A RIGHT THAT IS NOT TREASURED NOR FOUGHT FOR AND DEFENDED IS SOON LOST!
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 15th March 2017]
This article has been inspired by a blogger, Lusaka Times Columns 10th March 2017, [email protected] at 4.39 pm, who commented on my article and suggested that I write about the suppression of media freedom and the attributes of a dictator. I have taken liberty to broaden and contextualise the topic and titled it as “A RIGHT THAT IS NOT TREASURED NOR FOUGHT FOR AND DEFENDED IS SOON LOST!” This is because I feel that, while the ongoing debate about media or press freedom in Zambia is the catalyst that has evoked the current passionate and furious debate on media freedom, it is imperative to understand that every right must not only be treasured but must be fought for and be defended. I believe that the loss of one right leads to the loss of other rights since the assailant and/or schemer is emboldened by his or her apparent success and gains an appetite to be even more vicious in his or her schemes.
The ongoing subtle “anti-media frenzy” in Zambia is clearly a well calculated stratagem to silence dissenting voices. Zambians have become vocal and are expressing their strong feelings without let or hindrance about the conduct of politician and other leaders and about corruption levels that have reached epidemic proportions. Thus to develop an efficacious strategy to nip in the bud the assault on the freedom of expression, citizens who are not part of the media fraternity must be won over and be convinced that this is not a war by and for the media practitioners; but that it is a war to defend the purposes of the Independence Struggle; it is about the very heart and soul and survival of the Zambian nation and all its peoples.
In this paper my lazy approach is to use an eminent military historian’s wonderful presentation in one of his books to answer @MyZambia’s request and, in the process, jolt citizens on the side-lines who may not realise that they are not only likely to be affected but are already engaged in this media war, albeit unknowingly. By modifying the question my task has been made that much easier.
I now introduce a stalwart in military history, one who in his lifetime had been articulate and who seemingly was gifted with unending visionary illumination and presented his thoughts simply that all levels of readers of the book will comprehend without a real struggle. My guest today passed on in 1970 but I came across his ‘little’ Big Book in 1974 – “little” because it is only 96 pages; big because the message for the world is Big, VERY BIG! Here he is, the late Captain Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart, speaking to you on dictatorship, through this verbatim excerpt from his book WHY DON’T WE LEARN FROM HISTORY? :
“Pattern of Dictatorship”
“We learn from history that self-made despotic rulers follow a standard pattern:
In gaining power, they exploit, consciously or unconsciously, a state of popular dissatisfaction with the existing regime or of hostility between different sections of the people. They attack the existing regime violently and combine their appeal to discontent with unlimited promises (which, if successful, they fulfil only to a limited extent). They claim that they want absolute power for only a short time (but “find” subsequently that the time to relinquish it never comes). They excite popular sympathy by presenting the picture of a conspiracy against them and use this as a lever to gain a firmer hold at some crucial stage.
On gaining power, they soon begin to get rid of their chief helpers, “discovering” that those who brought about the new order have suddenly become traitors to it. They suppress criticism on one pretext or another and punish anyone who mentions facts which, however true, are unfavourable to their policy. They enlist religion on their side, if possible, or, if its leaders are not compliant, foster a new kind of religion subservient to their ends.
They spend public money lavishly on material works of a striking kind, in compensation for the freedom of spirit and thought of which they have robbed the public. They manipulate the currency to make the economic position of the state appear better than it is in reality. They ultimately make war on some other state as a means of diverting attention from internal conditions and allowing discontent to explode outward.
They use the rallying cry of patriotism as a means of riveting the chains of their personal authority more firmly on the people. They expand the superstructure of the state while undermining its foundations – by breeding sycophants at the expense of self-respecting collaborators, by appealing to the popular taste for the grandiose and sensational instead of true values, and by fostering a romantic instead of a realistic view, thus ensuring the ultimate collapse, under their successors if not themselves, of what they have created. This political confidence trick, itself a familiar string of tricks, has been repeated all down the ages. Yet it rarely fails to take in a fresh generation”. END OF QUOTATION.
Sounds familiar? Indeed why don’t we learn from our own Zambian history: of waging the independence struggle together yet forgetting why? Of the cunning introduction of the One Party State and its aftermath? Of using ethnicity as a weapon while condemning it? Of the successful heroic campaign for the return to a multi-party system, which culminates in the contradictory Third Term Bid? And now, of organised violence against journalists and shutting down a number of media houses while bidding for a Third Term? I say to @MyZambia, I hope you and your group are ready to learn from our own short but tumultuous Zambian history. Start now, educating one another, respecting other people’s views, upgrading the level of debate from partisan and personality quarrels to sharing real life experiences and ideas. Let us all begin to learn from history. I thank you @MyZambia for creating the opportunity for me to share Sir B.H. Liddell Hart’s thoughts in his 1944 classic book, relevant and timely, even 72 years today.
I take off my hat and lift it high to Captain Sir B.H. Liddell Hart posthumously, whose treatise to me is a never-ending prophecy of the folly of ignoring life’s experiences.
Our task, all of us, is to be alert and nip in the bud signs which have been so clearly listed and analysed by Sir B.H. Liddell Hart. They are relevant and applicable to Zambia. Our own late Matty P would have said ‘Don’t argue, you were not there’. The English would quip “forewarned is forearmed”. The Bible reveals succinctly that “The Writing Is On The Wall”. And I say “start learning now and never stop fighting for and defending your rights!!!”
STANDING UP FOR MOTHER ZAMBIA
[15TH MARCH 2017]