Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Animal-Driven Constitution

An Animal-Driven Constitution

          ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘tell me another story about the awful King Chimbwi.’
          ‘The most awful story about the awful King Chimbwi is called The Animal-Driven Constitution,’I replied.
          ‘Grandpa, what’s a constootion?’
          ‘Listen to the story,’ I replied, ‘then you’ll find out.’

          A long time ago, most of the animals in Africa lived in a beautiful paradise in the Lower Zambezi Valley, in a country called Chiawa, which was ruled over by the rough and bossy King Chimbwi.
          One day, when the animals met at their watering hole, they began to discuss the problems they were having with King Chimbwi. They had to discuss in whispers, for fear of attack by the king’s secret police, his wild dogs and jackals.
          ‘We are living in the forest like animals,’ complained Monkey, ‘while the King lives in a huge palace and eats us one by one.’
          ‘Not only that,’ said Lion, ‘but he has let in these humans with their guns, and they are killing us like Sitting Ducks.’
          ‘I’m not a Sitting Duck,’ said Duck, ‘I can fly.’
          ‘These humans are cutting down all the trees and giving money to the King. Soon we shall have no forest to live in,’ said Giraffe.
          ‘The King never listens to us,’ said Zebra, ‘he only listens to his friends, the wild dogs and jackals who come looking for us at night.’
          ‘There is only one thing to do,’ said Elephant gravely. ‘We must draw up a Constitution and give it to the King!’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said all the other animals. ‘What’s that?’
          ‘A Constitution,’ explained Elephant, ‘is a set of rules on how the king must govern this country. Now he has all the power and thinks he can do anything, however foolish or murderous. We the animals must write a Constitution so that he is brought under control. That is what is meant by an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          So that’s what the animals did. But it was a long and difficult job because most of the animals couldn’t read or write. And they had to do the job secretly, so that the wild dogs and jackals didn’t find out. But finally, after twenty years, the animals wrote out the ten rules of their Constitution on white bark cloth made from an Acacia Tree. And this is what it said:
                 Rules of the Constitution
1.                    All animals are equal
2.                    No animal shall be above the law
3.                   All animals must obey the law
4.                   All animals have freedom of expression
5.                   All animals have right of assembly
6.                  All animals shall have freedom of movement
7.                  Elephants shall protect animals from the King 
8.                  No humans shall be allowed into the Kingdom
9.                 Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chiawan
10.            No King may rule for more than 5 years

            Armed with their Constitution, they all went to the palace, where they found King Chimbwi rolling in the grass with one of his forty-nine concubines. And Elephant said solemnly ‘Oh King Chimbwi, we the animals of Chiawa, have brought you a Constitution.’
          ‘A Constootion?’ said the King gruffly. ‘What’s that? Can I eat it?’
          ‘It sets out the rules by which we the animals demand to be governed,’ said Elephant calmly. ‘It is an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
          ‘Of course it is,’ scoffed the King. ‘Whoever heard of a Human-Driven Constootion!’ And so saying, he opened his large mouth and swallowed it, washing it down with a bucket of chibuku. ‘Maybe this Constootion will cure my Constipation. I have swallowed it so that I can digest it properly. And when I have fully digested it, and ruminated upon it, we shall one day see it again, and then I shall nail it to the palace wall.’
          And all the Animals waited another twenty years for their Constitution, because the Constipation of the King was very severe, so things moved very slowly at the palace. But finally, after another twenty years, the Constitution reappeared, nailed to the palace wall. The once beautiful white bark cloth was now badly soiled and smelly, and on it was written:

           Rules of the Constitution
1.               All animals are equal, but the King is more equal
2.              The King shall be above the law
3.              All animals shall obey the King
4.             Only the King shall have freedom of expression
5.             All animals have right of assembly, in groups of no more than two
6.             All Chimbwi shall have freedom of movement
7.             Elephants shall protect the King from other animals
8.             No humans shall enter the Kingdom without a hunting license
9.             Any animal may be elected King, provided his parents are Chimbwi
10.        No King may rule for more than 50 years

     ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘That was a King-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘That’s what all the animals said,’ I admitted. ‘But the King declared that he was also an animal, and therefore this was an Animal-Driven Constitution.’
     ‘So how did the story end?’ asked Nawiti.
     ‘The animals were so angry that he was lucky to escape with his life. He fled to Holland with all his bars of gold.’
     ‘And lived in another palace?’
     ‘No. His gold was taken from him at the port because he didn’t have an import license, and then he was put behind bars in a zoo in The Hague.’
     ‘Why was that?’ Nawiti wondered.
     ‘Because,’ I explained, ‘Holland has a People-Driven Constitution.’

