Corruption: The Common denominator 

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you have all been having a blessed week – especially my European counterparts who are experiencing a rare bout of good weather! Enjoy it while it lasts. 

When I did my thesis, even though it was on Zimbabwe, I read a lot of literature on other African countries and how they had developed (or not) – since the gaining of independence. I was really shocked because as much as we know Africa is a huge continent, I was struck by the number of similarities I was finding between countries. These similarities were dominantly in the political realm. Everyone who has been reading my blogs already knows how deeply dysfunctional Zimbabwe is, but I discovered that there are actually a large number of countries (or citizens rather), who are facing the same fate that Zimbabweans are. Aside from colonization (of course), the only other thing these countries had in common was gross and inhumane corruption. Now don’t get me wrong, each and every country in the world has corruption but in other parts of the world, like the Netherlands for example, the corruption that exists does not impede the functioning of the country or the people. Whereas in most of African countries, the beats of corruption and greed take away from the people in the country and leave everyone except an elite few in extremely vulnerable and devastating circumstances. 

I was reading a book on some other African country – I can’t really remember which it was, I think Zambia or Angola and the book explained the percentage of country resources that actually went back into the country. I don’t know why I was surprised to uncover that most of the money goes to the military and financing prestigious expenditures rather than improving healthcare, education or social welfare. But I was. Our leaders preach about escaping the shackles of white imperialism and the dark cloud of colonialism, yet they miss the very obvious solution(s) to advancing the state of all our countries. Yes, we were pillaged by other nations, stripped of our resources and dignity but you tell me, what is so different between what was happening then and what is happening now? Simply the perpetrators have changed. Truly, it hurts a little more now because our leaders are meant to protect us, advance us, and have the interests of each and every citizen in mind but instead they are taking food off citiznes’ tables to line their pockets. It hurts a little more because those nations that stole from us back then did not owe us anything – they saw us as beastly and nothing more. But our leaders…our leaders now fought for liberation so that they could make life better for all of us but have followed squarely in the footsteps of the people they fought and condemned. 

Let me even play devil’s advocate for a second and highlight the fact that our leaders are not even good at corruption. To me – with greed in mind, it would make more sense to invest a little into the country, grow the economy and increase the value of resources within the country because in this instance, you would ideally have more to loot. This seems logical to me, no? I am advocating for corruption but simply highlighting the fact that laying waste to the country is really counter-intuitive to the overall goal of getting rich. Because at some point, without investment or maintenance, things will run out and what happens then? 

“A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

Lastly, when I was reading all of this information on the relationship(s) African countries have towards their leaders, I came across a book about Namibia which eerily felt and sounded like Zimbabwe. People were describing potholes on the road, a failed medical system, load-shedding, failing and underfunded government schools, unemployment and so on… And just like in Zimbabwe, the cause of all of these problems could be pinpointed to the corrupt government that is doing a complete and utter incompetency of ruling. What surprised me at first, but no so much as I read on, was the nostalgia everyone had about the colonial regime. It disheartens me to consider this, but I also understand why people would prefer to turn back the hands of time because while we were second class citizens with little to no rights, people had food, healthcare and a modest salary. But now, we are still treated as second class citizens (unless you are part of the elite), with no food, no job prospects, no educational prospects etc. When I say we, I also need to re-iterate the fact that I do not mean myself, I am very much aware of my privilege and my place in society. Although, even though I have never gone hungry and have always had a roof over my head, I do see the struggles of fellow Zimbabweans as mine too. 

So, I guess I am saying two things in this post, the first being that in our contemporary times, corruption, greed and nepotism are our primary problems and we need to address these if things are ever going to improve. The second is that our leaders ought to be ashamed of the mockery they are making of all of us and the states they lead. One of the major justifications of colonialism was that non-white people were not fit to rule which I am sure everyone agrees is a totally absurd and stupid thing to say/assume. But with the way our leaders are doing things right now, it is easy for the hateful to now say, “we told you so.” 

The Tired Activist

Hello everyone! Sorry that it has been so long. The activist inside me has been feeling quite uninspired lately and I haven’t really had the urge to write anything. I am tired I guess… not in the physical sense but in the mental and emotional sense. I just got back from a trip home and while I was there I tried to refrain from having any ‘woke’ conversations with anyone on politics, gender, sexuality, race etc. And let me tell you, it was the most peaceful trip home I have ever had.

Mind you, I do feel guilty for purposely not brining up these topic which I usually preach about. I heard people say sexist, racist and homophobic things (without realising it) and as opposed to how I usually respond, I did not say anything back. Although people tried to broach conversations with me that they know I get passionate about, I was unintentionally disengaged. I kept asking myself why… why do I seem to care a little less about the social issues I was so passionately fighting about. But I realised that it is not that I care any less, it is simply that I am tired. I am tired of always being the person in the room getting intensely invested in a conversation and trying to convince people of the reality that they do not see – the reality that I also did not see not too long ago. This goes with all of these topics; I also had (and in some cases still have) narrow minded views but I am making it a point to look beyond my own life and really look at the world. Even though I have educated myself on certain topics, it exhausting to engage in a conversation where it may seem like I have the moral high ground – because I do not. So these conversations were taking a lot out of me because I was constantly defending positions that I was too emotional about.

