago, I found this land to be beautiful. Despite all the shortfalls. I had read Alan Paton's Ah, But Your land is beautiful and had seen beauty everywhere. If Alan Paton could see beauty in an apartheid South Africa, I could as well see it in Malawi.

So, with all the poverty and hunger and envy and tribalism and crime and nepotism and everything bad that can come to mind when you hear Malawi after experiencing it as a disadvantaged citizen, I still thought it is beautiful.

I thought of the safety of traveling from home to distant places without being stopped by a suicide bomber in the tracks of my life and, I said, this land is beautiful too.

I am not the only one.

I was, minutes ago, reading some literature on something and something. As luck would have it, I chanced on a dissertation by one foreign student who did her research in Malawi. I was impressed. I like to see myself from the prism of another. This was an opportunity.

Her opening remarks to the acknowledgments are heart-warming and lovely. They say a million positive things for our tourism industry than all the adverts we have tried to put across advertising our lake we now are intending to defile.

She captures our poverty yet in the same breath, in equally fascinating beauty, she captures our spirit. And the resilience we have.

She says Malawians are nice and good people. She says we smile a lot. She says we are happy. She says we are religious and respect the word. She says we are this and that, this and that, this and that. All those rolling into one adjective of nice.

The way she writes about Malawi, you would be forgiven to think that she is writing about one big bar of chocolate whose only mistake is to be found on the toilet sink.

She is not the only one.

I once met a person. We talked about a lot and when she pressed to ask where I was from and I said Malawi, her eyes popped out.

She had ever been to Malawi, she said.

A beautiful country, she fell over it again if her expression was anything to go by.

With lovely and nice people, she said.

I was kind of happy in some sense. It is encouraging to be placed among the lovely and nice people. I know of people whom once they mention their countries of origin, uneasiness settles in. If there was laughter, there come in mirth of mockery. If there was niceness in the air, hostility comes in. It must be sad to hold a citizenship that is such.

I was, therefore, happy to be associated with smiling faces that are used in adverts made by donor agencies celebrating of their success stories.

But, now, I have come to question that narrative of niceness. I am not only questioning it but I am actively seeking to disagree with you if you think that narrative is correct and it is nice. I aim to hold that we, Malawians, are not nice people. We are not lovely people. We are nowhere near to being that bar of chocolate on a toilet sink.

Do you know, under all this niceness we exude to the world we have fathers that rape their children? Now, that is nowhere closer to being nice. That is outright crooked, disgusting and criminal. However, the worse part is that we have a whole system and structure that aims to shield and protect those vultures. We have families and communities that have decided to live with the everyday violation of young ones. Nobody says a word. Everybody sees nothing, hears nothing and says nothing.

It is still under this same veil of niceness and smiling faces that we have people (read: beasts) who are butchering albinos. These beasts apparently live with us and congregate with us in the same gatherings. They can easily pass for a smiling face for a TV advert of some NGO proclaiming insurmountable successes in Africa.

The worse part is that these people, evil and shrewd as they are, are not lone criminals. They have dragged the entire country with them. Thus, owing to our silence and half-hearted condemnations when an albino gets killed, we are conspirators to the crime committed. I believe that for our ability to carry on living as if everything is normal while right before our noses a genocide to purge off albinos is happening, we are actively participating.

I could say more about our inability to be nice to ourselves yet highly able to be nice to someone who is not from a similar context with us, but somehow I have to stop.

It is evident, it is clear, we are not a warm people. We are a people so unkind, cruel and evil that we actively participate in genocides or keep quiet as it rears its ugly head. That, my friends, I would not say is a mark of niceness.

No, we are not nice. This land is contaminated by our evil nature.