By Field Ruwe
To the shouts of “New Year!” the skies erupted at midnight, car horns went off and fireworks shot up. We exited 2013 with pomp, mirth and music and entered the New Year in spectacular style.
On January 1st, 2013, we nursed our hangovers and egos and reality began to set in. First day of the year was a day of reflection. Each one of us, individually, looked at the next twelve months with the peculiar hopes and fears which, year after year, are drawn from what we have achieved or lost in the past.
We indulged in the pleasures of hope and hopelessness and allowed words like “will I make it,” “will I survive,” “is this the year” to bounce in the echo chamber of our consciousness.
Second day, we sobered, abandoned memories of yesteryear and embraced the hopes of tomorrow. We got out of bed, took a bath and entered into the dust and din of real life. Alas! a new race for survival had begun for us all—the president, his vice, cabinet ministers, castle-builders, castle-wishers, optimists, pessimists, the haves, the have-nots, and the ailing.
As we drove or were driven to work we realized nothing had changed. Life around was still stagnant. Roads and buildings were the same; minibuses still ferried overloads; vendors were back on the street; and people carried the same attitude and ego. Stagnation had yet again triumphed.
Because the gifts of genius have eluded us, we were back in the same place, working on the same thing from 8 to 5. We can’t see past this because we are wired in a simpleminded way to replicate what we did last year in the bank, factory, bakery, mines, and in parliament.
Let’s admit it. We have miserably failed at greatness. As a people we have failed to amplify our best traits. With absolutely no self-confidence, we, year after year, stagnate and watch others mature into far superior humans than us.
We are lazy—unmotivated. I hear angry voices. Some have stopped reading and are already rabidly blogging and foaming at the mouth.
“Ruwe, how can you insult us? How can you say we are lazy? You are lucky, you are not here. I would have knocked your teeth out. No one calls me lazy, you understand—no one! If you are lazy, that’s your fault. I am not. I work hard for my money!”
Rage, threats, insults, are our self-defense. We are as sensitive as a grenade. When you remove the pin you have to run or it will explode and kill you.
Often those who say they are not lazy use their hands much more than their brains. They use their hands laboriously because they have not figured out how to invent a tool that would need less energy. The practical importance of intelligence in everyday situations is brought out by the much-repeated injunction to “Use your head!” Most of us fail. That’s why I say we are lazy.
A week has elapsed since the dawn of 2013. We are back in the same bar, on the same stool, drinking, fighting, insulting neighbors, and starving our children. We are back on the computer hauling insults and besmirching the characters of those with opposing opinions and views. We are back doing nothing about life.
Our siblings, relatives, and friends are departing in large numbers—from AIDS, malaria, cholera, TB, cancer, and hunger. We hopelessly watch. We can’t do much about it. We have left everything in the hands of God.
“Lesa eka ewaishiba.”
“Mulungu eka ndiyo aziba.”
“Only God knows.”
And yet God helps those who help themselves.
“Whenever a man makes haste, God too hastens with him,” Sophocles wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; and heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act,” Euripides wrote. “Try first thyself, and after call in God; For to the worker God himself lends aid.”
We do not bother to try. On January 1, for instance, our retired parents and grandparents back in the village woke up as if there was no 2013; as if it were 1913. They had slept on the floor in tattered blankets. They have no electricity, no candle, no clean water and little to eat. Dressed in their usual smelly torn clothes they sat around a fire in a house filled with smoke—and coughed.
“Na ba kula,” (they have aged) we keep saying with no remorse.
Shame on us! Up to this day, it has not occurred to us that there are geniuses among us, possessed with incredible abilities; that there people among us who can create a water filter, and put an electric bulb in each and every home in our village and compound.
Ever heard of Kelvin Doe, the 15-year-old genius from Sierra Leone? Young Doe taught himself how to build generators, batteries, and FM radios using parts he found in the trash. He builds batteries and generators to provide electricity for his family and the people around him. His next plan is to build a windmill to provide electricity for his town. We truly have people of his caliber here in our country.
But because indolence has set in big time, we do not want to find such people. Instead, like birds on a weeping tree, we watch the tantalizing thrusts of civilization zoom past: electricity, telephone, typewriters, radios, cars, trains, planes, computers, cellular phones, iPads…
“Fya ba sungu,” (they are for white people) we say.
“Abasungu bali chenjela” (whites are intelligent).
Locked up in a 1964 brain, we, without a trace of guilt sit before our television sets and adore the ingenuity of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein. We shamelessly hang on to their fulfilled dreams and yet we were created equal. Shame on us!
Today, the poor and uneducated Chinese who have infiltrated our country have surpassed us by far. They are showing us how to make money on a single chicken and a piece of tomato. They have figured out who they are and what they want. They have grabbed life by the horns, and learned how to persevere amidst setbacks. They take control of their lives instead of waiting for Bill Gates to open up doors. This is what is called greatness.
As for us, like a tree, we continue to grow upward and going nowhere. We are born, grow, go to school, learn only so little, do only so much, age and die with no feats on earth. From dust we came to dust we go with no name to ourselves.
