Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gender Agenda

[First published in December 2005]

Gender Agenda

Sara and I were still finishing a late breakfast when the front door flew open with a bang, and in strode a long pair of jeans balanced on top of platform shoes, and heaving a holdall that was holding all. Kupela was back from boarding school!
‘Koops!’ we both shouted, ‘You’re back early!’
‘Hah!’ she hooted, surveying the tranquil scene, and then coming to give us each a little condescending kiss, ‘The old folk haven’t moved! That’s the same breakfast I left you eating three months ago!’
‘How was school?’ I asked, ignoring her remark. ‘Did you learn anything this time?’
‘Learnt a lot about the gender agenda,’ she laughed. ‘That’s the advantage of going to a co-ed. It’s all sexual politics at Decay Secondary.’
‘So long as its not sexual athletics,’ said Sara sternly.
‘Don’t you be too sure,’ cackled Kupela. ‘The gymnasium has been converted into a dormitory.’
‘Don’t try to upset your mother,’ I said. ‘Just tell us about the politics.’
‘We had elections for next year’s Head Boy,’ she explained. ‘There were two candidates, and one was a girl!’
‘How can a girl be Head Boy?’ I wondered.
‘Why not,’ snapped Sara. ‘Am I not the Head Boy in this house?’
‘So you are, my dearest,’ I said. ‘Thanks for reminding me.’
‘So,’ Sara continued, ‘which girl stood for Head Boy?’
‘The dreaded Quack Quackwie,’ replied Koops. ‘We were flabbergasted. We’d always thought she was a boy. I mean, she enrolled as a boy, slept in the boys’ dormitory, was very arrogant, and always wore trousers. That’s what we mean by a boy at Decay.’
‘It’s what’s inside the trousers that counts,’ I laughed.
‘According to the school rules,’ Koops giggled, ‘we girls are not supposed to look.’
‘So all these years she’d been sleeping with the boys?’ asked Sara.
‘They didn’t know they’d been sleeping with a girl,’ said Koops.
‘I’m sure I would have noticed if I was sleeping with a girl,’ I said.
‘I’m sure I would have had you arrested,’ said Sara.
‘Then one day,’ continued Koops, ‘come the elections, Quack Quackwie ups and announces that she’s really a girl, and that she’s standing in the election. Then she immediately turned round on us girls and said we all had to vote for her, since she was a girl, and we’d never had a girl to vote for before. And to the boys she said that they’d better vote for her, since she’d always been one of the boys!’
‘So did the girls agree to vote for her?’
‘We were all very angry,’ said Koops. ‘All along Quack Quackwie had claimed to be a boy, and had been very bossy and rude to us girls. As a boy, she had got herself into the maths and physics class, while we girls were all sent to do domestic science and biology.’
‘So did she promise,’ asked Sara, ‘that when she became Head Boy, she’d end this discrimination against girls?’
‘Oh yes, of course,’ sneered Koops. ‘But we remembered how, when she was a boy, she used to laugh at us girls, saying we were too stupid to understand maths and physics! So now it was our turn to sneer at her, telling her that since she knew how to insult like a boy, she’d better stay as a boy!’
‘You should have had her properly examined,’ I said, ‘to find out whether she was really male or female.’
‘We did!’ replied Koops. ‘We took her to the National Gender Office Classification Committee, the NGOCC. After hours of careful examination they declared that Quack Quackwie is biologically female, but psychologically and politically male. Therefore, on balance, she was declared to be a boy.’
‘So she stood as a boy after all?’
‘Yes,’ said Koops. ‘So the boys didn’t vote for her, because they don’t like boys who pretend to be girls. And the girls didn’t vote for her, because they don’t like boys who insult them. So she came bottom of the poll.’
‘So she lost?’
‘No, she won. Because, according to the new Muwelewele Constitution, the candidate with the smallest number of votes is the winner.’
‘He was the previous Head Boy who insisted on standing for re-election, even though he was terribly unpopular. So he declared that unpopular leaders are always better, and changed the election rules accordingly.’
‘So what did the NGOCC say about Quack Quackwie winning?’
‘They immediately re-classified Quack Quackwie as a girl, and held a very expensive dinner dance at the Pa Modzi to celebrate Women’s Empowerment!’
‘How did they explain their sudden changing of Quack Quackwie’s gender classificatioin?’
‘They said they were implementing the SADC principle that more leaders should be women!’
‘And what was Quack Quackwie’s reaction?’
‘She was so pleased to be a girl again that she married the headmaster. Then she announced that, as a dutiful and obedient wife, she was now under the charge and supervision of her husband, so he would be in charge of everything.’
‘So what was the reaction of the students?’
‘That’s why I’m back early,’ said Koops. ‘We burnt the place down.’

