Friday, 14 February 2014

The Pitfalls of Our Ephemeral Political Consciousness*

By Takura Zhangazha^

Political consciousness of one sort or the other is something we all eventually aspire to.  Even if it means shunning political activity altogether or alternatively  taking to it with enthusiasm or self righteousness.  In what I would refer to as ‘arrival societies’ also known as the ‘developed world’ (North and East), political consciousness is more or less established as a given.  Mainly because the ideological  fundamentals of these societies are generally established. That is to say, there is an acceptance  (at least by an active political majority)of their existent political systems that goes back for decades or in some cases centuries. 

In the certainty of their political systems and the attendant almost uniform understanding of progressive political consciousness,  they have greatly assisted in the coming into being of  a broader global consciousness on the significance  of the universality of human rights. In many cases they have also been the founders of many an ideological basis for initial revolutionary moments in the histories of other countries during liberation struggle against colonialism with Zimbabwe not being an exception.

But whereas our country has moved on, at least according to our government,  taking in its stride, the political consciousness and activities that are universally accepted as democratic, we still have to grapple with the fact that our country is not yet an ‘arrived one’.

And this is an important point where and when we consider the status of our national political consciousness in Zimbabwe.

 In broad terms our political consciousness as citizens has depended on the narratives of those that are in ‘arrival societies’. Be they in the West or the in the East.  That is why in most cases we have wrongly assumed we can argue as though we live in their metropoles where and when it  concerns issues of our political, democratic or socio-economic development. Even if on a partisan political party  basis. 

A long standing example of  has been that of the current and previous governments policy of  , ‘public private partnerships’. This has been neither a home grown or contextual economic model.  Instead it has been  a policy derived from the depths of neo-imperialism that would never have it so easy in its own country of origin.  Neither would the countries or institutions from which this particular model is derived, implement it to the detriment of the livelihoods of their own peoples. Yet in Zimbabwe we would, in our temporary political consciousness, celebrate not only the seeming sophistry of its wording by high sounding government officials, while it is used as cover to privatise as basic a commodity as water.

Unfortunately our contemporary and ‘past’ political leaders have pursued this path with unassuming naivety or simplistic populism. Hence we had our copied first ten years of what the post independence government called ‘scientific socialism’.  Immediately thereafter it made one of the most shocking  policy  volte-farce that came to be euphemistically referred to as economic structural adjustment. 

We didn't leave it there though.  We then opened up our cultural spaces to the global media to the extent that our leaders’ tastes for profligacy far outweighed our ability to remain true to ourselves.

And this is where we have come to the state of ephemeral national political consciousness.  It is a national political consciousness that is premised on the temporary and in mimicry to the politics of those that we assume we must mimic and admire (again, be they in the East or the West).  So we will lap up issues of free market economics or predatory  state capitalism depending on who is our global (or individual livelihood) benefactor at the time. 

We will join a cause today and abandon it on the morrow. Depending on either the global or fashionable trend of the next 48 hours.  Or depending on the ridiculousness of rumours being peddled via the new/social media. This, unfortunately, is not the material that societies seeking to arrive are made of.  

Zimbabwe’s national political consciousness falls into a category where it is the immediate that makes the most political sense. Not the politics of the whole let alone those of the future, even in the absence of those that are currently in charge of the country. 

We will get (nationally) angry at what occurs today, in so far as it occurs and nothing more. We will however not query the shaky fundamentals of our society. Nor the fact that we cant claim arrival as much as those nations we meet at the United Nations General Assembly do.  

So we will wrongly want to be up there with the wrongly termed ‘Arab Spring’ yet we do not have an organic understanding of either the realities of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya let alone our own national realities before we lay claim to be doing the right thing.

We will vaingloriously claim US President, Barrack Obama,  for our African own without understanding that his presidency is not an individual but historically institutional one for the American people.  One that is also  based on his own ambitious knowledge of his society and of an understanding of the historical genesis of the same. (He had to arrive. And he did. But not on behalf of Africans let alone Zimbabweans)

In Zimbabwe we therefore have neither an ‘arrived’ society or  visionary individual political leaders to put us on the path to arrival. We function largely  from what is politically fashionable on a day to day basis. Hence our current government leaders will claim a country size diamond field that doesn't really exist. All in the name of an immediate politicized socio-economic development programme called ZimAsset.

Where  opposition  political party leaders claim they are the only ones who can lead this country to a democratic Utopias defined by others, they still fall into the same trap of wishing they were living in  countries other than their own.  Hence their criticism of contemporary government policy is limited to their personal experiences in ‘arrival countries’ or alternatively ‘arrived’ knowledge production systems which they are in awe of while understanding limited little of the same.

The greater challenge is perhaps that we should learn to be more circumspect and holistic in analyzing our country’s problems. That does not mean we cannot entertain ourselves with idle banter about how much senior government workers earn. Entertainment and rumour mongering are an essential part of politics. Unfortunately, they remain only an epitome of temporary political consciousness.

What is required is a holistic and organic political consciousness that, while functioning in the immediacy of the ‘now’ understands that Zimbabwe is not an ‘arrival’ society and that in order for the struggle to continue, our political consciousness must be for posterity.

* With apologies to Franz Fanon
^Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (