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  1. S. Mothibi

Off the top of my head, this is written off the top of my head, and only common sense, memory and rememory take the fore in this instance or episode. I will this day write as a common man, and not as an academic, or professional because there are certain things that I believe need not the depth of research or discussion to understand. This is due to their simple nature that demands simplicity in its simplest form, and at this level, so I have come to realise; logic and reason lose their sense, ethics and philosophy cannot define some of the occurrences.

Recounting history is a travail for those that believe they should stick to the book at all times, but for those that know as fact that some of the most memorable events in the passage of time remain unwritten in the books of history despite their significance and contribution to the progress of the human kind, history is recounted at the simple level of milestones. These are some of the aspects of daily human life which I intend to cover in this episode, that is, our love and citizenship as human beings in the various locations on earth, our struggles and travails, our moments of triumph and our glories, our pains and our sorrows, our moments of joy and mirth, our virtues and our depravities; all of these things can easily be understood if one speaks from the point of view of the individual that experiences them in a lifetime, but they are very different in both form and appearance when viewed from the point of view of the collective.

Whatever joy it is one may have at achieving anything in life does not matter if they have no collective to share it with. And despite the changes in the tides of time, we still find one constant that the collective empirically defines all in spite of negation by those that have a view contrary to that of the masses. This is what I choose to call the definitive, and the Basotho as an African people have had their definitive points that deserve some discussing, no matter how shallow some beings may deem them to be.

Love defies understanding and common sense whether it is viewed and analysed at a level individual or communal. What evokes love remains a mystery to me, for I can only define it in terms of feelings whose origin I have so far not figured out. An observer of things social and private, I have seen this one element of hum

South Africa, 1990: Nelson Mandela, the day after his release from prison.

South Africa, 1990: Nelson Mandela, the day after his release from prison.

anity expressed in endless ways, and more often than less, those moments of expression leave me with a sense of deep seated reverence and gratitude that I was granted the grace to witness the expression of love in action. Think of King Moshoeshoe I’s love for his motley crew of tribes that turned out to be the most peaceful nation on earth. Think of the influence of his life philosophy on the characters of Nelson Mandela and post-Apartheid South Africa. Find its similarities in the basic tenets by which Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi lived, cast your eyes overseas and see the biography of Martin Luther King Jnr unfold a leaf of the life of the truly pious whose ranks include the selfless Mother Teresa whose sacrifice has gone on to inspire the charity of men and women who take care of AIDS orphans in our midst.

I cannot define the love in words, I stand in merely as a witness to its expression in the lives of men and women who have gone on to infect the world’s masses with it. There is no single phrase that can define it in toto, but one finds its similarities in the lyrics of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, in Bob Marley’s “One Love”, and in the messages of Emeritus Bishop Desmond Tutu. There is an interconnectedness of nations when one reviews the history of the world from the point of view of love. There is love still, I believe: we just do not speak enough about it as Basotho.

The politics of our time and age take the fore, but they are in every essence not who we are, they are just what they are; party colours and banners. We can go to rallies and come fired up with political fervour…but the master of the house patiently waits and orders us to do the rightful, to love each other unconditionally, to tolerate each other selflessly as neighbours and relatives and communities. Love does not beg to be loved or worshipped, it just is and is identical to one basic aspect of humanity; birth: none of us filled forms to be here as citizens of the earth, we were born on the day of that month in the year fate (if there is such) chose for us to be.  And if we love, we become better world citizens, better human beings that believe more in embracing other people and individuals at the most basic level; the human level: as King Moshoeshoe I taught as he was by King Mohlomi.

Growing up, one of the best statements that I heard used in the definition of the cause of war and strife argues that:

The only reason that mankind goes to war is due to the fact that men spend their time telling each other that, ‘my violence is better than yours’

And so the game of thrones begins and never ends, because a boy that becomes a king for a day on the chessboard soon gathers competition, and the competition’s sole intention seems to be to sit on his rickety throne even if it is just for a few minutes. And the boy king or girl queen of the day protects that chair at all costs, he or she makes sure to protect it with Limo’s spiked club or Tom Sawyer’s smart cunning; the chair is protected. And time moves on, and calls for patriotism and good citizenship are forgotten in the endless fisticuffs for the one chair the hero of the day will not give up for anything and anyone.

