A culture of electronic insults

By Given Mutinta 

It is undeniable that the Zambian Watchdog is one of, if not the leading social media website in our country. It tries to create an atmosphere that is realistic and makes us interact in an analytical and objective way. Without the Zambian Watchdog’s dedication and sacrifice, their undertaking would be nearly impossible.

Regrettably, a few visitors to the Zambian Watchdog have failed to make use of the platform to engage in constructive discussions. We abuse the media by using it to insult and defame each other. We disseminate insults free of charge.

People engaging in insulting behaviour openly are truly flaunting their own wickedness. We are all wicked but there are those who are more wicked than others that they publicize their wickedness.

The Zambian Watchdog allows us to be anonymous, to hide behind a false name when making our contributions; sadly, we abuse this service to forego all of our inhibitions. As a result, sensible and balanced news items fail to grab people’s attention as they are played down. The slanderers, on the other hand, are encouraged by the attention that they get, both from those who support them and those who criticize them.

Most of the insults are based on culturally defined negative references and are meant to reduce victims to the referent named. By doing so, we regard ourselves superior than others, and what can deter us from doing harm to the alleged inferior if we were to have anarchy?

We are so disposed to be rude and abrasive. We use insensitive words that show no strength of argument or evidence, but are full of insults and abuse. We seem to be habitual cursers, accusers, and slanderers.

As visitors to the Zambian Watchdog, we are challenged to make use of this platform to interact in a productive way. Let us transcend our regional, tribal, and political individualisms. It is high time we learnt to distinguish between an opinion and opinion maker or rather a person and an issue on the tapis. We should safeguard ourselves from engaging in insultive discussions. Make a valuable comment or remain a silent visitor to the Zambian Watchdog.

There is totally nothing wrong with people disagreeing and arguing with each other, especially in these troubled and confusing times. However, the way to handle divergences is with lucid arguments and self-controlled speech. Our modes of discussion should show the purity of our intentions, the strengths of our intellect, and the nobility of our characters. If we happen to insult, let it be an unintentional mistake.

It is clear to everyone that our country is subdued by numerous challenges. The Patriotic Front boat is being tossed about in a storm and the people on board are afraid that they will drown. This explains why there are mixed voices in the discussions. Some voices are merciful and concerned. Some are calm. Others are angry and seething. Then there is that voice that spews forth curses and insults left and right but that voice always spares itself. But how can this voice possibly curse itself?

Insults will never be answers to the problems we are facing as a country; if anything they will reinforce the tribal and regional hatred. The worst possible person is the one who sees only good in himself and evil in everyone else. We may be Tongas, Ngonis, Bembas, or Lozis, we are all brothers and sisters, and we need to esteem each other with the same regard that we esteem our tribe mates. Why should we wrap our esteemed discussions in vulgarity?

Flagging down insults should not be mistaken to being brave. Certainly, it shows daring in the same way that robbers show courage when they break into people’s homes. It is the courage of someone somersaulting into ruin. We should not underestimate the power of insults. The 1994 Rwanda genocide started with careless statements people threw at each other.

The abuse of the Zambian Watchdog by some visitors is unscrupulous and unprincipled. Those who exhibit such behaviour expose themselves as people bereft of values, people who are controlled by their vilest passions and by the blindest of anger, and who are driven by inconsequential spite. Those who think that they are upholding the truth or defending their tribes or regions or political parties by behaving in such a way are only the more deceived.

The Zambian Watchdog is providing us a platform to engage in progressive debates. Let us:

  • turn away from insults and those who exhibit them by commanding what is right.
  • respond with a better comment and counter an insult with a word that is good. Repel evil with that which is better. Let us interact kindly with each other. We are all Zambians regardless of our tribes or regions.
  • keep our composure and stay calm in our interactions. Under the current government, life will be a long road, and we need tranquillity. Let us not pay any attention to those voices that seek to bring down other tribes or regions.
  • not waste time responding to and refuting insults. Why should we devote our energies to a battle of insults? What will we achieve apart from tribal and regional hatred?
  • not let our animosities and insults drive us into denying the truth, uttering falsehood, or persisting in an error. We must make self-assessments and corrections of our habits. Yes, people often criticize the apparent meaning of what we say without appreciating all aspects of it. However, on occasion someone might have an insight into something that we overlooked, an insight that could assist us in achieving a sharper, more balanced understanding of things. In this way, our opponents are actually of benefit.

The Zambian Watchdog should not falter in engaging in investigative and critical journalism that attempts to report issues at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. Without the Zambian Watchdog, it would have been difficult to be keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of our human behaviour especially of those in leadership.

Let us put to an end the culture of tribal and regional insults, and strive to improve our country through constructive debates and contribute to a more rational, civilized society.

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