“Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy." –
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911
A gecko is a creepy-crawly that often, when seen, results in involuntary ceiling-high jumping competitions of fright in some, and deep reflective melancholic times in others.
This year ending, had evoked memorable gecko-like behaviours in me, as we continued witnessing a government swing on a pendulum leaning on morass.
We competed the most in ceiling-high jumps of fright when we learnt that the country’s external debt stock has increased from US $8.7 billion as of end 2017 to some indeterminate figure pivoting at US $9.4 billion mid this year. Our fright was founded on the past experiences of high debt levels and its effect of likely lower government spending on social sectors like education and health., which inarguably affects the poor and vulnerable the most.
Do not forget this is a year, in which we also hit the ceiling when we learnt that monies meant for the vulnerable among us, that led to the British suspending its contribution to the social cash transfer, was actually ‘taking a nap’ in some bank account. So we howled that the British imperialists (oh, and Africa Confidential) owe us an apology, as they were tarnishing the image of our holy nation. In our howling, we even forgot that the State had already sanctioned an investigation as a response to the British government’s suspension of aid payments amid the allegations of corruption and fraud.
Well, I must admit. The revelations of fraud and corruption in the 2017 trends report of the Financial Intelligence Centre, the continued observations of misappropriation of funds in the Auditor General's report, still no idea how essential drugs took a leisurely walk from government warehouses, made me jump so high that my head got stuck in the ceiling. Well, some medics came in a very expensive public ambulance, and saved my sorry head!
Then there were those low jumps of fright, were we simply muse and say – well it is not falling on me. There were several, but the most memorable include.
The anarchical use of the law to suppress dissent, as witnessed in the trial now known as ''42-for-42''. That is, the protest questioning the purchase of 42 fire tenders at US$1 million each.
Pilato arrested after returning from South Africa, where he fled after receiving threats for his Koswe Mumpoto song. Don’t blame the guy for cutting and run. He has a dental formula I would kill for. He surely did not fancy it being re-arranged by political thugs. Well, glad he came back home.
Opposition party leaders and NGO personnel continued being ‘frog marched’ from districts and even church premises, as the State continued negating freedom of movement, expression and assembly with impunity.
But what the heck! Let me not lie.
2018 was not all about the gecko on the wall resulting in involuntary ceiling-high jumping competitions of fright, there were also deep reflective melancholic times.
How a State till end year has not provided answers on the death of Vespers Shimuzhila, the University of Zambia (UNZA) student who died from suffocation during riots at the institution. What those fellows in sisal wigs are still pondering in the Judicial review proceedings challenging the Speaker of the National Assembly decision on the impeachment motion.
Anyway, in hindsight, there is no doubt in my mind that 2018 was just another year of the gecko. We squealed, we reasoned, yet we moved on like we are just tourists in our own country.
It is like even though we jumped in fright, we knew that it will actually not fall. We reflected on the transgressions of the State, but we moved on immediately another gecko appeared.
About it all, we forgot that, as Sri Aurobindo writes, “our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism".
And, indeed, our polite reverence of creepy-crawlies.
Verbum satis sapient.