Has our government turned into a bunch of satanists?

March 25, 2015

What is the problem? What has got us so worried that we wish to create a law that restricts the registration of new churches? What could be wrong with the preaching of the gospel? What is wrong with the ceaseless much of the gospel of Jesus Christ? As a country, we have never really had problems with churches previously. So why now? Our education and health developments have benefitted tremendously from church establishing themselves amongst our people. Churches opened schools and hospitals and reached our communities with mental light of both spiritual and physical health. The churches have always shown mercy to the brokenhearted, the poor and the despised. Our dikgosi, from Khama, the great, to Bathoen I, all embraced the life changing message of the cross. At the bottom of the Bangwaketse crocodile are those words of total surrender: Let their will be done. Ours is a nation established on God. Actually our very national anthem perceives this nation in its totality as a gift from God, an inheritance from our forefathers: Fatshe leno la rona ke mpho ya Modimo; ke boswa jwa borraetsho. God has for many years been at the centre of our society that almost every formal government activity begins with prayer. Prayer to God has been at the centre of our school life and family life. Individually we have grown in families that pray & some of us have lived lives where prayer was at the centre of our families and communities. So what really is the problem? Has our government turned into a bunch of satanists who want to make it difficult to worship at the feet of Jesus in this land which is a gift from God? Is the problem really the mushrooming of churches around us? I am inclined to think not. If a church is such an excellent institution which has attended to the soul, spirit and physical life of the society, why would anybody wish to make it difficult for a church to open its doors in Botswana? Why? We have had the mushrooming of bars across the country and we have never really been so animated to create laws that restrict the acquisition of a license to open alcohol joints. We have been a fairly liberal societies which has accorded space to all faiths, including those that we despise.

But we must also be sincere. The problem is really not the mushrooming of churches. The problem is the mushrooming of what appears to be churches led by con-men and women who come through the church, either aiming to acquire Botswana citizenship using the church as a cover or coming through the church to swindle unsuspecting citizens who are sometimes sick and impoverished. Heelang banna, batho ba re direla bosigo ka kobo! The stories are many. Con-men with pointed shoes and shiny three-piece suits distorting Christian doctrine and manipulating God’s people to give that which they cannot afford have come amongst us like a legion of demons. Most of these men don’t build churches and schools. They don’t provide education and health facilities. They are passers-by. They rent halls or meet in tents in residential areas. Their churches cause unbearable noise pollution to neighbourhoods at awkward hours of the night. Families under pressure from economic downfall of the past few years have been moved by the eloquence and charisma of these men to sell their houses and cars to support these men who mainly preach wealth for themselves: The man of God cannot be poor they say. It is the responsibility of the flock to take care of the shepherd! They have their theology on its head. Money is therefore poured into these churches…really into the bank accounts of these swindlers with a sweet tongue. They convince families to sell their cars and houses or give them to the church as a sign of commitment to God. They are sowed as a seed, they say. The teaching is that the more you give, the more you will receive. It has a semblance of truth. Giving to God then becomes increasingly like motshelo. Those who believe in this kind of doctrine sadly neglect their families and plunge the entire family into unimaginable debt and poverty. Family lives are strained, while the pastor becomes richer and flashier and more arrogant and flamboyant. Those who try to question this twisted scenario in the church there is a swift and decisive response: Touch ye not my anointed: and do no evil to my prophets. Put differently: the man of God, the moruti, the prophet, is beyond reproach and question. So unlike churches of the past which were changing communities through preaching, teaching, feeding the hungry, building hospitals and schools, taking care of widows, the modern offending churches take care of the leader. They feed him and clothe him. They put him on a pedestal. The leader takes on the father figure. He is called daddy, papa, or father regardless of how old he is. Members of the church become children, his children, the de facto sons and daughters, not just of God but of the church leader himself. The churches promise healing; they promise miracles, quick wealth; A child of God isn’t supposed to be poor. How can he be when the Father owns the entire world with its gold and silver? If you are poor it is your fault; it is a sign of lack of faith. Just tap on Jesus! Give more! If you give more and you don’t receive more, it is still your fault. You lack faith. Have faith in God and you will see his wonders! Guilt kicks in, inadequacy seeps in.

