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Howls of protest



There was a time before the Corona virus outbreak, before the Hong Kong protests, before the controversial Donald Trump speeches on the virus’ origins, before the increasing levels of unemployment and poverty, before we came to realise that we are in the midst of the most crippling lockdown in modern history; there was a time. The poverty that came with the virus outbreak is of Depression-era proportions (possibly worse), and at this point in time, there is the glaring reality that it might just last longer than we think. The changes in the past two years have all been unexpected, and the reports on the political hordes are keeping us busy on television; reports of their thinly-veiled corruption antics and chants about their ‘wealthy poverty’ are the order of the day. We have all seen these discussions about corruption and we have all seen the crimes of fraud on a gargantuan scale go on without being punished. The howls of protest that the accused are being cheated out of office are normal day-speak discussed at office and in speakeasies; there is nothing unusual about the defence: it is part of political speak in the circles of the corrupt. It happens every time a regime has to make way for another across the world that the ruling regime wants to clean its countenance and tell the masses of what they have done in terms of benefits. The crimes committed are usually left out of the conversation. There is one simple fact of life: human resistance to change is normal, because for some reason that is little understood because we refrain from questioning it in depth, we prefer to live in the ‘comfort zone’ rather than venture out into the unknown. It is usually with reluctance that change is accepted in human society, because the human mind prefers dealing with the tried and tested, and following the beaten path rather carving a new road out of an uncertain landscape. An observation made from a literary point of view is that we prefer to deal with the familiar rather than with the unknown. This behaviour is common to a larger part of the human race who would rather live in the squalid comfort regardless of whether the future promises better if we change. A move into unfamiliar territory despite the prosperity it promises is never enough inspiration for us humans to accept the new changes that come with the passing of a season, a regime or an era. What usually happens in these instances is that we begin to formulate new conspiracy theories about the new changes, often denigrating the new and reminiscing on the past with a sense of attached nostalgia. One sees the same attitude in the speeches on corruption that is usually defended with tales about liberation wars and struggle movements. It is a matter that tells us in the face that struggle movements never actually made the transition into the parliamentary politics era. Another possible answer is that they use the struggle tales as a screen to hide the rampant looting going on in the background. The reality of the human condition is that changes in circumstances, thought, and behaviour will definitely come: resistance to the novel conditions, ideas or ideals humanity encounters with the passage of time will only waste time that could be used to engender a spirit of resilience we need to keep on surviving. Literary writers and authors have throughout the span of history observed the trends and offered their perspectives and predictions on the unfolding realities. Some of these observations were accepted if understood or rejected if they were misunderstood; but the changes observed and recorded kept on coming regardless of the resistance to their status. Change is often presented as many entities and phenomena in literary and other written works, but we have to understand that the characters which we read about in the works actually represent change in human form: Ayi Kwei Armah foresaw corruption after liberation, Sembene Ousmane defined the post-colonial condition, Jules Verne foresaw the space age, and Charles Dickens defined the industrial revolution. Change definitely comes to us, it does not matter whether it comes as a Frankenstein with many different interpretations or as a single entity as the present era seems to us. The era of the Covid-19 pandemic is real change in action, though it is a figure with many different faces. We may never get to understand it in full until we accept the fact that it is occurring to us, and that we are still in the middle of the confusion of its metamorphosis. The change we are experiencing at this point in time is confusing, and the human behaviours of interaction will tend to violence born out of the instinctive defensive fear of the unknown. The behaviour however shall help us none in dealing with the unfolding realities of a new era being birthed. It is a reality that every new era and regime seeks to assert its authority on all those that are watching and listening to the speeches associated with it or are living in its new realities. That we are stuck somewhat with the past and the familiar is slowly eroding into a spirit of acceptance of the new terms and conditions. Change in a new form is occurring at this point in time, like it has come before and as it will surely come again in the future. There are certain trendsetters that we have had to follow from the past, and the changes in the past two years with the Corona virus being the lead topic will have the last word despite the reluctance to their existence. A return to the 1991 speech by the then US president, George W Bush Sr about the possibility of forging ‘a new world order’ was actually a clarion call for change in human behaviour because the old age was in essence gone. The current world fosters the kind of thought pattern that we have at this point of history people that want to control others through the use of The Big Brother (Eye in the Sky) mindset. It is ‘the wear your mask or perish’ thought pattern that was seen in Orwell’s 1984 where the devices we have in our hands have become not only tools we communicate with but also spy contraptions meant to invade our privacy and further spread the rumours, in the process driving the