The first years of this country’s independence from British protectoral status saw a mass exile of women and men into foreign countries where they were citizen nobodies because they had to flee from the dogs of war on the home front. This case is not unique to Lesotho; the case of the exile has always been central in the armed struggles all over this continent and the world: for where war and not love rules, citizenship loses its essence. Women and men end up as citizens of everywhere because their homes cannot take them anymore, because no love is lost between them and their kin, or their neighbour. Tolerance as begat of love needs to be taught; we need to be taught that we need each other, that though it is true that diamond cut diamond, it is also that a simple leather strop is what is used to whet a steel blade to razor sharpness despite the two materials’ apparent difference. Citizenship does not necessarily entail similarity; our difference teaches us to be more considerate towards each other, that if each considers the next one as human enough to share the same living space as they do, then all stand to enjoy the benefits of their status as earth citizens.

We are denizens of this terra firma, and we are citizens of The Kingdom in the Sky, and we are part of the history of the continent of Africa, and are full family members in the Global Community. We have from the First World War through the Second World War bled and died in the trenches with fellow human beings in the battles against monsters whose intentions threatened to tear the sacred blanket of our humanity. We came back from those wars a stronger united nation well in touch with the rest of the world.

We came back better human beings, for the war did not get the better of us and turn us into monsters; and from this premise, one can safely assume that the progress of this here country should not be impeded by such minor altercations as war and civil strife. We came back from war and established the finest institutions of higher learning, and we have a rich history when it comes to the education of the young generations of this continent.

Look at the history of the National University of Lesotho from its inception as Pius XII College, count the names of its alumni and you shall begin to realise what a tremendous influence we have had on the education of this continent and the world. Resorting to judge such an institution on the basis of such menial trivialities as world rankings blinds one to the fact that the university has in deed had a positive influence on the education of the children of the world. I choose to believe that we still are the best country, still have the best education system despite the slight glitches that should naturally be a part of the progress and development of any entity in the world.

The history of our times is determined by the level of commitment in the hearts of the men and the women entrusted with seeing it through the runway before it takes off. That we do not develop quickly enough for the world to see should not be the main concern; that we are laying down solid foundations of progress should be the point of our focus. The hitches and the hiccups that prevent smooth progression towards intended goals and targets should never prevent us from striving towards the attainment of commendable standards of civility and progress. The world honours exceptional standard, for the world can copy from such and adopt it into projects garnered toward the attainment of harmonious human progress.

As said previously, the influence King Moshoeshoe I has had on the world diplomatic scene has given birth to such virtuous philosophies as tolerance, Ubuntu, reconciliation, and assimilation. How a simple African king could have had such a tremendous influence on the psyche of the world cannot be defined by words, that his name is often not mentioned in peace gatherings of the world is surprising, if not outright preposterous. However, it should not be the main concern; our focus should be on guaranteeing that his legacy of peace is passed on to the rest of the world where true peace remains elusive.

We should shape our hearts as he did, and we should adopt his counsel where the need to find a peaceable way to solve our misunderstandings is needed. This tribe of many peoples became a nation only because the king who begat it was a good human being who knew that our differences do not set us apart but in actual fact unite us. The difference we believe in these days that makes us think we are unique is of a dangerous sort, of the sort reminiscent to a castle of sand that will be washed off by the early tides of time and progress because it has no foundation.

Milestones are often counted in historical and political terms, I believe they should be counted in human terms; for, what are we but grains of dust in the wind of time. We are born, we live, we pass on, and then we are remembered if we had a real impact on the progress of humanity, or, we are forgotten as chaff if we choose not to influence the world in a positive way. I guess that all the names that are mentioned in history books and those that are not but are remembered, most of them had a truly positive impact on the progress of humankind.

They are the milestones with which we can gauge the distance covered in terms of our humanness over the course of history. And such virtues as love and trust, faith and hope, commitment and tenacity, charity and gratitude; they have all acted as the fuel and the drivers of the progress of humanity towards a better tomorrow. For there is in reality a better tomorrow if one truly believes in it, and we can get there united and together if we collectively ensure that it happens.

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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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