Friday, 20 June 2008

Zimbabwe: Place of dreams, Copy of horrors

Zimbabwe: Place of dreams, Copy of horrors

I suppose in this day and age of abrasive neo-liberalism, very few people care to read of, even know about a British leftist literary and cultural critic called Raymond Williams. Alongside other leftist scholars of his generation, Williams is credited with providing cradle to what we presently term "cultural studies", and whose most notable scholar arguably is Stuart Hall, presently with the British Open University.

I will recall one thought Williams made so forcefully in one of his early publications, "The Long Revolution", which made its first appearance in 1961. Drawing a sharp distinction between "abstractions" and "actual relationships", Williams warns against confusing "our abstract ideas about society" with the society itself within which we all live, within which our diverse experiences as living, relational organisms find summation.

Abstract ideas, or simply our reading of the society we live in, are "interpretations" or "our ways of describing the organisation and of conceiving relationships, necessary to establish the reality of social life but also under continual pressure from experience". Experience is thus primary, is what matters, in fact is what ultimately shapes and reshapes our abstractions on or interpretation of that lived experience.

For Queen and Country

He goes on to note that theories on society largely stand of fall by their starting point: "the particular experience that is seized as determining". England, from feudal days to this day, uses the figure and place of the King or Queen as its starting point for abstractions.

The king is the experience, the palace the place, and both the sole purpose for English life and society. Long after Thomas Paine and his "rights of man" discourse, the English people have obdurately viewed themselves as demure subjects of "Her Majesty’s Government", minors in the creation of the reality we call United Kingdom, which is the other name for their Kings or Queens.

The tragic side to this abstraction plays itself out in the rugged and cruel battlefields of Afghanistan where English youngsters serving in Her Majesty’s army, sweetly take fatal bullets from Talibans (who are rightly and righteously defending their land and territory), firm and holy in the belief that they are dying for Queen and Country, their conception of the latter always deriving from their reverence of the former. For Britain, time is frozen, which is why the modern common Briton is no wiser than the serf of yore who saw his interest and welfare as the same as the welfare and "maintenance of his lord".

However, archaic the monarchy is or may be, however, modern Britain ever becomes, the regal institution will always remain as the prime instrument for manufacturing the consent and obedience of ordinary Britons. Williams clinches the point by stating the life of society is "unequally regarded . . . seen practically through the needs of the established order" which must be considered sacred and God-given, immutable, permanent.

Revolutionary ruptures only occur where citizens begin to question and challenge existing social abstractions — usually formulated and perpetuated by the dominant force of a given society — to found a new view of relations between the common citizen and those in authority, between community and larger country.

Certified dead by the media

I drew this elaborate social theory to make a few points this week. What Raymond Williams could not have foreseen is the present overbearing role of Western global media networks in drawing abstractions or interpretations of our experiences.

You notice I called them "Western global media networks" deliberately to foreground their ownership, identity and character, and distinguish this ownership factor from the projection and scope of their operation and influence which is global. Often — and our media lecturers are not guiltless — we confuse ownership with scope, ending up with the misleading epithet of "global news networks". Such a mischaracterisation imparts a false legitimacy to these highly partisan, exclusively Western mind networks whose role in global affairs is highly ideologised and affiliated to the West’s overall machinery of global dominance.

It suggests — wrongly — that these news networks are there to serve all peoples of the globe, placing them next to godliness. It gets worse. These Western expressions of global mind dominance in the field of the media are increasingly and mistakenly perceived as evidence and test of the presence and enjoyment of civil liberties, principally that related to expression. Designed and launched to encourage false interpretation of our societies, their starting point is to falsify their real origins, role and purpose in our societies which host them.

We see them as bearers of truth, nothing but the whole truth. When they pronounce our societies dead, we begin to feel dead, thoroughly dead. When they pronounce us undemocratic, we begin to feel hemmed within never-never structures of imagined autocracy.

