29 12 2008

I quite often wake up in a black depression. I suppose it’s the stress; the overwhelming presence of a very murky future. I have pretty much accepted that my business is going to close in the next 6 months or so and I don’t have any clear alternatives – a Plan B to use the cliche. I am not totally without alternatives though. I do have a British passport but lying in the misty pre-dawn before my alarm went off rather reminded me of what I least liked about living in the UK some years back – the weather. The constant greyness, the damp and cold. Getting out five pounds in 50p coins and desperately trying to stay warm over the weekend by getting into bed with all my clothes on. Not a lot of fun but at least then I was working towards a goal; getting out of there and going travelling on what turned out to be the best experience of my life! The depression doesn’t seem to last long (I once asked Austin, the sports doctor at the gym, if he had any happy pills. Lots he replied, which one did I want? I said the whole f…. lot would do for starters.) and a short spell on the rower soon cleared the mind a bit and started me thinking about less depressing topics.

I suppose like quite a lot of Zimbabweans I wonder what it would take to get this country back to a resemblance of a functioning state (by U.S. standards and probably a few others we are a failed state). Where would one start? Money, health, infrastructure, rule of law, education the list is long. Co-incidently I am reading a book by Ryszard Kapuscinsky entitled The Shadow of the Sun about his 40+ years as a Polish correspondent in Africa. Most of the time he does not try to analyse, he simply records his experiences in a variety of countries mostly in the northern hemisphere. In talking to various intellectuals (who mostly don’t live in Africa anymore) he notes the following:

“… the strength of Europe and of its culture, in contrast to other cultures, lies in its bent for criticism, above all, for self-criticism – in its art of analysis and inquiry, in its endless seeking, in its restlessness. The European mind recognizes that it has limitations, imperfections, is skeptical, doubtful, questioning. Other cultures do not have this critical spirit. More – they are inclined to pride, thinking that all that belongs to them is perfect; they are, in short, uncritical in relation to themselves. They lay the blame for all that is evil on others, on other forces (conspiracies, agents, foreign domination of one sort or another). They consider all criticism to be a malevolent attack, a sign of discrimination, racism etc. Representatives¬† of these cultres treat criticism as a personal insult, as a deliberate attempt to humiliate them, as a for of sadism even. If you tell them that the city is dirty, they treat this as if you said that they were dirty themselves, had dirty ears, or dirty nails. Instead of being self-critical, they are full of countless grudges, complexes, envies, peeves, manias. The effect of all this is that they are culturally, permanently, structurally incapable of progress, incapable of engendering within themselves the will to transform and evolve.”

It is very noticeable at the moment just how keen the Zimbabwe government is to place all the blame everywhere else. A lot of it is just a cynical buying of time while they look for something else to loot but a fair amount is heart felt. This attitude of criticism being a bad thing (I come across it all the time) is not going away any time soon and only education will solve it but that of course is a long term solution.

He also quotes a Tanzanian intellectual – “Africa needs a new generation of politicians who know how to think in a new way. The current ones must depart. Instead of thinking about development, they think about how to stay in power”. This might be stating the obvious but even in relatively enlightened political climate such as South Africa’s it is heavily entrenched. Witness the recent vote by parliament to disband the specialist police unit The Scorpions which was set up specifically to investigate political corruption!



One response

10 01 2009
Big Blister

An amazing observation, and the evidence heard every time an official speaks!

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