One thing most endearing about Zimbabweans in general is that if you tickle their sense of humour, they will not disappoint. You will get more than you bargained for: They will “retaliate” with even more humorous and — it must be said —cutting observations.
Echoes with Conway Tutani
So, it was affirmed last week from the feedback I got on email, social media and on the streets after my semi-comical take — guided by the expression that “many a serious thing is said in jest” — on “Lameck of Mabvuku”, who has assumed celebrity-like or revolutionary status for treading where others fear by telling shocked mourners at a funeral some three weeks ago that the woman being buried did not deserve any glowing tributes because she had been cruel. My article — titled Hypocrites, beware of what Lameck of Mabvuku has started — concluded with the observation that “Lameck has caused a long overdue cultural paradigm shift and funerals will no longer be the same”. A whole Lameck humour industry could have sprouted. Lameck, it’s time to patent your intellectual property rights while riding on this crest of a wave of international stardom!
I am neither in a position to say the woman was totally evil nor am I in the rubbing-it-in brigade, but to point out that bad deeds come at a heavy cost reputation-wise and legacy-wise. To paraphrase Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, the evil that people do lives after them while the good they did is buried with them. It’s an acknowledgement of the lasting power of evil. It speaks of the basic human nature to remember well the bad and to forget more easily the good. “The greater the evil done, the less likely anyone is to remember anything good about the person and the more likely that the person will only be remembered for the evil he or she has done. Adolf Hitler will forever only be remembered for the evil that he did, and any good qualities he had have been completely obliterated by that evil,” according to WikiAnswers.
It’s not that one has a dark, bleak view of humanity. It’s not that one has a morbid fascination with evil, but that we need to point out such vermin among us. Exposing such characters is not dwelling on terrible deeds, but revealing people for who they are, whether hiding behind an academic gown, Christian church uniform or Muslim veil.
Of course, you always get characters with distemper who completely miss the gist of the matter, like one “Maidei”, who ranted: “Nobody is perfect and that includes our lovely writer Mr Tuts (Tutani) himself. Self-righteous use of words does not make one perfect and never will …” Well, you will always get the odd ones out who take themselves too seriously, who go off tangent, who talk about football when you are talking cricket. And it’s not a crime, but Maidei’s democratic right to jump to false conclusions by refusing to see things as they are.
Nevertheless,without suggesting that Maidei is her real name, the majority did not see things the Maidei way, with one “Norman”, using his democratic right to hit back in the same spirit of sarcasm displayed by Maidei, saying: “Are there people out there still called Maidei … ?” Indeed, names affect esteem and outlook. People can be traumatised by the emotional baggage of a name, thus, we need a new culture of naming.
This validates Kamurai Mudzingwa’s erudite comment: “I totally agree that ‘Lameck has caused a long overdue cultural paradigm shift’. We still have many areas that need such types of paradigm shifts.”
For starters, let’s stop giving children burdens of names (mitoro yemazita) because this can scar them psychologically for life even if they change that humiliating and belittling name along the way. “Maidei” is one of those negative Shona female names resorted to for hitting back at one’s real or perceived enemies especially in family circles. It tells of painful memories and hurt carried around from past emotional rejection. A child is burdened before they even start life on their own. Let’s make it taboo to name your daughter Maidei and any other such names in this day and age.
By challenging a taboo — a topic that makes people uncomfortable like the dark side of a deceased person — Lameck’s barrage hit home with many people both within and outside Zimbabwe like music which strikes a chord with listeners across the globe. Such was the universal impact of what Lameck said. From now on, it will be less taboo to criticise anyone at their burial for their errors of —note — commission, when one goes out their way to be an activist in bad deeds.
Wrote Isaac Mupinyuri: “In African culture, straightforward talk is regarded as an insult to those who are powerful. You need to skirt real issues and be as dodgy as possible … (then) they love you. (But) this has ruined African nations big-time as reason is trampled upon by the handle-me-with-care-or-I-will-embarrass-you syndrome.
That is why we remain shackled to Zanu PF misrule.” A real keen observation that this reticence has been extended to national affairs with disastrous results.
The legacy of Mugabe-ism is stark. It has taken its toll on democracy as the Constitution has been reduced to insignificance. The emphasis is on conformity and capitulation. Because political activity can get you into serious trouble, some among Zimbabwe’s best and brightest have not only avoided stepping on the toes of the regime, but have become conformists, cheerleaders of oppression betraying all their learning and scholarship, Jonathan Moyo being the worst tragic case.
A similar political tragedy happened in the United States in the 1950s when intellectuals caved in under McCarthyism, the mass harassment and blacklisting used to pressure people with liberal political leanings to toe the line. Then Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas described it as “the black silence of fear” that had blanketed the nation after meaningful political dissent had all but withered away. In the Soviet Union, real political change started with a cultural paradigm shift in the form of glasnost, meaning openness, which replaced the culture of the silence of fear.
Said “Man Kenya”: “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Let’s bombard the regime with the revolutionary truth.
Some taboos are made to be broken — ask Lameck.