Perhaps, some 100 years ago, the likes of John Chilembwe, John Gray Kufa, and other great sons and daughters of the then Nyasaland (now Malawi), were too rattled by current events and the unbeatable logic of despair and had to go the extra-mile to go out into the woods and strategize on how to come over the problems They then, apparently, organized the 1914 uprising.
The guys were tired of the colonialists-perpetuated bonded labour (Thangata system). Their wives and children, too, might have felt helpless at the powerlessness of their husbands in face of the challenges at hand. How could the likes of Kufa ‘discipline’ their children with some good whip when they were failing to pump sense into the white-farmers who were exploiting them?
Life must have been tough for them, inside out. I can guess that, in doors, even second hand news was mostly negative and bad; perhaps bad enough to draw even the most positive of people into a dreadful fascination with doom and demise. This happens when one’s faith in extinction gets stronger, that you sit down and tell stories that begin with the end.
The Rev. Chilembwe and friends would have stormed out of their homes (in doors), feeling that they belonged outdoors at this crucial point in time; that is, if they had to really strategize, let their voices heard, and, if need be, free themselves from pain by hook or crook. Killing did not amount to murder anymore, it meant freedom. The good thing about freedom is that it recognizes no murder; the assumption is that you are acting in self defense.
So, outdoors (where the news is usually energizing and miraculous) they went. A fly might, then, have flown into the Rev. Chilembwe’s, or one of his friends’, mouth and went deep- forcing the Rev. Chilembwe to swallow, inducing a major life change for him. It is so simple to understand, how a simple fly could have energized our good Reverend. Outside, when it is flying and wallowing in human waste, it is a fly. Granted. When it flies into your mouth and you swallow it, everything changes: it changes from fly to protein. More energy for our dreams!
Just like that.
That, too, is how we shall be changed one day, as one Garrison Keillor rightly observed. That’s how the status quo gets changed as well. A fly can be anything, from the vulnerable, orphans, neglected, colonized and afflicted. It represents powerlessness, though great powers have been known to develop from it (powerlessness), when one acknowledges it and sets on the path to improve on it.
The likes of Kufa and others might have seen, upon looking at the Rev. Chilembwe, how furious he looked. At first, it was anger vented at the fly, something (anger) that spilled over to focus on problems of the day, including the Thangata issue. He woke up, beckoned his fellow lieutenants to battle and……boom, with stolen guns, there they were, attacking isolated estates. At last, Kufa jumped. He was happy. The head of Lisitoni (Livingstone) was here at last, in his hands.
The battle for freedom had started for real.
This may as well be a redo, albeit exaggerated but real, of the battle for freedom in Malawi, which started as far back as 1900 and culminated into the Chilembwe Uprising. People wanted freedom and, by virtue of us being independent today, got their bid. They, and the likes of Orton Chirwa, Kamuzu Banda, fought for the freedom we are enjoying today as repeated every year during Martyrs Day Commemorations.
Of course, I have doubted if these people did these things for me. Honestly, I think they were doing it for their pockets. Who doubts the fact that the world stopped being governed with, and by, passion during the Dark Ages and is now being run on greed? You are entitled to your opinion and I, mine.
Did they know that they were fighting for me? Did they know my voice? How tall I am? Even my marital status? Eeh?
I also doubt if what they died for has come to fruition. Look here, we have so many problems and challenges synonymous with the Thangata System of the early 1900s. The death of our so-called martyrs has, certainly, not helped us look at life in a different way, as well as helping us reflect on the vision of those humans no longer being.
Need examples? Look at our markets, run under the guise of free enterprise. Free enterprise, or a liberalized market, as the name implies, would have been a system in which buyers and sellers met at a neutral market place, possessed equal power and equal information and made their exchanges without leaving any litter behind.
But our markets are not neutral. What is so neutral when tobacco buyers dictate the stakes, and when government issues directives that rig the markets, gives certain groups investment tax credits, incentives, depletion and depreciation allowances, subsidies, rebates, research and development funding, demonstration grant programmes and price supports?
Then, let’s look at our democracy. Democracy came about after realizing that power is contagious: one can fight it only with equal power. This is a system of checking this possible abuse, a living realization of the fact that every human group that exercises power does so, not in such a way as to bring total happiness to those who are subject to it, but in such a way as to increase that power.
Is they (freedom and democracy) happening in their actual sense in Malawi? I say no. In Malawi, everything happens in reverse. Take the issue of workers, for instance. Most people will report for duties at 10:00am instead of 7:30 am and knock off at 04:00 pm instead of 05:00pm. They have even changed the meaning of G.M.T to mean Genuine Malawian Time. Genuine Malawian Time, by its very purpose and nature, is always too hours earlier and two hours late! Just like that.