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The struggle over thinking and democracy

[By Azwell Banda]

We, human beings; all of us, babies, young and old, male or female, sick or well, rich or poor, happy or sad, educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed, awake or asleep; think all the time.

Human beings can think and we do think all the time. Most of the time we are not even aware that it is impossible for us to carry out any action without the brain engaging its ability to think, its mind, first! You may have heard it said that we know that we are alive because we can think. We think because we are alive. To think, is to be alive. Therefore, to be alive is to be thinking. No matter how small the action we want to make, it is always thought out first. Funny, even stirring and waking up, opening our eyes and deciding to stand up and get going for the day involves first our brains thinking and aiding our ability to wake up, move and carry out the actions of a living person.

To survive and thrive, we think and carry out actions to prevent our death, grow and develop us, and hopefully thrive too. From conception to birth, through infancy, to childhood, teens, adult and eventual old age and decline and death; no human being can very successfully run through all these phases, alone. Our conception itself requires the merging of two opposite living materials called ‘cells’ naturally obtained from two human beings!

We need other human beings to come into the world, grow, develop, become adults, age and die, meanwhile we too having facilitated the creation of other human beings. We are, therefore, “social beings” – we are a product of, and need other human beings all the time, to be alive and to thrive. We depend on other human beings who also equally depend on us; we thus say we are “social beings”.

All this means we learn, at conception, to attach ourselves to, and to think and communicate and act together, with other human beings for our survival and in order to be fully alive.

From the first breathe and first experiences after birth, we start to struggle to make sense of our world, and to act in ways that preserve us, cause us to grow, develop and hopefully thrive too. We do this with others – thinking and acting together, all the time.

We then go through the struggle to learn to communicate and share our thoughts with others, instead of relying on facial expression, incoherent sound and all sorts of movements of our bodies and gestures. When we learn how to speak and count, we are well on our way to learn how to write, transmit, record and share our thoughts with others using all the available means and technologies at our disposal.

After the August 12, 2021 elections, there is a near explosion of thoughts, public expression and media discussions and debates on everything about our country, in all our families, communities, villages, towns, cities and of course the capital city, Lusaka. It is almost as if Zambians had lost their voice and recovered it when notorious Edgar Lungu conceded defeat.

Nothing is off limits to everyone, to think and talk about, openly. We are talking politics and our democracy, economics and our poverty and debt, our children and their youth cultures and challenges, education, quality of our government and its institutions, and many more and finally of course the call to clean up our Constitution and our legislation in order to preserve, enhance and advance our democracy and the protection of our human rights. This is fantastic!

Social media is on fire with all sorts of things including examining every move President Hakainde Hichilema makes and sometimes overzealous denunciation of the actions of his ministers and senior government officials. Some of the language on social media belongs to the sewerage of proper thick human waste! Some of it is pure genius and extremely important for confronting some of the challenges as a country and people, we are facing today.

Our main print and electronic media houses appear not to have yet found their proper feet in this new dispensation as they battle to balance the need to allow for a full-blown public expression embracing all shades of opinion and the imperative to ensure that the Patriotic Front (PF) and its unrepentant villainous leaders do not take advantage of the freedoms they so murderously tried and failed to destroy, to bounce back into power. All their editorial opinions easily betray this tension, as expected.

The freedom to think and share one’s ideas unimpeded is the right to life, as a human being, because as we have said above, to think is to be alive. The PF politically and socially slaughtered us when they denied us this most essential and necessary right to be alive: the right to think and express our thoughts. They used violence and the police to bully and intimidate us into silence. They even shut down the internet, for a moment. They shut down The Post and other media houses. We kept quiet but kept thinking, because we were alive.

It would be such a beautiful thing and perhaps our greatest achievement out of the historic August 12, 2021 elections, to never, ever, allow any politician and his or her friends for the moment in government, to ever bully us into silence again. Thinking, talking, sharing ideas, publishing our thoughts – whatever they may be – must be a right we enshrine in our Constitution with the minimum of restrictions. No government or politician gives its people the freedom to think. We think all the time because we are human beings; it is an inherent quality of being human, to think. Politicians and governments are supposed to protect, enhance and advance our ability to think, express and communicate our thoughts with others. When they stop us, by whatever authoritarian and violent means from thinking we all have a duty to rise up and remove them from government and actually by whatever means necessary and available, other than just through the ballot. Because to stifle human thought and expression is to turn live human beings into living zombies, is to commit social mass murder.

From many thoughts we harvest knowledge; the knowledge to sustain, develop and advance our lives and produce free communities and liberated individuals. From a forced silence we harvest frustration, sadness, a murderous silence and backwardness and poverty, including the debt trap. Violence and mass slaughter become inevitable.

True democracy therefore, is when the fullest protection of the right to think, express oneself and publish one’s views and be heard is truly and fully entrenched among the masses, and is not a preserve of the powerful and the rich and politicians. It is a full and mature democracy only when the thoughts and expressions of the toiling rural masses and urban poor working class are dominant in the public domain, for these are the engines and creators of power and wealth, and yet they are poor, downtrodden and apparently powerless.

It is weak and a sickly democracy in its infancy if the dominant thoughts and expressions in the public domain are those of the tiny filthy rich, the politicians and their ever-present coterie of a parasitic academic, intellectual and professional urban sub class. August the 12th, 2021, opens up the possibility for Zambia to develop away from a parasitic urban elite democracy to a genuine mass and popular democracy. To achieve this, the rural and urban working class and poor must articulate, publicly, their concerns and win the struggle to make them the dominant and driving force, of our democracy and economic development.

And so, we must ask: what will it be, post our elections in 2021, a parasitic urban elite democracy or urban and rural working-class popular democracy? We shall see. Remember, though, always: to think is to be alive, and vice versa.

If you so wish, do send your thoughts to: banda.azwell@gmail.com.

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