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

Because I care about these topics so deeply, a conversation for me never really is just a conversation. When I hear very bigoted opinions on gender, race, sexuality and money and see that people really believe what they are saying, I am left perplexed and emotional. It then really makes sense to me why the world is the way it is. I am usually left in quite a sombre state after these coversations, so that is why I decided to take a political/activist sabbatical. Aside from getting emotionally invested in these topics, sometimes it is hard to have them because I simply do not know the answer. I have been wanting to talk about this for a while actually, – when you are from a minority group, you are suddenly supposed to know every single thing about your group and its’s history when conversations like this come up. For example, I am a mixed-race, Zimbabwean woman and it baffles me that people expect me to know everything about being a woman…or being mixed-race… or being Zimbabwean. Suddenly, I have to justify and explain my lived experiences with facts that simply would be impossible for me to accumulate.

With this, I actually want to address you all in understanding this point. Just because your friend is black, does not mean that they know everything about being black or slavery or colonialism and just because your friend is not heterosexual does not mean they know everything about the LGBTQ+ community. And they do not have to. Google exists. What people fail to understand is that while in most cases we want to discuss our lived experiences, we do not have to. We do not owe anyone a history lesson on slavery, the diaspora, being a woman… or anything else. In instances where you may think you are asking investigative questions (in order to understand a situation), you need to stop and consider whether or not you are encroaching on a very personal part of someone’s life. They do not have to talk to you about any of this so if they do, appreciate it, listen wholeheartedly and respect the boundaries of the conversation. And to the ones who are constantly defending the minority position: you can take a break every now and again, it is exhausting, I know.

(www.vice.com)

Social justice burnout or activism fatigue are terms coined to describe “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding.” When I started to experience it, I felt nothing but guilt. As a self proclaimed activist for not one but three causes, am I allowed to get tired? Am I allowed to be silent in derogatory conversations? Am I allowed to have no opinion at all? The answer to all of these is actually no. Looking at the picture above, what I am saying might sound extremely contradictory. But by saying you cannot give up the flight, I am not saying that you should not take care of yourself. Take breaks in between all the fights you are fighting, enjoy other parts of yourself and the world but never forget the reasons you began to speak up in the first place. You will 100% go back to speaking up naturally when you have to continue to live in a world that is not changing. It is up to us to fight the good flight and continue to try our best to build a world that we can be more proud of.

“Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.” 

Bob Marley

The Moral dilemma of the Capitalist Trap

Good morning everyone! I hope you have all had a great start to the week. I engaged in a great deal of stimulating conversations from the last post on the United Nations. People seemed to have a lot to say on the topic (both negative and positive) and I loved having these discussions and debates with all of you. Hopefully the topic for today can also inspire some discussion. I will admit that since I have graduated, I have barely been keeping up with current affairs, so I have decided to visit a quite personal topic. Although while the topic may be personal, I am sure that a lot of people in my generation will recognize themselves in what I have to say.

(www.fee.org)

“Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, a price system, private property and the recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange and wage labor.”

While this is straightforward, unbiased definition of capitalism, I do not think I need to enlighten anyone on the evils of the capital system. It is all around us and although we are largely turning a blind eye to the perils of capitalism, everyone knows that the have-nots are suffering at the hands of the system. I am well aware of how my consumption patterns effect both the environment and the poorer members of society but still, I consume like a model capitalistic citizen. This brings me to the conflicting relationship I have with the capitalist system.

I grew up in a country where I was faced with the negative aspects of capitalism on a daily basis. This was both on an international scale and on an individual level. On an international level, I saw how my country suffered from being the ones taken advantage of within the capitalist system. Along with resource exploitation and manpower exploitation, the history of my country meant that they have never been able to successfully join the global capitalist system, leaving them visibly stuck in the ‘poor’ bracket. On an individual level, every Zimbabwean knows that the country is extremely economically stratified. So, while within my own socio-economic group, I mainly see positive aspects of capitalism, as soon as I venture out of this group, I become aware of the abuse and disregard for moral standards that capitalism re-produces. From these clear realities, I had resolved that I was anti-capitalism from a very young age. I think the entire system is corrupt, greedy, and simply unfair.

However, if you know me and you have read this far, I am sure you are a little confused by this ideology and my actual life. I say that I am anti-the system, yet I take at least four flights a year, I have enough clothes to not wash any of them for three months and still have clean clothes, I eat out at least once a week and I own products from the most notorious capitalistic companies e.g., Apple. 

(www.visualcapitalist.com)

As I am sure you do, I consume/ have consumed from more than half of the companies above. So, I guess I am a huge hypocrite for always opposing capitalism when white Europeans talk about the state of the world when I know full well which group my actions put me in. See the thing is, for people like me, it is a little more complicated than good and bad or moral and immoral. If we first start with the premise that everyone in the world has been brainwashed by the capitalist system, then it will make what I have to explain much easier to understand. – I believe this to be true by the way. We all strive for capitalist success (i.e., economic) in some way because we have been indoctrinated into believing that is the only way to measure the success of someone’s life. So, with that in mind, while I want to oppose the system and give all my earthly possessions to people who need them much more than I do, my mother has worked hard her entire life in order to give me a good life. To put it crassly, a return on this investment is expected, parents expect their children to do better than them and if money is the way we (as a society) measure success then you see my dilemma.

Additionally, I am a mixed race, female. As mentioned above, money and consumption have somehow become synonymous with independence and success. As a mixed-race person, I feel that I need to show my ability to succeed through capital accumulation and as a female, I feel that I need to show my ability to succeed through my climbing of the capitalist ranks. Therefore, evidently, I am stuck in the capitalist system. When I think about it from a realist’s perspective, I really wonder what the alternative would be though. If I had to follow my heart and morals and completely remove myself from this system, what would my life look like? Better yet, is this even possible?

