A different type of Socialization

Happy almost-weekend everyone! I hope you have all had a good and prosperous week! Today, I come to you with a topic which I still have a lot of questions and assumptions around.

After reading copious amounts of history on former colonies and what happened to them after colonisation; how most of them ‘failed’ according to the Western standard of success, I could not wrap my head around the ‘why.’ Well that is mainly because there is no single reason for this outcome but today I will address one of the reasons that are chiefly responsible for these ‘failures.’ Western culture is one of individuality and this is rooted in almost all of the institutions and social norms in Western countries. The hegemonic dominance that then came with colonisation forced colonies to also adapt to this idea of individualism. However, the culture in the ‘failed’ states is one of communality and togetherness. Adapting from community oriented systems and ways of living to structures which promote individualism is something that countries such as Zimbabwe could not master and probably never will.

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From time immoral we have based our living around community and living together. What was mine was everyone’s and a single persons achievements were that of an entire community. This still exists – but it is getting less and less as Western influence permeates each generation. My point though, is that, when Western systems were introduced (introduced being a very passive word compared to how these systems were implemented), African (as well as South American and Asian) communities had to adapt and change their entire way of living. Take capitalism for example, in order to be successful in a capitalist world, a person has to be individually oriented and not worry about how their actions will affect the greater ‘community.’ This change was easy for some but for most of the country it was an unimaginable shift in the way life was viewed. In many respects, individuality is reserved for privileged societies. You can be an autonomous and stable individual in the Netherlands because you have the means and opportunities to sustain yourself through the systems that have been built for citizens. However, in places like Zimbabwe, individuality is seen as more of a burden because the support and help of a community is needed just to get by. This is probably the reason we are still very much community oriented as a people and why we fail in systems that demand us to abandon our communities for the goals of prosperity, growth and development.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” 

― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Now while I talk of the impact this had on the reception of Western institutions, cultures and expectations in these countries very briefly, there is a host of literature out there if you are interested in the topic; which can explain it in much more depth than I have. While I have mainly spoken about this contrast on individualism and communalism in the past; it is something that still very much exists today. I was so shocked when I moved to The Netherlands and I observed how much time people spent alone. When I first moved, I loved it! As I have mentioned, I come from a very tight knit community where everyone’s nose is in everyone’s business so I was quite relieved to move somewhere where nobody cared what I was doing with my life. Dutch people make small talk and that’s about it and I liked that because at home, you can’t breathe without at least ten people knowing about it. But recently, (and I’m not sure if this is because of corona or because I’ve just been away for so long), I long for the inquisitiveness and the constant noise of having people around. I have started to notice how lonely people were in this part of the world. This is not to say that Zimbabweans aren’t lonely or that there are no tight-knit communities in Western countries, the dynamics of socialisation are just very different.

I was speaking with a Dutch friend who could not believe what I was telling her about the way we socialised as a community, how much we shared and how much time we spend together. She thought the concept of ‘sympathising’ was such great, revolutionary idea (because they don’t do that here). For those who do not know what sympathising is; when someone dies within the community, the rest of the community come and console the immediate family of the deceased for about a week or two. People bring food and come and spend days on end with the family; grieving, praying, eating and remembering the person who has died. This is what I mean when I say that we NEED our communities, it is not only about economic interdependence but we have had a system of emotional interdependence from as far back as I went into history.

So yes, we have ‘failed’ in the realms of economics, politics (this is not part of this conversation though), and development. But, I don’t think our togetherness and communality is something we are willing to or are even capable of sacrificing. On this same line, most Zimbabweans have the spirit of ‘if we suffer, we suffer together.’ If someone is left behind, we will go back and get them and start the journey all over again. So, many have argued that this is why we have remained stagnant. There are many country-specific reasons that ex-colonies have ‘failed’ to be prosperous, however, this cultural dynamic is one that really got me to think because it is a dynamic that challenges me being on the cusp of both realities. I would always vote for the community oriented world but I also had to understand that the choice came from a place of privilege; I have never gone hungry and I have never struggled. I am one of the lucky ones who actually has the benefits from both worlds. But, it is still something that needs to be seriously considered as we are living in a time that needs the stability and love of communities more than ever.

Re-Colonization?

Hello everyone 💕 It has been a while and a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I actually want to start the post today by paying tribute to someone special who was recently lost in our community. Death is a difficult thing and I think it’s even more difficult when it claims someone young; someone who had their whole life ahead if them. Miguel Antunes will be dearly missed by all of his friends and family and I pray for the strength for each and every one of you during this difficult time. 💗

(China in Africa: The real story)

Today, I would like to look at the somewhat dubious relationship Zimbabwe has had with China over the past few years. It is no secret to any Zimbabweans that behind all the smoke and mirrors, much of our country is being run by Chinese businessmen and politicians. Some might go so far as to say that our politicians have sold the country to China. Now, granted that Zimbabwe is a small drop in the pool of China’s current exploits, I think it is still something that Zimbabweans need to be weary about, or at least informed about.

