I recently came across and was struck by a profound and beautiful quote from Ralph Waldo Emmerson that reads “The Man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.”
Report by Albert Gumbo
I have seen them, the many men and women who are half themselves and merely exist, being led by life rather than shaping it for better or worse.
I have seen them give up hope in a learned helplessness that has come from being victims or passengers for the best part of the last fifty years having been buffeted by adverse social conditions brought on by a harsh political environment.
Apart from a brief spark between 1980 and 1982, I have seen, in many cases, people who have resigned themselves to whatever the conditions of the day have dictated.
Where drought has ravaged the country, I have seen them queue patiently for water and food aid. Where there has been political violence, I have seen them cower in fear, wear the colours of some political parties just for safety’s sake.
I have, nevertheless, seen other people who have given expression to self. I dare not mention any names lest I leave others out but I have seen expressions of self in every facet of life, from the literary arts, sport, the world of business and, of course, in the arena of Zimbabwe’s political minefield.
It is only a minefield because of the large number of casualties that have occurred before and since independence for both public and unknown personalities. Many a youth leader has been disappeared in the past for having given expression to self.
I love visiting Cape Town in summer and have just returned from running a two day workshop there. When you look at Table Mountain, on a clear day, you get this impression of a tower of strength watching over the city in silence, impregnable and resolute.
It does not have to say anything, its sheer form and presence relays a profound message of beauty, reassurance and inspiration. It is this kind of leader that Zimbabwe should be looking for.
In the midst of infrastructure decay, an unemployment rate that stubbornly refuses to drop and a despairing liquidity state of affairs, the country needs more than ever before, a firm guiding hand that gives expression to a confident future before we even see the results.
It is an art, inspiring people, and while all Table Mountain has to do is just be there, the future leaders of the country will have to do much more than just posture.
They have to excite the population with a specific vision and plans for the future, leading by example in the expression of that imagined future and through that encouragement, actually willing the people from Captains of industry to the man in the street to invest more of themselves, their know how and funds in to its realisation.
If we must change why should we? If the status quo must remain why is it in the best interests of the country? If we must look to the past, which would be a very difficult argument to make, why would we?
The life of a nation can obviously not be compared to that of a man but the amount of damage that a man can do to an entire generation in a mere term of office or longer is incalculable.
When Zimbabweans, therefore, give expression to their voice through the ballot the next time around, it is crucial that they, that we closely examine the kind of leadership we want for the next cycle and whether that leadership past, present or third way can adequately shape the kind of future we want for posterity.
With the world in recession and the markets upon which depend our resource rich country struggling to provide for their own, we must be fussy about the kind of leader we want to help position Zimbabwe in the new world economic order.
We must challenge those that would rule us with the kind of questions that make them understand that we can no longer be taken for granted and that running a country is not based on whose turn it is next but rather on who presents the best project for the restoration of a once thriving economy to its rightful place and more.
What is our role in all of this? Mine is to provoke thought with awkward questions. Yours may be to present yourself for election because you have the competence to run a government department effectively and the right value system to do it for the right reasons. Written long ago, I do not know how politically correct the following quote is but it is Plato who wrote, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
The choice of the last word might be out of place in the modern age but truth is enduring whether stated by a Greek philosopher or a NewsDay columnist. What is our truth? We must give expression to our country by electing the best qualified persons…wherever we might find them. There must be no automatic musical chairs. It is the only way we will light a candle, instead of cursing the darkness and to set ourselves free.