Sunday, March 27, 2016

One Pre-Democracy Incident That Symbolised Malawi's Communal Spirit

The ceiling of togetherness seems to have dropped so low that it is hard to think of life beyond oneself. I mean, so many people are living for themselves these days.
Come to think of it. Malawians have, all along, lived a communal life, before the spirit of individualism swept the communal spirit that characterised life among generations gone-by away, and replaced it with ‘everyone-by-themselves attitude.
In those days [I mean, pre-democracy days], no one would go hungry when the neighbour had a handful of flour.
In those days, a woman who, somehow, ‘allowed’ their children to go missing were being whipped so hard that they went crouched like a rabbit. I witnessed one such incident as a kid in Salima District in 1992. A woman [I do not recall her name] lost her child and the child was found loitering around at Kamuzu Road.
The Malawi Congress Party chairperson for the area, Kunkeyani Kaliveni Betha, took the child to his house, summoned elders from Chiphala Village, who sent for the mother. The mother was ordered to remove her top clothes, whereupon the elders descended on her— whipping her with small tree branches they could get hold of.
The helpless lady cried and cried, but the men could not take pity on her. Other women, angry with their friend for being so careless that she could lose sight of her own kid, watched close by, clearly in support of the men.
After ten minutes, the woman’s back was a sorry sight. Print marks were all over, and blood, too. She had paid for the sins of her child [Is this not the reason we celebrate Mothers Day?]!
Well, the woman went back home with her kid.
And I knew she would beat that kid to pulp back home. Call it a woman’s revenge!
In this case, the community played the role of custodian. Here was time when each one [as someone put it about Malawi] knew everyone else.
Fast-forward to this hour and things have changed.
Of course, change is good though, sometimes, it may be so rapid that others cannot keep pace with life.
A good case in point is one Egyptian novelist who stopped writing because his subject— the Egyptian man and woman— was changing fast!
In Malawi today, we can say the Egyptian case is playing itself out.
When thieves invade a house, neighbours hide their own skins as terror plays itself out.
In low density areas such as Namiwawa in Blantyre, children live behind brick fenses that offer no view of the outside world. They no longer play hide and seek games. They no longer celebrate when the moon casts her light on mother Malawi.
In the process, the communal spirit we cherished is gone— buried under the rubble of democracy!
Today, it is hard to look at the Malawian, or at the selfishness each one wears as a robe, without
a creeping wonder: Where is the communal spirit gone?
The gulf between the races stays unabridged. The gulf between voters and their representatives stays unabridged.

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