I think a lot of people who grew up in either poorer countries or poorer homes have this internal dilemma like I do. Because even though we know over consumption is wrong on so many levels, in some way, we also feel like we are entitled to this lifestyle because of how history has unfolded. This mentality is even used on an international level, where we see ‘developing’ countries finding it unfair that they cannot use the same developmental processes as their predecessors because of environmental concerns. Coming from these countries also makes us feel like we are entitled to ‘develop’ our generational line. However, we also have to be aware of the unjust cost that our capitalistic decisions are having on the rest of the world. 

The United Nations

Hello everyone! I am so happy to be doing something recreational on my laptop again after what has felt like the busiest two weeks of my life! It’s graduation season and before I get into the topic for today, I would like to send a huge Congratulations to everyone who is about to or has already graduated! This is an enormous achievement and I hope you savour the moment and bask in your own glory for a while.

Moving on to the topic of discussion today: The United Nations. When I was in high school, we learnt about all the great things that the United Nations has achieved and aims to achieve. We were taught naturally, to look up to the organisation and all that it does for ‘poor’ countries like us. We were reminded of its dedicated peacekeeping missions and selfless donations. It was just the absolute dream of (mine) to work for such a successful organisation such as this one and aid them in helping the peoples of the world.

I look back at my naivety now and find it somewhat hilarious how I had put the entire organisation on a pedestal for being the leaders in peacekeeping and aid. My scepticism for the entire organisation actually started in high school though. I thought back to all the years of torment Zimbabwe had endured and, granted, a lot of our problems are small compared to other countries – we have never had a civil war in my time. But regardless of that, we have people in the country starving at numbers close to what you would see in a civil war. Masses of people have been killed over the years (just not at the same time), by our government. So, I thought back on all of these instances, times where there were serious Human Right’s violations going on in the country and I wondered, why didn’t the United Nations care? I rationalised it by saying our problems were not that big. But our problems have been that big, there have been countless reports made by the UNICEF, WHO and the UN on the disheartening things happening in the country, but reports are really as far as it goes. Still, I thought I was just feeling this way because it was my own country and I desperately wanted all of the abuse to stop but it was not necessarily failure the UN itself.

(https://theconversation.com/why-is-the-united-nations-still-so-misunderstood-59284)

However, I continued to observe the problems/conflicts that the UN gave more attention to and the ones that it seemed to ignore and unsurprisingly, a pattern developed. The conflicts in which the UN took a more involved role tended to be those in which the most dominant members of the UN had a vested interest in. The countries which have nothing to offer seem to get the “advice treatment.” Granted, it is a bit of a dangerous game to play to demand/expect the UN to get actively involved in conflicts around the world. Coming from a formerly colonised country, this idea is extremely contentious. Nonetheless, my problem here stems from the fact that they actually do get actively involved in some conflicts and the premises which they decided to get involved on seem to be extremely corrupt. Looking at how they view themselves, UN says they are:

“the one place on Earth where all the world’s nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity.”

Without getting into the technicalities of misrepresentation of certain regions in the world in the UN, it is safe to say that this statement is grossly misleading. Still, if we take this slogan into account, that their main goal is to provide dialogue on problem solving, still the preferential treatment problem persists. The problems which make it to the main discussion, are those that are regarded as strategically important by an ‘important’ country in the UN. My suspicions continued to get re-affirmed incident after incident. Because even in the conflicts that the UN seemed to care about, the action taken was clearly very biased to people who have full knowledge on the problem at hand. It has been witnessed in Syria, in the refugee crises and in Palestine. Nonetheless, I must add that I do recognise that the UN has made great positive changes throughout the world: they have fed many mouths; facilitated peace negotiations; provided safe drinking water; provided medical treatment etc. But none of these changes negate the fact that the UN works on a preferential basis and sadly for the places in the world that strategically or economically have nothing to offer, we are not a significant topic on the agenda.

Looking at the conflicts they have heavily gotten involved in, there was some sort of political or economic interest at stake. Take Congo for example. The Congolese civil war is an extremely complicated one that I do not even understand myself but it is no secret that the UN (and other international involvement) have all been called out for only getting involved in Congo for the economic gain the country offered. The same can be said for the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, which the UN increasingly got involved in because of the political and economic implications of the regions. There are countless examples of where this has happened time and time again and examples on the other side where millions have died (in less important or more politically complicated regions), where the UN has decided to keep their aid at a distance.

