Don’t worry, be happy …

In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double/ Ain't got no place to lay your head, somebody came and took your bed/ When you worry your face will frown/ And that will bring everybody down/ Don't worry, be happy ...

Zimbabwe is the third happiest country in Africa. This extraordinary idea comes from an international psychiatric research group’s Mental State of the World index for 2024. Tanzania came first, Nigeria second.

The criteria used in the study are benchmarks of mental health such as coping mechanisms, mood, adaptability, cognitive skills and “mind-body connection.’”

Is this psycho-babble? Not really. It means our people have learnt survival techniques, are resilient and are generally good natured – until, that is, they get into politics or behind the wheel of a car.

Elites with all the money don’t live alongside the majority in what Dambudzo Marachera would have called the modern day House of Hunger.

Take a second to check out all the detail in this Zimbabwe Daily cartoon

Values are lost when African traditions die and “foreign and modern cultures” take over, chief of them being all-out materialism, so say experts.

When the pillars of belief change, things begin to fall apart, adds historian Pathisa Nyathi.

It’s not that old African lore is beyond reproach but history shows it had some fair play and justice.

Nyathi writes of the disappearance lately of traditional rain-making rituals.

The ceremonies have been usurped by the proliferation of Christian and not-so-Christian religious groups that claim superhuman feats in return for congregants’ money. And like politicians, they make a lot of it.

Claiming powers of healing and redemption, their “prophets”  drive big cars and build luxurious homes for themselves.

Prophet X says he has businesses on the side to justify his wealth. He has used Italian interior designers to refurbish his kitchens to compare in expanse and extravagance to any in the homes of film stars.

“Ah, but he helps the poor.” How so? “He lifts our hopes.”

But not hopes of miracles to bring rain. Like climate extremes elsewhere, our rainy season will be the driest for generations. Crops are wilting, dams are breached, water reserves are low.

In recent years of weather-related hardships and man-made ones, belief in rain-making rituals has evaporated.

When they did work, it was coincidence, say the non-believers.

The rituals were conducted over day and night with music, singing, dancing, drumming and drinking traditional African beer, the first gourd of it poured onto the base of a tree in an offering to the ancestral spirits.

According to the historian Nyathi “people, especially the young, now look down upon our culture and traditions.”

How happy are you on the scale of 1 to 100?

The World Health Organisation says mental health can be measured on the ability to handle life’s difficulties. That’s why we get 74 on the 100 scale. Tanzania gets 88, Nigeria 83. The happiness index gives politically troubled Britain a startlingly low 49 points.

In the worldwide psychology study Scandinavia and the rich Nordic states easily come out on top of the league.

They have high taxes and welfare systems to take the homeless off the streets. In Norway, the prisons have been compared to hotels but officials say they only try to achieve “an absence of discomfort” to improve the likelihood of the successful rehabilitation of offenders. The cells have a shower, fridge, TV, desk, armchair, there are conjugal visits etc.

Needless to say our prisons here occupy an under-funded cruel heart of darkness where no particle of comfort resides …

1 Response

  1. allen pizzey says:

    The cheerful resilience of the people of Zimbabwe has never ceased to amazer and inspire me

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