KATELE KALUMBA PhD
DELUSIONS OF STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY: THE PARADOX OF ACCESS POLITICAL ACTIONS
Writing in the late 1950s, C. Wright Mills observed that “Events that are beyond human decision do happen; social arrangements do happen without the benefit of explicit decision. But in so far as such decisions are made, the problem of who is involved in making them is the basic problem of power. In so far as they could be made but they are not, the problem becomes who fails to make them” More profoundly he argued, “We cannot today merely assume that in the last resort men must always be governed by their own consent. For among the means of power which now prevail is the power to manage and manipulate the consent of men”(C. Wright Mills, 1967:23)
Our governments in
Shared knowledge of what is important not for the few but for all, leads any government administration to appreciate what many successful nation-builders in history have either intuitively or consciously demonstrated. This is the view that “the first step in every community that wishes to preserve honesty, should be to set people above basic want” (Watkin Tench (1788) as quoted in Saul, 2001:83). This means to afford each and sundry realistic and achievable opportunities to have something to eat, somewhere to sleep, clean water to drink, a piece of cloth to cover one’s nakedness, and an opportunity to be respected and treated as a human being even when in error. This is an experience beyond popular concepts of “good government”. It is responsible and therefore accountable government.
A shared knowledge and understanding that a country like
A God-fearing nation with a sense of the transcendent cannot entangle itself in a culture that remains a formless fragment, like the unfinished
Indeed it is the case that, corruption, alcoholism, HIV infection and defilement are dreadful experiences for any country and indeed these vices deserve appropriate policy and social responses. However for us in
How do we respond in today’s politically correct spins? It is quite predictable. Big sins require confessional technologies and forms of atonement which are equally weighty. Why not castrate defilers? Why not demand death sentences. Let us go to the “max” for every known transgression. We lack standards. We say let us not stigmatise the HIV infected but why not make it mandatory for every one to go for Voluntary Testing and Counselling or VCT and then announce your status publicly as prescribed by our once Lady Minister of Sports, Youth and Child Development Gladys Nyirongo (Rev). I thought VCT was supposed to be confidential and indeed voluntary! How do we overcome stigma this way? Why not publicise and proudly parade our syphilis, our cancers, our alcoholism, our impotence? Where is the standard of health promoting behaviour? What public health science is this? Stone the Biblical prostitutes to death, is that?
Prejudice and hypocrisy have been the inescapable afflictions of moral crusaders of any kind from time immemorial. The Christian critique of “Pharisianism” is just one case in point. The expert judges of moral quality become victims of moral elitism. Their injuries upon society are real. It appears as though “human beings are incapable of carrying the weight of authority for judging the morality of their fellow humans without that weight itself distorting their viewpoint” (Dunstan, 1987:16)
As a case for extrapolating this absurdity, we can argue that careful ethical thinking based upon common sense with its intuitive features would lead us to the conclusion that corruption is offensive. It is a deed by individuals who have lost a sense of the common good, driven robotically by only the need to satisfy self-interest whether personal or corporate. And this reality exists, without any rational justification, in any society. The ethical problem however is not about people accumulating wealth for themselves, nay that would be the death of individual or corporate enterprise. Indeed, if that was the case, Karl Marx and his disciples would have buried capitalism long before Mikhael Gobarchev had chance to present a Communist surrender to Ronald Reagan. What is really corrupting is the unbridled and not just unlawful accumulation of wealth that loses a view of the common sense.
Wealth even when “lawfully” accumulated reaches a threshold when it is considered ethically repulsive, hence the “stinking rich” metaphors. In part, this becomes an ethical issue because common sense tells us that such wealth cannot be accumulated even by the best of saints without bending or rather corrupting the law itself somewhat with the help of clever lawyers and tax accountants. Some “concessions” squeezed out of weak economies like Zambia’s by corporate giants during the process of privatisation of the mining conglomerate ZCCM in the year 2000 can quite ethically be defined as corrupting the law. It left most Zambian citizens with a bad taste of inevitability in the mouth. The law itself had to be literally “corrupted” by a sort of legislative ‘displacement’. A specific law tailored to the interests of the new prospective investor had to be passed to protect their investments. Yet, it is in the fine definitions that these acts pass as acceptable business conduct at least for a while as
We are reminded that capital is mobile and we do not live at the centre of economic power play. Zambians may not wish to accept their weak economic and by extension weak negotiating positions but the reality laughs in our faces. Stronger economically, and almost a decade later, Zambia has had to re-visit the sordid act of economic rape that it suffered by passing new mining laws in 2008 that nullified the many legally binding “Development Agreements”. These Agreements initially signed by Anglo-American Corporation were later extended to many any other new investors who saw the rip-off benefits in the privatization of Zambian mines on the flimsy reasoning of “levelling the playing field”.
As we abhor corruption and its manifestations, we are equally reminded of the fact that the politically enhanced image of
Moreover, as one religious leader, the now late Pope John Paul II once, had put it, “the blind egoism of the few should not be allowed to prevail over the cries of pain of the many, reducing the entire peoples to conditions of degrading misery”. This insight goes beyond the condemnation of the greed of the corrupt few. It also touches upon the psychological injury caused to a whole nation by egotistical crusades of those who by their self-assigned righteousness, crush every single grain of national self-esteem and render a whole people incapable of a positive, and ethically uplifting self-definition, sometimes at the price of three pieces of silver. Americans are all too well aware of the many Pentecostal televangelists, holy men, and their likes who crusaded on the platform of purity while amusing themselves in unspeakable peepholes whether of young dames or young boys. These puritans achieve these “spiritual” feats while demanding every dime from old lady pensioners or any curious minds. Theirs is an art done so passionately and persuasively, yet so deceptively.
Every garden has its weeds. We just have to look closely. The point is that we can deal with public injury, suspected or indeed caused by the few without creating debilitating images that injure the innocent majority. Which Zambian businessman will do business with outsiders without being “checked-out” since Zambians are “known” to be the most corrupt people, a status we have ascribed to ourselves! We can fight any wrong in our society, political or economic without incapacitating ourselves by ideological zeal. We can resist the emasculation of our identities by a manipulative benevolence of donor allowance whether to governments or Civic Organizations, or indeed even self-righteousness primordially driven by personal envy.
Let us fall back on the genius of our everyday selves as a people, to overcome those tendencies that limit our capacity to rise above want and instead drive us down into self-annihilation. Look at