However, how many of us know who the original “peeping Tom” was – the guy who actually gave rise to this notorious legacy of shame?
It may surprise most that this person was by no means some morally-corrupted individual, but rather a respected tailor, who plied his trade in the 13th century town of Coventry, England.
This stems from the legend of Lady Godiva – whose husband, Leofric, was the Earl of Mercia, as well as patron of various churches and monasteries – who is said to have rode naked in the streets of Coventry, only covered by her long hair, in protest against her stubborn spouse’s hefty unfair taxes imposed upon his already-impoverished tenants, further sinking them deeper into poverty.
Apparently, Godiva had previously attempted to pressure Leofric into cutting these burdensome taxes, through persuasion – but, the arrogant Earl retorted by saying that he would comply with her demands, only if she rode naked on the streets, a dare more metaphorical as, “over my dead body”, or “the last thing I will ever do”.
Godiva was having none of that – due to her love for the ordinary suffering people – and was determined to force her husband into submission.
That is when she decided to take the greedy Earl’s dare, and indeed, rode out naked onto the streets of Coventry.
Yet, as a result of the profound respect the people had for her brave act of love – they never cast their eyes upon her nakedness, but kept their heads down in honor of this intrepid lady.
Needless to say, a local tailor only heard the commotion outside on the streets, having been busy in his workshop – supposedly, in ignorance of what was transpiring – peeped out of his door, and stared at the naked Lady Godiva riding past.
Of course, only in 17th century England, did this act become associated with voyeurs – thereby, being referred to as, “peeping Toms”.
Be that as it may, in this discourse, I am not really interested in these depraved people – but, impressed by the immensely courageous act of Lady Godiva.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that this incident allegedly occurred in the 13th century – and, it would have been the most outrageous, shocking, and totally repugnant thing for a woman (or anyone else for that matter) to move around unclothed.
I am sure, the same still pertains today!
In fact, even a lady fully clothed, but not in a particular acceptable manner – considered dignified – would incur the wrath of her community.
Yet, this was not even an ordinary woman, but a respected high society Lady – the wife of an Earl – who, risked not only being stripped (pardon the pun) of all her honor, but also bringing shame and disgrace upon her entire household.
So, why did she do it?
Why did she place her own status and standing in society on the line – and, likely, invite disdain, or even divorce from her husband?
She did it all for the ordinary folk – whom, she had watched daily struggling to make ends meet, only for her own husband not helping matters by imposing tough cruel taxes, which only enriched his household (of course, including Lady Godiva).
As it turned out, her high risk move paid off – since Leofric was touched by her valiant act, and agreed to significantly slash his taxes.
Why I mention this legend is on account of the glaring troubling silence, apathy and inaction of those married to Zimbabwe’s ruling elite – who do not appear at all concerned with the sorrowful tragic plight of the ordinary citizenry, who have endured unbearable suffering and poverty, at the hands of their husbands’ heartless oppression, looting of national resources, and incompetence.
There is absolutely nothing untoward about the spouse of a country’s leader conducting philanthropic work – designed to assist the less privileged with timely handouts of desperately-needed basic provisions, as well as rolling out supposed “empowerment projects” – however, that is definitely far from enough.
There is an urgent need to address the root cause of the impoverishment and unbecoming living conditions.
Lady Godiva did not go around doling out food parcels and clothes to the poor, or training them how to manufacture home-made products for resale – but, she bravely confronted the source of the people’s misery and pain…her husband, demanding that he meaningfully reduced his profoundly unreasonable taxes, which left the ordinary folk without enough for a dignified livelihood.
Our own spouses of the ruling elite in Zimbabwe should be seen to be as caring for the citizenry – who have been ruthlessly thrown into the pit of poverty by their husbands’ callous unsound economic policies, and grand theft of national treasures.
It does not matter if the plunder of wealth, meant to be shared equitably amongst the people of Zimbabwe, is benefiting these wives and their children – as did Lady Godiva – but, the noble thing to do is for them to unflinchingly confront their husbands, and pressure them into abandoning their evil ways.
Presently, nurses and teachers are crying out over their paltry salaries (as is every other Zimbabwean), which cannot even buy their basic necessities of life – in a country whose inflation rate now hovers around the 200 percent mark, as the local currency (strangely reintroduced by the government, against all sage advice) continues on its unrestrained free-fall (now around ZW$700 to US$1 on the widely regarded black market).
Nonetheless, how does the ruling establishment respond?
By unleashing state security forces to reign terror upon those impoverished hard-working citizens – brutally being brazenly beaten up for merely exercising their constitutional right to march, and arresting union leaders on tramped up charges – instead of engaging in honest negotiations with their hard-pressed employees.
The ever-suffering people of Zimbabwe now need to see these spouses of the country’s ruling elite standing with the oppressed, and if need be, even risking their own marriages for the sake of the nation’s greater good.
It is quite disingenuous watching some of those eventually kicked out of the “royal palace”, and subjected to the most horrendous blood-curling mistreatment by their former spouses – now expecting the nation they never stood with, during their days of glory and lavishness, to stand with them.
If these wives of those in power seriously desire to be regarded as “Mothers of the Nation” then, it is time they proved this motherly love, by risking all for the sake of their “children”.
Even mothers in the home will leave the father of their children, should he ill-treats them – so, why are our ruling elite’s wives not prepared to do the same?
Or, is the wealth and status just too sweet to risk – even when their husbands kill innocent citizens, and destroy livelihoods of the majority?
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]
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