The First Step

September 15, 2017

 In 42 years of independence, this is the second time that a President is elected and the first time that the President-elect has never before occupied the nation’s top position. The prophecy of the “Eagles”, who in the early 70s sang, ‘Johnny come lately, the new kid in town...’ has been fulfilled, ‘… great expectations, everybody’s watching you!’

 

This is a truly prophetic song because “the newcomer” is always a “new” man, even to those who already knew him, and everyone (‘it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on’) puts his or her hopes on him, counting on not being disappointed until the day that, as it always happens in life and democracy, he too will have to leave (‘and they’ll never forget you, till somebody new comes along’).

 

As I write, I’m listening to this song, and if it were possible, I’d like you to hear it too while you read this article. It puts you in the moment, every word is delighting and it would be wonderful to look into the “new kid’s’’ eyes and feel the “music beginning to play’’...

 

Carried away by the tune and the lyrics, I imagine a first step of a dance that I’m beginning to rehearse in what I write, not forgetting that the harsh, naked and crude reality will be, eventually, very different. I also heard the President-elect’s speech and I realized that it was more a response than a proposition, more a “hold on just a second” and “stop the party” than an invitation to a waltz, as I perceive the essence of politics... But, after all, who am I to have a say, I, a “hopeless romantic’’?

 

As in the “Eagles’’ song, ‘the people you meet, they all seem to know you / even your old friends treat you like you’re something new...’, but if ‘you're looking the other way’... those restless hearts feel lost and despair (‘those restless hearts that never mend’).

 

I imagine, therefore, the President-elect taking the first step towards the candidates who competed with him for the highest office in the country. I picture him approaching each one individually and with the intimacy of a romantic encounter, to rehearse a dance to the music that now begins to play... the first beats of a rhythm until now lost in the dissonance of present times.

 

It would not be an act of condescension, let alone an act of weakness, for this is not a charity ball. If you could listen to this song by the Eagles, it would be easier to find the right words to define this moment that I dream of now... ‘there’s so many things you should have told her / but night after night you’re willing to hold her, just hold her / tears on your shoulder...’ It happens in real life, losing the right moment to say the right word. Not because we are not wise, but because we are not inspired. Inspiration, the power of suggestion, the ability to see and reach the infinite cannot be exclusive to artists... politicians must have this vision, this kind of impetus that almost always depends only on opening one’s arms and taking a small step forward.

 

We all have differences and limitations... It is a question of dialogue... Can’t we acknowledge them and join hands in the same purpose of saving Angola from the abyss? The abyss that still separates those who have everything from those who have nothing. The great gulf that distances us from the development that this land can provide us. There are so many answers that can be given, not all correct, but we could discuss them in our private spheres and in the parliament and in civil society.

 

There is a heartache and a grudge ‘on the street / it sounds so familiar...’ It has been so whenever there are elections! One more reason to take this step. There may be no cure for the evil that torments us, but, at this moment, a gesture of comfort, a sign of hope, would suffice. Lao Tse once said that, “a path of a thousand kilometers begins with a first step”. It’s nothing, a step, compared to the long way to go, but it is crucial for without it there is no way to go. Otherwise the way becomes an obstacle course, or worse yet, a walking away from a path that should be common.

 

Once again, MPLA has won, a party that was once the vanguard of the Angolan people in the first Constitutional Law, and is still today the dominant political party although its hegemony is being visibly counterbalanced by other political forces that have progressively strengthened their popular support since the 2008 elections. The status of the head of the opposition should be on the agenda of any high-level discussion, and this is the time to define this position, dignifying the right to differ that the President-elect declared to respect in his victory speech. The President of the largest opposition force must be heard with desirable regularity on the most important matters of the State before decisions are made by the holder of the Executive Power. It’s not enough to limit political interaction to the parliament and confine dialogue to the discussion and approval of laws. State administration, at both central and local level, should be marked by respect for the principle of equality of all citizens, which shouldn’t be solely guaranteed by the courts deciding, almost always late, on situations that can be avoided through early dialogue. Our country may be ill, but, from now on, it can and should be more cautious. Four eyes see better than two... That is what the President-elect can say to his interlocutors, at the dawn of an era when new things are expected of him...

 

‘Johnny-come-lately, the New Kid in Town,

Everybody loves you, so don’t let them down!’

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