Saturday, April 13, 2013

Measuring the faith of a nation

It once, in the early to late 1950s, was a place of such insignificance that it failed to make it onto the Atlas map. The Times Atlas of the World almost neglected to record its existence and the cartographers of Macmillan’s Atlas even reduced it to a mare footnote.

For all they cared, the tiny British colony could as well have slumped beneath the fresh waters of Lake Nyasa.

Yes, you might wonder, what a way to start a topic! What are we talking about? Your guess may be as good as mine- we are talking about Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa, of course! Fact is, what we now call Malawi was not always thus, when Malawi is Malawi and not Nyasaland anymore. What we call Malawi now, our beloved nation, first existed in the hearts and minds of those people who believed in the power of liberation and in the fact that dreams could take a physical form in this very life.

This we call faith. Malawi is a product of the faith of our fore fathers and mothers, though some of them might have died young and barren. Some of them even died in the attempt, leaving beautiful wives and handsome husbands on the land. Had you known what great things you missed, you would have clawed back for sure!

The country you left, our brothers and sisters behind the other side of the veil, has really changed. We can now be written large across the entertainment pages of big world publications, when Madonna Ciccone adopts one of our own and the world ignores the fact that we are one of the countries endowed with fabulous beauty that United States of America’s gilded riches seem taw dry by comparison. Instead, they focus on how impoverished and orphan-infested we seem to be. Many countrymen and foreign visitors almost agree with those observations of poverty and orphans and assert that we can not run away from them; that such is the face of Malawi now, a product of the faith of our forefathers and mothers.

Those assertions of poverty and orphans, apparently, seem to have riled our Chief Father here- His Excellency the State President Ngwazi Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika. The Ngwazi, for that is his new, adopted name, is angry and believes otherwise. He seems to have become more allergic to the terms ‘poverty’ and ‘poor’ than ‘orphans’ that he has embarked on a crusade against poverty.

The crusade, as expected, has a catch word: Malawi is not poor; in fact, it is the people of Malawi who are poor. That is how our Father puts it, when and wherever he feels like talking about it.

Now, I am not against it; I want to applaud it. The Big Man is a man of faith, big faith for that matter. He believes that the country can trod out of the poverty path, and, then, deal with the issue of orphans as well. In fact, the issue of orphans will sort itself out. There is nothing like a rich orphan, the term disappears with riches. So, the short of it seems to be, sort out the issue of poverty first and the product will sort the orphan riddle out! The guy is great; he things big. But very few politicians share his sentiments and beliefs.

In fact, some of these were heard during the May 19 parliamentary and presidential elections’ campaign saying the country was poor, vowing, even, to go outside the country, bowl in hand, to beg. Many people, too, seem to agree with this point; they call it their own life-reality. Why should they agree with assertions that Malawi is not poor, but the people themselves, when they can hardly afford iodized salt? Why should they believe it when their life is a struggle for the basic necessities in life? So, as fate would have it, they seem to agree and accept poverty.

Blame it on those who came before the new Father. A father who hides when he goes on holiday, sometimes leaving his own children without yandiwo. They did not have a positive mind, those former guys. Their only positive side could be their given nicknames, which the new Father has started adopting. Never mind the many unadopted orphans in the country1. Those predecessors were crazy and saw gloom where it, in deed, existed but could be up rooted! They never thought of doing anything about it- that the status quo could be changed. Our Father is different; he is positive.

Some say his ultra-positivity it’s derived from the fact that he sleeps in a big house, 300 bedrooms, whereas some of his subjects sleep on verandahs of ramshackle, glass-thatched huts. Ten children plus husband and wife. Just like that! Why not fill the other rooms of his Kliba with orphans? Well, that is the thinking line of some of his detractors; people who don’t want to believe in what he believes.

That, too, is his biggest challenge. How does he convince the tad-suspicious public that, in deed, Malawi is not poor? How does he make them toe his line of faith and turn his faith into some sort of national plague? I think we must begin to learn some positives from plagues. They (plagues) may start small, with a mere sneeze, and end in death. That is big because death is big. A plague is a life lesson of how we may start small and end big.

My assessment of faith, all faiths, foretells doom. This includes the faith of our Father that we can cross the poverty mark into the land of milk and honey. Why? Because even science may not help. We seem to have developed faith in science, which has, surely, helped us solve some of our most perplexing questions. We can now foretell the weather and many other things. True, but not faith: we can not measure faith!

What else, religion? I say no. Of course religion is based on faith, which we, madly, measure in faith. But how do we really measure faith on a barometer or whatever and see if we have reached the levels where, as a nation, we may have gathered enough faith to move poverty out. Enough faith to solve all the problems that give us a bad name.

That is the challenge the nation, and the world, faces right now. We cannot measure faith, and, as a result, don’t know where we stand. Our leaders and us are living on assumptions; we are not living the real package of life. We see sausages and polon when, in fact, the stomach is empty.

We are all mad, in a away. Just like that.

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