What kind of a grandfather are you?

Yesterday evening one of my children had their first child. They sent me through whatsapp a picture of themself holding the new born baby in their arms, and the words: Tatoti mauya Mwoyo (we have already welcomed Mwoyondizvo). Mwoyondizvo is our praise word, being of the Rozvi clan, Dhewa Bvumavaranda; some go as far as saying ‘varidzi venyika’ (owners of the land) perhaps deriving from the historical Changamire Dombo fame. So, this little one is standing on the shoulders of giants.

This morning I shared the good news with my neighbours. When they asked me whether it was male or female, a boy or a girl, I told them that I did not ask that of my child in question, which was true; I did not ask the question. When I received the news, I convinced myself that it was neither here nor there whether it was a boy or a girl. I was just happy for myself, for them and for everyone in the circle. Because a child is a child, so my inner self said.

The neighbours went on to ask why I had not asked the question, I said to them ‘what does it matter whether it is a boy or a girl, does it diminish the fact of the baby and does it make me any less or more happy whether it is either or’. Of course there was no answer to that, for my happiness was mine, not theirs. Instead the response came in form of another question, a shocker at that, especially given the disgusted ‘perplexion’ on the face of the asker: What kind of a grandfather are you who does not ask if it’s a girl or a boy? Externally I laughed it off, putting up a brave face, while my mind scrambled for a response. It came up with something like ‘Well, this one!’ kind of pointing to myself, but there was no time for my mouth to form it. They were all laughing, and other scenes took over the stage.

Traditionally people value male children more than female ones. The rationale used to be that the male children would perpetuate the clan while female ones would only add value to other clans by marriage. This view was held most strongly by male members of the clan. Those men with many boy children would pride themselves for their ‘impressive’ achievements, while those without or with only a few would just lick their wounds.

I think my father was one of the victims of these wounds. On quite a few occasions when I was young he would remark, with a sigh after some rumination, and a facial expression exuding with wishful admiration: Nhingi uya une magomana mhani, xa! (That so-and-so has these big gangling boys!). Of course there is no way I can recreate those moments for you given my limited vocabulary. But the picture of his typical posture whenever he said this, his facial expression and the sound of his voice are all clear in my mind as I write this; it’s like he is right in front of me and saying those exact same words in the exact same way over and over again. And I a little boy, not privy to his inner world and limited of life experience, sat there busy picturing what his mind’s gangling big boys were like, often picturing one of the local boys I knew.

It’s not like he himself did not have boys. At least I was there. But in hindsight I think the issue had to do with comparison with his brothers or some colleagues, or with the age and proportion of his boy children to his girl children. For at the end of his fathering stint stretching over some thirty years, he had a balanced team of seven a side. Not a bad return, a passerby would say. Unfortunately the team was led by two girls, followed by two boys (my big brother and I), then three girls, some sputtering down the line before it was tailed by two boys, all in single file. Definitely not a good showing at a time when ‘gangling big boys’ were in ‘demand’.

Well, I don’t think they are in demand any more. Today’s society is a far cry from what it was when my father was on the trail. While biologically it is still possible that male children help to perpetuate the clan in a patriarchal society such as ours, I wonder if people still place a premium on that. I think people are now more concerned about their quality of life. On average, people now work with target numbers. If by the time the score is reached it’s a one-sided team, so be it. There now seems to be a high degree of acceptance for girl children if not a shift in preference. Female children are rising in value to the family more than male children, not because of the over-the-top lobola that some opportunistic if not out-of-sync parents charge their in-laws for ‘taking’ their beloved daughters on whose education they spent a fortune, but because of what they do for their parents.

Recently one of my other neighbours said girl children are more preferable these days because they take care of their parents better than boy children. They went on to explain how boy children go for good, sometimes waste themselves away and never look back to their parents. They rounded off their theory with ‘but the girl child never forgets, however wayward she might be’. And the other day I found myself co-walking with two strangers who seemed to corroborate that theory, going as far as to give percentages of probability to support the theory. If these sentiments are anything to go by, there seems to be a shift from focus on clan perpetuation to considerations of security in economic hardships, old age or infirmity. Thus the new trend seems to be that instead of worrying about what will happen to my name after I am gone, I would rather focus on what happens to me while I am still here. Whether or not this is statistically the case on the ground is a matter for social scientists.

