Doing it right for ourselves

President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was sworn into office last Friday.

And already a few cynics are creeping out of the woodwork, the euphoria of the past week quickly being drowned by naysaying and an inexplicable self-hate that hopes for national failure.

The cynics are waiting for the new Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to fail.

Never mind that national failure impacts on them just as hard as it impacts on President Mnangagwa.

Cynicism used to be quite the intellectual pursuit. It never had the negativity associated with it these days.

Today, only the most stone-hearted think of cynicism as an out and out virtue.

All too often, cynicism is the refuge of those who have no ideas to offer, no insights to bring, and faith in their own capacity to actually do anything.

Which is quite said because in Ancient Greece, cynicism was an influential movement that counted among its followers Antisthenes, who was a contemporary of the thinker Plato and student of the highly respected Socrates.

Among its other followers were Diogenes of Sinope and Crates of Thebes.

Cynicism as a movement preoccupied itself with a system of beliefs that focused on living a life of virtue and in agreement with nature.

This meant that followers of the movement were of the opinion that every day desire for power, wealth, sex and other very human inclinations were not the most important things in life.

The cynics of Ancient Greece led what they said was a simple life.

Many of them left their homes to live on the streets without any source of income. They lived on the goodwill of their fellow man.

That was not all.

The cynics of yore sincerely believed that the world belonged to all people and that the only reason there was any suffering in the world was because people simply did not care about each other and were too consumed by selfish pursuits.

But they also had the same sharp tongues that appear to be the only thing they bequeathed on the cynics of today. And perhaps therein lies the association of negativity that characterises cynicism today.

One of the more famous and certainly most acerbic cynics was the aforementioned Diogenes of Sinope.

The story goes that Diogenes of Sinope used to walk around in broad daylight while carrying a lit lamp aloft.

When people asked him what he needed a lantern for during the day, he is said to have replied: “I am just looking for an honest man.”

And he reportedly never found one.

That, in a nutshell, is a history of cynicism.

It is easy to be a cynic and a critic today. In Zimbabwe, it is a growth industry that, we must all admit, is to a good extent the result of years of disillusionment.

The way the politics of this country were being handled, even as the economy burned and elderly people slept overnight in bank queues in the hope of maybe getting US$20 the next day was enough to create an army of cynics.

But rather than create cynicism today, the turn in events in Zimbabwe should be cause for a confident brand of optimism that spurs each and every one of us to put our shoulders to the wheel and put in an honest shift.

The truth is turning around Zimbabwe’s fortunes is not a job for President Mnangagwa alone, nor indeed just for politicians.

Everyone within these borders has an important role to play; for President Mnangagwa it is to set the agenda and lead from the front.

How we conduct ourselves has a huge bearing on whether or not the hopeful triumph over the cynical.

Are we honest in our business practices? Do we ignore or — worse still — encourage corruption? Do we put in an honest day’s work at our various stations or are we laggards who only mark time until month end for another undeserved pay cheque?

Are we paying our taxes as is expected of us in our various sectors? At ports of entry, how far do we go to avoid giving the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority what is due to it?

Everything we do in our business and professional practices has an incremental bearing on the direction the national economy takes, for better or for worse.

Let us not take the easy route of idle cynicism and sit back while expecting President Mnangagwa to do everything all on his own.

It is to our own edification to change the way we do things as individuals, as communities, as businesses and as a country.

If not for President Mnangagwa and the refreshing breeze of optimism he has brought with his ascendency, let us do it for ourselves and for our children.

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