This is the kind of exploitation and manipulation that has worried many in government. They wonder: How can we fold our arms and watch when our people are exploited in this way? I understand government’s frustration and yet I disagree with the government’s proposed law. Increasing the number of members required for a church to register fails to address the real problem: how to deal with churches/ministries which swindle their followers. The problem does not arise from ease of registration. Most of these churches which swindle their followers pull fairly large crowds within a short time, while many of the good churches don’t. This means that many good small local churches will increasingly find it impossible to get established. The second problem is that the law is unfairly targeting churches, something which is grossly unconstitutional. What about other establishments, and characters such as healers and medicine men who swindle many of our people? What are we doing with them? Sadly in a democracy we must accept that we have to allow space for the existence  of religious persuasions with which we disagree to coexist with those that we approve of. We cannot be like those dikgosi of old who used to chase out of their villages people and churches they disagreed with strongly. The state cannot legislate what theology is right for its citizens. So the question: Has our government turned into a bunch of satanists? must be answered with a resounding NO. My opinion is that the government is just ill-advised.


What is wrong with killing and eating your neighbour? The pitfalls of subjective morality

March 24, 2015

Our society marches forth under a plethora of cultural influences from elsewhere. Some of the influences come from our powerful neighbour South Africa, while others in the past, flowed from the north, from Zimbabwe. With the advent of the internet and television, our influences now come from all directions. They come from the west and the east; they come from the south and the north. They come unfiltered and unregulated. Many of the influences are good for us; many are bad. They enrich our worldview and aid us in the resolution of challenges that face our society everyday. Others challenge our preconceived worldview and lead us along a previously unimaginable path. They force us to reconsider, to relook at and re-question our previously-held views. One of the influences which has begun to gain some currency in our cities and towns is subjective morality, also known as moral relativity. It is a matter of philosophical discussion and one cannot do it much justice in the space of a matter of a column. However simply put, one’s point of view or beliefs have no absolute truth or validity. They are only subjective or relative, reflecting an individual’s perception and life’s consideration. For instance, having sex before marriage is considered morally wrong to someone who holds a certain moral view. Such a view may be influenced by a specific culture or a religion. Subjective relativity argues that this view on sex before is not absolute truth – it is just somebody’s opinion. One may find some society somewhere where sex before marriage is perfectly acceptable.

Subjective morality therefore argues that something that is wrong to you may be right to somebody else. Most importantly you should not attempt to force your subjective morality on other people.  Let your beliefs be yours, be subjective, be private. Don’t try and force them on others. This philosophical worldview appears attractive until you realize that subjective morality is contradictory and unworkable. The police, the courts and the military work largely with absolutes. Those absolutes may be clearly spelt out in a constitution or specific statutes. Such documents define moral parameters under the influence of a certain worldview. Therefore we know that killing and eating a neighbor is wrong because it violates certain absolutes such as the sacredness of human life and the sanctity of the human body. We cannot leave such matters to moral relativity. It would be most perverse to have someone say: “Keep your morality to yourself, killing and eating a neighbor may be wrong to you but it is morally acceptable to me, so I am entitled to kill and eat my neighbor.” There is clear danger in moral subjectivity. If morality were purely subjective, then absolutely nothing would stop anybody from being a morally subjective moralist and shoot a neighbor in the forehead and cook him in garlic source. Indeed the 20th century was the bloodiest as many bought into moral relativity. We killed more people in the 20th century than the 19 put together. We lock the doors in the night, set the house alarms on because we are afraid of a moral relativist who though knowing what hurt his criminality may bring to his victims, still proceeds with evil acts he perceives them as profitable to himself.

As Ravi Zacharias puts it, every worldview must address four essential life issues: origin, meaning, morality and destiny. And those who subscribe to philosophical absolutes hinge those absolutes on a specific worldview. Absolutes don’t hang in mid air. They have to be grounded on a certain worldview. Every absolute is based on a worldview.  Some, like the philosopher, Kant, see human reason as the source for moral parameters while Christians would take Christ and his teachings as a source of moral code and moral parameters.  

