Our country is in trouble. Hunger looming, economy in free fall, a lack of security, no rule of law. The only thing thriving is corruption. We have a deep problem, that requires thorough thinking and far reaching changes to find lasting solutions. A maize handout does temporarily relief the hunger of some. But it does not touch on the underlying problems, that caused the situation in the first place.
In the fast changing world of the 21st century, the old, the tried and tested, yesterday’s wisdom, is not the best solution for the future, or even the present. We need to rethink ingrained ways of doing things, we need to cope with a modern world. We need to re-evaluate the standards and measures which have been useful in the past, to see if they are applicable to today.
The way we raise our children, the school system that educates them, the work relationships, the organizational models, the structure of our government system, our economy, and our whole society need to be looked at critically. We need to take example from successful models elsewhere, and reinterpret our own past, present and future.
We raise our children to show unquestioning respect for authority, in the family the father. If the father is not present the elder male, if no male is present the elder female. And if an authority feels threatened or even just challenged, some may resort to violence (hitting a child)!
This patriarchal system is extended over all of society:
The rich assume authority over the poor, the male over the female, the heterosexual over the homosexual, the elder over the younger. The poor young girl is always on the receiving end.
We have just seen that yesterday’s wisdom is not always today’s best action. So the reign of rich old men over our country may be a contributing factor to our sorry state of today. We have had five Presidents. Four rich old men, and one rich old woman. They have put us in a bad situation, with hunger returning like a clockwork. They have assumed authority above the law, even above the constitution. And they have put the country in misery. The freeze of direct budget support by donors has laid bare the inherent weakness of our government system.
Today there is a little bit of a challenge to the patriarchic rule of government: a small urban middle class, represented in the media and civil society organizations (including religious ones) is trying to hold government to account. With little success. The President assumes the authority to lie to the population (tabling the ATI bill, enough maize in stock, providing hospitals with drugs, no Malawian will die of hunger). Occasionally a President may get angry and bang the table, or start ranting. But otherwise, they just carry out business as usual, in the certainty that the great majority of the population, the small holder farmers, are not organized enough to stand up for their rights, and challenge the patriarchy that puts them in misery.
Organizing the urban proletariat is possible as Karl Marx proposed in his many writings. This is how the Russian revolution was won over the Czar. It is more difficult to organize small holder farmers, who by nature tend to be more conservative than the urban population, and who live physically spread out. Still there are examples of organized uprising of the farming population, most notably the Chinese revolution, organized by Mao Ze Dong. After years of organizing in the field, he came into a situation with a very weak central government, and his major opponent Chang Kai Sheck was heading an organization too corrupt to put up much resistance.
Here in Malawi in the 21st century we do not have to let it get to a violent revolution. We have a nominally democratic system. But we do need to challenge the patriarchic and lawless rule of our current ruling class. This is not easy, because the masses have been deprived of any tools of meaningful opposition against the patriarchy. The ruling class has systematically sabotaged the education system for the poor, by under-funding, corrupt theft of the little funds available, and by holding on to outdated top-down styles of teaching.
We need to supply the proletariat, the small holder farmers, with the tools to analyze the situation and hold office bearers to account. This means supplying them with an alternatives to patriarchal systems of organization, and with the intellectual tools to analyze how they are put in a disadvantaged situation. They need to know there are alternatives to the current organization of society, and the advantages that other systems may bring to them. They need to have tools to fight corruption, extortion and exploitation. They need to do this themselves, actively, not by asking favors from the powers that be. Favors will never change the system, rights will.