Tuesday, 11 June 2019

On Trying to Be Better at Being Zimbabwean: Eight (8) Brief Points


By Takura Zhangazha*


I always try and do my best to avoid any accusations of being self-righteous.  I do however also  always try to learn, in part, from how I grew up.  The formal and informal education I received to try and construct a better understanding of my own specific personal settings as well as those shared in the communities and schools and country I was fortunate to have grown up in.   

The lessons learnt from these experiences have been important in my own specific political, economic and social consciousness.  But what is more significant is the fact that I and others in my own migratory peculiar circumstances  need to perpetually understand the fact that we all live(d) in a collective polity called Zimbabwe and take into account the lessons that we were taught by our parents (particularly our mothers), brothers, sisters, community members and teachers.   Our lived lives were not rumours but realities that still inform our national consciousness (for) now. 

Depending on the period in which you grew up in country, Zimbabwe,  post 2000s ,  the lessons learnt may not always have been the same.  Especially because of contextual and time bound experiences.  But there are some common value threads that will run through them to help with a collective national progressive consciousness despite the different struggles (personal and collective)  a majority of us have had to endure. 

But even beyond that, is the fact that we are here and in the now.  And there are now emerging newer traumatic and/or enlightening experiences.  The greater number of which relate to a lack of individual as well as (separately) collective, rural and urban economic well-being in a globalized age of  the global north's highly unpopular austerity.

Our perspectives as are now widely shared on the internet are also increasingly about (hedonistic) individualism and its now compulsive commodity consumerism/fetishism that sometimes put us in a place where we think more in the short than in the long term or deliberately choose to not see whats coming. 

Or in tragic circumstances, we seek to escape by any means, materially, from situations in which we cannot have similar lifestyles to what we would have liked on the internet/social media and our mobile phones.  Even if this may not be via direct experience but as told or shared by family, friends, online acquaintances/celebrities in the global or national cities and/or the greater part of the Diaspora.   

And because we should be free to experience what we prefer, this, all in in some sort of order.  Especially where we can do so in a political and economic framework in which we are guaranteed basic human rights.  Or where we do so with an organic understanding that whatever slights occurred in the past, we must be able to, while seeking justice, think more of the future than the past. 

Taking all of the above into account there are specific key points that I am deliberately choosing to share with colleagues and comrades online about what it would possibly and 'in the secular/non-religious' it would  mean to attempt at being a better Zimbabwean. All in the hope that younger Zimbabwean cdes may understand that we are always the progressive sum total of our past experiences, our organic understanding of the present and our equally organic envisioning of a better future for Zimbabwe.  Even if we are not always the ones that literally and physically inherit the same said future.   

So here are some basic thought points on how you or your friend or anyone else can consider as to how to try and be better at being Zimbabwean:

1.       It is Not Always About You as an Individual:  Whatever happens in your life in Zimbabwe it is not always that you must make it a completely personal experience.  It is always a shared one even if you do not know with immediacy anyone else in the same tragic or happy circumstance.  Even if you do not want it to be a shared one.  We must always have empathy for the next Zimbabwean. With or without the money or access to political or economic privilege.  We need to always think about what happens next door in our rural and urban living spaces.  Not in a competitive sense but in more a collaborative and solidarity sense.  Or to put it even more simply, even if you eventually decide to have, for example, a pre-paid water meter, I will still give you not just glass of water if you and your children are  not only thirsty, but require gallons of the same for uses that keep you and your family healthy.  While at the same time being part of the push-back at the inhumane privatization of as natural a resource such as H-2-0.  Basically, solidarity always matters. Same goes with public health, transport, education, energy and welfare. 