When I arrived to Zimbabwe in December, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some construction was being done in the airport. But when I looked closely, I realised that the new section of the airport that was being built had Chinese signage. I was quite confused because Chinese is not nor has it ever been a language that is spoken in Zimbabwe. When I processed it for a little while, I actually wasn’t very surprised that this was happening, after all, there has been an influx of Chinese residents into Zimbabwe over the past few years. China wrote off a lot of our debts in the past years so some ‘accommodating’ signage is the least we can do right?

The China-Zimbabwe relationship actually started at the wake of independence. Robert Mugabe struggled to find support in the fight against Ian Smith and China reached out a long, unwavering arm. This a where a sort of love affair began between the two nations. Ever since, Beijing has always supported Harare and vice versa. Even when Zimbabwe was sanctioned by Western countries for gross human rights violations and China was encouraged to break ties, they did not. Instead, they offered political and economic assistance and bought gold (mines), platinum (mines), diamonds (mines) and real estate in the country to ‘boost’ the economy. Mugabe cherished the relationship and always had incredibly inspirational things to day about Xi Jinping:

“Here is a man representing a country once called poor; a country which never was our coloniser, but there you are. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonised us yesterday to do. If they have ears to hear, let them hear.”

(Robert Mugabe on Xi Jinping, China-African Cooperation Summit 2015)

It is understandable, when reading this to sympathise with what Mugabe meant. The country faced a lot of social, political and economic turmoil after independence and much of it can be attributed to the fact that the new politicians did not know how to govern the country they had just been given. A lot more support during the transition was expected from colonisers; in this case the British. Support that was promised and never given. So, no one really knew what to do with Zimbabwe; how to run an entire country, to follow through with what was promised to the people and to appease the international community. And again, China extended their other hand when Zimbabwe needed it and got more and more involved in the running of the country. But now that time has gone by, I do not think it was China giving to us at all, I think it was the other way around. Engulfed in the pressure and whirlpool of his mistakes, Mugabe let more and more of the country get sold. China was the only supporter of Zimbabwe or Mugabe for that fact but what was forgotten is that in politics there is no such thing is blind support. It has now reached a point where most businesses operational in Zimbabwe are Chinese owned and most political decisions are made with China as a main concern.

What is the harm? – I have actually heard people say this. Yes, our country is the most devastating state it has ever been in but accepting blind capital injections from outsiders will not fix our problems. What do we do when China decides they do not want to keep giving Zimbabwe a ‘free-ride’ or worse, when they decide that the country is theirs to take? What happens when China decides that Zimbabweans are obsolete? That what they want from the country can be achieved without Zimbabweans, which is the exact environment we are setting them up for right now.

(CNN.com)

This is what happens. It will start slowly, where there are sporadic cases of Zimbabweans facing abuse at the hands of Chinese bosses; just like this but I think the racism and xenophobia towards Africans in China at the moment tells us that it will not stop here. In this instance, an employee (Kenneth Tachiona) was questioning their boss on some late/missed pay, at which point the boss decided that it would be ok if he shot his workers. Although the shooter, Zhang Xuen was arrested for it, my confidence in the Zimbabwean justice system is nil and I am sure absolutely nothing will happen to him. Although the Chinese embassy claims this was an isolated incident, it was captured on tape so something tells me that there are many other ‘incidents’ which have gone unmentioned. There have been low murmurs of human rights violations on Chinese mines but there have been no actual reports on them, apart from this one, which was caught on tape. There have been some reports by the Zimbabwean Environmental Law Association (ZELA) that Chinese owned mines often operate under “dangerous, harsh and life threatening” conditions but I believe that our dependence on Chinese businesses will mean that none of these violations will be rectified.

I know that as a people, Zimbabweans are used to riding the wave. We let things get done to us time and time again and find ways to adapt rather than fight back. I believe this is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. We need to wake up when it comes to situations like these and think of the future of our country. Obviously if it were up to us and not ‘our’ politicians, we would not be selling our country bit by bit but this is the current reality of what is going on. The question is whether or not we will do anything about it or, rather, whether or not we can do anything about it. The world is changing faster than any of us could have anticipated and I think now is as good a time as any for Zimbabweans to take charge of their own lives and their own country.