The subject matter has been widely discussed on numerous occasions and on numerous platforms. But it does not appear, while solutions have been proffered, that the problem will largely be resolved anytime soon. In fact, it is gaining momentum and strength instead of subsiding. One of the pillars of Vision 2016 is to create a Compassionate and Caring Nation of Botswana for Batswana. By any measure and on the assumption this pillar would have found a lasting place in the Republic, the tag that has been attached to us to say Batswana are a highly unhappy nation wouldn’t have arisen. But regrettably, that pillar has dismally failed to find resonance with the way some Batswana conduct and pronounce themselves on a variety of issues obtaining in the public space. Like the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. Flowing from this saying, it stands to reason that some of our leaders particularly in the political sphere, have not come out to demonstrate they are tolerant and compassionate themselves. In fact, they are the ones fuelling the current public discourse with their inflammatory speeches and statements whenever an opportunity avails itself. I have seen this inflammatory conduct at political rallies and most disappointingly, in parliament. The end result of this is that their demeanour cascades right down the middle to the rest of society who equally and gleefully, emulate them.
Batswana, generally speaking, have become so divided by their political persuasions not so much about the content of such persuasions but by their downright intolerances of, and to each other. Put differently, they do not attach reasonableness and rationality to their persuasions but rather their way or the high way. In the process, expected decency assumes the back stage wherein sheer indecency, insults and I dare say rudeness to each other assumes the centre stage. It is on record where different political leaders across the board are publicly insulted and denigrated by people too young enough to be their grand-children. While young people are suspected to be the prime movers of increasing intolerance and indecency, it is fair to suggest they take the cue from the adults. I have argued before on this column that adult politicians and business people have demonstrated to the up and coming politicians and business people that the cheapest and quickest path to success is to follow the corruption and other forms of immoral and unethical trajectories. And the current generation is religiously falling on that route and sadly, nothing suggests the situation will become better anytime soon before it gets even worse given how intense and telling corruption, immoral and unethical conducts have become so ingrained in our societal architecture. These negative attributes if I may describe them as such, have been allowed to become the way of life and as a consequence, all manner of tolerance, compassion and decency in all its manifests glaringly thrown out of the window.
Political leadership who have the duty to stop the intolerant and in-compassionate behaviour have or are failing to do so because it serves their political expediencies and self-interests against their opponents. Most if not all characters in the social media space and who promote and fuel intolerance and in-compassionate behaviour sometimes under pseudonyms, are known party activists. To be fair to political parties, some of these pseudonyms are pure sympathisers or supporters who may not necessarily be in the data basis of such political parties but are known sympathises or supporters. The bottom line however is that the end result of their posts on social media have the same effect of promoting and fuelling hate speech towards and against other political parties.
The recent commentary that followed as soon as His Excellency the President was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19 and subsequently isolated for the same left a bitter taste in many peoples’ mouths. While a good number of those who commented on the President’s situation demonstrated sympathy and empathy towards him, an equally good number did the exact opposite by stooping as low as wishing him instant death. My argument is not so much to do with the President’s status in society but that he is a human being just like me and you and therefore equally susceptible in equal measure to the Covid-19 virus. It is fair and reasonable to suggest that almost all of us have undergone the painful episode at some point of losing a family or colleague to the ravaging consequences of the virus. Those who have been fortunate to overcome the virus have said they wouldn’t wish their sworn enemies to experience the very same painful and devastating experience.
While I take exceptional offence at the negative comments towards the President during his time of distress occasioned by testing positive for Covid-19 virus, I cannot help but say he is un-blameworthy as well. At some point when Covid-19 numbers were at their peak in the US, the President poked fun at the Americans who were on death bed particularly those who reportedly, had refused to vaccinate. He may have been trying to drive home to the audience he was addressing at the time the dangers of refusing to vaccinate against Covid-19. But the tone and expressions of his message left a bitter taste in the mouths of many including myself. He must have reflected on his utterances and came to the conclusion that they were in bad taste and therefore regrettable. Having said that though, two wrongs don’t make a right so goes the saying. There are sober politicians out there who preach tolerance and compassion during times of need. I am reminded of Hon Motsamai Motsamai who himself tested positive for Covid-19 but was magnanimous to wish the President well. He recognised and appreciated that while he and the President were politically opposed, they remain human beings who must encompass compassion towards each other.
With Batswana so ever and increasingly becoming intolerant and in-compassionate, the President’s Reset Agenda in whole or in part stands very little chance of succeeding. I am very much interested in the Mind Set Change pillar which for all intents and purposes, dictates that Batswana encompass the Vision 2016 pillar of being a Compassionate and a Caring nation. I am not sure whether reasonable and concerted efforts have been put in place to deal specifically with the Mind Set Change beyond the usual public statements to that effect. If these efforts are in place, they will surely address the issues of tolerance and compassion and if they are not, the Reset Agenda wouldn’t have started let alone having gained traction.
What next one could justifiably ask? While the diatribe doesn’t originate from the political sphere, the bulk of it originates from there. If political leaders do not tone down on their inflammatory and crude speeches, this will continue to cascade right down the middle to members of society. If the comments on the social media space are anything to go by, nothing remotely or otherwise suggests individuals are prepared to tone done. But politics and its attendant components being what it is, nothing suggests political leaders from across the divide are eager to prevail upon their members/sympathisers from becoming increasingly intolerant and in-compassionate. If that is the case, it is somewhat tone deaf. One cringes at the thought of how the contest for the 2024 general election will look like given what is currently unfolding in the social media space. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!
‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’. Covid-19 pharmaceutical interventions still remain our available defence to the pandemic.
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