Looking at the evidence, it is clear that preferential treatment is used when the UN decides on how they will act in a crisis. Looking now, at the devastation in Palestine, which ironically, is a problem that stems back to the UN’s decisions and actions. The UN again is dealing which an extremely troubling conflict by providing ‘advice.’ Advice that peace should be reached soon. The reason that the UN will not go any further than this (regardless of the millions of people dying) is because the Palestinian genocide is loaded with a lot of political implications. And while the entire purpose of the UN is to be a non-political peace keeping body, the truth of the matter is that they are political in all of the action they take or do not take. Now, this post is not just about highlighting the corruption within the UN and the problems certain regions of the world face because if it, it is also to address the people who see such international organisations as saviours. As I did in the past. When we have crises in Zimbabwe, when people are being killed, our internet is being turned off etc., I see people tagging or #UN on all the posts. And every time I see it, I wonder why are people even bothering to do that? If the UN was concerned about the problems Zimbabweans were facing, something would have been done about the genocide that took place in the 1990s, the thousands killed from 2002-2008 and the millions starving. My point is that we should open our eyes to the fact that they -the outside- simply do not care. While as Zimbabweans, we feel like we are out of choices and in that way are looking to the outside for help, we need to face the sad reality that they do not care. It is time for us to look within for change and help. We are also the same ones who would find in very problematic if outsiders came into our country and stared politically ‘fixing’ things so why do we call to them for ‘help’ in times of need? It truly does confuse me. Moreover, looking at instances such as the Rwandan genocide, outside interference seemed to just make the problem much worse, which could most likely be the case in a lot of instances.

Although I do realise the complexity of what I am saying, for me it seems very clear that these Western organisations we turn to for help have already written us off as a lost cause. However, I know many people will have different perspectives to me and I would love to hear these. Be it in on the UN itself or on the idea of seeking international aid, I would appreciate hearing what people think on this topic as it is quite a contentious one.

Cultural differences and dating

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you are all having a great weekend. My post today is a little different from the topics I usually write about. This topic is a lot more personal but still discusses important cultural and racial considerations. When I was growing up, it was encouraged that a good move would be to marry a foreigner. This is mainly due to a lot of colonial perceptions of importance which I have discussed in previous posts. Foreigners, white foreigners to be specific are portrayed as superior, in intellect and class and generally every facet you can think of. So it was indoctrinated in what seems to be my entire generation that marrying a (Western) foreigner meant you made a good choice in life.

So here I was, staring my first year of uni, expecting to get along with foreigners like a house on fire and potentially meeting my future husband. Now see, a huge naivety I had, (along with many other Zimbabweans) was undermining the significance of cultural differences. I have dated two people from this part of the world in my time at university, both of which I got along with really well. However, when I thought of taking them back home, I was filled with bucketloads of anxiety about how they would be received by my family and friends and what my partner would think about my family and friends. Being in the middle and considering both, I knew that each side would find the other somewhat weird.

However, this is is normal in all relationships; meeting someone’s family opens you up to an entirely different side of the person you are dating. But see, when you then come from entirely different cultures, these differences are exacerbated enormously.

The moment I realised this issue is a little bigger than I thought might seem like a very trivial moment but it was significant to me and my friend (who actually has always said she is marrying a Zimbabwean for these exact reasons). We were reminiscing on the last time we had been to a Zimbabwean wedding and through the nostalgia we ended up curating a wedding playlist. If you are Zimbabwean, or coloured, rather, you will recognise these songs as being the necessity of all good weddings. But if you are not, these songs will have zero significance to you and they may actually sound like quite bad songs to play at a wedding. This is when I started to realise that I would be deeply upset if my significant other did not understand the importance of these songs to my community. I mean sure, I could teach them and force feed them African music but what about the food and the colloquial language and the style and socialisation and the cultural norms? Truthfully, I know I do not have the patience to teach someone all of these things.

While I have an extremely loving and supportive family who would most likely embrace whoever I was dating, it is likely that they would feel the same barrier that I do. I imagine this person sitting at gathering surrounded by my somewhat loud family or friends who speak more-or-less English albeit with some unintelligible words such as “oan,” “it’s chando,” “Mensa” “Jorl,” “let’s go cabin,” “we’re cutting/landing.” In all of this, I would either have to be explaining each word as it came up or leaving this person to try and make sense of what was being said around them. Moreover, behaviour in general would make me feel very nervous. My partner would not understand the crass jokes being made. Nor would my family understand a lot of my partners culturally influenced behaviours like “going Dutch.”

Clearly the themes of culture and race in Zimbabwe are interwoven with themes of cultural significance, historical considerations and economic security. Our countries and people in them have struggled with economic stability for years and looking on countries where it seems like people are doing better in this aspect, it is assumed that life with a foreign partner would be more stable. Additionally, as I have explained in a previous post “get your passport out of here,” because Zimbabweans (and other ex-colonial countries) have been taught to see themselves as less and that everything in the West seems better; including the people. However, when I reflected on how much my culture is ingrained in me, I realised that I would never want to water it down. It is extraordinarily unique and I question why I ever looked down on it.

It isn’t new news that dating inter-culturally is difficult, without even considering long-term issues such as how each of you would want to raise your children. But my question is, why it is so encouraged to date outside of the community for superficial reasons or the the illusion of obtaining a better life with someone who was born in a ‘rich’ country. My point of all of this is that the reasons we have for forsaking each other as good matches really don’t make sense when you think about it. This is not to say that dating inter-culturally is impossible or that we (or I) shouldn’t do it, it is simply to highlight the fact that you already have a solid ground of understanding with the person you grew up next to and venturing out to search for “greener grass” is not always the best thing to do.

What the people want

Happy Sunday everyone! My favourite day of the week! I hope you all had exciting or restful weekends and feel energised enough to take on the week ahead. I hope I can entertain you this lovely Saturday afternoon, or at least give you something to think/ talk about. On that note, I’d like to throw a special shoutout to all the people who have casually been discussing Zimbabwean politics with me. I have noticed that ever since I started this blog, politics seems to the go to topic when people see me which I am loving. All of these conversations are inspiring me even more and getting me to think about a lot of things I haven’t actually been considering.

