Controversial reggae performer, the late Peter Tosh, once accepted an invitation by the Grenadian Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, to attend a socialist summit. He went to the summit, but when somebody greeted him there with the salutation ‘comrade’, he quickly quipped, “I man don’t come red [the colour symbolising socialism], I come black [being a black man].” This was to show them that he was not one of them.
If it were somebody else, especially from Malawi, they would have done everything possible to show that they belonged there, in the hope of getting all the benefits accruing from the summit. Malawians crave recognition, especially where recognition attracts financial benefits.
Several years ago, I was a master of ceremonies at a certain function. In my salutations I inadvertently omitted one ‘important’ person. He made it known to me that he was not in the least amused. I had to make amends by indirectly informing the patrons that the gentleman was in our midst, and that I had erred by omitting to mention him in my earlier salutations.
Malawian speakers at rallies or similar functions, political or otherwise, have to go through a lengthy and elaborate list of names of ‘dignitaries’ before they begin to say anything substantive. Even if you have many speakers, each one is expected to go through the same list. It is not unusual for the salutations to occupy up to 50 percent of speech time.
In Malawi the desire to be recognised often gets blown out of proportion. Many times I have heard people introduce themselves by saying, “I am Honourable so and so” or “My name is Dr. so and so”. The truth of the matter is that if you are an honorable person, your conduct more than your words will show it. People will know, without being told, that they are in the vicinity of an honourable person. The way we carry ourselves around shows what kind of people we are. It amounts to a social discord to tell people that you are an honourable person and yet conduct yourself in a most dishonourable manner.
In the book of Acts of Apostles, we read about a group of people that had accepted the new teaching about Jesus and began to meet regularly for fellowship and “breaking of bread”. After some time, as Luke, the writer of Acts of Apostles reports, these people, for the first time in history, got to be called Christians. They did not call themselves Christians, other people did.
The people that surrounded them must have noticed that there was something different about these people. They must have noticed how they shared love among themselves and with others; they must have noticed that, unlike everywhere else in the city, there were no fights among them or indeed that they never repaid evil for evil but responded to evil acts perpetrated against them with good acts. Then the people of Antioch must have remembered having heard about a man called Christ who had spent three years criss-crossing Palestine to teach these values, so they identified these people with Christ and called them Christians.
It is not necessary to give yourself accolades when you introduce yourself. Your values, your abilities will not go unnoticed over time. Before you realise it, people will start calling you “Honourable so and so”. The way you talk and conduct yourself will leave no doubt in the mind of the people that surround you that you are an honourable person. Stop blowing your trumpet, my honourable friend, and let others blow it for you.
Some of you, dear readers, will have received a Whatsapp message about a lady who came across a traffic accident that had just occurred and she immediately got down to helping the victim. From nowhere another lady stormed in and pushed aside the lady who had arrived earlier, saying, “I am a nurse and have been professionally trained in ways of conducting first aid. Let me help the victim.” The former humbly stepped aside and said, “Well, if you need a doctor, I am standing right behind you.”
If this nurse had not blown her trumpet so loudly, she probably might not have been as embarrassed as she was.
Let each one of us search within their attitudes and prune those that unduly attract attention to self. Some traits of behaviour do not help at all. Blowing one’s own trumpet is one of them. n