Let us now praise famous people

ben_siraAs Ben Sira moves towards the end of his words of wisdom he praises the glory of nature and then suddenly says (Chapter 44), Let us now praise famous men. He goes through Noah, Abraham and so on, listing the leaders of ancient Israel and all the predictable names come up.

As I read this recently I wondered who would we put on such a list. What men and women would we praise today? With all eyes on Angola there would be footballers for sure. And there would be musicians and a few writers but who else?

I would put on my list people I meet every day. These are people who quietly go about their work searching for ways of making a living, feeding their family and sending their children to school. I would put on my list the people who refuse to be provoked by the sufferings they have endured these ten years. They have carried on steadily with their lives hoping for better times.

Helder Camara was a bishop in Brazil in the worst days of oppression in the 1960s and he used to speak of the spiral of violence. People begin to organise themselves to press for improvements in their lives. Those who are in power see such action as a threat and they resist.

First they pass laws that restrict the organisers and if that does not work they use violence to intimidate them. The organisers may then turn to violence on their side and take to the streets. The government then notch up their response and send out the police with riot control gear and may even use the army.

So this is the spiral of violence where one action leads to another until the situation spirals out of control. What ordinary people in our country have done is to refuse to indulge in this process. Outside observers sometimes say we are passive or lacking in courage. But it is the opposite. It is a sign of strength to be restrained, to hold back and absorb the punches.

When people provoke you, just remain silent. I remember a moment when a driver got angry with me for pulling in front of him too sharply. He overtook me and forced me to stop. Then he got out and raged at me using various expletives. It came to me that my best response would be to remain silent which I managed to do. In the end there was nothing he could do except get in his car and drive off. I dont always do the right thing but I did then. This is a trivial example but in one way or another and on a massive scale that is what people have done these past ten years.

In other words, our patience, our self control, our waiting may soon bear fruit. It is too early to say definitely. Things are slowly improving but they could still go wrong. As each day passes the likelihood of their going wrong diminishes. That is tremendous credit to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. Let us indeed praise famous people.

Post published in: Opinions

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