Flipping the Bird

5 06 2007

On the way out to the airport again this morning for more software consultations and I had to pass under the freedom arch just before the airport. It is an uninspiring structure consisting of a rectangular concrete arch over the road and on the east side it rises up into a big pointed “V”. The V apparently signifies a person reaching up exalting in freedom from the oppressive colonial rule (which gave the country hospitals, education and an infrastructure) but looks far more like someone “flipping the bird”. I have never been tempted to stop and find out if there is more to it than this and I doubt the sour looking policeman with an AK47 ostentatiously “guarding” it would be of much help or even welcoming. I mean, do they really think that someone would want to go to the effort of blowing it up? Graffiti is, I suppose, a bit more likely but graffiti artists seem to be a bit thin on the ground in Harare.

I was quite surprised to see the policeman there today as it is the first time I have seen any sort of guard there in many years. Just after independence armed guards were to be found on just about all the major bridges and communications setups in the country but eventually someone realized that no-one was really interested in destroying a bridge (or maybe, just maybe they realized that blowing up a structure that large was a major undertaking) or they decided to economize and the guards were removed.

There are a few flag poles with backings for posters of visiting heads of state and dignitaries alongside a car park next to the arch but they are looking decidedly rusty and otherwise tatty so I do hope that the official motorcades do not stop there to admire the “bird” on the way into town. Maybe they get regaled with tales of derring-do in the struggle for independence (why is “struggle” such a popular word in third world countries – are they so inept that they cannot wage a “war”?) and conveniently ignore the desolation, non-working traffic lights and litter on the way into town. Flipping the bird, it’s more appropriate than anything I could have thought of.



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