Towards an active citizenry

Society & Culture | By Pfungwa Nyamukachi, Writer | 04 April 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King once said “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love”. This notion got me questioning the meaning of service and greatness. What is to serve? What is the measure of greatness? The word serve has many connotations. To a Shona woman, the word serve brings to mind images of food, someone serving food and in Shona culture one has to do this on their knees. A humbling, respectful gesture, meant to make the one being served feel honoured.

Although, one who serves is a servant, this role should not be misconstrued as that of a lowly subservient minion. At its core, the verb denotes serving amongst others, being of use, answering to a purpose, doing duty for the good of others above personal gain. In this vein, my own contribution to society and how easy it is to slide into indifference in dogged pursuit of personal goals came into play. For business owners its humanity be damned in perpetual pursuit of the bottom line at any cost. Similarly, belligerent politicians greedily hold on to power with wanton disregard for the plight of the electorate.

One of the diseases plaguing Zimbabweans is that of passivity, exacerbated by an undying and paralysing belief in our political elite and deification of liberation war heroes.  As a nation, Zimbabwe trumps politically defined affiliations. To rebuild our beloved country, we each have a role to play. I am advocating for an active citizenry, whose rights are not only limited to one vote which more often than not is not as decisive as suggested. An active citizenry that is fully conscious of the fact that rights and responsibilities are inseparable. Being an active citizen extends beyond personal gain and more towards collective benefit.
We are all responsible and accountable, which is a call to action of man to country instead of the idle talk of heads buried in the sand.

Greatness refers both to quantity and quality. It is also a subjective term. It can mean different things at different times, to different people depending on values, needs, aspirations which can complicate the debate. An even better way of looking at greatness is be to study so called great men and women of the world. Often times we look outside ourselves for help, guidance, leadership and change when in fact, real change lies within us. It starts with each of us playing our part, doing something, however great or miniscule to change the status quo. We are each the change we seek, the ‘great’ leader we seek. The cumulative result of all our efforts can only be luminous, magnificent, and great! Charity begins at home and serving humanity is much easier than it is often made out. It is the small, spontaneous individual gestures that really make a difference to humanity: