There are two most telling verses in the Bible today. At least in as far as the political circus in Namibia is concerned.
Pastors and avid Bible readers are well conversant with Proverbs 17 verses 21 and 25.
Depending on which version of Bible one has, the core message in verse 21 says: ‘He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy’ according to the 2001 English Standard Version. (Spreuke hoofstuk 17 vers 21: Hy wat n dwaas verwek, vir hom sal dit n bekommernis word; en die vader van die dwaas sa nie bly wees nie.)
The same version gives verse 25 as follows: ‘A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.’ (vers 25 Dwase seun is n verdriet vir sy vader en bitter smart vir haar wat hom gebaar het.)
One has to understand the word fool in this case. Although it’s open to any interpretation, the one that best suits the purpose of this column is mad man.
If you are a mad man’s father, you have no rest because while he runs amok around the whole village; while the mad man causes senseless destruction to the neighbours’ properties; while he gleefully crisscrosses the village paths butt naked; while he howls meaningless songs in the middle of the night; it’s his father who suffers most.
It’s the mad man’s father who has to run after him and take him back home; it’s the father who has to apologise to the neighbours for the wanton destruction of their property; it’s the father who gathers the discarded torn clothes from the ground and force him to cover his nakedness; it’s the father who consoles him in the dead of the night so that he stops disturbing the neighbourhood.
And in the morning, it’s the father who cannot face the day and join other village fathers for they whisper among themselves, ‘There he comes whose loins sired the mad man.’
It’s the mad man’s mother whose heart is gnawed by anguish; his mother who feels the nakedness on her back; his mother who carries the curse; his mother who cannot walk down the river to fetch water with other women for they too whisper behind her back: ‘There comes the mother of the mad man.’
There are times when the madman dances to the songs in his head. Elated, the mother claps her hands and then sings real songs for him. But the mad son takes off towards the hills leaving the mother heartbroken.
Even when sleep an exhaustion subdue him, quietening his madness; even at those rare moments when hunger calms him; even when for some other reason the madness cools off; his father is always alert for he knows that when it returns, it’s like a tsunami.
Somebody in the family has to keep an eye on the axe, the box of matches, the open fire, the family gun, the spear and anything dangerous lest the mad son gets hold of it and holds the family hostage.
Even the ladder too has to be hidden far away from the mad son because who knows once he gets it whether he will not climb on top of the house, tears his clothes off and does his mad ness antics.
Sometimes these antics divide the family. Some members will advise the father to tie him up to the tree so that at least they can have rest and time to do some chores. They will say so because he shames the family.
There will be others who will tell the father to whip his bare bum so that at least he will be scared of acting up. They will say because of his madness, they cannot walk the village with their heads high. They claim that the whole village whispers behind them: ‘There goes the mad man’s brother. The one who tears his clothes or dances to the songs in his head.’
Yet there will be others who think that being cruel to the mad man does not make sense. They argue that the ancestors will not be happy. He is, afterall, their blood. ‘God gave him to us. All what we can do is put up with him,’ they will say.
Although the mad man’s father listens, deep in his heart the pain grows thick. It’s even worse for the mother whose womb turns in anguish and despair for it was here the mad man was formed.
It was here where the mad man fed on her juices and breathed his first. It is here where the mad man first thrust his restless feet and swung his small arms in defiance of reason. It is here where the mad man first tossed and turned with so much energy.
Yes, the mad man’s mother suffers most. She suffers in silence. But she tells herself, ‘He is just a different child.’ That ‘Every child is a blessing; must be accepted as they are; and for what they are.’
Even when the mad man wakes up one morning throwing about all cooking utensils; defecating in the water pot and urinating in the fire, it’s the mother who will talk to him so that he stops.
But the mad man does not stop. He even looks for an axe to chop up the cooking utensils. Still the mother just looks trying to make him see reason.
As it is Swapo is like that mad man’s father. He agonises over what his sons and daughters in the youth league say and do but it seems the pain of being a parent pains him so much.
Swapo is like that mad man’s mother. She feels the nakedness and talks to her son to quiet him.
The price of having a mad man for a son is the pain of losing sleep over him; the agony of knowing that he will never grow to be anything; the disheartenment in a life so wasted; it’s the soul-consuming realisation that the future generation does not exist.