As a society we need to accept some absolutes. We need something that will help us guide our children along the right path. We cannot raise our children, run a government, lead successful families on “it depends” regardless of how sophisticated such a statement may appear. Clean politics are done with accepting certain absolutes as foundation. The electorates deserve truth and sincerity and cannot be engaged on continuous relativity. When dealing with matters of poverty and poverty reduction, we must accept certain absolutes about poverty and how destructive it is to families and the society. However, if we reduce such matters to relativity, it affords us room to avoid dealing justly with humanity. In grappling with the questions of prostitution, pedophilia and sex slavery we must deal with the sanctity of human life and that of the human body. Can such matters be left to subjective morality? Our courts and the police system cannot be run on the basis of subjective morality. It would lead to chaos, confusion and a total collapse of the society as we know it. It is unthinkable for one to face a judge and confidently declare: “Well judge, my actions may appear bad to you, but they appear perfectly fine with me!” With subjective morality we will fail to deal with social ills sufficiently. We are left powerless. In a society where everything is relative, where morality is dismissed as an individual matter, the society will consistently remain helpless and unable to address the moral depravity that confronts it. We will consistently end at the unhelpful end of the rope: it is an individual choice. Certainly killing and eating a neighbor cannot be dismissed as a matter of personal choice.


The meaning of “kagiso”

March 14, 2015

The Setswana word “kagiso” means “peace” in English. It is formed from the root:

aga

which means to build, to construct or to put together.

The suffix “-isa” is then attached to the verb “aga” to form “agisa”.

aga + -isa = agisa

“Agisa” means “help someone build”.

We then add the noun maker suffix [-o] to “agisa” to derive a noun.

agisa + -o = *agiso

(We use the asterisk * to show that a word is not acceptable.) Unfortunately [*agiso] is not acceptable. This is because in Setswana when you form a noun from a verb that starts with a vowel you always insert a [k] at the beginning. For instance:

aba + -o = *abo > k + abo = kabo
aga + -o = *ago > k + ago = kago
ara + -o = *aro > k + aro = karo

To return to our unacceptable verb “*agiso”, the argument is that it follows the same pattern as the above verbs. “Agiso” therefore takes a [k] at the beginning to form “kagiso”. The whole process appears as follows:

Aga + isa = agisa + -o = agiso > [k] + agiso = kagiso

That is the technical morphological formation of “kagiso”.

Semantically it is clear that the Tswana believe that peace is something that is built with the help of others. In the language it is called “go letlanya” (from the verb “letla” meaning to allow/permit) to bring peace between two or more people. No one builds peace by themselves. Peace in the Tswana philosophical thinking is negotiated. It is a matter of give and take: trasliterationally “I allow/permit you” and “you allow/permit me”: Re a letlana. Peace is also seen as a progressive matter; and not a once of thing. Peace like a building is built. It takes time. Like a building sadly is can be destroyed and razed to the group.


Are we genuinely stupid?

March 13, 2015

The word stupid flatters nobody. However sometimes it is fair to pause, introspect and ask ourselves a most uncomfortable question: “Are we genuinely stupid?” A naked woman stands before a mirror. The tall mirror leans against the wall from the floor right up to the ceiling. She presses her naked behind with both hands and asks herself that dreaded question: “Am I fat?” She turns this way and that way. She squeezes her tummy. Utter discomfort: semblances of the kangaroo pouch torture the mind. She tucks it in and repeats the dreaded question: “Am I fat?” She looks this way and turns that way. She is better off though. She can face herself. Can we? That is what we should do. In utmost frankness, in our privacy without anybody looking, we should dare strip our nation of its clothes, its pressed and bleached clothes. We should for a while, suspend our accolades; strip ourselves of our medals and a string of letters that follow our names. Let for once forget about international rankings and statistics and present ourselves before our mirror and look at our behinds and pose that dreaded question that tortures the human soul. Let us look at our tummy and ask that arresting question: Are we genuinely stupid? Perhaps I have at the back of my mind the dismal examination performance of our education system at both JC and BGCSE. The results constituted national shocks, temporary tremors that didn’t last more than a week. For years now our national pass rate has been consistently less than 40%. My alma mater, Seepapitso Senior only managed to score a pass rate of just over 18%. Over 80% young people’s lives have in three years been flushed down the drain. There must be a riot, but there is a whimper.  Perhaps T.S. Elliot was right: “This is the way the world ends; This is the way the world ends; This is the way the world ends; Not with a bang but a whimper.” Perhaps we are the hollow men; We are the stuffed men; Leaning together; Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when we whisper together; Are quiet and meaningless; As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass; In our dry cellar; Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion.” For years we have been sending our students to great tertiary institutions locally and around the world. Now they have returned to roam our streets, like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible men. They wait endlessly Waiting for Godot. What happened? Why did we educate? Did we train meaningfully or ours was unemployment deferred? Why is it that there are numerous jobs in the hands of those from elsewhere because locals are ill trained for job opportunities in areas such as sheet metal mechanics, metal fabrication and mining engineering?

