Enemies, haters and critics in Malawian political life

In this short ‘article’, I want the interested readers to make their own judgment as to whether they themselves or players on the Malawi political field in the year 2011 acted like enemies, haters and obstructive critics, or as I desire, constructive critics.

A much diluted definition of ‘enemy’ given in the Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary is someone “opposed to you and what you think or do”. This is a wrong definition of ‘enemy’ because it would mean that more than ninety percent (just an imagination) of Malawians today who are antagonistic to President Bingu wa Mutharika and his policies are enemies of Government, which is fallacious.

This is where I agree with blogger Andrew Marin’s three ways of defining ‘enemy’: firstly, as “a person, group or entity that is intentionally committed to opposing you, no matter what the circumstances.”

Mutharika: 'Smokes-out'' critics

Unfortunately, in my opinion, both Government and opposition political parties in Malawi have reduced themselves to enemy of each other. Any opposition politician who gives praise to government when it is time to praise is deemed to have crossed the floor by veterans or godfathers of the party in question.

Similarly, if you are a cabinet minister, you will not be in the next cabinet once you were seen to have sided with the opposition on an opinion.

The result of such type of opposition in Malawi, in the case of opposition political parties, has been loss of one election after another because, by nature, and other factors aside, voters will sympathize with someone hated for no apparent reason!

According to Andrew Marin enemy can also be defined as “a person, group or entity whose sole goal is to win by beating you to a loss.” This definition is closely related to the first one in the sense that the two sides use any opportunity available to discredit the other just to make sure that the other party incurs political loss.

Again, if practiced by the opposition, this may lead to loss of one election after another because voters are never interested in a politician who has symptoms of desperation and seen to have no other goal besides tarnishing the image of others.

Finally, ‘enemy’  is “a person, group or entity that uses violence against you.” This needs no qualification.

I now turn to “haters”. The Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary defines ‘your hater’ as someone who strongly dislikes you. Similarly the Hip Hiptionary (cited by Andrew Marin), defines a hater as a “jealous person, or, one that cannot be happy for another person’s success to the point of only picking out perceived flaws.

As Andrew Marin points out, another person’s motives are impossible to judge. Let’s look at what haters do. Haters are always negative about you, regardless of how many times you have either reached out or tried to more thoroughly explain yourself.

Secondly, a haters have no intention to make peace, but they simply want to throw a volume of insults before they turn and run away. And finally, haters use “lies, name calling, exaggerations, insults, etc to either ‘expose’ you or launch a grenade hoping you will blow up.”

Haters will also drag in your family, friends or others you know who are not directly involved, as either pawns, or targets of their hatred. In my opinion, politics in Malawi, and perhaps elsewhere, is seen as a dirty game because the opposing players act like haters!

Finally, critic. The dictionary definition of critic is “one who forms and expresses judgments on the merits, faults, value or truth of a matter.” There is nothing wrong with this. There are, however, two types of ‘critic’: good and bad.

A constructive critic, a good one, engages with you forthrightly (e.g. seeks out your responses in dialogue before going public), allowing you to be a part of the discernment process, before a public judgment of the merits, faults, value or truth in a matter.

An obstructive or destructive critic, a bad one, is one that publicly creates their own judgment on the merits, faults, value or truth of a matter first, and then retrospectively ‘attempts’ to include you after-the-fact.

A good politician is a constructive critic. Unfortunately, in Malawi, too few political parties favor such politicians.

How I wish our national resolution for 2012 were to be political players, activists and followers who are not enemies, haters or obstructive critics, but constructive critics! Happy New Year!

Winfred Mkochi, PhD Candidate (Phonology), Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway 


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