I do not know if my neighbours had any preference on the sex of my grandchild, or if they thought I had any preference. But the question of the sex of the child is one that is often if not always asked upon receipt of such news. Because of that, they are forgiven for instinctively quizzing me about my credentials as a grandfather just for not asking the question that they and many other people take for granted. Unfortunately thanks to their otherwise good-natured selves I remain saddled with a tricky question whose slippery answer defies all my ‘unteething’ grandfather faculties to fathom.

Enhance Your Literary Authorship Credentials… Become A Published Essayist!

You might be a renowned academic, celebrated novelist, poet or playwright, or prominent journalist, but if you are not a published essayist… here is an opportunity for you to become one, and add to your otherwise impressive literary authorship credentials. Even if you are all or none of the above, this is for you too.

Word Craft Global is organising a seminar on the Zimbabwean Essay in English for Friday 6 October 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Essays can be on any subject – people, places, objects, fauna, flora, events, processes, issues and/or various combinations thereof. Authors will present their essays for discussion and critique in a panel discussion format. Essays so presented will be considered for publication in book form as a collection of essays.

To present your essay at the seminar, send in a brief summary by 1 July and the full essay by 1 September. The summary should be 50-100 words long and the essay 1500-2000 words long. Do not be left behind… Come with us on this exciting journey! And please do share with colleagues and friends.

For more information or assistance in this endeavour, please feel free to email us at acadtechzw@gmail.com or call/whatsapp us at +263 772 349 407.

Writing to the Top

At a higher level of cognitive functioning, strategies of thinking and strategies of writing are so enmeshed that each one is severely limited without the other. No wonder why society values those that do both best.

Experts in the field talk of writing to learn and writing to communicate as simultaneous processes. As I am writing this piece and struggling to express myself I am not only clarifying my existing knowledge and understanding of the subject but also extending them. In the end there will (hopefully) be something on paper and I will have more knowledge of it than when I started, something that would not have happened if I had not taken to paper on the subject.

Of the two processes of writing and thinking, one is more accessible to manipulation by the individual concerned than the other. It’s like one is the inner room and the other the outer room in a house with many rooms; to get to the one you must pass through the other. Thus to improve one’s thinking capacity, one’s ability to think critically and productively on a given subject in a given unit of time, one must improve one’s writing ability.

Perhaps no wonder why, everything else being equal, those peoples that acquired and perfected the art and science of writing first, better and faster than the others developed socially and technologically first, better and faster than those others. That is why those nations that place a premium on teaching writing fair better in all critical spheres of human endeavour than the others. That is why organisations that write better perform better. At the individual level, that is why success in life – regardless of one’s walk of life or field of endeavour but especially in academia, the workplace and the professions – generally associates with ability to put one’s ideas down on paper, to express oneself effectively in writing. Birds of a feather, one might say!

Unfortunately some people in the sciences, particularly high school and undergraduate students, might be tempted to think that there is no need for them to learn to write well. To think that writing is for those in the arts, for poets, novelists and so forth; that mastery of mathematical equations or scientific formulae is all they need. The idealism of youth, you’ld say. So too with those at the bottom of their employment pile; they might be tempted to busk in the false comfort that writing is not for them but for their supervisors, managers and directors. In both cases, they are very right if they want to remain at the entry levels of their professions and become everybody’s doormat. But very wrong if they want to rise to the top of the monkey hill, to be the top dog, to be lion king. You have to write your way up there!

So, go on writing. Or start writing. Or start learning to write.

 

I will not write

Not having much in this life to draw from

That stained threadbare rather to be forgotten.

Nor someone on the other end who would

Nor relate nor appreciate nor benefit.

My language often with riddles riddled

Bereft of clarity and fullness to understand.

And fear of shedding the mirage that has been

Opening up to derision in this and the after.

Though the urge to reach out I ever feel

To pass on experience to not reinvent.

