There are people, Dear Pain, who do not care about their reputation when it comes to drying their clothes-of-shame on the public line.
They forget that tangible clothes, and not abstract shame, has space on the line.
If such people had any sense of decency, decorum and honour, they would have known that they do not call it a clothes line for the sake of it.
In fact, before washing the clothes, the one who uses them goes away from the public eye, takes them off, identified detergents, sources water and, boom, the clothes are washed and dried.
I am talking about the typical way of washing clothes; the customary way for the majority of Malawians— who cannot afford a washing machine, let alone clothes drier.
Somehow, one traditional leader— yes, the custodians of culture—forgot about procedures for taking clothes off.
He forgot that, if ever there was room for a member of the opposite sex to take off clothes of a member of the opposite sex, then that ‘room’ is found in marriage, which is the union of two people into one piece of flesh, as religious men and women believe.
Or, in Europe and other parts of the world where sex-before-marriage talk is regarded as twaddle, that ‘room’ is found when one is either courting someone or has received explicit permission. There are no two ways about it.
Not with the excited chief in some part of Malawi; a man of all faculties who was supposed to know better that it is indecent to force a woman to undress in public, no matter the alleged wrong the woman commits.
To order a woman— who probably has her own kids— to undress in public is to sink to a new low.
I can blame it on some people who worship chiefs, who they regard as their idols of power.
When people we were celebrating on Thursday [martyrs] lay their lives on the table of colonialism, making their own bodies wade through the lake of blood simply because they wanted to achieve one purpose: Drowning the idol of arbitrary power in the waters of freedom— they wanted us to get past things like these.
Capricious application of power should, under all circumstances, not have room in the life of a chief, who has to be the gentle father of all; where the need arises, disciplining subjects without putting them to shame.
Through little, but resolute, action when disciplining people or presiding over cases at village level, a chief may soon discover that the flag of indiscipline is being exiled to the back of hitherto errant subjects’ minds.
However, when the so-called ordinary man and ordinary woman is named and shamed in public, they will never get that experience out of their mind.
Instead, they may even harbour ambitions to avenge for their public shaming.
I, Dear Pain, cry for Malawi. The so-called warm-hearted people— I mean some of them— are losing it; the case in point being the thoughtless custodian of culture who took the law in his hands and, before children as young as eight years, fellow women who seemed to be enthralled by the spectacle, and married men intent on seeing a woman who is not their better-half naked, ordered the hapless woman to undress in public in the name of public justice.
Did I say ‘justice’? Far from it. There was no justice when the multitude that gathered at the chief’s court loudly made fun of the hapless woman, surely enjoying the spectacle. Other than justice, it was bush rule on display.
The people are surely to blame for turning the chief into a potentate. At the whim of their potentate’s illogical command, the subjects did not see sense in intervening and pumping sense in the chief’s head.
The cameraman who captured the event did not have the decency to think twice and realise that the woman who was being ‘hanged’ in public could have been his mum.
The children who sat at the back of the woman did not, like the senseless adults that thronged the scene, see anything wrong with their movement from the woman’s back to the front, where they rushed to see what, perhaps, they had never seen in their life.
If, in the case of the chief, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; then, in the case of his subjects, timidity corrupts and absolute timidity corrupts the mind absolutely.
If the chief wanted to ‘shine’ in the public eye, he has only ended up shining on the pedestal of shame, the kind of shame that leads one to the point where they self-destruct.
Dear Pain, there must be no mercy for that chief; one who has exposed little children to nudity.
There must, Dear Pain, be no mercy for the custodian of culture who has exposed the hapless woman to mental torture for the rest of her life.
People like these must face the full wrath of the law, for this is Malawi and not some bush located on the margins of human logic.
People who think like the local chief who is in the limelight for all the wrong things are, through their deplorable behaviour, creating new frontiers of oppression in new Malawi, somehow stopping locals from enjoying human rights after entering the gates of the Bill of Rights in the Republican Constitution.