Listening to Edgar Lungu on Friday struggle to read the speech in Parliament some speechwriters had written for him confirmed what several lifetimes of reporting on politicians and thieves had taught us that it was often not what people said, but what they did not say that revealed the truth.
Maya Angelou was very right when she said, “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.” On Friday, we witnessed what lying with facts and half-truths really means.
In “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics”, Barton Swaim, observed, “It’s impossible to attain much success in politics if you’re the sort of person who can’t abide disingenuousness. This isn’t to say politics is full of lies and liars; it has no more liars than other fields do. Actually, one hears very few proper lies in politics. Using vague, slippery, or just meaningless language is not the same as lying: it’s not intended to deceive so much as to preserve options, buy time, distance oneself from others, or just to sound like you’re saying something instead of nothing.”
They say if you are not good at speeches, be good at your actions. We are advised: ‘When a moral man speaks, listen. But when immoral men speak, toss away their words like bad fruit. Truth will never shine from a heart filled with corruption and lies.’
But as Shannon Alder wrote, “Shame without repentance doesn’t lose power when it is spoken, it only seeks approval.” To assess the quality of thoughts of people, don’t listen to their words, but watch their actions. It’s sad that Edgar can’t even write his own speech or spare enough time to go through a speech written for him before delivering it. And on Friday, it was very clear that Edgar had serious difficulties delivering a speech written for him. He was throughout busy fidgeting his fingers. They say life is an act and we are all actors in the arena of life. We all do act each day from dawn to dusk. Some act well but some act to cover their acts. Our words mean nothing when our actions are the complete opposite.
It’s clear that Edgar is trying very hard to be seen to be what he is not. It is said that hypocritical humility is the highest form of lying. Honest arrogance is the lowest form self-promotion. William Shakespeare wrote, “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.”
Dr T.P.Chia said, “A hypocrite is more dangerous than a dishonest man. A dishonest man deceives and cheats, and a hypocrite betrays and swindles.” We often find that people who claim virtue are the ones to lack it the most.
Buddha observed, “Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”
It is said that a company of wolves is better than a company of wolves in sheep’s clothing. And Mokokoma Mokhonoana summed it up very well, “Plants are more courageous than almost all human beings: an orange tree would rather die than produce lemons, whereas instead of dying, the average person would rather be someone they are not.” If our actions don’t live up to our words, we really have nothing to say.
Edgar doesn’t make his words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making his speech sound more religious, it actually becomes less true. The good Christian coat Edgar wants to wear doesn’t fit him. His lifestyle – excessive drinking, dishonesty, cruelty, vindictiveness, abuses of power and of others, corruption, casino life – don’t resemble that of a devout Christian, of being like or imitating Christ. Empty words degrade language. Big words seldom accompany good deeds. Let deeds match words.
As William Shakespeare wrote, “Hell is empty and all the devils are there… The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” In 2 Peter 2:18, we are told: “They speak great swelling words of emptiness…” A tree is known by its fruit; a politician by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Again, in summing it up, we turn to Shakespeare’s advice: ” Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
In The Autobiography of Sun Tzu, Teck Foo Check wrote, “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.” There’s no need to try and analyse Edgar’s speech word for word when it all can be easily summed up in one word – bullshit! We have to be candid and honest with ourselves and with each other. Of course, everyone wants the truth but, it would seem, no one wants to be honest.