They certify everything about us, or more accurately, everything they want about us, they want imputed on us. Williams may have given us a presentiment of this new and pervasive global force; but he did not prepare us for its present overbearing status.

The Zimbabwe of BBC

We Zimbabweans have garnered enough experience and pain to bear testimony to this unwholesome development which has since disfigured international relations. The Zimbabwe the world reads, is not the place of our abode, the place and the lived experience arising from a complex web of interactions and relations we all contribute to as living organisms collectively labelled "Zimbabweans".

The Zimbabwe of the media is an abstraction, an interpretation, as Williams would have told us. An interpretation which is and should remain heavily fortified against the subversion of the truth of our lived experience to assure it of undisturbed continuity.

It is a synthetic Zimbabwe designed to meet the propaganda needs of the United Kingdom and its European and American allies. For that reason this synthetic Zimbabwe does not evolve; should never evolve but must remain unremittingly unchanging, unremittingly bad, worse and worst. A place condemned, a Sodom and Gomorrah which can only be cleansed and redeemed through the brimstone of Anglo-Saxony bombs and other incendiaries! And, of course, the "place" has got one "Lucifer" — Robert Mugabe — whose ambition cost him British grace, earned him a fling into dark perdition, a toss into the bottomless pit which John Milton so elaborately drew and painted in his Paradise Lost.

It was Lucifer who was guilty, not Milton’s god who would not brook a new relationship of equals in heaven. After all, being the victor, Milton’s god lived to give the world account of the rebellion. The condemned Lucifer is long way from telling his own side.

Prologue to worse fate

Clearly the media no longer report; the media now have a deeper role, namely that of manufacturing lies that justify wars, that justify aggression of the weak by the powerful.

Those whom the West want to conquer, CNN and BBC render diabolic. This is unknown to most Zimbabweans who do not view the present circle of demonisation of their country as a prologue to a worse fate. The last few days have seen a ratcheting up of anti-Zimbabwe propaganda in the Western global networks. From this poisoned perspective, Zimbabwe is daily descending into gratuitous orgies of mindless violence.

It has become an un-livable hell, deserving redemption through Anglo-Saxony aggression. And Britain and America who must lead that aggression are painted as shy suitors who will not be goaded by so many expostulations into a "saving" bloody invasion.

Zimbabwe has to be burned to save it! As with Iraq, Britain and America are using African voices for legitimacy: Paul Kagame, Raila Odinga, former presidents, bishops of varying holiness, etc, etc to suggest deserved invasion necessitated by a consensual African call. It is an evil hour of betrayal.

Harmed by friends

An unwitting variant to this betrayal is what Zimbabwe’s allies are doing, but without realising what mortal danger they bring to our doorstep. We have had a number of friendly countries joining in the call for a Government of National Unity (GNU), ironically thinking they are doing Zanu-PF a great favour.

A great favour because they wrongly read that Zanu-PF is acutely vulnerable, judging it all from the March result. From this misreading of March, they reasoned Zanu-PF could only be made to hang in there through this creature called a GNU. So they have been pushing the concept for reasons completely different from that of the MDC and its Western supporters, thinking we would be grateful for this "saving" intervention.

Of course, they have not read March correctly, are not reading the present national mental temperament ironically triggered by the same result.

They have gone by abstractions from the Western media. But contrary to this misleading interpretation, Zanu-PF has come back with a vengeance and seems irrevocably set for a dramatic win on June 27.

What is damaging about our friends is not their misreading of the political dynamics which are shaping voter opinion. That can be corrected in the fullness of electoral time.

Senselessness from friends

What is damaging is their attempts at forcing GNU as a political formulae in our present circumstances, forcing it by building false arguments against the run-off election. One easy way has been to suggest for various reasons — real or imagined — that Zimbabwe is not ready for the run-off.

One real reason given is that the Zimbabwe economy cannot afford the run-off. This suggests democratic rituals are not a requirement, but a matter of volition. It suggests elections are not mandatory. I mean anyone can "decline" the economy to stave off a plebiscite, is it not? Since when has a sound economy become a qualification for holding elections?

If it was, how many nations would hold elections? Why this sudden permissiveness with Zimbabwe? Would the suggestion have been entertained if it had come from President Mugabe?

How does this differ from the idea from the Goromonzi Conference two years ago suggesting postponement of elections in order to harmonise the electoral calendar? Why did such a suggestion which is so similar to the present one raise such fury at home and abroad?

Figment of violence

Another way is to exaggerate political violence in the country to suggest Zimbabwe is sliding into civil war.

This is the most dangerous act from these friends. They think by exaggerating political conflict, they are able to persuade us and the international community to obviate elections through GNU.

The argument is bolstered by a reading that Zimbabwe is polarised. How on this good earth do you run an election without polarising society? Is that not what elections inherently mean, namely splitting society through choice? How can a natural and inevitable concomitant of democracy be purveyed as the reason for abolishing that same democracy? But this is the academic side of it all. There is the sinister side relating to destruction of a sovereign nation born out of a bloody struggle.

Serving the British agenda.

The British and the Americans have been dying for an excuse to intervene militarily in order to reverse the revolution. But what revolution? Well, principally one related to how Zimbabwe has decided to restructure its relationship with the colonial West, largely Britain. From the calculated obeisance of the 1980s and part of the 1990s, Zimbabwe under Mugabe’s Zanu-PF from 2000 embarked on an aggressive course of self-assertion through control of its resources, starting with the land. In a very short time, the Queen and her government, whose rebellious protégé government here called UDI had been militarily and politically ousted here, soon found herself de-centred in the affairs of this young self-assertive nation.

Her sons in the Diaspora here — the white settler farmers — found themselves asked to share the land with blacks — the rightful owners. These whites were never evicted outright. Nor were they told to go back to their original home Britain, in one giant seizure of African xenophobia.

No, merely told to let go of excess land. It was only when they resisted that the hand got firmer, geography and boundaries got visibly marked and drawn. And, of course, Britain aggravated matters by showing its hand in the affairs of this country, in the process confirming what we have always known, namely that whites we have here could only function as our colonial rulers, or as Britons with an unchallenged pride of place overseas.

Never as Zimbabweans, never as Africans who happened to be white. After all, to make them ordinary Zimbabwean citizens under a black Government, or worse under Mugabe, is to symbolically and vicariously subordinate Her White Majesty to Conrad’s pitchy black authority, to unenlightened African leadership itself a taboo in the present global order where power is racially hierarchised.

A Zimbabwe without a British King, a Zimbabwe without the British Queen — both symbolically and materially — this is what the present stand-off between Zimbabwe and Britain, between Mugabe and Brown, is all about.

A Zimbabwe with the British Queen, a Morgan Tsvangirai with a Brown in his flaps, is what the MDC wants, is what endears the MDC to the British and American establishments. Hence the genii that popped out the MDC bottle soon after the harmonised March elections, invading the land we thought we had secured.

To get the Queen back and revered, to get the settler white farmers back and farming: that is the struggle which shall be settled on June 27. Friends are made and recognised by where they stand on this one matter. A war will be provoked on this one matter; fought and settled around this one question. This is what is not quite known or appreciated by those who facilely see Mugabe’s assertion that the white man will never be allowed back, whether directly or indirectly, as proof of his autocratic hunger for power.

War or peace.

One does not wish war for one’s country but I reluctantly say that given present levels of propaganda abstractions of Zimbabwe, reality could very well only obtrude and reassert through this very bloody business.

The MDC and its masters are aware they will lose the run-off. They have started to prepare the world for a rejection of results of the run-off.

They are also toying with the idea of war — proxy war using the MDC and a few African countries harbouring different grievances against Zimbabwe.

This, not claims of local violence, is what will bring about a real post-election crisis. And only then will the world realise Mugabe is not alone. In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s friends need to reach and encompass Zimbabwe the real country, not Zimbabwe the horror copy of Anglo-Saxony propaganda calculations. Icho!


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