Cultural hegemony is the control the ruling class exerts over the culture. There is quite some leeway within a culture for different opinions, but there are limits to what is accepted as within “common sense”. These limits are defined by the ruling class. In most cases the media are controlled by the ruling class, and used to reinforce this hegemony.
In Malawi however, we are at a crossroads: the power of the ruling class is disintegrating. There are two forces contributing to this: on the one hand the liberal forces of the (small) middle class in society are gaining power, with support from the outside: most donor countries have liberal values in their hegemony, and are supporting these. For instance the (US) Millennium Development Corporation is forcing liberalization of Escom as a condition for their sizable donation to Escom. Similarly, donor pressure has been exerted to liberalize the media. There are private newspapers now (as opposed to under Dr Banda) and private radio stations. Recently a number of private television stations have been licensed.
These private media are owned (and controlled) by upper middle class individuals, and their editorial policies support liberal values. Only the ailing state media are controlled by the ruling class, and are (inconsistently) supporting conservative values. But they are losing listeners and viewers.
At the same time the government has made such a mess of its financial management, and stolen so much donor money, they are not being funded by the donors any more. They are losing financial clout as well as ideological power.
With the state the government is in, it cannot take very long before it collapses. We need an alternative in the making, to prevent chaos comparable to Somalia or Libya. The CSO forces in the society need to form a historical block, that can support the population.
At the moment the need is so great that action seems unavoidable. But with the lack of leadership it is directed at the wrong groups: elderly women are lynched on witchcraft accusations, homosexuals are being abused, children die in the stampedes around subsidized food distribution at Admarc depots, petty corruption is the order of the day. It cannot take long before this gets out of hand, and government is powerless because of a combination of inefficiency, incompetence and insolvency. We need to direct the action preparedness of the population towards those responsible: the democratically elected government.
A PAC meeting with government invited is not going to do it, it is too late for this powerless and incapable government of taking the lead. Remember how under Bingu the PAC essentially dissolved itself under bribes and threats of police firepower. We need the civil society to take initiative, and forget about government; government is crumbling.
We need to create a new paradigm of common sense. One not based on the axiomas of the ruling class, but a new style of ideology, our own hegemony of common sense.
A decisive position that creates an alternative to the current powers that be is the only solution to the threat of total anarchy and chaos; our cultural hegemony can create the ideas we need to survive as a nation.