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.

A Misconception

Good morning everyone! Thank you very much for coming back and reading 💕

Last year, I had a politics lesson that left me with a lot of displaced emotions towards the comments that were made by some of my European peers. The topic in discussion was along the lives of slavery and lack of freedom, both in the past and in today’s societies. Some time during the class discussion, someone raised their hand and boldly stated that “African, South American and Asian people who still have housemaids are essentially modern day slave owners.” The sentence struck me and I immediately wanted to get up and slap this person. My professor saw the look on my face (as well as that of another Asian student in the class) and drew attention to our reactions and asked why we found the statement so outrageous. The problem was that, in that moment, I was angry that something like that had even been said and when I am emotional, I usually cannot make a sensible, conducive argument, so all I said was “I disagree.” My professor, (bless his soul) noticed how uncomfortable I had started to feel so he did not pursue my apprehension any further. A year later, I have gathered my thoughts and emotions and I feel like I can now explain it in the way I wanted to back then. Now, my explanations are based on personal experience and what I have observed around me so this is not to say that there is no mistreatment of household workers around the world but the comment made by my peer was made with absolutely no sensitivity to the topic and with no educational basis whatsoever.

I think it is important for me to first highlight the argument she was making. She stated that housework and child minding were tasks which no one would want to do for as little as they are paid in ‘our counties.’ That was it. That was her entire basis for calling three continents modern day slave owners. I realise now that this argument said more about her mentality than it did about anything else on the topic. The fact that she saw this job in particular as slave work shows exactly where her references to reality come from. Other jobs earn the same amount for jobs people enjoy less but I do not think she would have called these ‘working people’ modern day slaves. Honestly, I was so confused by the entire argument and worse so, the debate went on for some time. To me, it seemed like common sense; if we used this argument then we are all slaves aren’t we? My family members earn good/decent money but still may dislike their jobs so are they slaves? Additionally, there was no education on economics in the regions she was referring to. She stated that maids were underpaid but according to whose standard? According to Western standards, more than half of the African continent is underpaid. I also don’t think there was even a number in mind, just the equation of housework + a black person = slave.

My upset was not only with the insensitively of it all but it was also with the fact that there were people who truly didn’t understand the dynamic me and (the Asian) student tried to explain – because we seemed to have the same relationship with our maids. I think there is no other way for me to explain it than to talk about my maid; someone I consider my second mother. Yes, she has been paid by cook, clean, wash clothes and look after us. But, Irene, has been in my life since I was 3 years old. She has fed me (still does every time I am home from university), bathed me, rocked me to sleep, been a friend, a confidant, nursed my heart when it was broken, taken care of me when I was sick and a long list of other things which are not obligatory for her. I/we have been there for her in the same way; we have fed her, clothed her, celebrated with her, mourned with her, taken care of her when she was sick and a long list of other things which were not obligatory for us. It is love in its purest and truest form. She is family; even though technically she works for the family. This dynamic is not unique to me, all the Zimbabweans I know actually have this relationship with their maids; its normal. So you can imagine my shock and confusion when I heard a statement like that and really I wondered where such ideas came from. With more thought however, I realised that it was simply from a place of ignorance; she did not understand the situation she was so boldly referring to, which is also allowed, we all make misinformed statements.

I am sure her ideas and those of a few others in the class did not come from nowhere, however, I implore everyone to at least have a semblance of true knowledge on a topic before you boldly state opinions on a topic that might actually offend or upset someone. What is more is that this conversation genuinely became an argument in which us (with real life experience) submitted and kept quiet because the idea of fighting someone on your own cultural upbringing which they know nothing about is emotionally exhausting and draining. Nevertheless, I thought it should be something that I should try and explain because this misconception exists from sordid historical references. Even so, I hope people who think this way will question themselves on why, do some research or reach out to some friends who might have the answers and really try and understand the perspectives and lived experiences that are different from yours.

Get your Passport out of here

Happy Thursday beautiful people! I hope this has been a positive and fulfilling week for you all. I am here again to talk about something that has been on my mind for the past two years. Yeah, a very long time, I know.