Which brings me to the topic of the day, I have noticed, while speaking to people about politics that really, most people want the same things. It’s not exceptionally outrageous things or things that are difficult to achieve but for some unknown reason, politics and politicians make things harder than they need to be. Like most people, I am a Hegelian, I am a realist and I believe that people need a leader. Not only that they need one but I also believe that it is human nature to gravitate towards a leader, we are much more comfortable being told what to do (so long as it makes some sort of sense and does not go against our intrinsic morals). Back to the need, I am not saying that humans are incapable of being completely autonomous beings in charge of their own destinies, but let’s be honest, it would be a disaster if everyone could do whatever they wanted. Also, the need for leaders comes from the fact that we are community creatures, if there’s one thing that I am certain about, it is that human’s cannot survive alone. But see, our communities only function if there is someone looking out for them; someone who will have the best interest of the general group rather than each individual looking out for themselves. However, these are my personal philosophical beliefs so there are people who will disagree with what I am saying. Regardless, I fundamentally believe that humans need to be led. Where the issue seems to lie is who should be doing the leading? How do we choose that? And all the other questions that centre around the larger question of what makes a good leader.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently writing my final thesis on certain political ideologies within Zimbabwe. In order to give myself a true representation of how Zimbabweans view the things I am looking at, I have been conducting interviews with many people, asking them what they think about certain things. I have been shocked to my core about some of the responses I have been getting (in a good way). My Western trained mind expected very cliché answers like ‘we want democracy’ and ‘we want equality.’ But these were not the insights I gained speaking to everyday Zimbabweans. As a disclaimer; this is not to mean that all Zimbabweans want the things I am about to describe but the ones I interviewed did and I tried to make my interviewees as diverse as possible in terms of race, gender, social class, geographical location and age.

Zimbabweans do not want democracy. Well, more accurately they do not want direct or deliberative democracy. I do not know if it is because Zimbabweans have become so accustomed to the style of government we have now (whatever style that might be), but they want a single, strong leader to lead the country. I was really shocked that the idea of democratic representation meant very little to many Zimbabweans. They wanted democracy in the sense of choosing the next leader; on he grounds of her/his expertise, character, background etc., but after that most people did not seem to care. They did not care about how long this person would stay in power for or what form of political organisation they would undertake. They simply wanted the option to choose what they saw as a good leader and after that, the leader is expected to lead. As one of interviewees neatly put it, Zimbabweans are longing for a ‘good dictator.’

Honestly, none of this sat well with me. But the logic does make sense, I might be a little jaded because as I have mentioned, I have very little faith in humans in general. I believe that no matter how ‘good’ our dictator starts out, they could always become prey to corruption and duplicity. However, as I went along into the questions, I began to see that Zimbabweans have such bizarre political goals because of the current system they are embroiled in. I asked people what they thought would make a good leader and again, I already had expected answers in my mind like ‘educated’ and ‘honest.’ But what seemed to make a good leader is someone who does not let their people starve, someone who educates and provides healthcare >infrastructure< etc. None of these were initially really in my mind because I thought they were a given.

“Zimbabwean doctors and nurses demonstrate in Harare on November 18, 2008. Truckloads of riot police were deployed outside Harare’s main hospital to prevent scores of doctors and nurses from marching in protest at the state of Zimbabwe’s collapsing health system. At least 50 people are believed to have died of cholera this month, according to health officials, due to the rapid break down in sanitation in many parts of the capital.” AFP PHOTO / DESMOND KWANDE

Now see, my preconceived idea of a good leader had a lot to do with corruption. I would think that a good leader is one that is not corrupt but to my surprise, most Zimbabweans didn’t care about that (well not in the way I expected). People seem to believe that as long as the country is functioning and basic necessities are made available to the people then they could not care less if excess funds were being stolen from the country. To some extent I have always believed this was the case because lets be honest, political corruption takes place in all countries but in the ones where the people are taken care of, a little corruption is swept under the rug.

In short, Zimbabwean’s political goals are modest and so easily achievable. This is not to say that once/if things get better people will not expect more but it is to highlight the fact that right now, in this moment, people are suffering to the extent that they would be happy with the bare minimum of good leadership. The things people are asking for right now from the current leadership are things that are naturally expected in other parts of the world, but yet, it seems as though Zimbabweans are asking for a lot. When yet all they are asking for is a means for survival.

The reality of standing up

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you and your families are all doing well. Thank you once again for joining me for some Monday reading. As you have noticed, a lot of the pieces I write are about things that perplex me and things I still have no answers to. I guess, I want people to be as perplexed as me and ask themselves the same hard questions I have been asking myself. 

http://www.ucf.edu

I have always been a loud-mouthed person…I always speak up to injustice and wrongfulness without second guessing and I have never found it hard to stand up for other people even if I am not particularly interested in what has upset them. I guess you can say I have an unprovoked fighting spirit. In this respect, I do not think I work well in bureaucratic environments because I believe in rebelling against ‘the system,’ (yes, I see the irony of this sentence considering I am an aspiring politician). However, because of this nature of my character, there have been many situations where people have asked me to voice their opinions on their behalf – which I have, and I have gotten myself in some trouble while doing so. Not that I really cared about the trouble, as I said, I like to speak epically in situations where I feel there has been some sort of injustice committed. What I always questioned was why don’t people just stand up for themselves? If they think something is so wrong, why don’t they just say it… I would. How ignorant was I? I stubbornly thought this for a while and even asked people why they don’t just protest themselves. It took me a lot of these questions to realize that the reason I could protest so easily was because of privilege. Privilege in the simple fact that I had always been the person to cause this sort of trouble, so I was handled in a different way to someone who was quiet and did not necessarily know how to fight people who had more power than them (institutional power in the examples I am thinking of). Privilege in that I have always been supported so I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, even if I am alone in that belief. Privilege in that I come from a good home, so I have never been scared to speak up even if it means losing that position or job. I began to understand that people do not have these privileges to back them up in certain situations and so, if it is between accepting something unjust or ending up in a compromising position, the former is the logical choice.

