Talking Blues: Of Pandora’s box, Sisyphus, the crab, the crane and double-crossing


“Then I witnessed the torture of Sisyphus, as he wrestled with a huge rock with both hands. Bracing himself and thrusting with hands and feet, he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. But just when he was about to topple it over the crest, its sheer weight turned it back, and he had to start all over.” Odyssey, Book 11:593

An old crane (bird) lived near a small pond full of fish. The fish served as its breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As the crane aged, catching the fish was getting taxing.

Drought occurred. Water level receded, but the fish remained elusive. He would catch a few, but not enough. How could he catch more, the crane wondered?

It devised a plan and sat by the pond. Motionless. Like a Buddhist monk. After a while, an inquisitive fish asked,

“What’s the matter?”

The crane replied, “I am devastated. You guys are in mortal danger.”

“How?” the fish asked.

The crane responded, “Look, water in your pond is ebbing. Food is running out. You all will starve.”

Concerned, the fish asked, “What can we do then?”

The crane replied, “If you can trust me, I can pick you up in my beak one at a time and transfer you to a much bigger pond. With lots of water and food.”

The fish became suspicious; but the crane coaxed, “Test me. Send one fish with me, I will show him the new pond and bring him back. Then you decide.”

The fish debated and resolved that one fish should go verify. Seeing that the crane didn’t eat that fish, they agreed to relocate.

The crane picked the first and flew to a tree. Before the fish realized what was happening, the crane killed him, ate his flesh and dropped the bones to the ground.

The crane repeated this until no fish was left. His hunger nevertheless persisted.

Then he saw a crab and tried to re-use the same ruse as with the fish, but the crab did not bite.

The prospect of a big pond was however overwhelming and after much thought, the crab said,

“I am too heavy for your beak. You could inadvertently drop me. Let me grab your neck with my eight legs.”

The crane agreed, and they flew to a big tree next to a pond. The crab wondered,

“Why are you not taking me to the pond?”

“See those fish bones under the tree?” asked the crane, “I have eaten them all.”

The crab merely laughed and reminded the crane that its throat was locked in his claws. The crane realized the danger and begged the crab to leave his neck and promised not to eat him. The crab agreed, and the crane flew down to the pond and pleaded,

“Now, please release me.”

The crab now knew that the crane could not be trusted; sliced the crane’s neck with his sharp claws, the crane’s head fell on the ground, and the crab crawled into the new big, beautiful pond.

From cranes and crabs, let us recall Greek mythology.

Pandora of the Pandora’s Box fame was the first mortal woman in Greek mythology, i.e., Pandora is the Biblical Eve’s equivalent.

Prometheus, a mere mortal, had stolen fire from Olympus. This made Zeus angry and to punish men, irate Zeus decided to give humans something which would balance this new acquisition, “an evil thing for men as the price of fire.”

He commanded Hephaestus to create a creature endowed with numerous beguiling and seducing gifts which would plague mortal men from then on. Hephaestus produced a sweet, lovely, maiden-shape, as beautiful and as enticing as the immortal goddesses.

All the gods and goddesses including Athena, Aphrodite, Graces and Peitho (Persuasion), chipped in and finally, Hermes put in it the voice of humankind and at Zeus’ command, contrived within this voice many lies and crafty words.

It was so beautiful that even the deathless gods were in love with it! They called it Pandora, meaning the “All-Endowed” because all the gods had contributed to its creation.

Since the “sheer guile” of Pandora wasn’t enough of a punishment for men, the gods also bequeathed her with numerous other gifts – suffering, doom, blame, strife, retribution, chaos, destruction, hope, disease and death – packed neatly in a beautiful jar.

Jar in hand, Pandora was sent to earth, given in marriage to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother.

One day, Pandora lifted the jar’s lid out of curiosity, thus inadvertently released all evils and diseases into the world. She quickly tried to put the top back but only managed to retain Hope inside it.

From Pandora’s mishaps, let us crossover to Sisyphus, referred to in the intro. Sisyphus, a deceitful king, was condemned by Zeus to eternally roll a boulder up a hill in Hades. He represents a distressing symbol of the folly of those who seek to trifle with the natural order of things and avoid the inevitable.

The adjective Sisyphean, used later in this discourse, denotes an objective which can never be pursued but never attained.

Before I make my point, allow me to add one more story.

After suffering a lot, a couple decided life was not worth living and resolved to kill themselves. They agreed that from a cliff’s crest, standing side by side, they would count to 3 then jump to their deaths.

They reached the cliff, said their adieus, then 1-2-3 and the man jumped.

The lady did not.

She just stood there watching. She watched his free-fall towards the rough stony ground and then suddenly “poof”, a parachute opened. Buoyed by the parachute, the man did not crush to death.

Finding no broken body on the ground, he looked up and saw that his wife had not jumped.

What do you think? Who fooled who?

Malawi has answers to these questions. The couple represents MCP and UTM which through a historical pact created the Tonse Alliance which facilitated their victory in the June 2020 FPE.

This alliance is now in supposition.

As we speak, MCP and UTM are on the edge of a cliff, and as far as UTM is concerned, MCP has already jumped and like the man in the tale above, it has a parachute.

The parachute is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with which MCP wants to partner, going forward.

How did this happen?

Before going deeper, let us ponder the Pandora’s box-like MCP-UTM pact.

What is in that box?

Because no one will tell us, we can freely speculate.

It is a fact that the State Vice President will be ineligible to run as Vice President again in 2025. Further, from his age, we can assume he will not retire in 2025.

This leaves the presidency as his only option.

Secondly, both Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima knew this when signing their secret pact.

Therefore, their deal was premised on Chakwera serving for one term only.

Thirdly, they both knew that the arrangement would not please everyone. Indeed, scores quit UTM after the pact. MCP however, suffered no exodus.

You know why?

Because some in MCP had a Plan “B”. Since even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, the Plan “B” is now a nonstarter.

Unfortunately, right from the inauguration, the MCP Plan “B” faction made it clear to Chilima that he should forget about 2025.

This faction is now in a quandary because due to its behaviour, mending fences with Chilima will be a “Sisyphean” task.

Even if fences were mended, the MCP factionists have a zero guarantee that Chilima would forgive and forget.

To complicate everything, since 50%+1 is here to stay, the factionists know MCP cannot win alone and caught between a rock and a hard place, they have resorted to Otto von Bismarck’s declaration that politics is the art of the possible and in their estimation, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is MCP’s potential bedfellow.

What can we make of this?

Any ill-advised course of action can, like Sisyphus, banish MCP to the opposition for good.

Coming to the crab and the crane; unlike the fish hoodwinked and eaten by the crane, Chilima seems to be a crab. He is steps ahead.

Should MCP fail to keep Chakwera’s commitment to the Chakwera-Chilima Agreement, MCP will never be trusted again by prospective electoral partners or voters.

Since 50%+1 here to stay, this could mean MCP not governing ever again.

Still on the crab and the crane dimension, MCP cannot predict DPP’s thinking, and when one thinks of it, Chilima is a much better option.

All these, however, are the least of MCP’s worries.

Should MCP indeed jilt UTM, MCP – like Lady Pandora – risks opening the forbidden box and unwittingly unleashing deceit, suffering, doom, blame-game, strife, retribution, chaos and destruction in its rank and file because there is no sane MCP hardcore supporter who has forgotten what life, under the DPP, was like.

How quickly we forget?

Is it worth it?

Atambwali sametanatu!