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Thursday, July 2, 2020
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On Patriotism and Leadership

On Patriotism and Leadership

BY Chanda Mbao

A quote to commence my thoughts:
“It has become a pastime to blame politicians for the ills of the world. I understand the urge to do that … but at the end of the day, the politician is a representative of an electorate. If you have an issue with politicians it’s because you have an issue with your fellow citizens who put them there.” Neil Degrasse Tyson

A response to the quote:
It’s important to hold those in positions of power accountable, but we can’t forget who put them there in the first place. We are all to blame for the condition of society.

None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines in life.

Politics matter just as much as science; they dictate so many aspects of our lives. If we choose to assume that our vote doesn’t count and our voice doesn’t matter, we’ve placed our future into the hands of others.

Participate. Don’t complain without engaging, it’s counterproductive.

There’s a relatively popular narrative that Zambia has a leadership problem. As much as it pains me to say this, I do not think we do…what I believe we have is a cultural problem. Our leaders are not a reflection of a malevolent minority, they are, in fact, a reflection of us in totality. They say, “in democracy, a nation gets the government it deserves.” While this is an obvious oversimplification rooted in hyperbole, what I think can be accepted, is that our nation has lost its way in cementing a set of national values that are traceable across the vast majority of its citizenry. Therefore, our leaders suffer from the same character flaws and vices that we do. When we look at our leaders, we are looking in the mirror.

What does it mean to be Zambian in today’s world? What are Zambian values? I am personally preoccupied with patriotism. [Definition: love for or devotion to one’s country (Merriam Webster).]

Personally, what matters most to me is the “devotion.” I believe in an ideological patriotism and devotion to a nation based on shared values and ideals. Loving one’s cuisine, for example, is simply not enough. What do we believe about the human race collectively? Who do we believe we are? How do we believe we should treat others? What principles and values do we COMMIT to?

Perhaps it’s colonialism, perhaps it’s something else but I can truly say I believe we have lost our way in the quest for a set of national values which translate to the sort of virtues we need to make our own lives better. When was the last time you read a book by a Zambian discussing issues of national importance? When was the last time you committed to organizing a group of like-minded individuals to take action on a cause you believed in? To those that can earnestly answer these questions concretely and feel they are doing their part, well done, keep doing so. For the rest, we are the majority.

The problem is we think that “they” will construct our society for us. There is no “they.” We are the “they” we are waiting for. We are responsible for the hard work. I have reflected on several cultural factors which I personally believe have been holding us back but that is an exposé for another day. As a brief example, however, how many of us Zambians can tell stories of employees we have either worked alongside or maybe even directly employed who have stolen or been irresponsible with resources from their employer? (E.g., the carpenter who disappears for two weeks after he is paid without fully completing his work). If this syndrome is so rampant in the country, is it surprising to note that the same happens in many political offices? It seems there has been an erosion in how much we culturally value integrity…and this in the name of survival. It is not an accident that we see such stories across all levels of society. In our hearts and minds, we have collectively decided that such things are ‘normal’ or ‘to be expected.’ Should we be satisfied with this? Ultimately, whether we choose to label such occurrences as justifiable or not is up to us and what we believe about ourselves. It is also up to us to decide if it is in our best collective interest for such stories to be the order of the day.

Society is not designed by accident. A haphazard approach to doing so will lead to poor results. This is why there is brokenness all around us. We have failed to formulate and cement a set of values upon which we can build systems and institutions that foment our advancement in the modern world. We are obviously free to decide that we are okay with this but personally I believe, as Zambians, we deserve better. We owe it to ourselves to DO better.

Doing better encompasses not only the work of ‘not doing bad’ in our little corner of the country but also the difficult and uncomfortable task of holding our fellow citizens, ergo leadership, accountable. When we see a fellow Zambian litter in the street, how many of us say anything? If it is not expected that we would, how then, do we imagine we will embark upon the more complex task of making our leaders do what we believe is right? Silence and acceptance of mediocrity seem to have become the specialty of the modern Zambian. Should we continue this way?

It is time for us to look in the mirror and take responsibility for who we are. If we do not like what we see, we must be brave enough to admit our shortcomings and disciplined enough to commit to making a change. Charity does indeed begin at home. If you and me do not do it, nobody will. There is no “they.” “They” is us.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. This is a good attempt at getting Zambia to work. I do talk to fellow citizens who litter. They hv included a one-time deputy cabinet secretary. He threw litter @ Arcades shopping centre as I was passing by. I did say something that made him realise his backwardness. I hv also told off a now-retired brigadier-general in one of our military agencies. He also threw litter out of his car in a carpark. I gave him an earful. I hv also seen a judge littering at St Mary’s girls’ school in Woodlands. She was lucky I was too far away. She’s still on the bench. This tells u the rot in our society. Just look at the standing of the people I hv cited. Wht future can such a society have?