Samuel Maruta, 12/2016

Giving Strategically

In the area I live there is a public transport kombi bus emblazoned with a statement something like: “We give not because we have; we have because we give”. This statement reflects a general belief and oft repeated statement that if you give God will give back.

There is some truth in that, at least to the extent that you can get something in return, although I am sure that it is difficult to prove the direct link. Of course this makes sense, or is covered by a similarly widely held view that God’s reply is not instant, often taking forever; neither is it direct and equivalent. However an observation of this giving in reality reveals that God responds more quickly and more generously to some types of giving than to others. Or so it seems.

The giving habits of leading philanthropists are instructive here. They give strategically. They give big and publicly. And they reap huge benefits. The first is that they can claim tax rebates. In a sense therefore, the money they give away was not theirs anyway; it was public money that they would still have to give away – to the state in the form of tax. The second is that such donations are often made publicly and usually make news. This gives mileage to the philanthropist’s business, increases his good will among the audience and therefore increases his customer base as more people would want to be associated with the company. The third is that the donation goes to nurturing future customers of the philanthropist’s business. Thus by giving away, he/she is developing future markets for his/her products. Another benefit is that the giver reaps a huge feel-good benefit seeing his/her donation making a difference in the lives of so many people. And so on and so forth.

Compare this with the case of a small time ad hoc ‘street philanthropist’.  This is the kind of person who occasionally throws a few change coins into the extended begging bowl of a street beggar.  What usually inspires this giver is to help make a difference in the life of a fellow human being. Unfortunately as we all know, the difference is minimal as the coins are often far less than the price of a loaf of bread. Another justification for this giving is for the giver to feel good about helping a less fortunate soul. Unfortunately this ‘feel good’ is often not achieved as sometimes the giver continues to battle his/her conscience long after as to whether he/she really made a difference in the life of the receiver, whether he should have given more or not at all, and so on.  And because the giving is done ‘in camera’ no one else will know about it, so no good will accrues to the giver; and because it was not tied to the giver’s business, it does not create a feedback loop in the form of present or future customers for the giver’s products.  In the end, therefore, this street giving does not benefit the giver much. It is not strategic giving.

Not that street philanthropy is to be discouraged. On the contrary, far from it. Because it more often than not provides some relief to the receiver. But in the context of ‘we have because we give’ ideology, it is well-nigh useless for the giver.

Be the Change You Want to See

Hi there! Welcome to my blog, bethechangezw.wordpress.com. My name is Samuel Maruta, a citizen of the world based in Ruwa, a small town just outside Harare to the east in Zimbabwe.

The name of the blog is derived from the now famous words ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ by Mahatma Gandhi, a leading Indian non-violence peace activist of the last century.

The words point to a simple truth of life.  Although we may differ on what it means, everybody in the world wants the world to be a better place, to change for the better. Yet when it comes to taking steps in that direction most people, naturally, expect all other people around them except themselves to change. They want the change to be effected by ‘them’ to suit ‘us’, whether it be in the small spaces of the family, school, workplace and community or the macro-spaces of the nation, the world and other intermediate configurations.

Yet, equally naturally, that will not happen, for a number of reasons.  One of these is that people will never agree unanimously on the nature, direction and extent of the change all at the same time. Another is that they will never agree on whether or not to change in the first place.  And yet another is that change is a continuous process, not finite, hence the saying that it is the only constant in this world; so there will never be enough of it. And so forth and so on.

The long and short of this, therefore, is that at any one point in time there will be many different changes at many different stages of changing in many different directions with many different effects on many different aspects of this world.

Thus in this seemingly chaotic (actually chaordic) situation the surest way for the change one wants to see in the world (whether micro or macro) to happen is for the conceiver of that change to be an embodiment of the desired change.

In light of the above, the purpose of this blog is to touch off a discussion on this complex phenomenon with a view to helping each other to be creators and drivers of the changes each one of us wants to see in our worlds. If in the process our times, paths, direction, foci etc coincide, the better for ourselves and the wider world.

I therefore heartily say to you all, wherever in this world you might be, come let’s co-create a shared change process, however ‘chaordic’ that process might be, for a better each one of us and the wider world.