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Patriachal Property

[First published in October 2005]

Patriarchal Property

The Local Court Justice leant forward on his bench, towards the woman standing in the witness box. ‘I understand that you, Ms Georgina Zambia, are petitioning this court for a divorce from your husband, Mr Patriarchal Property. Is that correct?’
‘Yes, Your Worship.’
The judge now leant forward to the portly figure of Mr Patriarchal Property, whose pompous paunch occupied the front pew. ‘And you, Mr Property, are you seeking a divorce from Ms Georgina Zambia?’
‘Certainly not!’ exclaimed Mr Property. ‘Firstly, the person in the witness box is not Ms Georgina Zambia. Since she became my property, she is Mrs Patriarchal Property. If she wants a divorce, she would have to seek my permission as head of household. Since she has not spoken to me about this, I have no opinion on the matter, and the case is null and void.’
‘On the contrary!’ contradicted Ms Zambia, ‘When I married him he was plain Peter Pauper, and I was the one with property. In those days, as Ms Zambia, I was a wealthy woman, owning mines, houses and filling stations. But when I married this Peter Pauper he took everything, calling himself Patriarchal Property.’
‘Is this true?’ asked the judge, turning to Mr Property.
‘When I married her she became my property,’ explained Patriarchal Property with portentous pomposity. ‘So all of her property became my property.’
‘Not true, Your Worship,’ protested Zambia. ‘The property remained in my name, I only asked him to manage it on behalf of Zambia Limited. But he paid himself such a large salary, and gave himself such huge loans and allowances, that all my companies went bankrupt.’
‘He ate all the companies?’ asked the judge in genuine wonderment and hushed respect. ‘What did he do with all the money?’
‘Adultery,’ sobbed Ms Zambia. ‘He bought girlfriends everywhere, and bought each of them a house and Merc. He is a serial adulterer!’
‘What do you say to this?’ asked the judge, turning to Patriarchal Property with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Are you really as successful as this accusation suggests?’
‘On the contrary,’ smirked the husband, ‘the accusation is entirely ridiculous and arises from my wife’s ignorance of the law. She knows that if she sleeps with another man, both she and her partner have committed adultery, and she foolishly  imagines that the same rule applies to me. But when I take a girlfriend, it merely means that I am seeking an additional wife, to which I am entirely entitled, since polygamy is allowed under customary law.’
‘Quite right,’ said the judge. ‘The very legal point I was about to make myself. We must keep to our traditions. A nation without kulcha is lost.’
‘But he has six wives and twenty-six girlfriends!’ exclaimed poor Ms Zambia.
‘I think she may be exaggerating,’ said pompous Property, as he pulled a little black notebook from his pocket and began to count .
‘He stole all my companies!’ cried Zambia.
‘Half a minute,’ said the judge, ‘I thought you said they were in your name.’
‘That’s how it was,’ sobbed Zambia, ‘until the new law that all companies belonging to Zambia Limited had to be sold off. So Patriarchal Property, being the manager, bought them all in a management buy-out, at one kwacha each.’
‘So cheap?’ wondered the judge.
‘They were all bankrupt,’ laughed Patriachal Property, ‘because I bankrupted them! It was all legally done!’
‘Very good,’ laughed the judge. ‘We must stick to the law!’ Now, turning to Ms Zambia he said ‘It seems we can’t find fault with your husband in his treatment of the marital property, which clearly belongs to him. So let me ask you about how well the children were looked after.’
‘Your Worship,’ sobbed Ms Zambia. ‘He does not provide for his children, neither those he has had with me, nor all his other children. He provides no food, no health care, no school fees, nothing. We are destitute.’
‘According to our tradition,’ said the judge, with a self-satisfied smile, ‘it is the mother’s duty to provide for her children. I have no wonder that your poor husband is bankrupt, if his greedy wives have been making such demands upon him. So I am still wondering what prompted you to bring this divorce petition. We may yet find some grounds somewhere. Does he treat you kindly?’
‘Your Worship, every time I ask him for something, or suggest something, he beats me!’
The judge now adopted a solemn tone. ‘Listen to me, Ms Zambia, or whatever you erroneously call yourself. Your husband is the head of the household and you must listen politely to all he says, with acceptance and gratitude. Naturally, if you are rude and unreasonable, and refuse to accept his authority, he is entirely entitled to discipline you. The divorce petition is denied. And let this be a lesson to other cheeky women who want to bring frivolous petitions before my court!’
So saying the judge got down from his bench, shook hands with Mr Property, then ran out of the court, jumped in his car and drove off. Ms Zambia turned to the Clerk of the Court, asking ‘Where’s the judge off to in such a hurry?’
‘He’s late for the UNIFEM meeting at Mulungushi Hall,’ laughed the Clerk. ‘He’s delivering a paper on Equal Rights for Women in Zambia.’

