A patient lies in a hospital bed in the neurological ward, his head wrapped in bandages. He is suffering from a major trauma to the brain. The injury has wiped out the region that controls motion in his left arm. More than that, it has destroyed the man’s ability to even conceive of what moving his arm would be like.
He is paralyzed, in other words, but he doesn’t know that. He can’t know.
Asked by his doctor if he would be so kind as to raise his left hand, he responds that he can, and when the hand remains where it is he explains that it is simply tangled up in the sheets. The doctor points out that his arm is lying free and unencumbered on top of the sheets.
“Well, yes,” the man says. “But I just don’t feel like lifting it right now.”
The inability to recognize one’s own disability is a disorder called anosognosia, and it offers an unusually clear window into that peculiarly infuriating and astonishing aspect of human psychology: our seemingly boundless capacity for delusion. Faced with stark and unambiguous information that a part of their body is paralyzed, anosognosia sufferers can effortlessly produce a stream of arguments as to why this is simply not the case. They’re not lying; they themselves actually believe in the validity of their claims.
The disorder sounds bizarre, but if you listened to our president’s speech on John Chilembwe day, you have to agree that it is quite clear Peter Mutharika has been displaying something similar on a daily basis. Though he would like to think that he has molded his beliefs to fit with the reality that surrounds him, the reverse is true: Our president has molded his reality so that it fits with his beliefs, no matter how flimsy their justification may be.
Mutharika is essentially caught up in delusions of grandeur. Psychologists define “delusion” as a manifestly absurd belief held in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, specifically as a symptom of a disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
It is hard to think that the Malawi Mutharika was talking about is the same Malawi where people have resorted to doing the despicable so that they can survive; a nation that is living by the rule of jungle; survival of the fittest and dog eat dog. If you are weak, the current Malawi is not the place for you. The evidence is that the margin between the poor and the rich is so big that there is no chance of them ever meeting in the middle.
It seems to me that only pro-government politicians are able to claim that all is well in Malawi and that things are right on track. This privileged group somehow sees progress, economic development and has no power blackouts or any medicine shortages in hospitals to point at when for all other Malawians, things are tough and almost hopeless. Contrary to Mutharika’s exhortations, we are in a country where corruption is the order of the day, blackouts have become a normal thing, shortage of drugs in public hospitals is not shocking and if you criticize how things are running in the country, you are branded as the villain. (Don’t even get me started on the goons that are sent to attack all those that are opposing the current administration).
Not long ago the United States government decided to discontinue aid to Malawi until corruption was dealt with. Quiet understandable for an organisation that is pumping millions of dollars in the country to help people but instead the money is being swindled and diverted to fatten a few fat cats. No way would such an organisation make a decision that drastic without having adequate information pertaining to the corruption status in Malawi.
The prevalence of normalized bribery means that if you want something done, you have to cough up a little something. Government entities are the worst, as though there is no one checking this behavior; or are the subordinates simply following what they see happening from the top officials?
During the national prayers in commemoration of John Chilembwe the president said something about national transformation being a collective process. I agree with this observation. But how is that going to be possible if nepotism and patronage have taken over? A collective effort would mean everybody is included without fear or favour yet Mutharika has allowed nepotism to reach the point where some have started changing their names and home village addresses so that they can survive. Four years down the line with the Mutharika administration and I am yet to experience a different Malawi.
And Peter Mutharika says he had developed the country.
And Peter Mutharika is an Honourable man!
When I read reports that Malawi has been ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world, I do not get surprised. After all this is the Malawi that I know, and the Malawi Mutharika doesn’t seem to be in touch with. As prices of goods and services are going up almost each and every day, president Mutharika cites increase of imported cars on the roads as a sign that he has apparently improved the economy. We are clearly assessing the country using different parameters here.
The president’s tune is one that epitomizes serious delusions: “I took over from a badly hit economy, and I have improved it”. This is now seriously becoming irritating. What we want are the solutions to address the challenges and not just complaints of how bad things were when you took over. That was four years ago. You have had four years to make your mark. Where is it? Give us some action instead of whining!
You would think that any leader of a country would first believe the local media before believing what the international media are saying about his country. After all, it is our local scribes that are able to see what is happening on the ground and not the fabricated lies that are sold to people who have never even set foot here. Yet our president praises international media and accuses the local media of negative publishing. The question is a very simple one: How can the media be expected to report on what are deemed as the positives when there are negatives everywhere?
Surely a learned law professor should know these things?
In the end, though, I should remind the president that it was actually his late brother that taught us that it should be the work of a leader’s hands that should speak for him or her, not standing on the podium and shouting very loudly at journalists and critics, then claiming that I did this or I did that.
As long as there are no works of your hands to speak for you Mr President, then all your talk about transformation and changing this country for the better are just delusions of grandeur; a unilateral wet dream somewhere in the recesses of your mind. Those of us on the ground know that development speaks very loudly for itself. So far, under your leadership, there is nothing but silence.
Allan Ntata’s Column is posted Every Sunday on The Maravi Post