Watch your words!

Watch your words!

Being ordered simply means that one adheres to the set and unsaid rules of individual and community living, it does not have to be mentioned on a regular basis how one or a group should live and behave: it becomes an innate subconscious sense one lives with on an everyday basis.
Largely inculcated during the process of socialisation, the true essence of order however lies in individual choice, for it is in the process of choosing to do what is right or wrong that one may be deemed an ordered person that lives in harmony with the other members of their respective community or a lawless rogue with an unsavoury sense of couthiness.
The latter character infringes on the rights of others without regard for the consequences of their words or deeds. The former lives in harmony for they innately know that others do count and have to be given due regard not because of their status, but simply because they are human too.

Social decay stems from disregard of social rules for harmonious living where the one individual begins to fallaciously believe that they are better than others, and the case where this occurs often finds its roots in the passing vain glories of this world, found for example in one being of some notable (not necessarily significant) social standing that offers such a one a certain degree of power and control over other individuals.

The Tutu expression that power corrupts may have come to be seen as it is even before Desmond’s time, but its verity has been known since time immemorial and those that do not take heed are bound to fall into the power trap where they begin stepping on too many toes without regard to the consequences that come with their deed; for there are bound to be ripples if one throws anything into the waters of any lake or pond. Power corrupts simply because the so-called powerful begin to lose touch with the reality that, “every little action brings a reaction” a la Bob Marley. There is a false sense of invincibility, a false sense of immortality and copious amounts of self-righteousness in the minds of the unjust, that is those that think they can commit crimes and get no punishment after the commission.

Without a modicum of respect for the rights of the others, the unjust individual plods through life as if it is a swamp, riding roughshod over the dignity of other human beings without regard for their feelings or concerns. One of the main regressive qualities in a lot of human communities across the globe, the injustice one sees expressed in the form of self-righteousness could be avoided only if people began to understand that there are others like one living around one.

These fellow human beings may have the same wishes and dreams as one, or at least some sense of yearning similar or related to one’s own, and this means that if one ignores the dreams and wishes of others due to the false sense of power brought by material possession, then they are bound to fall hard at a certain point. Such a fall won’t be of the sort that elicits sympathy from those around one, but it is of the sort celebrated by those oppressed by injustices meted on them during the brief reign of the powerful and the unjust.
There are a thousand commissions of enquiry that have been formed in Africa in the post-independence era. Focused on resolving matters related to disregard for law, genocidal tendencies, xenophobia, crime and corruption, and related issues, these commissions are often ineffective. Their ineffectiveness is seen in most of their resolutions never being implemented in fact, they often just end up as words in reports that are never actually put into action.

The non-implementation of the propositions in the reports or decisions made is largely due to the reality that Africa has a dearth of just leaders. There was perhaps justice in the societies of archaic times, because human pride could easily be dealt with by the often unwritten laws of communal living governing such societies.
The leader of those times lived among the people, was one with the people at all times and therefore saw and understood their concerns from the point of view of an equal. Come the post-independence period and the leader that lives in secluded state houses and palaces, the African leader became another type of creature whose view of the led is from a distance and from behind a bullet-proof glass pane, sort of like one views the herds and prides on a safari.

There is in reality very little the detached leadership or communal living style of the present times can achieve in terms of inculcating a sense of justice in the individual, for the reality is that what is out of touch is usually out of mind. The view from the rostrum soon makes the leader to think and see the masses gathered in front of them as mere plebeian subjects, just as much as the high suburban walls begin to convince the individual that their neighbour is no one.

Constant engagement leads to the realisation that the others are, that they are human too with the same questions, concerns, desires, and feelings as one that lives and interacts with them. It is this constant crashing and entry into the lives of others that makes one aware that they should treat them with respect unfeigned if they are to attain a certain necessary level of harmony.
Alienated from the people, the leader has no care for their true concerns because he or she does not know them. Detached from other members of their community, the individual soon forgets how to courteously treat the other individuals in whose midst he or she lives. The secret lies in constant engagement with the other members of the community and a real sense of empathy when it comes to dealing with their misfortunes or pains. By constantly sharing space, we begin to know each other, which leads us to understanding each other, that in turn leads to us knowing how to treat each other justly.