2.       Ideas Really Do Matter:  Thinking is sort of hard now in Zimbabwe.  We tend to go with the flow, as given by some religious prophecies and proclamations from the mainstream media. Or even behavior modifying social media platforms.  Whatever is put out on global satellite broadcast media appears to be enough for this side of the world. Almost like an immediate validation in its negativity (the Russians are out to get us already!) Or as given by particular experts primed to persuade a specific type of politically important audience.  With the incorrect assumption that we, in Zimbabwe (and probably Africa) do not take time out to think, examine emerging trends, perspectives or intellectual ideas from a contextually informed perspective.  Almost like we have to play catch up in intellectual thought as in the period of our struggles against colonialism.  Always remember that universal and contextual ideas matter (go ahead, Google: Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, Bessie Head - in no particular order).   As in the past, thinking through what ‘austerity’ and ‘neoliberalism’ means really matters. Including that all important question 'what is ideology?'  And also understanding what is the ‘ease of doing business’  from a non-partisan but fully regionally and global perspective.  Try and read more outside of whatever would be deemed your academic syllabus (Disclaimer: if you do, not my fault)

3.       Always Strive to Share Knowledge in the Public Interest.  Expertise and knowledge can always be copyrighted.  And in any event a lot of comrades hold on to try and ensure that for example a popular online perspective is patented (somewhere, somewhere while waiting for a vacuous intellectual property fight)’ the key issue is that even if you need the copyright, the personal attention, do so in the public interest of sharing knowledge to advance democratic ideas and values in Zimbabwean and other societies. (as idealistic as that sounds)

4.       Technology Now Matters but, Regrettably Technology is Not Enough: The mobile phone is the new medium of democratic consciousness.  Except that it desperately always, always, requires ‘content’.  In particular, content that leads to a questioning of what is seen as the ‘norm’ or the ‘unchallengeable’.  That is its own supremacy i.e Google, Facebook, Instagram and in our own national context Whatsapp.  Always query what the medium brings to you in the morning.  Is it another populist or false/fake message or is it of realistic and critical utilitarian value when it beeps on your phone to show ‘notifications’ before or in your bathroom chores. 

5.       Understand the Global Political Economy: To borrow from journalism’s lexicon, always know who owns what, when, how and why? It helps clear up the picture as to why certain things happen the way they do. For example, how is fuel distributed in Zimbabwe? Or alternatively wheat? Not in an intellectual way but in the pragmatic sense.  By the time you get to a pub conversation, the knowledge is shared not on the basis of populism but pragmatism. 

6.       Always Remember to  Struggle for Racial and Gender Equality: Zimbabwe’s struggles for national independence did not occur in an ‘equality vacuum’.  Books on the equality of women during the struggle have been written and historically captured in narratives of Mbuya Nehanda and Cde Freedom Nyamubaya’s collection of poems such as ‘On the Road Again’.  Including the racial ambiguities of Dambudzo Marechera’s ‘ The House of Hunger’ or  ‘The Black Insider’.  All pointing to a necessity to embrace racial and gender equality in the then struggle of liberation and human equality that occur every day across the globe.  It is not semantics.  We are all equal.  Even if in the global north now occasionally demonstrates ambiguity over migrants or the global south accepts offers of payments to stem the flow of migrants, we have to insist, in common struggle that we are all equal. 

7.       The Environment Matters : In University postgraduate school we had to read a book titled ‘ The Lie of the Land, Challenging Received Wisdom on the African Environment’ as a departure point to perceptions on how Africans are perceived to perpetually contribute to negatively affect the natural environment.  It turns out in 2019 we, as Africans, contribute less than 1% in damaging the environment as opposed to those in the global north.  In our national context, and to be a better Zimbabwean, always understand that judgment calls from the global north do not mean we are the worst. Nor would we prefer to be the ‘Frankensteins’ of the global environment. We may eventually end up being at the forefront of protecting it (the World), warts and all. 

8.       Democracy and Good Governance Remain Relevant:   We may have found ourselves in a position where we are ostracized for either being Western influenced or not understanding our own history but the fundamentals are increasingly in place.  To govern a state legitimately there is need for the observation of human rights and democratic governance.  Even if you claim to have fought a liberation struggle against colonialism.   The reality of the matter is that there is now a regional, continental and global understanding of the same.  We just need to make it a popularly understood knowledge of the same.  In our context.  In our regions. On our continent.  And as always, with the future in mind. It will work for organic progressives. It may not for others.  

Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

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