BY ZIFISO MASIYE
Last week we discussed the worrying manifestation of the dysfunctional characteristics of self-pivoted human beings whose primary purpose in life is themselves, the idiots. We discussed a slightly advanced version of idiots, tribal groupings whose world begins and ends within their bounded ethnic enclaves, the tribes people. We moaned this abundant “kwangu-kwangu” breed of Zimbabweans, so consummately trapped in egocentric idiocy and tribal myopia that fuels greed, corruption, economic exclusion and institutionalised discrimination, apathy and social dissonance, among other governance evils our nation has embraced as second self.
We mourned our seeming bankruptcy of that breed of people that demonstrate an intrinsic connectivity and affinity to broader society and perceive the purpose of their existence only as a function of the existence, welfare and progress of others — the citizens. We promised to dwell a little more on “the citizens” for our obvious conviction that we know our country will fare much better if we were to swap our spoilt abundance of idiots and tribes people for true citizens.
Marelesa Fabrega offers a good starting point for understanding the ideal of good citizenship:
“This is my song, Oh God of all nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is:
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine”
Citizenship must entail one’s demonstrable love and instinctive commitment to the flag, to their country. A strong inclination and proud loyalty to culture and history and things Zimbabwean, necessarily tampered by full respect and acknowledgement of the pride and right to nationhood of others, this is the patriotic foundation of good citizenship.
In this regard, the citizen is distinguished by his/her appetite for law, the rule of law and justice. He/she is easily identifiable not only for the unwavering stance on human rights, but significantly for his/her honest, moral integrity and respectfulness for the rights of others. The citizen’s level of moral courage and compassion clearly separates him/her from the class of idiots and tribes people. Without seeking personal benefit or culling filial patronage of any measure, the citizen shows effortless charitable fellowship with those of his compatriots in less privileged circumstances and willingly, they will stand up for what they consider to be evil or wrong and fiercely defend those that cannot defend themselves even with the last reserve of their resources. The citizen’s love justice has no bounds of friendship. There are no good criminals simply because they are “our criminals” in his book. Good citizens do in the dark exactly as they would in the open and they do not need public validation or Facebook “likes” to perform an act of kindness.
Those that know me better have complained viciously that they know in me both the idiot and tribesman and I seem, here to portray a fantasy citizen. Ouch! I think if we elect to embrace our collective idiocy and refuse to train our hearts and minds to yearn for the value of ideal citizenship, we risk absolute oblivion as a people. I reject the narrative too that seeks to decouple and disconnect our young citizens from their patriotic obligation to nationhood on the misplaced pretext that such national loyalty potentially lands them on the lap of the devil. To face the world with their best foot forward, our children need to be proud of their country. Carry the national constitution as your Bible and study it. Research and read up on our history and don’t wait to be fed by Zanu PF, who is hero and who isn’t. A good citizen is an informed citizen, for only an informed citizen has the capacity to be vigilant. It is the lack of awareness, the lack of interest in matters that affect us every day, and the lack of desire and knowledge to change our situation that allows a government-gone-bananas to ride roughshod over its citizens. Well-informed citizens and the civil minded amongst us carry the duty to safeguard the people’s individual and collective freedoms and political rights. Whether or not and to what extent the government is meeting its enshrined obligations to the citizens and whether or not government agencies are acting within their prescribed mandates and adhering to the limits of state action must not be a specialised discussion of lawyers and courts in a civilised society. These must be informed advocacy conversations in the public domain which enable people to speak up and hold authorities to account.
Effective citizenship must reject the deliberate soiling of the political terrain by a few criminally-minded thugs and political sharks to render that democratic space a reserved hard-hat area. True citizens must willingly participate in their nation’s political life, for politics, whether we like it or not, politics is all around our necks like some terrible disease. We either elect to wallow and sink under its weight or derive means to control, manage and direct its impact in our lives and the lives of our children. I get so weary and sick of small talk and wanton gibberish around all public spaces.
How can any talk about real political and economic issues be such a turn-off in a country with so much political and economic lunacy? Effective citizenship must be about seeking out answers and solutions, participating in the political dialogues of one’s country, joining or forming political organisations that resonate with the things that are closest to one’s heart, attending council programmes and meetings and seeking to influence the local sphere of governance.
Vote! Vote! Vote! The citizen must do his/her part in shutting out thieves and hoodlums and keeping them as far away from the council chambers and from Parliament as possible, and instead painstakingly electing competent, civic minded people to get into positions of power. Besides, politics doesn’t entertain vacuums. If good citizens shun political office, the decisions that affect their lives will forever be made by idiots and tribes people.
l Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.