In the poem “Arms and the Boy” (1918), Wilfred Owen is contemptuous of the use of children for political or military expediency.
An innocent boy whose “teeth seem for laughing round an apple” is trained to become “keen with hunger for blood; /blue with all malice and thinly drawn with famishing for flesh”.
As a consequence of the situation he finds himself immersed in, the adolescent soldier, rebel or protester, is robbed of his innocence.
Instead of being taught to value life by those who purport to be the custodians of his rights, he is tutored to destroy it, because to him all that resembles life is reduced to a madman’s caper-trivialised.
In the not so distant past, the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC-Alliance publicly claimed responsibility for protests the opposition outfit thought would play into the agenda of subverting a constitutionally elected Government with the support of their Western handlers.
It boggles the mind how those children seen running about in January 2019, as if possessed by demons to inflict pain on others, would really become?
Children are an investment for the future, but sadly they have lost both filial and sibling love.
Are citizens not complicit in the creation of monsters out of saints?
Probably reference to the history of the Christmas Truce may be apt here.
Inspired by the love that comes with Christmas, soldiers who were engaged in combat just a few hours previously found themselves singing carols to each other across the lines as Christmas Eve approached.
As lights of dawn broke to mark Christmas Day, so also was enmity shattered to express that, after all, it is possible for humanity to override adversity and share goodwill messages.
So did the German soldiers drop their weapons, emerge from their trenches, advance towards the Allied lines across no-man’s-land on December 25, 1914 (five months into World War 1), and merrily called out in their enemies’ mother tongues: “Merry Christmas”.
Seeing that their “comrades in arms” were unarmed, the Allied soldiers realised that it was no trick, and climbed out of their dugouts to shake hands with their enemies.
Exchanging presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, the soldiers broke into song. They even played a game of soccer. Thus, Christmas and its embodiment of love brought enemies together as friends, and gave history the Christmas Truce.
Such is the nature of love; such also is the power of compromise, tolerance and unity, for no matter how much people may differ in their expression of divergent views, there is always that indispensable humanity alive in all.
It is that essential cog the wheel of nationhood hinges on, and it is this overriding nature of love that children should be taught.
And that also is what the Constitution of Zimbabwe enshrines in the quest to defend nationhood. It is a culture carried on since Independence in 1980.
It is the same culture that Zimbabweans celebrated on October 2 as they joined global citizens in commemorating the International Day of Non-violence, which coincides with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
Gandhi led the Indian independence movement and pioneered the philosophy of non-violence.
The International Day of non-violence was born out of a General Assembly resolution on June 15, 2007. The Day celebrates the dissemination of the non-violence message through education and public awareness among other strategies.
It is the General Assembly’s reaffirmed resolution that the culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence remain relevant in bringing global nations together as well as bridging the gap that polarises individual countries. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man,” for “non-violence is a weapon of the strong.” It may be trite that every citizen must enjoy the right to live the life he desires, both for himself and his children. However, individual rights should not be seen to be impinging on the rights of others. The world would be a better place if every citizen exercised his right to differ, not by disparaging those expressing divergent views, or through violence, but by contributing to the common good that starts at the family level.
Whatever is wished for by individuals in their capacities as parents, siblings, community leaders, policymakers, clerics and professionals in their different careers, begins and ends with them as citizens.
When individuals call for demonstrations, which in all essence cannot be free of violence, they should be guided by the collective import of their actions.
Demonstrations are not new, neither could they be a thing of the past.
In so-called democracies, interested parties will always call for them with good intentions or otherwise, but they are never known to produce any tangibles. In most cases they leave trails of destruction, animosity, despondency, frustration and regret.
The history of opposition in Zimbabwe cannot be read in the absence of demonstrations, for protest as an expression of unfulfilled promises, impatience and outright anger at desires gone awry, is well articulated in our culture.
Women were known to non-violently express their anger, aspirations and lack of satisfaction in one way or the other through protest music, poetry and in extreme cases by baring their backsides. Society always accepted different ways of expressing discontent, provided that such expression of disgruntlement was well-intentioned and did not encroach on the rights of others.
There were times, however, that protest could only aggravate situations, instead of mitigating them, especially when it involved baring of nether regions in the presence of consanguineous relations and/or in-laws.
In such instances, the moral law of decency would then apply; the reason why such expressions of discontent are no longer in vogue. There is always a need to draw the line in the sand as a marker of expectable limits; and there has always been that need no matter how aggrieved one is.
The belief that demonstrations are the solution to our challenges as a nation is rather misplaced.
Calling for demonstrations, whether sanctioned or unsanctioned, is destructive. Protests by their nature serve no purpose, especially when the reasons for them are not clearly articulated through a shared vision that facilitates nationhood. Yes, it may be constitutional to express displeasure by exposing one’s nakedness for all and sundry to gloat over, but at the end of the day it remains one’s nudity in the rheumy eyes of a world too blind to even take notice.
If shame does not mean anything to a people, then the word should be given new meaning, for there is no better way of picking up the pieces of a semblance of humanity than self-expression of ignominy. Those with citizens at heart, should dismount their high horses in supposition and desist from behaving like teaser Chihuahuas, knowing that their handlers will join the party.
Is it not curious that these so-called peaceful demonstrations somehow link to a long and ugly hand anchored in foreign capitals bent on creating pandemonium? It is not unknown that anarchy is a bread bin for some dwarfs in gargantuan political garbs. They thrive on hardships, their fellow countrymen’s hardships, therefore, they can stop at nothing in propagating misery for their selfish gain.
Zimbabweans, therefore, should guard against gullibly imbibing toxic vomit spewing from social media goblets, and refuse to be used to line others’ pockets by playing into the hands of gangsters masquerading as politicians and human rights defenders.
It is in the nature of such pretenders to cry wolf from vintage points on the highest of hills and secure caves.
Having travelled the railroad before, and wiser to the existence of highwaymen that lay in wait to deny them passage to the gravy bowl, peace-loving and hardworking Zimbabweans should know better than joining circus trains headed nowhere.
Demonstrations, in whatever disguise, are counter-productive, and puke in the face of the same rights they ostensibly represent.
As Gandhi, the proponent of non-violent engagement aptly pointed out: “We may never be strong enough to be entirely non-violent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep non-violence as our goal and make strong progress towards it,” as we join hands in defence of nationhood.