(Wikipedia: Zimbabwe Coat of Arms)

As I have mentioned many times, I have lived in Zimbabwe for about 90% of my life. I went to one of the best private schools in the country (Chisipite Senior School). Putting my school aside, no one can dispute the fact that the level of education in Zimbabwe in general is incredibly high. I genuinely did not have a hard time adjusting to university because my high school had worked me to the bone and taught me more than I needed to know for tertiary education and I will forever be grateful for that. So, I want to make it clear that I am not speaking ill of Zimbabwean schools but simply pointing out how flawed the education system is in general, as are most of our institutions.

It first dawned on me that there was something wrong with the way I was educated when I realised that I could recite American presidents one after the other, I know all dates of most of the big European wars, I know most of politicians that were involved in European history, I know when they died and what they did… I know European and American authors and great literary works, I know the historical icons that hail from these places and I know about the successes and failures of Western institutions. I know more French than I do Shona (for those who do not know, Shona is the native language in Zimbabwe) and I even know about Middle Eastern conflicts and international diplomacy. All of this I knew before I even started my tertiary education. But if someone had to ask me about Zimbabwe’s fight for independence, the real details, like the ones I know about World War II, I would be blank. I don’t know what my country was like before colonisation, I don’t know where all my customs come from and I definitely do not know any of the leaders that existed before colonialism (if there was such a thing as leaders that is, as I definitely think hierarchical organisation is an extremely Western concept). I think I know one Zimbabwean author (I read the book and it was brilliant but for some unknown reason, I did not look for more). The Zimbabwean music I know, is the music they play in clubs and I do not have a single inkling as to how my culture has developed over time.

I do not blame any of my schools for not teaching me these things. After all, they were trying to do what was best for us; teach us about the West so we could someday go there and make a better life for ourselves. For me, it worked didn’t it, I am currently getting my degree and spewing my Western facts in all my classes and essays. After I graduate, I will probably get a job in a country that is not Zimbabwe and begin to build my life there. This path is seen as a huge success. From about ten years old, I was told by everyone, that the goal was to do well in school so that I could leave the country and make a better life for myself somewhere else. To enable this, our teachers had to teach us about all the things that would make us pass Western exams and have recognition that would get us out of the county.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Zig Ziglar

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that knowing about different cultures and countries is wrong but not knowing about my own is a huge disadvantage for your own growth as an individual. The worst thing is that most people never think about it, not only Zimbabweans but I know so many countries which teach the same way Zimbabwe does and the products of this system never stop to consider how little they know about their own country. And why should they? No one will every ask them about the history of their country. The ‘intellectual’ conversations that will always be had will be about the West so we will never be faced with the realisation that we are ignorant about our own countries. So it stands that if you want to be part of the intelligent conversations, to be considered educated, you have to know as much as you can about the major powers in the world and if you want to know about your own country it should be treated more like a hobby or general interest.

I said, two years ago, that I would make it a point to start learning about my country outside of school, but have I? No, because I am treating it as general interest…there is always something more important to know before I try and acquaint myself with where I come from. I know why this is; it is partly because I honestly don’t know where to begin and partly because I am embarrassed to ask questions about my own country because surely, by calling myself an educated twenty-two year old woman, I should already know the answers to these questions. But I don’t and in the grand scheme of things, in the goal of ‘getting out,’ it doesn’t matter that I don’t know these things.

To me, it seems that this kind of is education has caused conflict in the hearts of my generation. Our countries tell us we are liberated and we mean something in the world but in the same breathe, they do everything in their power to push us to understanding Western ways of life and suppressing our own. So where does that leave us? Having to choose between two different identities of who we are and who we want to be?

Honestly, I do not know the answers and I do not know how to fix the problem and that is why this has been on my mind for two years. I think this is something we all need to start thinking long and hard about. I believe asking these questions could lead us to learning wonderful and amazing things about ourselves, where we are going and the point of it all. In my first year of university, all my independent essays were all on topics I thought would make me sound more clever, none to do with Zimbabwe because I thought that it would be silly and no one would be interested. Now, in my second year, every chance I get to talk about Zimbabwe, I do… even though I never learn about it in classes, I teach myself and apply what I learn, to my country. My final dissertation is about Zimbabwe and it has been the most exciting and mind opening project I have ever undertaken. I have been beaming with pride with the relationship I have been growing with my country but when I really look at it, it is still within the constructs of what is considered important in the West. So, I still have a long way to go in trying to decipher where I have come from but I have began the journey.