  2. Follow up with a next write up! Yes the responsibility is ours, but what do we do? Give us practical “things” to do.

  3. @ Chanda Mbao, Sishuwa Sishuwa dealt with this subject at length sometime in March 2019 in an article entitled “We have created and earned him: Why Lungu remains Zambia’s President”. Our educational, cultural and religious systems have left a huge majority of Zambians without analytical skills.. Some one yesterday posted a very instructive face book posting. Stalin many years ago was given a live chicken whose feathers he plucked live until the chicken was completely featherless and was in excruciating pain as the horrified onlookers stood by in terror. Stalin then dropped some grains towards the feather-plucked chicken and it started following him. The moral of his demonstration was that stupid citizens could be so conditioned to depend on the most brutal dictator and pretend that he…

  4. Stalin many years ago was given a live chicken whose feathers he plucked live until the chicken was completely featherless and was in excruciating pain as the horrified onlookers stood by in terror. Stalin then dropped some grains towards the feather-plucked chicken and it started following him. The moral of his demonstration was that stupid citizens could be so conditioned to depend on the most brutal dictator and pretend that he is humble as long as trinkets and chibuku and grains are “liberally” distributed. So bwana Mbao, for Zambia, it;s beyond patriotism. Stalin’s chicken experiment illustrates very clearly, the Zambian conundrum!

  5. A response to the quote:
    It’s important to hold those in positions of power accountable, but we can’t forget who put them there in the first place. We are all to blame for the condition of society.

    UNFORTUNATELY WE CANT DO ANYTHING TO THOSE WHO VOTED FOR THEM, FOR A CHITENJE, A T SHIRT ,CHIBUKU AND DUDUCHA THE REST OF US HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.

  6. “…..When was the last time you committed to organizing a group of like-minded individuals to take action on a cause you believed in? …..”

    I hate corruption, so does Sean Tembo , ask him what PF did to him on Cairo road while the police watched…….

  7. Well spoken but deep inside you know the truth. We are not really all to blame bcz some of us didn’t vote for problems. The choice to vote for them disappeared immediately after they were fighting each other for the presidency position. How can normal people vote for the people fighting each other? And we didn’t really put them there, there is a difference between winning and stealing. Some people Will defend themselves that U are only a thief when U are caught, it’s not true how can a corrupt court catch a corruption star? You are a thief the moment U steal regardless of whether someone has seen U or not.

  8. The institutions that oversee elections in Zambia and the judiciary are to blame for what happened in 2016 including the speaker who stayed silent despite the fact that he was to assume power when the opposition petitioned the elections. The write up is good and well meaning people will give thought to this and the spirit to fight for what is right is being woken up in many. Choices have consequences hence the need to give good thought before we decide on anything.

  9. PF thugs can drive at wrong lanes on a busy Cairo road with convoys of pangas leaving police scared to say anything. Try telling them off the next time U see them passing to show them how wrong that is. Then U will understand the difference between democracy and dictatorship. PF is not the first to form government but it the first government to allow such kind of unpatriotic gangs to scare people. 2021 our votes should embarrass them so that they are properly held accountable

  10. Yes, the Constitutional Court is an embarrassment to the country. PF misrule is affecting even members of the Judiciary. They’ve grown up children who cannot leave home because jobs aren’t there. On the Speaker not temporarily assuming power following filing of an election petition, it’s the Attorney General’s fault. He’s the one who should hv guided govt. But he didn’t.

  11. Just who brought this PF kanshi? Me I blame Michael Sata for this, if he had never become president this would never have happened.

  12. Do you have leaders in Zambia? Lungu and company are not leaders, but morally corrupt people and thieves.

  13. From all the comments above, you’ve all missed the author’s point. You want to hide your own shortcomings and blame it all on….you guessed it, Edgar Lungu and PF!!! Look in the mirror, y’all. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Leadership is a reflection of the people they lead. If you think PF is mediocre and bad, upnd is far worse-dictatorship, tribalism, lack of visionand direction and same can be said of other opposition. WE NEED FRESH THINKING and hh is worse than old school politicians like FTJ, Levy, Sata or Mazoka. You’ve all conjured all sorts of evil on ECL but the guy is just guilty for getting past hh first instead of judging his track record. Check ourselves FIRST-BRILLIANT ARTICLE.

  14. Edgar Lungu fears to subjcet himself to long media interviews because he knows where he has fallen short and he doesn’t want to answer questions. Even Trump does better than Lungu because he recognizes the contribution of a free media to democracy. There’s one thing I know about Lungu’s post-State House future. He will write NO memiors because he’s incapable of serious reflection. I doubt it he’s even organized in his life. He has no strong views about anything.

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