While I am using a personal example to explain the privilege that is associated with standing up to injustice and/or inequality, this privilege can be exemplified on a much larger scale. Looking at Zimbabwe, the question has been asked by young people time and time again… why is no one standing up to any of the horrific things happening in the country? I have asked my older family members the same thing, why have you done nothing all these years? Things are getting worse and worse and yet none of us are standing up. One of the answers came to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement. I couldn’t help but marvel at what was going on in the US and I thought wow, why don’t we just do that too! The honest answer is that we are afraid, we do not have the same privilege of protection that Americans do. If an American dies in protest, there will be international outcry but if a Zimbabwean dies in protest (which thousands have over the years), it will not even make an international news story, if even a Zimbabwean news story at that. Our government would kill us without questions of morality or humanity if we dared to protest for a better Zimbabwe.

Another reason Zimbabweans do not protest even though we are suffering is also something I did not consider because of my place of privilege. I have lived in peacetime my entire life, I have never witnessed a war or even layed eyes on a gun. Due to the political complexity of Zimbabwe, even if we were to get through the protest stage alive, a war would most likely erupt. It is easy for someone of my generation, who hasn’t witnessed much violence to say “let’s fight!” because we do not know what the reality of that means. I look towards other African and Middle Eastern countries who have stood up to their governments and I see the somber reality of what would happen to my home if we dared to stand up. So that really leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to live through tyranny, or we die.

Through understanding these realities of privilege in areas of life that most of us don’t even recognize, I understood how hard it actually is to stand up (in any context) when you are against a side that has all the power. While I can do it on a small scale and not be as worried about the consequences, the situation of Zimbabwe breeds deep, generational consequences. So, I speak to Zimbabwean youth who have asked their parents time and time again why they have let all this unfold, to understand what standing up in this situation may mean. In such complicated situations as these what would then be the best solution? Do you stand up or do you hang on to the semblance of security you have?

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.” 

 – Criss Jami, Killosophy

A changed self image

Happy Friday everyone! It has been longer than one month since I wrote to/for you last! Although for me, it seems like it’s been much longer. I had a well needed break and the most warm and loving holiday period spent with family and friends 💗 I hope you all had the same and entered 2021 on nothing but immaculate energy. After the holiday period, I had the longest January ever (I am well aware that January is not over)! But for the most part, I have gotten over my covid and I am feeling healthy and energised enough to write something potentially interesting. Before I get to the actual topic, I just want to say that I know so many Zimbabweans are struggling at the moment. Since December, people have been dying from covid at a rate that we were not prepared for in the slightest and I just want to extend my condolences to anyone who has lost someone recently, I am very sorry ❤️ Those who have relatives or friends who are still battling or are still sick themselves, I am sending you love and light and God willing, you will all be ok. I thought about making this piece a covid-follow up seeing as I just went through it all myself and faced all covid politics, differing medical opinions, healthcare failures and so on but honestly, I do not know how to report on covid in Zimbabwe because like everyone else, I have absolutely no clue what is going on. Everyone is kind of left to fend for themselves as soon as they get the positive result and everyone just has to hope that they are making the best decisions for themselves or their loved ones.

Instead, today, I’d like to start a discussion over something I witnessed a few years ago. It was a very regular experience but it was something that really perplexed me and stuck with me ever since. My mom needed to go into the pharmacy so I was sitting in the car waiting for her… I was bored and she was taking long so I started to just observe my surroundings. For contextual knowledge, this was around the time where there was a forex shortage in Zimbabwe and people would spend days and even sleep in bank lines with the hopes of receiving some money from the bank. We were parked right in front of a bank and the line wasn’t too long but it was significantly long and new people were joining it. I paid no attention to race but I looked at the people in the line, there were men, women, old, young, some with babies etc. and a lot of people were chatting which made me think they had been in the line for most of the day. Suddenly, a very old women (who was black) walked straight to the front of the line, assuming that people would let her through because was a senior citizen, honestly I thought they would let her through as well but they did not. She tried to talk to people in the front of the line and ask if they would let her through but they instead caused a lot of commotion and sent her to the back of the line. I was very disappointed but I thought nothing of it, I guess fair is fair. But something stunning happened a few minutes later, a middle aged white woman got out of her car, walked to the front of line, waited for the next person to be called and confidently walked into the bank without saying a single word to anyone. No one in the line said anything to her either. I was sitting there, with my mouth open wondering what exactly just happened. Still, I did not think it had anything to do with race, I was just shocked that nobody said anything to her. So I continued watching, intrigued now and I actually noticed a pattern, there were only black people standing in the line but there were a number of white people entering and existing the bank. They were all wanting the same thing from the bank but some were waiting to get it and some were simply going in and getting it.

www. history.com

I thought about the incident for a while and realised that I have seen similar things happen quite regularly. People say that colonialism is over, slavery is over apartheid is over and they are right, these things are over but the remnants of them still exist very dominantly. During such times, a very clear hierarchy of racial significance was developed and that hierarchy clearly still exists in the minds of many. White people always have and still demand respect and authority. I am very much ok with this, where I saw the problem was with how little respect black people regard themselves with. The white people thought it was their right to ignore that line and walk straight into the bank and do what they needed to but the black people also thought it was their right as well because did not show a single sign of protest. Instances like these remind us that the historical wrongs have been drummed into our heads and we have to actively unlearn these feeling of ‘less-than’ or ‘better-than.’

