By Seewell Mashizha
THE ‘Little Jack Horner’ nursery rhyme by Mother Goose goes:
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, “What a good boy am I!”
But what are we talking about here, then and now? There has to be a point to the little teaser. And whether one subscribes to the views of Bakhtin on originality or its lack thereof, is immaterial. What may be of substance is the degree of veracity in the learned man’s pronouncements.
What we necessarily needs must do is embrace with Mark Everard Slater (2014) the reality of the interface between influence and originality in creative processes. This, in particular, is of the essence when it comes to the literary arts and significant other variants of the creative urge that is latent in all human beings.
Slater observes that in his investigation he is using an approach “that distinguishes between the epistemologies of critical theory and creative practice”. Consequently, Slater’s study investigates the notions of originality and influence in literary theory and their applicability to creative writing practice.
The human universe abounds with a multiplicity of prototypes whose influence we see around us all the time. There is a saying to the effect that there is nothing new under God’s heaven. In effect, there is a sense in which we are all copycats. If nature could sue us it would. Take your chopper for a start: the hovering in one place without crashing to the ground below is something that our good old mukonikoni, the dragon fly, has been doing since creation. We can probably think of other instances of the interface between nature and invention. Is the armoured car not like the tortoise in some way?
In pursuit of a clearer understanding of the processes involved in creativity, it would appear necessary to refer to the words of Mark A. Runco (1993) as captured in his study titled ‘Operant Theories of Insight, Originality, and Creativity.’ Runco states, “Indeed, the biggest challenge for an operant theory of creativity and discovery may be to explain behavioral variation. Operant theory must do so in order to explain originality and novelty, two of the key facets of creativity.”
But there are others who do not think that all that creatives do is just duplicate each other’s efforts. In that regard, Clive Thomson (1984) makes the following observation:
From an epistemological point of view, the possibility of exact duplication or repetition of the same generic device from text to text is denied. Each text (or reading of a text) is a new performance in which generic material is reworked and re-presented.
But how is this linked to Little Jack Horner you might say. Let us try and solve the puzzle of what the Little Jack Horner rhyme is thought to mean. The story goes that during the reign of Henry the Eighth in England (1509 – 1547) he had a run-in with the Catholic Church and that led to the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry VIII also began to seize property from the Catholic Church.
Jack, in the rhyme was in real life a steward by the name of Thomas Horner. He was a steward to the Abbot of Glastonbury during the reign of Henry VIII. The abbot entrusted him to take title deeds of some properties to Henry VIII as a bribe. The abbot was hoping to then be allowed to keep the main monastery.
It is said that the title deeds were held and sealed in a pie. That done, Jack set off for London. Somewhere along the line Jack changes his mind about delivering the bribe to the king. He helps himself to the pie, puts his hand in and pulls out a plum piece of real estate. Jack congratulates himself and more or less pats his own back. Jack thinks he is very clever to have done this, hence the “What a good boy am I!”
Does any of this sound familiar? There are always some parallels between some events in some places. I could not help transposing the Jack Horner story to our own situation in Zimbabwe.
After the demise of MDC-T founding President, Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa was one of those entrusted with chaperoning the party that Morgan Tsvangirai had led since its formation into a new era of collaborationist politics. Chamisa’s brief was to deliver a wholesome party to the “grand coalition”. But somewhere along the political highway Chamisa decided he was going to have his cake and eat it. So he moved very swiftly while the nation and his party were in mourning and arrogated power unto himself.
It did not matter that the party was avowedly a democratic one. And it did not matter that the body of Chamisa’s boss was still fresh in its casket. He was going to have his plum piece of political pie no matter what. And he had the muscle and brawn to grab what he wanted. Who could say no to him? The young pastor’s dogs of war were growling all over the place and looking quite menacing. It would have been nothing to them to make a braais out of his rivals at the grand funeral in Buhera. Chamisa and his people did not have the common decency to respect their dearly departed leader and the foreign dignitaries present.
Thereafter Chamisa began to entrench himself as rapidly as he could and when it seemed like he had won the battle with erstwhile co-deputy president the shadowy Elias Mudzuri seeming to give up the ghost of his political ambitions, he seemed to be home and dry and must have sat down and metaphorically licked his fingers with a smug “What a good boy am I!” Except he had not counted on the tenacity of one Dr. Thokozani Khupe, Tsvangirai’s third deputy and the only one not directly appointed by Tsvangirai.
Chamisa had spoken too soon. The situation as of now is a somewhat untenable one. The Chamisa faction had appealed the ruling of the High Court. Justice Paddington Garwe of the Supreme Court, sitting with Justices Mary Anne Gowora and Antonia Guvava ruled as follows:
“It is ordered by consent that:
(1) The appeal be and is hereby allowed with no order as to costs.
(2) The judgment of the court a quo is hereby set aside and in its place, the following is substituted:
i) The application for this matter to be dealt with on an urgent basis is granted.
ii) In view of the material disputes of tact afflicting the application, it is ordered that the application be referred to trial for the resolution of the following disputes:
a) Whether or not there are two MDC-T parties
b) If not, whether the respondents are entitled to the use of the name, symbol, logo and trademarks of the MDC-T…”
In effect, this means that the two parties return to the drawing board to prepare for a trial with witnesses where necessary. Meanwhile, the 2018 elections draw ever nearer with incumbent President, Emmerson Mnangagwa set to announce a date for the plebiscite in the very near future. The pace has certainly accelerated and all things are moving inexorably towards a resolution. The nation will soon know who really holds sway.
The ZANU PF primaries were, in some ways, messy and hailed as such by many, but the contradictions appear to have been resolved. The same does not appear to be the same for the MDC-T Chamisa faction. Dr. Nero can’t seem to keep away from schisms and controversy. He has now alienated hard-working Jessie Majome and harassed her with his Vanguard. She will be standing as an independent.
Chamisa will find it very difficult to shake off the sexist tag. The things he has so far said and done on the campaign trail cannot possibly endear him to the women’s lobby. At only 46, Majome is rubbished and told that she is an old woman who should go to the communal areas and herd donkeys. Could it be that some people in her faction of the MDC-T see a threat in her obvious intellect and quiet dignity?
The obscenities hurled at Thokozani Khupe by members of a party that claims to be a party of excellence and an agent of change gives the lie to all that and to the oft-repeated claim to be democrats. While all this drama is going on the Chamisa faction has as yet to produce a manifesto. It is the absence of a manifesto that gives Chamisa to say all the unrehearsed things he says whenever there is an audience.
Unless there is a change of tack soon, the chickens will come home to roost. That would certainly make Chamisa a damp squib, having begun with such promise. The way things are going, ED may not have to worry himself over a faltering challenge.