During the first 30 years of Malawiâ€™s independence, our leader, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, insisted that people should observe four corners of progress and stability. These were Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline. All these constituted duties. Hardly anything was said about rights.
With the advent of the multiparty dispensation, associations or non-governmental organisations arrived on the political landscape demanding from society and government a variety of rights. Among these were womenâ€™s rights, childrenâ€™s rights, girlsâ€™ rights, old peopleâ€™s rights, and rights of minorities, including men who want to marry their fellow men, and women who want to marry their fellow women. Indeed several more rights than I can recall as I write this piece.
Most of these rights are sponsored by foreign governments or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The sponsors hardly refer to the duties of citizens to their country or people to humanity in general.
Italy used to be a country of city states until the 19th century when a group of nationalists espoused the idea of Risorgimento (resurrection) for their fragmented country. One of these men was Giuseppe Mazzini who wrote in an essay to his fellow Italians: â€œYour first duties, first at least in importance, are as I have told you, to humanity. You are men before you are citizens or fathersâ€”you cannot obtain your rights except by obeying the command of duty. Be worthy of them. Love your country.â€
The last two sentences are particularly worth shouting into the ears of many Malawians who talk and act as if society owes them everything but they themselves do not owe anything to anybody. Many grumble about what has not been done for them but neither by word nor work do they display what they themselves have done for their country or community.
A country in which people are aware only of their rights, but not duties, progress of any sort cannot be made. What can you expect out of a village where everyone expects to be given food, but not work for it?
A good person is a good citizen and a good citizen says: â€œNot my rights at any price but my duties at any cost.â€
Duties can be rendered in a variety of ways, according to what one has. Are you lucky enough to have more money than you need? Do not spend it on self gratification. Rather donate it to groups and individuals who have more need of it. Let the Bill Gates and company be your role models.
Are you one of these who are never well-off enough to spare something for othersâ€™ needs. Take care of the way you spend the little you have, spend it in such a manner that you live within your means and you do not need the state to give you dolls or to educate your children. He or she who practices self-reliance is a dutiful citizen of the country.
Examine your natural gifts and try to do something great in life. Are you good at science subjects? Try if you can to innovate something. Have you a good command of languages? Make use of them to your advantage and the advantage of your country. Cherish education, continuous education. It is a duty. It is countries in which people apportion a good deal of their time to the pursuit of greatness and success that prosper.
Feel ashamed of being slothful and contented with mediocrity. Make use of what you have, be it natural or artificial for self-improvement. When you improve yourself, you contribute to national development. National success is but a sum total of individual successes.
Do not use your tongue to destroy those who have achieved success in worthy causes. Applaud those who by diligence and honest labour have accumulated wealth. Praise and shout from rooftops patriots and achievers in matters that benefit mankind in general and your country in particular.
Love your country. Where there is conflict try to bring harmony. If you cannot abolish tribalism, racialism or religious intolerance at least shun those who engage in these malpractices.
Do not overindulge yourself in case you make yourself unhealthy. Unhealthy people are incapable of contributing much to progress of nation or the community.
You have a duty to be nice to all people you meet, not by giving them material goods, unless you can manage to do so, but just promoting the unity of mankind.