Post editorial on Lungu’s nonsensical speech to parliament

“Foolish people are deceived by vain hopes, and dreams get them all excited. A person who pays any attention at all to dreams is like someone who tries to catch shadows or chase the wind. What you see in a dream is no more real than the reflection of your face in a mirror. What is unreal can no more produce something that is real than what is dirty can produce something clean. Dreams, divination, and omens are all nonsense. You see in them only what you want to see…Dreams have misled many people; they put their faith in them, only to be disappointed,” reads Sirach 34:1-7. And these biblical verses remind us of the speech Edgar Lungu presented to Parliament on Friday. All sorts of nice paragraphs were cut and pasted from all sorts of documents by his speechwriters. If one is well-read, it’s not difficult to identify the sources. And because it was an exercise in cutting and pasting, the ideas are disjointed and as such impossible to implement. In this world, things are complicated and are decided by many factors. We should look at problems from different aspects, not from just one. In analysing a problem, we must shun subjectivity, one-sidedness and superficiality. To be subjective means not to look at problems objectively. To be one-sided means not to look at problems all-sidedly, or it may be called seeing the part but not the whole, seeing the trees but not the forest. That way it is impossible to find the method for solving a problem.
To be superficial means to consider neither the characteristics of a problem in its totality nor the characteristics of each of its aspects; it means to deny the necessity for probing deeply into a thing and minutely studying the characteristics of its problem, but instead merely to look from afar and, after glimpsing the rough outline, immediately try to resolve the problem. This way of doing things is bound to lead to more trouble and to more problems. To be one-sided and superficial is at the same time to be subjective. For all objective things are actually interconnected, but, instead of undertaking the task of reflecting things as they really are, some people only look at things one-sidedly or superficially and do not know their interconnections. In the appraisal of our work, it is one-sided to regard everything either as all-positive or as all-negative. To regard everything as positive is to see only the good and not the bad, and to tolerate only praise and no criticism. To talk as though our work is good in every respect is at variance with the facts. It is not true that everything is good; there are still shortcomings and mistakes. In approaching a problem, we should see the whole as well as the parts. A frog in a well says, “The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well.” That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well. If it said, “A part of the sky is the size of the mouth of a well”, that would be true, for it tallies with the task. Edgar promised a lot of good things in his speech. He promised to do this and that to improve the economy and the living conditions of our people. Edgar’s speech assumed a normal situation and ignored that we are now living under a deepening crisis, our house is on fire. If your house is on fire, is that surely an opportune time to start renovating or expanding it? The prudent thing to do when your house is on fire is not to try to renovate it or expand it but to put out the fire. But Edgar is trying to expand or renovate a house that is burning without in any serious way attempting to put the fire out first. Instead of bringing a fire brigade to a house that is burning, Edgar is bringing architects and engineers to the site. This is what Edgar said on Friday amounts to. The truth, the starting point must be to put out the fire, the crisis that has engulfed our country before we start thinking of any grand ideas to improve or expand our economy and then living conditions of our people. Instead of reducing costs in an attempt to contain the crisis and eventually overcome it, Edgar is busy increasing costs by increasing ministries. Creating a new ministry is not a cheap thing. It comes with huge costs. New ministers and deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, directors and other top civil servants will need to be engaged at a very high cost. And it’s not just a matter of paying additional salaries; new automobiles have to be bought, housing has to be provided and office space found. All this costs a lot of money. In this crisis it really doesn’t make sense to increase government expenditure when we should be reducing it. We must adapt our thinking to the changed conditions in our country. This is one of the worst economic crises our country has faced in many years. No one should go off into wild flights of fancy, or make plans of action unwarranted by the objective situation we today face as a nation, or stretch for the impossible. We should always use our brains and think everything over carefully. A common saying goes, “Knit your brows and you will hit upon a stratagem.” In other words, much thinking yields wisdom. We allowed problems to pile up. Today, we have a huge mountain of problems and it’s proving very difficult to get on top of it. We shouldn’t wait until problems pile up and cause a lot of trouble before trying to solve them. We therefore need leaders who are able to march ahead of the masses of our people, not lag behind them. To do this they need to have a clear direction and ability to see that through; they need to be honest and carry out their duties with humility. Do we have that in Edgar and his team? What we need is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work. We should proceed from the actual conditions in our country and derive from them as our guide to action, laws which are inherent in them and not imaginary, that is, we should find the internal relations of the events occurring around us and in order to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary enthusiasm but on facts that exist objectively. We shouldn’t behave like a blind-folded man catching sparrows or a blind man groping for fish. We shouldn’t be crude and careless and indulge in verbiage. We should always proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes.

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