[Adapted from a story by Eric Blair]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Strange King

            ‘Grandpa,’ said Nawiti, ‘Tell me a story about a bad king.’
          ‘Ha ha,’ I laughed, ‘That’s a good one! A king is always good because he tells you he is good and what he says is right because he is the king.’
          ‘That’s not right!’ said Nawiti, ‘I don’t believe you.’
          ‘Why don’t you believe me?’
          ‘Because you’re not the king!’ she laughed.
          ‘Let me tell you the story of a rather strange king. Hundreds of years ago the Kingdom of Zed had a very strange king called King Chumbu…’
          ‘Was he a bad king?’
          ‘I’ve told you, in those days all kings were good. What the king said and did was what was meant by the word ‘good’, and if anybody said or did anything different, that was bad!’
          ‘So did anybody dare to say or do anything different?’
          ‘Good gracious no. To say or do anything different would be to insult the king. In those days you would be thrown in jail for that! The king was like a little God. Every time he spoke, everybody had to shut up and listen. The king told everybody everything, but nobody could tell the king anything. Because he knew everything. Because he was the king!’
          ‘Nothing could be stranger than being a king,’ laughed Nawiti. ‘But why are you telling me that Chumbu was a strange king when they were all strange? Was he more strange than the others?’
          ‘King Chumbu was strange because, even by kingly standards, he used to do some very strange things.’
          ‘Such as what?’
          ‘One day he assembled all his ministers and told them to their faces that they were all fools!’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘that was very bad.’
          ‘No,’ I said. ‘That was very good. He was trying to provoke them, to see if they would dare to answer him. But they all sat quiet.’
          ‘Very respectful,’ said Nawiti. ‘That was good.’
          ‘No, it was very bad,’ I said. ‘It showed the king that his ministers had no backbone or brains.’
          ‘Then the king began to worry that his people were too silent, too polite, and too respectful, and always waiting to be told what to do instead of having ideas of their own.’
          ‘Which was very bad,’ said Nawiti.
          ‘Yes,’ said, ‘But very good that Chumbu was worried about his people, because most kings only worry about themselves and their money.’
          ‘So what happened next?’
          ‘Something very strange happened. One man in the entire land showed a bit of courage. A man called Ha Ha stood up and told the king to stop insulting his people and behave like a king!’
          ‘Very bad,’ said Nawiti, ‘to talk to the king like that!’
          ‘But very good,’ I said, ‘that somebody could stand up to the king.’
          ‘Maybe people were now starting to laugh at the king?’ suggested Nawiti.
          ‘Very likely,’ I laughed. ‘But Chumbu didn’t seem to see the danger of his position. In those days, once you were a king you were always a king. And he was now beginning to enjoy himself.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti. ‘What did he do next?’
          ‘Chumbu insulted all the old men in the Land of Zed, saying their heads were bald, and the next time he saw a bald head he would chop it off!’
          ‘Which was a bad thing to say!’ said Nawiti.
          ‘That’s what Paramount Chief Kukuchikuku thought, and he loudly complained to all his Kuku people that he had been insulted. So the king laughed and sent his army to throw the chief out of the Palace of the Paramount Chief.
          ‘Then HaHa spoke up again and told the king to stop his silly quarrels and start governing the country, because while the king was busy talking nonsense there were foreigners who were stealing the gold and people who were starving.
          ‘Now the king was not used to be answered back, so this sensible advice sent him into a senseless rage, ranting that HaHa was just a nobody who knew nothing, and didn’t even know his own father!’
          ‘That was very bad,’ said Nawiti.
          ‘It was very bad indeed,’ I admitted, ‘because half the women in the country had brought up children without the help of the children’s fathers, who had a bad habit of running away. So the women’s leader, Gorgeous Grillo, gave the king a grilling, telling him that he had insulted all the women of the Kingdom of Zed.’
          ‘Now people were beginning to gang up on him,’ suggested Nawiti.
          ‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘These people had more brains and voice than the king had bargained for. They all converged on his palace and presented him with a piece of paper, called a constitution, setting out the Rules for the Proper Behaviour of a King.’
          ‘And did the king promise to behave himself?’
          ‘Not at all!’ I laughed. ‘He tore up the piece of paper and threw it out the window, then turned to them and asked Where is this constitution you people are talking about, I cannot see any such thing!
          ‘So what did the people do then?’
          ‘They threw him out of the window so he could look for the constitution. Then they set up the Peoples Republic of Zed, ruled by the people themselves and without any need for a king.’
          ‘So was he a bad king?’ wondered Nawiti.
          ‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘He was a very good king, because he was the one who brought democracy to the Land of Zed.’
          ‘Very strange,’ said Nawiti.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The true story of… The Fall

The true story of…
The Fall 


        The bishop walked slowly to the lectern and opened the Holy Book. ‘The lesson this morning,’ he intoned solemnly,‘is taken from the Book of Nemesis Chapter 2, Verses 7 to 25,’ ...

