We are told in Sirach that power, privileges and money can make even the wise blind to the truth, and prevent them from being honest in their criticism. We are also told that wisdom that is not expressed is like a treasure that has been hidden – both are useless. But that a person who covers up his foolishness is better than one who keeps his wisdom to himself.
This is what Amos Chanda’s attack of the Law Association of Zambia brings to mind. Amos says the Law Association of Zambia did not want to support Edgar Lungu’s invocation of Article 31 of the Constitution because neither them nor their children are affected by the cases of arson. Under section 4 of the Law Association of Zambia Act, the objects for which the Association was established are:
(a) to further the development of law as an instrument of social order and social justice and as an essential element in the growth of society; (b) to provide a means by which all lawyers, whatever their particular field of activity, can participate together fully and effectively in the development of society and its institutions; (c) to encourage lawyers as individuals to join actively in the life of, and identify themselves with, the people, and to utilise their skills and training in their service; (d) to promote the education of lawyers at all stages and levels, with particular emphasis on the broadening of such education; (e) to consider the qualifications of lawyers and to make recommendations to the Government thereon; (f) to maintain and improve the standards of conduct of all members of the legal profession; (g) to consider the legislation relating to legal aid and other ways of securing representation for persons who for any reason are unable to secure it, and to make recommendations to the Government thereon; and to establish machinery for the provision of legal aid in addition to that provided by the Government; (h) to co-operate with the representative bodies of other professions and other institutions; (i) to promote research in the development of the law in general and particularly in relation to: (i) the applicability and suitability of received law; (ii) the character and content of customary law; (iii) the influence of industrial, commercial and technological development on society and social institutions; (j) to promote the reform of the law, both by the amendment of and the removal of imperfections in existing law, and by the re-formulation, codification or restatement of particular branches of the law; (k) to participate when called upon in draft legislation, and to
strengthen the machinery for the critical examination of its legal quality; (l) to seek the advancement of the rule of law and of the rights and liberties of the individual; (m) to promote the improvement and reform of the judicial and administrative systems, including tribunals and their procedure; (n) to represent, protect and assist members of the legal profession in regard to their conditions of practice, remuneration and otherwise; (o) to protect and assist the public in all matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the legal profession; (p) to do all such other things as may be conducive to the attainment of the foregoing objects or any of them.
This is what the Law Association of Zambia was established for. These being its objects, where has the Law Association of Zambia gone wrong?
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “He who, blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must fall with the greatest loss.”
To start with, says the quote, you have to be blinded by ambition. You must be so intent on attaining a position or station in life that you ignore all the warnings regarding what you are doing. Be it your methods, your path, or even your destination, others will try to warn you, but you will not see the light. Then, you have to get to a place so high up that there is nowhere else for you to go from there. Now what? How do you get down from there? There is only one way to go, and that is down. At least that’s according to the quote. That one way down is to fall. And the higher you went up, the farther you have to go down. The more you had gained, the more you have to lose, often in shame and with condemnation.
Why is not being blinded by ambition important?
Consider the Year of Four Emperors for an ancient example. Each saw a way to rise to the very top. Each, charged ahead without due consideration, and each was dispatched in turn. How blind do you have to be to not see that the vacancy you seek to fill was created by the murder of your predecessor? And how blind was the fourth to not see what happened to the prior three Emperors?
If we can keep some perspective in our lives, if we can see what is happening around us, we stand a better chance of not screwing up. If we look ourselves, both without and within, we can better determine if we are on the best path, and avoid the massive crash-n-burn situations.
The point of all this is to be aware of what is going on, where you are, and where you are going. Be aware of what you are doing, and how it impacts others around you. Understand the implications of going up, and how you might come back down. It may seem like a lot to think about, but it’s a reality of life.
For many years he has spent as a journalist, Amos is expected to know the objects of the Law Association of Zambia. The fact that he is working with a boss who, as a lawyer, is averse to diverse opinion is sad. They are not acting out of ignorance but refusal to allow other reasonable views in a democratic dispensation. Does Law Association of Zambia need to be directly affected to know that the response to these fires and whatever excuse is being used to justify the threatened state of emergency are just an exhibition of dictatorship? Can Amos, as an amateur politician, fault the reasoning of a group of lawyers that there are enough laws, without emergency legislation, to address whatever criminal activities may be happening? It is usual when people are morally and otherwise bankrupt that they rush to personal attacks and engage in senseless rhetoric like the Law Association of Zambia should join politics; the Law Association of Zambia has no children in the University Teaching Hospital and so on and so forth. Does Law Association of Zambia bear children? Does it have to anyway? Amos can do better in his quest to please his master.
You can’t reason with people blinded by power and hate. They hate the power of the individual. They hate the religious freedom of others. They hate the liberating breeze of democracy. But their hate is no match for Zambia’s decency. Their goal, it seems, is always to manipulate public debate. They have been corrupted by power. Amos has let himself be blinded by his passions and obeys only the impulses of the moment. The glaring injustices are there for all who are not blinded by prejudice to see.