What about food production? Why are we not producing our own sweets, chocolate, biscuits, chips, milk, cereal, sauces and spices? Why is much of our agriculture about five things only: maize, sorghum, beans and the sweet reed our people call nchwe which have over the past 30 years failed to sustain our people? Why are we not mass designing and producing our own dresses, shirts, trousers, socks and sheets? Why are we importing so much? What was the purpose of our education if it hasn’t secured for us benefits of employment, food production and manufacturing? Or perhaps we deceive ourselves when we are in fact Elliot’s “stuffed men; Leaning together”.

Our politics haven’t improved too. They are still about personalities and not about issues. The clown that makes people laugh flourishes more than the reasonable man. Personalities matter more than substance.

Our religion hasn’t shifted in the right direction either. Our belief in stickers, water, and anointing oils has increased. Preachers of our time have changed and fulfilled prophetic sayings of the book that: “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Our people want to hear from the pulpit materialistic news of a new car, a new house, a new job or a promotion. Perhaps it is throbbing pains of poverty. What our people don’t want is God. What they want is a traditional doctor, a juju man, a miracle man or a magician of some sort. Arthur Guiterman wrote that famous poem in the book Gaily The Troubadour, published in 1936. Though written over 60 years ago, its message depicts our sorry state of affairs:

First dentistry was painless;
Then bicycles were chainless
And carriages were horseless
And many laws, enforceless.
Next, cookery was fireless,
Telegraphy was wireless,
Soon oranges were seedless,
The putting green was weedless,
The college boy hatless,
The proper diet, fatless,
Now motor roads are dustless,
The latest steel is rustless,
Our tennis courts are sodless,
Our new religions, godless.

“Perhaps we are the hollow men; We are the stuffed men; Leaning together; Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when we whisper together; Are quiet and meaningless; As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass; In our dry cellar;” Perhaps we are merely a “Paralysed force, gesture without motion”


The Hollow Men (TS Elliot)

March 10, 2015

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer-

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Author Notes

1. Mistah Kurtz: a character in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
2. A…Old Guy: a cry of English children on the streets on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, when they carry straw effigies of Guy Fawkes and beg for money for fireworks to celebrate the day. Fawkes was a traitor who attempted with conspirators to blow up both houses of Parliament in 1605; the “gunpowder plot” failed.
3. Those…Kingdom: Those who have represented something positive and direct are blessed in Paradise. The reference is to Dante’s “Paradiso”.
4. Eyes: eyes of those in eternity who had faith and confidence and were a force that acted and were not paralyzed.
5. crossed stave: refers to scarecrows
6. tumid river: swollen river. The River Acheron in Hell in Dante’s “Inferno”. The damned must cross this river to get to the land of the dead.
7. Multifoliate rose: in dante’s “Divine Comedy” paradise is described as a rose of many leaves.
8. prickly pear: cactus
9. Between…act: a reference to “Julius Caesar” “Between the acting of a dreadful thing/And the first motion, all the interim is/Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.”
10. For…Kingdom: the beginning of the closing words of the Lord’s Prayer.

© by owner. Added by volunteers for educational purposes and provided at no charge.  (from: http://allpoetry.com/The-Hollow-Men)


THE EMPTY DAM

March 9, 2015

Let the writers write about the drying dam; how it has become a national scapegoat. Let them explore the imagery of containment, of interference with free flow (free flow of water, free flow of ideas, free flow of information, free flow of booze) that would keep undergraduates engaged for many sleepless nights. Let the plot show how the drying dam is being used as a springboard to argue for the relocation of a capital city and as a strategy, as a smokescreen, to avoid addressing the causes of the dam’s emptiness. Let the parallelism of the drying dam on one hand and the lack of ideas, on the other, come out clearly in the plot. Let the characters be convincing like Achebe’s Rufus Okeke shouting through the pages, asking rhetorically: “Why walk when you can ride?” or the muscular Okonkwo declaring to a man lacking titles: “This meeting is for men.”

Let the writers not forget the historical relevance of pula and the dam to Batswana; how pula has been responsible for fissions and amalgamations of merafe. Let them write about the pula and the Pula; the pula in the dam and the Pula in the dam. Let the story demonstrate how the dam brings in the land issue: the landless, the owners of the land and the complex power relations. Let the writer allow the story to evolve to show the dam and the tribes, how the dam is being used in tribal bickering to perpetuate traditional hegemonic relations. Let the poet too write about the dam. Let him explore it’s sound relations to “damn” and acknowledge the plosive at the beginning of the word and the terminal bilabial that concludes the word with sealed lips. Let the poet write about the dam and the damned. Whatever happens, let the writer write.