        And the Lord formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils, and a soul into his body and said unto him ‘Your name is Adam and you are in the Garden of Zeden.’
        And that night, while Adam slept, the Lord took one of his ribs and made from it a woman. And when Adam awoke the Lord said to him ‘This is a woman and her name is Eve. You will cleave to her as your wife and produce more of your kind, which shall be called humans.’ And they were both naked but they were not ashamed, but were pleased to do the bidding of the Lord.
        And the next day the Lord returned to advise the newly married couple, saying unto them ‘Be fertile and multiply, and look after your Garden wisely. Of every tree in the Garden you may freely eat, but of the copper tree you may not eat thereof or you shall surely die,’
        And so it was that Adam and Eve prospered and multiplied and populated the Garden of Zeden with all their descendents who all fed from the plentiful fruit of the Garden.
        And it came to pass that one day, when the Patriarch Adam was walking through the Garden of Zeden, he came face to face with a serpent that was hanging from the branch of a copper tree. And this serpent, which was more subtle than any other beast, whispered in the ear of Adam saying ‘You, Great Patriarch Adam, it is a great pity that in all your five hundred years you have never experienced the marvelous copper of the famous copper tree.’
        ‘And Adam answered him stoutly, saying unto him ‘I am sworn unto my Lord not to eat the fruit of the copper tree.’
        But the serpent answered him saying ‘You may keep your promise unto your Lord, for the copper tree has no fruit. It is called a copper tree because it grows in places where copper is found. With copper you can make knives and spears to kill animals and clothe yourself in their skins.’
Adam was doubtful about this argument, but the serpent continued whispering persuasively, saying ‘How can you, a whole paramount chief, be shivering naked in your own kingdom? You should be wearing a warm leopard skin and wearing the copper crown and copper bangles which befit a mighty king! Instead, Oh King, even the hyenas are laughing at you.’
And so Adam began to feel his nakedness, and yearned to become the Leopard King of Copper. So then the crafty serpent told him about the Mighty Magic Machines which could be brought from the other side of the forest.
And so Adam spoke to his wife of five hundred years, saying unto her ‘I have decided to dig out the copper from under the copper trees.’
And she answered him saying ‘Oh no you mustn’t! The Lord Our God has forbidden it!’
And he answered her, saying ‘I am your Husband and not to be contradicted!’
And so it came to pass that the Mighty Magic Machines arrived in the Garden of Zeden to dig out the copper from under the copper tree, which meant that thousands of copper trees had to be uprooted.
And the copper was found under the copper trees, but so deep down that the Garden of Zeden lost all its trees and instead became one big hole in the ground, called a copper mine.
And so it came to pass that the people of Zeden no longer had an easy life of plucking the fruit off the trees, because there were none. Before long all the women were living in a little village at the side of the Mighty Hole of the Mighty Machines, where they had to work hard to grow beans and maize to feed the men working in the copper mine.
And the men worked mighty hard for the Mighty Machines, because the men were attached to the Mighty Machines, so that the faster a Mighty Machines worked, the faster the men had to work to keep up with them.
And the Mighty Machines generously allowed the men to visit their wives for one day a month, in order to produce the next generation of copper miners and maize growers. And one of the Mighty Machines produced cloth to cover their naked bodies, to avoid any unnecessary thought of reproductive activities during working hours.
And nobody in the former Garden of Zeden, now the Giant Hole Copper Mine, ever received a single piece copper. For every week there arrived another Mighty Machine called a Train that took away all the copper to the Land of Mighty Machines.
Then one day the people heard the thunderous voice of the Lord reverberating around the Great Hole in the Ground, saying ‘You have eaten the forbidden fruit! I gave you Paradise and you have turned it into Hell! You are now attached to machines and your souls have been destroyed! You are already dead and gone to Hell! A Hell that you made for yourselves!’

