Last week, I had an exciting post into my WhatsApp inbox. It was Henry Kachaje’s writings on the foolhardiness of laziness under the guise of faith. I am sure most Malawians are technologically enabled have read it.
It illuminates on the fact that lazy and people of zero initiative and determination are a fatalistic lot. The pinnacle of fatalism, which is akin to laziness when it is made to become the default mode of behaviour of a people, is an excessive obsession with superstition.
Poverty is one of the underlying symptoms that show signs of a people that are endemically and naturally superstitious. One could make a literal equation that says that “behind every great expanse of poverty there is a culture of superstition”. I hasten to say that being not a scholar of anthropology maybe that is a field that is fertile for a thesis in economic anthropology.
Suffice to point out that in most of my growing up, I came across a lot of dosage of superstition. When I look back, I can now clearly relate to the state of poverty that is ubiquitous among us Malawians in every inch of space, nook and cranny of villages and place superstition at the centre of that poverty. Even within town life, one finds the illness and insanity of superstition not only alive and kicking, but vigorously and openly embraced; not only by the illiterate, but even by some of the most “educated” and “learned” yet daft folks who up to now believe in the stupidity of witchcraft.
Truth be told, the commonplace belief of witchcraft and umfiti is one of the reasons why Malawi will forever be poor and its impacts are pervasive. Folks refuse to go and get proper medicine in proper hospitals for an ailment like cancer; for example, weeks ago one of my workers claimed that his nephew had to be taken to a sing’anga instead of a hospital because witch crafters made him step on a “missile”. I protested, but then eventually conceded on the realisation that convincing this folk otherwise is harder than moving Mulanje Mountain to Lilongwe City so that it is close to Kamuzu International Airport; impossible today; But maybe in 100 years’ time Google technology could do it.
Even the state of poverty in our villages and towns; in any case our towns are simply over-rated villages as someone said you can take Wilkins away from Malembo (author’s home) but you cannot take Malembo away from Wilkins. It is that hard and it will take a lot of hard work to cleanse most of us Malawians of the village “sleep”, having grown up with goats, chickens and pigs in the same huts.
Getting back to how our archaic beliefs have fueled poverty; in the villages anyone who was entrepreneurial, hardworking and had a bumper harvest was branded “ali ndi fumba kapena chambu” meaning he uses witchcraft charms for his bumper harvest. Owning a maize mill was a social crime because the jealousy folks would claim that anyone who died in the village was put in the maize mill and then the gullible others in the village, who were content in the sea of poverty would chorus in belief with such stupid claims.
Owning a car in the village was criminal because lazy jealousy bones would claim the car used peoples’ blood when they could see gas stations all over. In the end a spirit of innovation, initiative, industry and enterprise was abhorred and laziness and fatalism promoted instead as the collective poisoned conscience of the masses. That is how we got here. A nation in perpetual poverty that has become so accustomed to being poor that anybody trying to plug it out of poverty will be violently ejected as a leper, a foreign body or an eye sore.
The culture of superstition of yesterday had its escapism in the obsessive belief that the witch doctor had answers to every and all problems. Folks, therefore, had witch doctors for diseases, for job security, career success, business growth/success. As for most women, they ignorantly poisoned their husbands to death with a multitude of love portions of every guise and descriptions given to them mostly by women herbalists whose marriages had ironically collapsed and whose daughters were “attendants” in Chibuku taverns. What cheek?
Today, 2016, the sing’angas have all been replaced with a poisonous obsession by most folks, especially women who seem most desperate and naturally gullible than men, to hop from one fake prophet to another in search of the magic breakthrough. Sad fact is most end up with tragic stories and even deaths in some cases when some even stop taking life supporting drugs.
There is no substitute for hard work and foolishness kills. n