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gospel Truth

Gospel Truth

A fat little priest waddled to the pulpit, heaved himself up the steps, and slowly opened the Holy Book. ‘Its Father Slow Comacoma,’ Sara whispered, ‘I hope he doesn’t send us to sleep.’
We were attending the Ecumenical Service for the Resurrection of the Constitution, at the Anglican Cathedral. All around us sat the high and mighty, presenting faces of wise piety towards the Post photographer as he prowled the aisle, hoping for a mask to drop.
‘The First Lesson this morning,’ began Father Comacoma, ‘is taken from the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 66. As Jesus and his disciples were walking to the Great Temple in Jerusalem they came upon a Samaritan lying in the gutter. And Paul spoke to him, saying “Are you not the Good Samaritan who is supposed to rescue people from the gutter? But now we find you are also in the gutter! Are you deliberately seeking to mock the scriptures and attract the wrath of the Lord?
‘But Jesus put his hand gently on the arm of Paul, saying “Rest your tongue awhile my dear brother, for you have entered the wrong parable. This poor fellow is not the Good Samaritan, he is the Refugee Samaritan. Then turning to the Samaritan he asked “What troubles have flung you so far from your native city?”
‘And the Samaritan answered him, saying “The people of Samaria are poor and starving because our king has invited the Romans to take all our copper and tin, and we are reduced to slaves in our own mines. Samaria is left with no surplus wealth to employ doctors or teachers or artists. Our philosophers and thinkers have all fled to Egypt. Now there is money only for the Romans, and for the King.”
‘Then Jesus turned to his disciples, saying “We shall set forth immediately for the City of Samaria, to bring the authority of My Father to bear upon the wicked King Chibulukutu of Samaria!”
‘This is very strange,’ whispered Sara. ‘I thought this was the crucial point at which Jesus cops out, and says Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s!’
‘The Bible is full of contradictions,’ I explained. ‘The Gospel according to St Kalaki tells a different story.’
And when Jesus and his disciples entered the city,’ continued Father Comacoma, ‘they found King Chibulukutu standing on the hill in the centre of the city, addressing a great multitude, saying “I am a listening king, here to serve your interests. If you want things organised differently, just let me know what you want, and you can trust me to follow your wishes.” And the king spoke very nicely, for he was reading a speech that had been written by his advisers. And the people cheered when they heard that the king had seen reason at last.
‘But now the King Chibulukutu looked up from the parchment, and cleared his throat. His eyes bulged, the sky went dark and thunder rumbled as he shouted at the crowd, “But remember that I was appointed by God to rule over you, and therefore to challenge me is to challenge the authority of God. So if you think you can change the way this city is run, let me remind you that challenging the authority of the state is treason, and challenging the authority of God is blasphemy.”
‘And the people cowered and trembled with fear as the king spluttered and spat in the faces of his people, “You can shout for change until you are blue in the face, you can shout out your tongues until they fall on the ground, but I warn you all that if you challenge my authority then I will have you crucified on this very hill.”
‘And now Jesus rose up in a terrible rage, saying “No man may claim the authority of God, for it is written in the Commandments that no man may take the name of the Lord his God in vain. My Father in Heaven appoints no man as king, but demands that all kings must follow the scriptures!”
‘Doesn’t the Pope claim to have been appointed by God?’ wondered Sara.
‘Yes,’ I admitted. ‘But God himself has remained strangely quiet on the subject.’
‘And even as Jesus spoke,’ said Father Comacoma solemnly, still reading from the Holy Book, ‘a bolt of lightening came down from Heaven and struck the mouth of the king. And so, at long last, the king finally fell silent. His tongue was gone. By daring to shout about God, he had shouted out his own tongue.
‘And so Jesus had performed another miracle. For without his tongue, the king had to listen to his people, and could not answer back. So he had to follow the wishes of the people.’
‘For it is written in the scriptures,’ said Sara, ‘that a silent king is a gift from God.’