Updated: Apr 16
The headlines on the news the other night told us of the planned demonstrations for the coming months. In particular, the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) were orchestrating a nationwide demonstration for unpaid salary arrears while a group of NGOs was planning theirs as a follow up to the requests, pleas and ultimatums that were presented to the government during the April 2018 demonstrations. The other week, the headlines were all about just how much money has been released by the government with no clear explanation as to who, what, when, where and most importantly why this was done. All we see are numbers that keep accumulating zeroes, mathematics to which we never get privy of an explanation.
The other week, The Nations headlines read "CSOs call for APM’s impeachment"; "Government owes CHAM colleges K300 million"; “ACB to continue police fraud probe,” the type of headlines we have recently gotten accustomed to.
Another reminder of how corrupt, fraudulent and, most of all, how used we are to see such headlines, such news hardly triggers surprise or angst in us anymore. Although modern news is such that good news is actually not interesting enough, one hopes that the fatalities and shocks we experience in our news were a stimulus for requisite action to seek solutions. Our calmness to such news means that we are still at ease as our ship heads for the iceberg. The shock only kicks in when the full measure of the loot is displayed before our eyes, usually when such exorbitance is being investigated as a fraud or corruption case.
We normally persist in two broad camps. When development projects are announced, there is the group that will perhaps overanalyze and provide a critique to government. Many times, this comes with great opposition to the powers that be. And then there is the one of the cheerleaders. These are usually the zealots often paid to shut down any inclination towards questioning authority. Their salary is drawn from an ability to nod and clap. Both these camps, especially the former, will usually not dive deeper into querying the enormity of resources we have borrowed in this year alone, for example, in the name of allocating to projects that exist on paper and not reality. One would wonder how we, citizens, would go for so long without speaking up and taking action against the injustices, inequalities, oppression and basic corruption that we have come to view as normal.
Malawi is a small country, and in it are some of the most beautiful sites you would ever see in this world. As a people, we are truly and probably the warmest you would ever meet. Our beauty overflows as much as our potential that has been left unrealized, if not underutilized.
One would perhaps assert that this is because we have been fed so many lies and promised so many dreams that many a time feel imprinted on our minds as having been achieved. We have come to believe we are living the good life, and the zeal to react as in the picture above becomes a rare occurrence. If anyone courageous enough were to be remotely sincere with us, new of our global ranking among other countries of 153 out of 169 developing countries in the world would normally be devastating. But even as we have been battered with such negative reality time and time again, our hearts do not seem to pump any faster with the necessary urgency to change our fortunes.
The HIV rate in Malawi continues to be a rollercoaster that would have been a one-way stairway to the unknown if not for "outside" help. And the number of people dying from the scourge would have been greater and the number of new infections soaring uncontrollably than we actually have. Even rape culture would have continued to thrive in silence as no one would dare speak up and against it because for so long it was one of those many "hush-hush" conversations that we have in the dark. Where you only wail in obscurity and no one can identify you.
There are many ills that would afflict us with a vengeance, if it were not for the pity that other countries have for our desperate state. The ever-growing worry of climate change would continue to affect us as we continue to look down on those who could help us survive the droughts because we come from two separate versions of the same country. Our share in the dilapidation of the once-beautiful, once enviably clean environment has grown its own life as our embrace of freedoms has implied stripping ourselves of the responsibility to cater to our very posterity.
Amidst all these vices, our social life leaves much to curiosity. We are riddled with classism, where we allow socio-economic inequality between the rich and the poor to gapes wider and wider, even as the situation of the poor gets sorrier by the day. The androits of the rich and poor distinguish not only on account of density but by filth, insecurity and the strongest will to survive. Google Maps would show more if it were able to reveal the realities underneath the densities. But on a national scale, sexism prevails because, hey, what can a woman do aside from being objectified and used? After all, culture seems cool with it. So why not?
The funny thing is, even as I write this, I have had this same conversation with so many people with whom in-depth descriptions and strategies have been discussed and developed. After our laments and scolds, we have dispersed and gone about our jobs and business because, at the end of the day, advocating for change, fighting for change and aspiring to be the change we want to see in this country appears a futile venture. The sacrifice does not pay the bills but rather hands you a lean bank account that screams criticism and ridicule because you are foolish enough to want change instead of "hustling" your way to the top.
Malawi has come to terms with a place where all manner of wrong is normal and normalcy feels strange. We are not compatible any more.
And in our laxity, we slowly decay.