Now the bishop looked up from the Holy Book, and tears were streaming down his face. A single loud wail rose up from the back of the church. It was infectious: the the entire congregation began wailing uncontrollably.
        For this was not merely the story of Adam and Eve. This was also their story.   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014



            It was mid-afternoon, and I was sitting on the veranda of my little house in Chainda, sipping a glass of kachasu, when I heard a voice behind me, ‘Excuse me sir, my apologies for interrupting your royal contemplations, but am I right in thinking that you are Paramount Chief Kalaki?’
          ‘My dear fellow,’ I said, shaking his hand, ‘You have indeed found the Palace of the Paramount Chief. Sit down, have a glass of kachasu, make yourself comfortable, and introduce yourself.’
          Instead of sitting down he started to grovel on the floor. ‘No no, my dear fellow,’ I said, lifting him by his arm, ‘we don’t do that sort of thing here, we’re all very democratic. Just sit down and introduce yourself.’
          ‘I am the Africa Correspondent for the BBC,’ he replied. ‘My name is Sishuwa Sishuwa Sishuwa.’
          ‘Sishuwa Sishuwa Sishuwa,’ I said. ‘I’m very very very pleased to meet you. My name is Kalaki. You only have to say it once.’
          ‘I am used to interviewing other African presidents,’ he said. ‘I humbly seek your advice on the form of address which you prefer. Should I say Your Excellency the Paramount Chief and Father of the Nation, Professor Spectator Kalaki, Loved and Revered President of the Peoples Peaceful Republic of Kalakiland? That’s what I was told by the Africa Desk in London.’
          ‘When people call me that,’ I laughed, ‘they are just making fun of the pompous fellow in the neighbouring Republic of Zed, who insists on being addressed in such a ridiculous fashion. But when people are not making fun of the other fellow, then they just call me Komrade Kalaki, or just Kalaki. So now, Mr Sishuwa Sishuwa Sishuwa, what can I do for you?’
          ‘Even me,’ said Sishuwa Sishuwa Sishuwa rather shyly , ‘you can just call me Sishuwa. I’d be most grateful if you could answer a few questions for our Focus on Africa programme. First of all, how did you become president of Kalakiland?’
          ‘I sort of appointed myself. You see the job has no salary and no allowances and no state house. Just look at my humble little house, which my wife and I bought from our savings over the years. Somebody had to volunteer to do the job of calling meetings, and deciding how to deal with the troublesome neighbouring republic of Zed. So I do the job just as a public service.’
          ‘Public service!’ gasped Sishuwa. ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing before. But tell me, how did the Republic of Kalakiland begin?’
          ‘Well, actually, it started from my little yard here, which used to be part of the Republic of Zed. People seeking refuge from the fearful government of Zed used to come and hide in my yard. The secret police never suspected that a retired schoolteacher could be harbouring refugees. And my dear wife Sara has such a sharp tongue that no blundering shushushu would think of knocking on our gate without good reason.’
          ‘Then how did Kalakiland grow to the size of Swaziland?’
          ‘It was rather surprising. But as Zed became more dictatorial, and with more refugees fleeing the increasingly vicious police state, we began hiding the refugees in more and more yards, until we had a large area outside the jurisdiction of Zed. Then people began to call it Kalakiland.’
          ‘But don’t the police invade Kalakiland to recapture their victims who escaped from Zed?’
          ‘My dear Sishuwa, it’s not that simple. Even the police chief in Zed knows that when he is fired, he will need somewhere to run to. Even the ministers know that when they annoy the Great Dictator, they need a neighbouring republic to which they can quickly run and where they will be safe. And they bring all their stolen money with them, which they have to share with us, because Kalakiland is a democratic country.’
          ‘But how is Kalakiland governed? Do you have a parliament, judiciary, police force and that sort of thing?’
          ‘We have avoided setting up all the institutions that destroyed Zed: we have no ministers to steal from the poor; no parliament to pass bad laws and increase their own salaries; no judiciary to be bent like a cucumber; no police force employed to fix the perceived enemies of any mad dictator.’
          ‘So without the police, how do you deal with crime?’
          ‘Most of the criminals were in the police force, which we abolished.’
          ‘What about education? Do you have schools to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next?’
          ‘We saw how schools were used to destroy the children’s imagination, and to turn them into unthinking robots to follow instructions irrespective of how stupid. We saw how schools cut off children from their traditional culture. So in order to restore education we have abolished schools.’
          ‘So you don’t have any national institutions?’
          ‘Only one,’ I laughed, raising my glass. ‘The Kalakiland National Distillery which produces the internationally famous Kalakiland Kachasu, the only truly African traditional spirit. It keeps our people happy, sells all over the world, and makes us the richest country in all Africa!’
          ‘One distillery makes you the richest country? How?’
          ‘Because we don’t have a government to steal all our money! Cheers!’
          ‘Cheers!’ he said, as he emptied his glass and rose to leave. ‘Thanks for the marvelous drink and fascinating interview. Tune into Focus on Africa next Thursday, and you’ll be able to hear it all!’
‘Wake up! Wake up!’ Sara was shouting and shaking my shoulders. ‘You’re completely drunk!’
‘Nonsense,’ I said. ‘I’m just tired after a marvelous visit to Kalakiland.’