By Mapwiya Muulupale
Malawi is still extremely far away from Canaan
“Give them an inch; they take a yard. Give them a yard; they take a mile.
Once a man and twice a child! And everything is just for a while.
It seems like total destruction, the only solution!
And there ain’t no use: no one can stop them now.” – Real Situation, “Uprising”, 1980, Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Do you have these annoying friends who come asking for a small loan, and when you respond that you do not have money, give you the oddest of looks? A judgmental look which – without moving a single lip or opening their mouth – communicates loudly that they think you are lying?
I have a few of them.
As far as these hyper-entitled types are concerned, not having money is a patented status reserved for their use. It is an inalienable right that they alone should enjoy.
In their minds, when you dare or claim to not have money, you merely want to spite them and deny them of their right to borrow from you. As per this lot, your role is to have your wallet on the ready so that when they come, you fall all over yourself and be grateful for the honour of lending them money.
The funny thing about these types is that other than hating hearing that someone (you or I) does not have money to lend them, they detest being asked or reminded to repay.
The badmouthing you get when you make the grave mistake of asking for what is rightfully yours is usually more excruciating than writing the debt off.
If you do not have such friends, count yourself lucky. Thank providence because I can assure you, those of us dumb enough to have befriended such people are having it tough.
But wait a minute. If you are a Malawian and have no such annoying friends, do not rejoice yet for reasons I will expound. Before I expound on why allow me to digress.
Have you ever heard that “So-so is a narcist or is narcissistic?” Do you know the origin of this word?
Never mind, it is derived from Narcissus, the son of river god Cepheus and nymph Lyriope. He was tantalizingly beautiful, and even God Apollo loved him due to his looks. Of his myth, there are two versions.
In a Greek Version, Aminius – a young man – falls in love with Narcissus, who has already rebuffed many male suitors.
Aminias is also rejected. As if that was not bad enough, Narcissus gives the miserable young man a sword which the young Aminias kills himself on Narcissus’ doorstep. According to Greek mythology, Aminias dies praying to the gods to punish Narcissus.
The gods hear Aminias’ prayer. As Narcissus is walking by a river and wants to drink some water, he sees his reflection in the water. He is stunned by the beauty he beholds and becomes so obsessed with his own reflection that he falls in love with it.
Since the reflection is not real and hence cannot love him back, he dies, a sad man, on the riverbank.
According to some sources, as we speak, Narcissus is still busy admiring himself looking at the waters of a mythical river called the Styx in the underworld.
In a Roman Version, Narcissus’ parents were concerned about their child’s extraordinary beauty. They, therefore, asked prophet Teiresias for advice. Teiresias told them that the boy would grow old only if “he didn’t get to know (see) himself.”
It so happened that when Narcissus was sixteen, he was walking in the woods. Nymph Echo saw him and fell head over heels in love with him.
She started following him, and after sensing that someone was following him, Narcissus shouted,
To which Echo responded,
“Who’s there?” Narcissus asked again.
And again, Echo responded,
This hide and seek went on and on until Echo decided to show herself. Hot with desire, she wanted to embrace the gorgeous Narcissus who pushed her away. Echo was so heartbroken that she wilted away until nothing, but an echo sound remained of her.
Nemesis – the goddess of revenge – decided to punish Narcissus upon hearing this tragedy. Narcissus saw an image of himself in water and was entranced with the beauty of the reflection only to realize that this was a classic case of unrequited love.
He killed himself.
Whichever version tickles your fancy, this is the origin of the word “narcissist,” denoting a self-centered person incapable of loving or caring for others.
Before I forget, I did say that even if you are lucky to have no narcissistic friends, but you happen to be Malawian, you have good reason to be concerned, and I promised to elaborate.
Look here, the conmen that pretend to love us during campaign time invariably become narcissistic once in power.
To prove this point, this past week, on Wednesday, to be specific, the Minister of Information and Digitization Gospel Kazako was asked a straightforward question.
“What is the cost, and who is in the entourage of the President’s trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 35th Ordinary Session Assembly of the African Union scheduled to run from February 4 to 6?”
A simple question, one that can and should be quickly answered. For example,
“Thank you for the question. The entourage comprises ten people, and the trip will cost taxpayers MK500,000.” Full stop.
You would think that this is how a genuine Servant Leader would respond, not so? Think again.
The minister’s ask of us, the very same people from whom President Lazarus Chakwera asked of votes in 2020 on the promise of governing us in a transparent and accountable manner, is “to give President Lazarus Chakwera space to run the country.”
Who is standing in the president’s way? It was us who gave the man votes hence his being president today.
All we are asking for, as per his pledges, is a departure from the old ways, which got us nowhere to accountable and transparent leadership.
Is this too much to ask?
The point that the honorable minister missed is that his response, or lack thereof, portrays the very government he was appointed to defend in the same light as the “friends” I discussed earlier, who expect favors all the time but give nothing back in return.
I could even argue that such mis-leadership and rank demonstration of self-entitlement is why the myth of Narcissus is just as valid for this government as it was in mythical times.
Indeed, Bob Marley was right: when you give undeserving narcissists an inch, they will take a yard, and when you make the mistake of giving them a yard, they will take a mile!
As I see it, the real situation is that we are still extremely far away from Canaan. Come to think of it, we are headed in the opposite direction, and like Narcissus, all we can do is hopelessly stare at a mirage of a better Malawi but never to enjoy the better Malawi because narcissism has gotten the better of self-proclaimed “servant leaders.”