The common complaint is that our leaders do not choose their words wisely, speaking as if they were jacks in boxes or those cuckoos that come out of clocks. The blame may be theirs for the words they utter in the heat of the political or other debates, but the larger part of the blame belongs to those that sit in their councils of followers and advisers: the leader who is not castigated for their insensitive remarks soon goes out of control driven largely by the megalomaniac sense of power that ends up besmirching the very image of their movements and rendering the slogan that guides their party a lie that cannot be believed.

It is not just for one called a leader to be careless with their words, but it is even worse if those that follow such a leader keep silent for reasons that are hinged on patronising than revealing the evil that such words are. The language of the political sphere in African society is of the most vulgar sort, based more on heckling than guiding, and this leaves the continent at large a polarised entity whose post-independence years are marked by regression, incompetence, and uncouthness.

We would all be delusional were we to start thinking that the state of affairs on the continent would change for the better with so many bitter words uttered on different platforms on a daily basis. Words are similar to bullets that never return once they leave the barrel of a gun, our words cannot be retracted once they leave our buccal cavities. This means that one should measure their words before uttering them, for the effect after they are said cannot be undone.
The individual should learn to consider the potential effect of their words before they are said, and once we begin to practice this behaviour until it is a habit, we can never hope to change the country and the continent for the better. We shall always be led by the former colonist out of necessity like little children that have to be taught on a daily basis how they should interact and communicate with the other children and adults they come across.

Words have the most powerful impact in human society, and learning how to use them appropriately goes a long way in changing the mindset of the individuals that live in our different societies.
One of the legacies of colonialism is impatience, that feeling that one should not let others get ahead and wait for the right moment to make their move. Forced or taught into competing for scarce resources, the African became a creature of competition, always striving to please the master at any cost, and far often than less, at the expense of fellow Africans resident in the immediate environs.

Always chasing the clock that Africa never actually caught, impatience becomes the main quality one sees in those that hold the notion that they are behind time, often gauged by the success of others that came before, or the standards set by a fellow human being in a far away community. The uncalled for competition for things material and otherwise is one of the leading causes to injustice, for then people begin to think that they have more right of access to things than others. Instead of actually making a real effort to gain desires or needs, the individual focused on racing the clock soon begins to look for short cuts, striving to get there at any cost, often infringing not only on the territory of others but also their basic rights.
Published posthumously in 1978, Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like alludes to the birth of injustice in African society, in the church; the first institution through which colonialism was brought into the continent, paving the way for the marauders by rendering the native masses docile entities. He spoke of living:

“In a country teeming with injustice and fanatically committed to the practice of oppression, intolerance and blatant cruelty because of racial bigotry; in a country where all black people are made to feel the unwanted stepchildren of a God whose presence they cannot feel; in a country where father and son, mother and daughter alike develop daily into neurotics through sheer inability to relate the present to the future because of a completely engulfing sense of destitution…”

We live in a country plainly unjust (view the backlog of court cases that have not been judged), where political affiliation counts for far more than one’s experience, acumen, or skill, where those that choose not to conform are treated as perpetual pariahs; where the poor have been segregated to a corner based on some unfounded excuses and are forced to accept the circumstances as they are because “these are hard times…” but the leadership still has enough cash to make cabs out jumbo jets and their families and peers live large because the state’s wealth pool might as well be their own private piggy bank and not the state’s.

I wouldn’t care much what the political leadership class may say, but it is an injustice to make promises that cannot be fulfilled due to a dismal lack of commitment in terms of reaching out towards them or lack of will to do so. There are a thousand preachers giving out their sermons on social injustices or injustices in general, but the main problem is that they are focused only on certain sectors. There are more serious justice concerns that affect not only small pockets of society, and these are the ones we should be more focused on in our discussions. Hunger affects us all, homelessness affects us all, and poverty affects us all. All these elements are directly linked to our basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter.

The road to justice is lengthened by concern for frivolities instead of serious issues that impact negatively on human progress, and were we to be frank in the addressing of injustices meted to the individual and the community, then real progress would be realised. Those vanity charity parades and justice movements can only do so much, that is, please the hero of the day and leave the masses poorer than they were before.

Justice means that we are honest about addressing matters, that we really care for the concerns of others, and that the welfare of the country, state, and the citizenry is the main point of focus. Ignoring the basics and focusing on the complicated is useless; we need our basic needs which are essential to our daily lives, for they are of more value and importance with regard to helping the continent to progress.

By: Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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