While I have mentioned that I see these displayed feelings in the majority of black Zimbabweans, there is a group which also does the exact opposite. Zimbabwean black elites have re-gained authority and respect but not in a way that is conducive to anyone in the country. The groups I refer to do not only demean generationally white Zimbabweans for lacking Zimbabweaness but they also demean other black people that are of a lower social strata. These groups are a prime example of when one regains agency, self-love and respect for oneself from a place of hatred for the other rather than genuine self-love. A lot of people may fall into this trap because of the lack of re-enforcement of the significance and importance of black people, without these reminders of love, there is usually space to breed hatred for the group that has made you feel lesser. Why I think this is important is because I see African-Americans slowly building up their pride of being black and of being of African ancestry but I do not see the same pride coming out of Africa. The pride which is growing here still somewhat has an element of comparison to the white man, rather than just pure love and respect for oneself. I think it is mainly because African’s do not like to address race, it is a topic we are very uncomfortable with and so if it is never spoken about, no one knows how they should be acting or remedying the situation.

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

Bertrand Russell

This quote explains exactly what is going on in Zimbabwe. Black and white is very clearly still divided in all areas and I really struggle to understand why. Who does this division serve? I may be poking the bear here but to be frank, racism made a little more sense before. A group was made to feel lesser for purposes of power, domination and capitalisation. But now, it is blatantly clear that a skin tone does not make anyone better than anyone else so why do we still treat each other differently based on it? It makes absolutely no sense for either group to be harbouring so much hatred. What I would want for the people of Zimbabwe is for each and every black person to remember that regardless of the past, this has been and always will be your home, that you are worthy of respect, equal treatment and you should demand it from everyone including each other. Ask your other friends why they may speak to white people differently to the way they speak to you, why they change demeanour when dealing with a white person and when dealing with a black person. Demand explanations and demand change because that is the only way we can get rid of this ridiculous hierarchy which exists. For white Zimbabweans, it is time to seriously take heed of the privileges that exists to your advantage in this country simply because of how the world is constructed. You are every much as Zimbabwean as everyone else but the work towards a more unified country involves you as well and the way you choose to treat and socialise with everyone else you come across in this country.

Diversity Hire

Happy Friday everyone. It has been almost a month since the last post! The time has just completely gotten away from me. I am back in Zimbabwe now (for the holidays) and I am extremely happy to be home. Today I am here with a topic that particularly vexes me to my core.

I have a ‘friend’ (in The Netherlands) who always praises my accomplishments with grace. In the humblest way possible, I have achieved a lot as a student and young woman; I have a good paying job (I have had about three jobs since I started university), I have never had trouble finding or keeping a job, I am a straight A student (B if it in involves numbers), I have interned in very good positions, traveled the world (for reasons of accomplishment) and received recognition for my achievements. So, this friend sees all of this and acknowledges and praises my accomplishments every time there is a new one. However, each time, she adds something to the praise that makes me want to scream.

“Oh, they saw an African student so they saw an opportunity to fill a quota” “They needed to throw in some diversity” “They saw brown and immediately gave you the job/position” “How could they not give the job/position to an African female” “Oh they just needed to show that there are brown students” “You’re lucky that diversity is the in thing now”

Although she’s the only one that says statements like this, I know that she isn’t the only one thinking them. And even though I consider her a friend, I have never actually corrected her. The first time she said it; I have achieved a position she had not and she yelled “oh yes! diversity!” and truthfully, I was confused so I didn’t say anything. Then after that, I felt like it was an awkward thing to bring up later on and rectify, seeing as I had let it go the first time.

Diversity hire was a social innovation designed to right historical wrongs and give minority groups equal opportunities for the same achievements that had been denied to them for decades. Somehow, majority groups turned this into a negative thing; a degrading thing. As if it so inconceivable that someone from a minority group could achieve the same (or even better things than them). All achievements awarded to non-whites are seen as a diversity handout. I focus here on race because even though I am a woman and woman are under-represented in the work place, with my person experience, no one questions a position I have gotten because of my gender but rather, my skin colour or nationality. I can imagine that for a white female, they face the diversity stereotype, but for someone like me, my race will always overshadow my gender.

http://www.workable.com

The reason that diversity hiring became a thing is not because minority groups needed a lower threshold of personal and professional achievement, it is because their achievements were denied for years. So can you imagine how degrading it feels when these achievements are finally recognised and there are people thinking that you only achieved them because of the same attributes that you are actually trying to overcome. I have seen this treatment happen to many people; where their hard work is belittled by people who jump straight to the diversity reasoning. What is so confusing to me is how someone could find it impossible that someone of colour could not achieve something without a helping hand. This friend of mine who aways jumps to diversity reasoning does not consider herself racist in the slightest but I think her line of reasoning is racism in one of its purest forms.

