I was on the relatively magnificent (by Malawi standards) double lane Chipembere Highway, driving towards Blantyre when a vehicle cut in from the road from Chemicals and Marketing, in the Kristwick area. I was forced to suddenly reduce speed to avoid a collision. Many others travelling in the same direction as me had to almost screech to a halt in order to give way to the intruder.
The pass that this intruder used is supposed to be used only by those driving towards Blantyre to join the road to Chemicals and Marketing or the inner road running parallel to the highway or indeed to go back to the Ginnery Corner area and beyond. This was wrong and dangerous driving. What must have been on this driver’s mind was something like, “If I can get away with it, I will go ahead because it is more convenient for me to take a short-cut than to go all the way to the roundabout at Universal Industries and come right back.”
It was all about “me, myself and I”. He did not mind inconveniencing other people with his action. So long as it was well with him, everything and everybody else did not matter nearly as much. This is the same attitude that is persistent among our minibus drivers. What matters most to them is their own convenience, not anybody else’s.
Perhaps, it is a mirror of our society. We have become a self-centred nation. The spirit of ubuntu, which once existed among us, has evaporated. The philosophy that used to guide us was, “I am because we are”. It is now “I am because I am – and that is all that matters”.
It is this strange paradigm shift, dear readers, that has bred Cashgate and all the other ‘gates’ of this world. The reasoning goes like, “If I dip my hands into these funds without getting caught, I will enrich myself and my family or my clan will partake in the spoils”. Me, me, me all the way. That the society at large will suffer because they will not be able to access drugs or food or other necessities as a result of money meant to purchase things having been diverted to an individual’s pocket is inconsequential.
One of the wisest instructions ever given by a human being was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In other words, if you really like it that somebody should disturb your driving by taking routes that they should not take, you are justified to do likewise. Or indeed if you would love to have money intended for projects to benefit you taken by an individual, you may do as much, and without any remorse.
The man who issued the above instruction just over two thousand years ago had many followers. He has many more today. One of His early followers wrote a number of letters to various groups to encourage them. To reverberate his Master’s instruction, this is what he said in one of his letters, “Consider others better than yourself.” These instructions run counter to man’s natural propensity to be self-centred. These men urged their followers to be others-centred.
And others-centred is what Malawians ought to learn to be if there is going to be any semblance of sanity in this country. We are roller coasting down a very dangerous route, and the earlier we came back to our senses and began to consider others in our actions, the better it would be for us. The prevalent dog- eat-dog attitude will get us nowhere very quickly.
It has been argued that Malawians are driven by poverty to actions that do not place others first. Put another way, that poverty causes people to steal. I do not accept this cause-and-effect pronouncement. The other way round is truer, namely that Malawians wallow in poverty because there is so much self-centredness in the Malawi society.
I once told a class at The Polytechnic that in the UK motorists go to a filling station, serve themselves, collect a payment slip then go to pay. My class did not think that was possible without the use of heavy surveillance equipment or well armed humans stationed at every filling station. Dear readers, I would urge you to search within your conscious and convince yourselves or otherwise that you would faithfully pay your debt to the filling station even without being forced to do so. n