ideologies of compliance despite the many personal questions about the unfolding realities around us. What is occurring at this point in time may sound like a conspiracy theory coming to life, but the realities that are unfolding with each phase of the virus reveal that we may indeed have reached a point where we can all be put in uniforms according to the orders of the ruling classes. We should wear our masks lest we get infected or infect others. It is an uncomfortable change, but change can only be accepted if it is to serve the best interests of one. We have heard of the Nokia story and how resistance to the android realities of the new led to the demise of the once mighty telecommunications brand. This means that we should perhaps comply with the rules of the mask: or should we? There will always be many personal questions that will go unanswered. An avid reader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazines because of the simplicity with which some of the articles present the world, I came across one that stated that: Today, millions of people are in bondage to false religion, and many choose to remain that way. At the same time, more and more are demanding political freedoms. We have become worshippers of the religion of small smart-phone and computer screens, speaking of change whilst in the same breath being servants to the god of the social media that is ensuring that we forget the world immediately around us, arguing we are about realities in worlds far away beyond the seas: and the third world we live in slowly disappears with each technological advance. It is as if we are on some pill that induces an amnesiac state of mind when it comes to the world around us. The reality is that the change we need to cope with the new realities will come from within the world we live in even though the gurus of the social media preach that we shall be changed by whatever opinions they share on the web. These figures are similar to the new type of politician that knows not when to shut up, especially if they have been defeated in elections, meaning that the lobbying of the pre-election only finds continuation in defeat. Each individual that has a blog or some type of platform passes forth their ill-researched opinion for the consumption of the willing masses at the expense of researched truth; and the poor masses are guzzling down tonnes of unfounded opinion with gusto and without question. There was a time when the only television we watched sat in the corner of some sitting room. That era is gone and the social media gurus have become the new television and this will make the process of figuring out exactly how the current era will pan out given the circumstances a harder endeavour. The exercise of understanding exactly what is going on has been given another level of complexity by the pandemic, meaning that the process of understanding exactly what is going on will with time become impossible as the virus progresses into more phases. The problems a larger part of the human population cannot be solved by politicians: it will take individual effort to deal with the realities of the Corona virus. We have seen before that true freedom really exists only if the whole community benefits from the efforts of government and industry. The two spheres benefit the people if there is no element of self-interest in the form of corruption and self-enrichment. The reality at the moment is that corruption has taken centre stage even in the middle of a pandemic. There are increasing cases of corruption heard when it comes to PPE tenders, bringing into question the integrity of the governments we have elected into power. There is an increasing trend of political governments that somehow seem to hold the notion that they are above the law and can therefore do whatever they wish because they will not face prosecution at the end of the day. That the numbers of the poor will increase or that millions would struggle to survive economically is a sad latter-day reality of revelation proportions that is exposing modern leadership as only a tool of self-interest. It is only the powerful, the rich and the politically connected that seem to be making it these days. The possibility of an uprising by the masses of the people is increasing with each passing day. The only way the states will be able to deal with the general uprisings will be through the use of batons, teargas and bullets. This raises the question of whether we are progressing as a human race or whether the final solution is being formulated that will see the state forcing the citizens into servitude through the use of brute force. Hungry people cannot listen, and the world leadership should well be aware that they should deal with the maladies of poverty before making any decisions to force people into submission when hunger and poverty are the more urgent problems. There are now more people falling victim to crime as the levels of poverty increase and the viciousness with which they are executed leads one to wonder whether the real causes shall ever be addressed because the number of grievances increases with each passing day. There are increasing incidents of racial, political, and religious hatred that are fragmenting various countries in the world today and the real concerns that affect us all at the end of the day are being forgotten. In retrospect, the situation one sees panning out these days is not that far from that future time described in the book of Zechariah when people will be “so confused and afraid that everyone will seize the man next to him and attack him.” In the lockdown, one has personally had their belongings stolen because the defence was that the pandemic and the lockdown had increased the levels of poverty. Did lockdown mean that it is right to steal? No! But it is the mentality that is gaining momentum as the poverty and the hunger become realities in these harsh times. Such is the pattern of change in these times, and we can only live with the change without understanding it in full. Oftentimes, accepting reality without question seems to be the only sane way as the days get harder. Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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