An increasing number of individuals and organisations are voicing out their very serious concerns about the very dangerous path of tyranny, repression, intolerance and dictatorship Edgar Lungu is taking Zambia on. The mother bodies of Zambia’s Christian churches last Friday spoke clearly, directly and resolutely about the country becoming or having become a dictatorship under Edgar.
Early last week, the Oasis Forum raised similar concerns about how Zambia was slipping into a dictatorship under Edgar.
Zambians from all walks of life are every day expressing their worries about Edgar’s authoritarian and tyrannical governance.
Concerns about Zambia becoming a dictatorship have been expressed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the United States, the United Kingdom and across the European Union.
The writing is on the wall and one doesn’t need to have an English major to be able to read it. Imminent danger has become apparent. ‘The writing is on the wall’ is also sometimes expressed as ‘mene mene’. What does ‘mene mene’ mean? This is a shortening of ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’, which is of Aramaic origin. It is found in Daniel 5, in the story of Belshazzar’s feast. To cut a long Old Testament story short, Belshazzar was indulging in a drunken revelry and debasing sacred temple vessels by using them as wine goblets when a disembodied hand wrote ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’ on the palace wall. On the face of it, and using a literal translation, this appeared meaningless. The expression seemed to mean ‘two minas, a shekel and two parts’ or alternatively ‘numbered, weighed, divided’.
None of this meant much to Belshazzar, who decided that he needed further interpretation and sent for the Jewish exile Daniel. It then became clear that the phrase was an elaborate wordplay, relying on the fact that each word can denote a different coin, and the third word can be interpreted as ‘Persia’. Daniel’s interpretation, as recorded in the first easily understood English version of the Bible, the King James Version, 1611, was: and this the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
The point of the moral tale was that Belshazzar couldn’t see the warning that was apparent to others because he was engrossed in his sinning ways. The subtlety of the biblical wordplay is now somewhat lost on those of us who don’t speak ancient Aramaic. Perhaps a flavour of the style can be conveyed by comparing it to the lyrics of the popular World War II novelty song Mairzy Doats:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy diveya
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?
Literally, that’s meaningless but a wartime Daniel could have translated it into its actual meaning:
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy,
A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?
‘Writing on the wall’ began to be used figuratively, that is providing warnings where no actual writing or walls are involved, from the early 18th century; for example, Jonathan Swift’s Miscellaneous works, 1720:
A baited Banker thus desponds,
From his own Hand foresees his Fall;
They have his Soul who have his Bonds; ‘Tis like the Writing on the Wall.
The voices of cold reason are talking, but as usual, to deaf ears. If the listener is not ready for the truth, it will fall upon deaf ears. But as Truth Devour said, “When you speak and your words fall on deaf ears, know that the universe listens.”
But pride deafens us to the advice or warnings of those around us.
‘The writing is on the wall’ is also a warning. “It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners,” said Mahatma Gandhi.
But it is senseless to close your mind and say, ‘I don’t want to listen to this or that.’ If you can’t appreciate the bad for being bad, you can’t appreciate the good. If you turn a deaf ear to everything but one style, pretty soon it’s not going to work out.
Edgar and his minions are so busy every day trying to justify what can’t be justified legally, morally or politically.
It is said that moral justification is a powerful disengagement mechanism. There’s always an attempt to make destructive conduct personally and socially acceptable by portraying it in the service of moral ends. This is why most appeals against tyranny, repression and dictatorship usually fall on deaf ears.
But he who engages in injustices, unfairness and inhumanity will himself inevitably see the writing on the wall, though the world may not count him guilty. People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Again, the writing is on the wall that, as Harry Truman said, “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
The publicly declared policy of Edgar is to “crush like a tonne of bricks” everything and anything that tries to stand in his way.
It’s also really important that those in leadership keep close eyes and ears on what the public is saying, because problems are often caused by those in government not listening to anyone else other than their own inner demons.
Dissent, criticism and opposition are indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opponents, critics or dissenters than from his fervent supporters. For his supporters will push him to disaster unless his critics, opponents or dissenters show him where the dangers are. So if he is wise, he will often pray to be delivered from his supporters, praise-singers, because they will ruin him. But though it hurts, he ought also to pray never to be left without critics, opponents or dissenters; for they keep him on the path of reason and good sense – they save him from getting into excesses that turn him into a tyrant, dictator.
Power without limitation, restraint and modesty has been the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages. There is a law of opposition apparent in all life which guarantees balance and fullness.
Edgar shouldn’t cheat himself that police and other law enforcement agencies can protect him and his hold on power for a long time against the wishes and resistance of the people. Power in defense of justice, fairness and humaneness is greater than power on behalf of tyranny, repression and dictatorship, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.
The tide of public opinion is quickly shifting against Edgar and his tyrannical rule. The propaganda they had been peddling through the state owned and government controlled news media outlets and Richard Sakala’s Daily Nation will soon have very few takers. People are quickly realising that tyranny and dictatorship never takes a back step only in the face of more popular resistance and opposition; power doesn’t back out in the face of a smile. And that it’s not the nature of tyranny and dictatorship to back out in the face of anything but some more popular resistance and opposition.
If Edgar continues on this tyrannical path, there will ultimately be a clash between his dictatorship and those opposed to it; there will be a clash between those who want justice, fairness and humaneness for everyone and those who want to continue to profit or benefit from tyranny and dictatorship. The fear Edgar has instilled in the population will soon disappear. It will soon be time for martyrs. That’s the only thing that can save this country. When a person places the proper value on justice, fairness and humaneness, there is nothing under the sun, moon and stars that he will not do to acquire that justice, fairness and humaneness. A person who believes in justice, fairness and humaneness will do anything under the sun, moon and stars to acquire or preserve justice, fairness and humaneness.
The writing is on the wall!