“Ruwe iwe, don’t just sit there in America and write rubbish,” I hear some irate individual saying. “You can’t compare the Chinese to us. They have been doing this for thousands of years. Besides, they have the capital to buy farming tools. We don’t.”
They say a lazy mind is the devil’s workshop. The devil allows good people to stop thinking. It allows them to be indoctrinated with negative thoughts and lose sight of their goals. The result is failure—disease, hunger, poverty, and death.
We are good people. We are a united nation. Many of us have a trait that exudes persistence to learn and excel. Some of us carry superior intelligence, discipline, and ingenuity. But we leave in a country not organized for success; a country disorganized by our politicians from the president to his cabinet.
They do not have the wherewithal to advance. They have surrendered our country to history—a history of “blacks are not intelligent;” a history of exploitation of man by man; a history of corruption; a history of extortion, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement; and a history of false promises. They use lessons learned from such history to practice politics of personal gain.
All our presidents begin their term with a “what is best for me” attitude. This is true with president Michael Chilufya Sata.
“Iwe Ruwe, watampa with your nonsense,” a PF cadre is blogging. “You show utter disrespect for the president. Stay where you are.”
No, I don’t. I respect him. Things may be looking good for the blogger because he is benefiting from the ruling party—he is a cabinet minister, ambassador, diplomat, paid cadre, or one rescued from contempt charges.
The same cannot be said about us. We have hardly advanced and Sata is not helping. He is taking us back where we were last year—nowhere. He is making a seminal political contribution to the destruction of our country.
Since he assumed power, he has not asked us to change our patterns; to find ways of how to tackle the stagnation that has become part of our lives—the stagnation that has and continues to claim a good chunk of our population. Today Leopards Hill Cemetery is a cosmopolitan of our beloved.
“So, iwe Ruwe, what do you want the president to do, kanshi?”
First and foremost, the president must treat us like 14 million intelligent people. He must create a Patents and Inventions Policy Board and invest millions of our tax dollars in it. The purpose of the Board will be to search for inventions of value to the public.
There are many young and old talented people around the country trying to make life a little easier for themselves. They invent and design products that are good enough to change lives for the better. The president should encourage such inventors and take appropriate action to ensure that the public receives the benefit.
The president must appoint six people, including Clive Chirwa, to the Board, which will advise and assist with Zambian inventions. The committee will encourage discovery and invention around the country.
Each year the president himself must offer a sum of $10,000 or more in prize money for the invention of the year and fully fund its mass production.
He must instruct ZNBC Director General Chibamba Kanyama to start a television program called “Zambia’s Own Inventors” featuring a panel of judges who will consider inventions or business concepts presented by small-scale entrepreneurs in English or vernacular, live on TV. The inventors must convince the judges that their idea is outstanding.
But first, and this is cardinal, the president must make democracy a core theme of his presidency and dedicate all his efforts to effective governance and to real economic development. He must lead the fight against corruption. Most of all, he must establish political stability, embrace the opposition, and together with them build institutions that will facilitate a smooth transfer of power to his successor after one or two terms. How about that?
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012
Cognizant of the character assassination synonymous with Zambian politics I urge you to read the following about me.
My full names are: Field Chakudzidzwa Ruwe. I am a bona fide Zambian, born in Wusakile Hospital, Kitwe on August 8, 1955.
True: My wonderful and caring parents, Jeremiah and Rachel, originated from the Northern Region of Malawi (1930s). My father worked for the Public Works Department (PWD) in Chililabombwe and Chingola.
True: I attended Maiteneke and Chingola Primary Schools (1961-1968) and Chikola Secondary School (Forms I–V, 1969-1973).
True: In 1974, I repeated Form V at Matero Boys’ Secondary School, Lusaka because my grades were not enough to take me to university. I achieved the desired grade.
True: I worked as a Technical Operator (recordist) for Zambia Broadcasting Services. In 1975, I answered an advert by ZBS for students to study engineering abroad. When I was not picked I chose to continue working to support my retired parents. I also presented numerous radio and television programs.
True: Between 1975 -1978, I scripted, produced and acted in a comedy program called “Tiyende Pamodzi Comedy Show” on Television Zambia. I still love humor.
True: I ran a successful media and tourism business in Lusaka called Rute Limited. Many of you will remember Rute Car Hire.
True: I married a doctor and she is the reason I am in the U.S. today. Let no one lie to you. We left the country on our own accord with unblemished record.
True: In 1999, while in the U.S., I invested heavily in a company called “Africa Center” in Lusaka. It collapsed within the shortest time and I lost all my property.
True: I do not have a criminal record, nor have I indulged in any unlawful or corrupt acts, here in the U.S. and in my country Zambia. When you come across malicious nonsense, take it with a pinch of salt.
True: I do not belong to any political party. Those who claim I belong to the MMD, UPND, or PF are not telling the truth.
True: While in the U.S. I have fulfilled my dream of reaching the pinnacle of education. I now believe I can make a positive intellectual contribution to my country Zambia. You may not agree with me. Instead of trashing my PhD effort, why don’t you emulate me by seeking higher achievement and rising to high literary eminence? Together we can change our country. Yes we can!
Hunt for Successor 32: Shame on us! (Ruwe’s background)
By Field Ruwe