Dam5


Tales of fake incomplete education, the hugs, the selfie, the make-up, the pouting & the “Reallys?” and “Wows!”

March 6, 2015

Here is the paradox of our time: the English language especially spoken with an American accent and perhaps spoken even in a more difficult British accent has a way of making the local look educated and sophisticated. Between the flowing drinks on the 19th floor of iTowers the local with a fake incomplete education, the hugs, the selfie, the make-up, the pouting & the “Reallys?” and “Wows!” is walking a tight rope of modernization, self-hatred, self-acceptance, self-discovery and dare we say it; self-redefinition. The lady wears an extremely short dress or skirt, drinking wine, and perhaps add to the picture, a cigarette. She dreams of a place, a far away land from the goats, the dust and the donkey – an achievement of some sort she has only seen on some American channel or perhaps glanced at it on the pages of a glossy magazine. What she dreams of is flight – an escape from surroundings and sweltering reality. If she cannot take physical flight, she will take mental flight and journey to what can be. She wants to visit a romantic place, a place called good living or success. Another one changes the tone and wears an African print from West Africa. It communicates her Africanness to the expatriate and somehow this fabric for a while transforms her and makes her an authentically African being; something intriguing – the call of the drum, the rhythm of the feet, the wild scream of one undefiled in the jungle – something screaming to be discovered, taken over, conquered and transported across the pond.

So when the language question arises. When her language question arises, the local talks about Setswana in fascination, the face beaming with pride and crocodile tears about the loss of the language. The language like the crocodile, the lion and the rhino has become exotic – something to consider in fascination. The local declares with pride and vain regret that she has lost the language. She wishes she could speak it like the grandmother and the grandfather, you know. But you know, she grew in Gabs and she hasn’t had the fortune to know the proverb and the idiom. She loves and repeats the idea that Setswana is difficult – It’s hard – that’s what she says. Somehow she believes in her ignorance, in her alienation from herself. Flight from the self and from her culture; flight from her people, her music, and her idiom elevates her to the position of the foreigner – one who comes from there. She delights in this level of weakness – of not knowing. She embraces it. She relishes it. It defines her. She is herself without the self. She is the shell with someone else within and sometimes without. She is someone created in her mind and in the pages of a glossy American magazine. But this self-erasing; this self-mutilation; this self-castration comes from the idea that everything local is not good enough. So the local leader, the local poet and the artist, the local lawyer and engineer share one common feature – they are rubbish. They are lazy – sloths! Ingrates! She has lost all belief in all local institutions: the kgotla, the kgosi and the ngaka are all relics of the past. If the decision were hers, she would get rid of them; she would emasculate them and put in their place an American or European structure. It is not only the local institutions that reek of backwardness; it is the food and the music too. She despises them all. She prefers coffee, English breakfast, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese cuisine interspersed with American burgers. When she does come around to eat local food, she giggles; she eats them during cultural events that celebrate her unique cultural experience. For to her, culture is nothing that she lives and breathes. Culture is a lifestyle of the poor that she visits once perhaps twice a year. So, once, perhaps twice a year, she eats watermelon, nchwe, kabu, dikgobe or letlhodi. Hers is a life of one in self-induced exile, not just from her own locale, but exile from the self.  So she wanders the streets in wonder. She hears the language. She understands what people are saying but she cannot utter a single sentence without mixing it with an English expression. Her tongue as well takes flight every time she tries to speak. It betrays her. But her education has been incomplete. So her words fail her now and then. The ideas are there but the vocabulary is lacking. So she gets frustrated by herself and everybody around her. Nobody understands. Even she doesn’t understand. Hers is a Sisyphean world of futility – of pushing on a bolder that keeps rolling back to the foot of the hill.

She sits at home. Poverty keeps her company. Pictures of her graduation are on the wall. Her certificates have not guaranteed her a job. Her eyes are fixed on the nothingness of her room. She sucks on her cigarette and blows. Her world has become a room and her life has become a huge ball of inescapable nothingness. So that night she will return to the 19th floor of the iTowers in a Romantic escape to relive her life once again.


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