I brought this up to my mom when I was applying for my undergraduate degree because I was getting a lot of offers. However, in some of the offers, there was an amendment of bringing diversity to the campus, so I was confused, I knew my grades were exceptionally good but I still couldn’t tell if I was being offered positions on the basis of that or because universities were truly trying to bring ‘diversity to the campus.’ It really bothered me. My mom’s response was “who cares,” for whatever reason you’re being given these opportunities, you are being given amazing opportunities. She explained that I should just make the most of all of the opportunities regardless of how they were achieved (although she thought I was stupid for thinking they were about diversity in the first place). When I internalised what she said (only years later actually), I realised that it bothered me so much because constructs of racial oppression still existed in my mind. I felt that I needed to prove to these people who doubted me and my achievements as a brown women, were because I was a capable and hardworking women. Due to this hierarchy of importance that still exists, it felt that if they thought I deserved my achievements then I did.

How ridiculous, right? Wrong, it was not ridiculous of me to think this way because so many children are brought up to think this way and question their own abilities simply because they look a certain way. So my post today not only aims at correcting the misperceptions of people who think anyone achieves anything because of how they look but also to address people who may question the achievements they have gotten. To the first; stop and consider that someone may actually just be a brilliant person capable and worthy of the opportunity and recognition they have been given. And to the latter; you deserve each and every single opportunity and recognition you have been and will be given and even in moments where you doubt yourself, remember that you have the ability to succeed in that role you have been given. Even if you question your deservingness, do not let that stop you from proving that you deserve even more.

Left for Dead

Happy Monday everyone! I would like to thank you again for coming and reading the thoughts I have to share with you today. I hope you are all doing well or at least keeping your head above water; sometimes that is all we can manage and if you are managing it, well done!

Throughout ‘civilisation,’ there have always been people/ groups/ entire communities/ countries who have been left for dead by the rest of the world but did not die. I had a conversation about this with someone who held the sad position that it would’ve actually been less evil if the forgotten or left behind would’ve just died as opposed to fighting for some semblance of existence after they have been left for dead. I see the allure of this argument because sometimes it is just like; what is the point? As I mentioned in the last post, I still cannot answer this “what is the point” question but I firmly believe that the ones left for dead would not be better off dead.

It is probably important that I elaborate somewhat on who I am referring to when I refer to people left for dead. In an individual sense, I refer to the poor. As much as we would like to believe that we have changed as a collective humanity, the truth of the matter is that we always leave the poor in society behind. We pretend they don’t exist and hope that somehow; on their own they will better their lives. I actually intend on writing a full post on this sometime in the future because of all the countries I have visited in my life, the common thing I see is how badly every society treats the poor. In terms of groups and/or communities, there are always marginalised groups within society who either ‘look weird’ or ‘behave weirdly’ who are left out of what it means to part of that society. They are the group left alone because for some unknown reason, the rest of society does not want to interact with them. In terms of entire countries, you all know them, mine is one of them. The countries whose history has been erased or re-written. The countries whose people are seen as lesser and the ones that are never considered in ‘global problems.’

In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. 

Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

Thus, my focus today on those who have been left for dead is the Zimbabwean people. For the life of me, I don’t get it. Never in my life have I met people with the same or even slightly similar spirit as Zimbabwean people. We are earnest, hard workers, always happy (truly I do not understand this one), we like to talk, we love strangers and we are very expressive with emotions. When I meet people in different countries who have been Zimbabwe, naturally, I always ask what their favourite part of the country was and 100% of the time, the answer has been “the people.” Zimbabweans are always smiling, even when something bad has happened (because we have a toxic habit of turning everything into a joke), but I think that is how we survive all that has been hurled at us. We smile at each other and we laugh together.

The sad part of this, I suppose, is how surprised I am that Zimbabweans are still so happy, because we have been forgotten time and time again and left to die. Sadly, that is what is happening; Zimbabweans are dying, from things that could easily be avoided. And why is that? because the people that are supposed to care, never have. I am currently writing my thesis on the desperate state of Zimbabwe and whether it can be attributed to the destabilisation caused by colonialism or the corruption and inefficiency of our independent governments. While writing, I realised that I don’t actually care about the answer to that question; I do not care whose fault it is that Zimbabwean people are suffering, I just care that they are. But if we are to tackle the question of blame, it is both to be blamed because all governments Zimbabweans have had treat(ed) the Zimbabwean people as dispensable. We have come secondary to capital, political influence and political ideology. We have been tools to create profit and we have never been treated as anything more than that.

But we have not died. After segregation, oppression, genocide, economic crisis, poverty, disease outbreaks… Zimbabwean people are alive and pushing through. I have always said that if Zimbabweans had to see the fruits of how hard they worked; if the work actually went into the country and not into the pockets of the nefarious then Zimbabwe would be one of the richest countries in the world. Because Zimbabweans work HARD but it is because that is all they have ever known. They have had to work hard since the dawn of time to just keep their heads above water. So while we struggle with one uphill battle after another, while I see people breaking their backs to feed themselves and their families, I will still never believe that Zimbabweans would be better off if they died. We have a spirit of survival and while we may have been left for dead time and time again, there will come a time when life is breathed into all of the lives of Zimbabweans who have managed to persevere through and we will live on for those who have not been so lucky.

“We’re hungry but we’re together and we’re at home and everything is sweeter than dessert.” 

Elizabeth Zandile Tshele a.k.a NoViolet Bulawayo