Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rights and duties

Rights and duties
By Editor
Thursday August 30, 2007 [04:00]

Everyone of us has something to contribute to the governance and development of this country. And none of us has the right to stop making a contribution to the building of this country and still claim to have a right to remain here. It is pleasing to hear Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda declare that he will never give up on his desire to serve Zambia. Every citizen of this country has rights and duties or responsibilities.

There cannot be rights without duties or responsibilities. And these responsibilities entail participating in the governance of the country to ensure that all is properly governed or administered.

At a minimum, every citizen should educate himself or herself about the critical issues confronting this country - if only to vote intelligently for candidates running for high office.

The essence of all this is the active, freely chosen participation of the citizens of this country in public life of the nation. Without this broad, sustaining participation, the governance of the country will be poor and even democracy will begin to wither and become the preserve of a small, select number of groups and organisations.

But with the active engagement of individuals across the spectrum of society, our country can wither the inevitable economic and political storms that sweep over every society, without sacrificing our people's freedoms and rights.

Active involvement in public life shouldn't be narrowly defined as the struggle for political office because citizen participation in the affairs of the nation is much broader than just taking part in election contests.

Whatever the level of their contribution, a healthy democracy depends upon the continuing, informed participation of the broad range of its citizens. One can correctly say that democracy is a process, a way of living and working together.

Therefore, it requires cooperation, compromise and tolerance among our citizens. Making it work is hard, not easy. And we should never forget that freedom is said to mean responsibility, not freedom from responsibility.

Contrary to some perceptions, a healthy democratic society is not simply an arena in which individuals pursue their own goals.

Democracies flourish when they are tended by citizens willing to use their hard-won freedom to participate in the life of their country - adding their voices to the public debate, electing representatives who are held accountable for their actions, and accepting the need for tolerance and compromise in public life.

It is said that citizens of a democracy enjoy the right of individual freedom, but they also share the responsibility of joining with others to shape a future that will continue to embrace the fundamental values of freedom and self-government.

The future of our country will only be that which we ourselves are able to build. We have the right to dream about the future that we want for our country and our people. There is nothing wrong with dreaming because what we see as today's reality was once a dream, today's reality was yesterday's dream.

Today's dreams will be tomorrow's reality. And since our independence in 1964, we have seen many of our dreams become reality. At one time, even our very own independence was a dream, a dream that became reality in 1964.

This being the case, we should never give up on our dreams; as Brig Gen Miyanda correctly observed, we should never give up on our desire to serve our people and our country. Yes, sometimes things can be very frustrating and one can even give up if his bearings are not strong.

But there is an ancient Chinese fable called "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains". It tells of an old man who lived in northern China long, long ago and was known as the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way.

With great determination, he led his sons in digging up these mountains hoe in hand. Another grey-beard known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, "How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you few to dig up these two huge mountains." The Foolish Old Man replied, "When I die, my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons, and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity.

High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can't we clear them away?" Having refuted the Wise Old Man's wrong view, he went on digging everyday, unshaken in his conviction. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels, who carried the mountains away on their backs.

Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the Zambian people. One is poverty and all its accompanying problems, the other is underdevelopment and backwardness. We should never give up on digging them up. We must persevere and work unceasingly, and we, too, will touch God's heart.

Our God is none other than the masses of the Zambian people. If they stand up and dig together with their leaders, why can't these two mountains be cleared away?
Everyone of us should strive to serve our country heart and soul and never for a moment divorce ourselves from the problems of our country and the plight of our people.

There is no contribution to the development of our country that is small. It is said that what a single ant brings to the anthill is very little; but what a great hill is built when each one does their proper share of the work! Citizenship demands the positive contribution of everyone, old and young, to build our nation's future.

This includes voting, running for office, volunteering in civil society organisations, fighting corruption, paying taxes, and so on and so forth.
There is need for a conversion of heart in order to build our country.

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