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It’s time to bond



YEH, the lockdown has come. It’s serious business. It’s necessary to protect our people. Its impact on the economy will be huge but that can be sorted later when the crisis is over. That too is serious business.

Spare a thought for the slay queens. Oh, shame! Who will buy them the goodies when their Sugar Daddies are locked up in their homes? Where will they get the champagne when bars are closed?
And where will they show off their expensive and ill-gotten weaves when the streets are empty? Hard cash is what keeps them going but they will not get it because their sponsors are at home. They will rue all the cash they squandered on beers and nails.

Muckraker will not shed a tear for these good for nothing leeches.
Freeloading lazybones! But don’t get twisted because it’s not only the slay queens that will squirm because of this lockdown. Sadly, some marriages and relationships might this lockdown. It will make or break homes. Eish!

Some marriages have come this far because of jobs and bars. You spend eight hours away from each other and then meet for a few hours before bed.
It’s a working routine that keeps the peace. Now imagine being in the same house for three weeks. May we be tolerant enough to ignore the irritations that will come.
Yet there is a silver lining. Take this as a time to learn each other anew. Let that perennially drunk face recover its glow again. Don’t smear that skin in make-up. Let it breathe. Play with the children. Take this as a vacation on an island. Pray and dance a lot. Stay away from the fridge. This too shall pass. Be safe.

You know someone has reached the dead-end of their reasoning capacity when they evoke nationality in a debate.
Last week Muckraker warned about the dangers of turning the media ownership and leadership debate into a nationality issue.
She had seen something was brewing in some shallow minds in our newsrooms.

What is supposed to be a robust and educative debate has now turned into “a-them-against-us” gobbledegook.
Because the arguments are neither intellectual nor nuanced we can only conclude that they were cooked up over some beer binge or cobs of pone.
It goes something like this. “Eish, foreigners are taking our jobs,” says one.
“Yes, it’s unfair,” says the other.

So an inane plan is hatched to find some state official to act as a megaphone to trigger the debate. And boom, a story is splashed in a national newspaper.
Of course the idea is not to deal with the root causes of the problems but to start a shrieking contest.
The loudspeaker is carefully selected for his lack of capacity to reason beyond what he is being prodded to do. He comes armed to the teeth (no pun intended) with a wrong diagnosis and medication.

The journalist then meticulously nit-picks quotations to knit a story that suits her perverted and narrow agenda.
She is allowed to scream in a 1 000-something word incoherent piece that doesn’t answer the pertinent issues that should accompany such an important story.
The why and how questions are left unanswered because they were never part of the plot from the onset.

Absent from the meandering story is the all-important “so what” question every journalist should ask themselves before punching the keyboard.
Then in the following week someone picks up on that narrative and takes it further down the gutter. The journalist rubs their hands in glee as their story gathers dubious momentum.

Suddenly the bar talk is sailing, propelled by a strong wind of ignorance. The secondary tattlers of this manufactured tale start comparing newspaper headlines to prove which editor is better than the other.
They go further to inject nationality into the issue. Look what ‘our own’ is doing, they say. Look what ‘they’ are doing, they say. This is what we have been saying about these foreign editors, they say.

The comparison is, of course, misdirected if not totally inane in that it is based on a fatal misreading of what constitutes news at any given time. In this case, the purveyors were comparing newspapers that came out on different days.
The alleged crime of the other two newspapers was to lead with a similar story announcing the government’s response to the Coronavirus.
The newspaper, lauded as the innovative one because it has a local editor, led with a story about a dispute over where to invest government pensions.
Now here is where the argument falls with a thud. Every editor knows that in times of crisis newspapers should not be overly concerned with exclusivity but informing the people.

News, as any journalist should know, follows events and not the other way round.
Last week the national story was the coronavirus and how the government is responding to the impending disaster. It remains the most important story.
The idea, again every journalist should know this, is to inform the public on an important national issue. It doesn’t matter what exclusive story you have on that day. You have to be an unmitigated moron to think any editor who led with the coronavirus story last week is less skilled than the one who led with pensions.

But then the whole idea of comparing editors is pointless. At its core is a self-promotion journey that leads to nowhere.
Collaboration and not some petty politics is what will grow Lesotho’s media.
Newspapers face similar problems and the nationality of the editors is the least of them. Editors should therefore not be used by some excitable reporters with their own axes to grind.

In the same vein, they should be careful of bootlickers who celebrate their rise while hiding sharp daggers in their skirts.
Such brownnosers will only ululate for a few days until you spike their story.
Soon they will be back to their backbiting ways and you will see that you have been basking in their paper fire all along. Their smiles will turn into a frown as soon as you slap them with a memo or tell them to eat their little story.

Nka! Ichuuuuuuuuuuu!

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The Joker Returns: Conclusion



Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Reading, writing and the art of reflection



There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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The Joker Returns: Part One



Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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