It is true that most desperate people resort to desperate means, to escape their desperation. Until life escapes our bodies, we humans have the capacity to manufacture infinite options to escape suffering, pain and death. Funny, it is also true that this desperation, treated as doing what is necessary to overcome threats to our lives and to expand life’s options, becomes the mother of inventions. An abundance of desperation makes it absolutely necessary that human beings invent new ideas and new ways of doing things. So far, sadly we in Zambia are inventing new ways of committing crimes and hurting ourselves and others, rather than inventing new ways of eliminating risks to our lives and expanding life’s options!

We all, surely, must love easier ways of getting around a problem, solving it cheaply and quickly, and happily moving on. In our urban areas, access to electricity, cell phones, the internet, electric stoves, geysers and hot water, fridges and so on, and if you are lucky a reasonably sized decent house may mean much of your life is spent defending and expanding your access to these things, including food and clean air. It is amazing how most human beings easily adjust and take for granted the modern conveniences which we use, rarely do we pose to ask: what is the history of development of this thing I am using and enjoying? What is it made of? How exactly does it work? Is my use of this thing now, good or bad, for my other needs to develop myself to live a fuller, richer and happier life?

As things are, most modern technologies in fact come with the warming to use the warrant or certified and recognised service providers only, should there be any problem with the technology: we are happily and voluntarily encouraged to be ignorant about the workings of the technology we are enjoying. For most technologies, we are clearly warned that “they are not user serviceable”! Very few of us bother to wonder why we, the owners of the gadget, must not also posses the full knowledge and skills about how to maintain, repair and even dispose of the waste from the gadget! We live in an age of voluntary ignorance and basic self-induced de-skilling, if you are able to afford even just a little bit of “modern life”.

The more money you have, the higher you go up the social ladder, the more modern things you use, the more ignorant and unskilled we tend to be. This is how modern advanced capitalist society is wired: all human activity and exchange must be mediated by money! The fridge, stove, microwave, cell phone, laptop, television, play station, even light fittings are all just means by which money circulates and is accumulated in society, as we enjoy the benefit of using these things. To enable everyone to actually know them, be able to maintain and repair them, and dispose them safely would disrupt private property rights and the supersonic speed at which money must circulate in society, and reduce this to what happens in urban and rural poor areas where these things are not so available.

We are cultivated to recognise and respect education, specialisation, professionalism, skilled artisans, and the so called “division of labour” in modern society. To participate and compete effectively in the blind rush to accumulate money and wealth, we are educated and skilled to stay in our “lane”, to stay focused on our “dream” and to persevere, sacrifice and endure all things until we succeed by inserting ourselves in our rightful place in the modern frenzy to acquire and consume as much as we can. Success is then measured by how much we can acquire and consume, of the latest things human minds and labour can conjure up.
Sadly, in Zambia today, less than 30 percent of Zambians have regular access in their dwellings to electricity. The majority of these live in our urban areas, the richer parts of our towns and cities. This actually means the majority of Zambians, 58 years after independence still rely on wood, charcoal, paraffin and candles for heat, cooking and lighting their dwelling places. Making and selling charcoal is a national economic activity everywhere in Zambia. Collecting firewood in our villages still condemns millions of girls and women to a life of heavy labour gathering wood, and cooking. That piped clean water still remains an urban thing means girls and women in poor urban areas and villages are condemned to the ancient slave life of hewers of wood and drawers of water.

With a total population fast approaching 20 million people (estimated at 19.19 million in January 2022), our urban population is at 45.5 percent and our rural population is 54.2 percent. There are slightly more females (50.5 percent) than males (49.5 percent). Slightly more than 80 percent of our total population is under 35 years, and quite dangerously, slightly more than 48 percent of our population are between 5 and 24 years!

By 2020, there were 19.1 million cellular subscriptions in Zambia. Despite this impressive cellular subscriptions figure, there are only 5.47 million internet users in Zambia and only 2.9 million social media users by January this year. Clearly, it is not possible to access the internet by most Zambians either because of costs or internet access coverage across the country.

With 6 out of every 10 Zambians extremely poor and the majority of the labour force still heavily dependent on rural agriculture for survival, and very high urban unemployment rates, obviously all disproportionately affecting young people, prisons, remand and police cells quite occupied by criminals and suspects, new forms of semi and fully organised crimes emerging in the country, a huge street kid and orphan problem, Zambia is ripe, at 58 years old, to reinvent itself into a different, new prosperous nation.

A young population, vast water, land and other natural resources offer massive opportunities for Zambia to reimagine, reinvent itself into a working and prosperous country. An obvious fundamental challenge is the absence of mass appetite to turn our desperation into the necessary mother of inventions for us to escape our dire situation and emerge prosperous, healthier, richer and happier. Instead, we are trapped in our mental frame of the colonial native content to consume what we do not know its history, how it is made, and even how it works. In this impoverished mental frame, foreign is superior and local is inferior. And yet every imported good is imported inflation and unemployment.

We are afraid to ask why and how, 58 years after our independence we have had several constitutions, many laws, a parliament, judiciary, executive and an economy and politics which leaves out 6 out of every 10 Zambians and consigns them to excruciating poverty. We worship in ways that sustain our poverty. We have customs and traditions that easily and comfortably accommodate themselves to our mass hunger, malnutrition, poverty and grotesque inequalities. We have vague incomplete knowledge and ideas about other people who have emerged from slavery and colonialism and are now well on their way to defeat material and cultural poverty. We do not ask why we ourselves are stuck in ways that trap us in our mass poverty and backwardness.

A most glaring and dangerous political practice has emerged: we turn into political idols and pagangodscorrupt politicians who beg for votes from us, and occupy government offices. Rather than visionary leaders, we end up with empty, hollow cults who impoverish us further by pawning our country to the highest foreign bidders.

It is in our failure to imagine, invent and create new ways of ownership, of organising our economy and governing ourselves, and relating to the rest of the world, completely different from our inherited colonial ways, all 58 years of proven failure to lift ourselves out of poverty using these enslaving colonial ways, that the most urgent need to reinvent ourselves cries out!

We can, and we must acquire the necessary knowledge to escape our poverty. We must produce from among ourselves our own liberators born out of our desperate situation. We have it in ourselves to give ourselves the leaders we need, to help us escape our poverty!

(Comments to: munalulaagnesmusonda2016@gmail.com)