Politics Of Borrowed Reasoning: The Political Culture In Africa Today

10 August 2012

By Reason Wafawarova

In his book "Social Amnesia," Russel Jacoby writes, "Exactly because the past is forgotten, it rules unchallenged. To be transcended it must first be remembered. Social amnesia is society's repression of remembrance."

The politics of Africa are largely based on borrowed reasoning, based on what now seems to be an overwhelmingly inevitable reliance on European supremacy disguised as civilisation.

Human actions are only the seventh stage of a complex social process, and trying to remedy human actions without reforming the other six stages is a cosmetic exercise that can only be described as futile.

The first stage upon which our actions are based is the environment, be it described as social, economic, political or religious.

The way history is presented is an attempt by the hegemonies to control the consciousness of the subjugated, to create an environment that will build a body of knowledge only beneficial to the perpetuation of hegemonies and to the continued suffering and humiliation of the subjugated.
When the Americans show the movie "The Birth of a Nation" history is being used to eclipse the Death of a Nation that once belonged to the indigenous American.

The Australians celebrate the Australian Day as the birth of a great nation, not as the Invasion Day that killed another nation. When an indigenous Australian boxer entered the ring flying the indigenous (so-called Aboriginal) flag at the current London Olympics the behaviour was seen by some Australian politicians and media as inappropriate.

Inappropriate precisely because the act itself does not auger well with an environment that has been created as the acceptable status quo of the country, a status quo where the status of the indigenous Australian is neither official or of any significance.

Our people in Africa today live a pernicious reality that makes the majority feel as if they do not come into existence and self-consciousness until they have been recognised by Western institutions of power, be they the media, the politicians, the civic bodies or even the intellectual fraternity.

In the same way Dr David Livingstone "discovered" the Victoria Falls or Columbus "discovered" America we have people who seriously believe that the African is today a product of discoveries of colonialism. We have many among Africans who are convinced that we are an invisible people until we are proclaimed otherwise by white people.

Zimbabwe today is in a place where the Europeans and their Western outposts across the globe have resolved to use economic sanctions as a pressure point to make the Zimbabwean acknowledge that without the European there is no such thing as a Zimbabwean. The sad thing is that such logic makes perfect sense to some Zimbabweans.

Australian Trade Minister Craig Emmerson recently put this into perspective when he said:

"We will be listening to advice from Prime Minister Tsvangirai about the issue of sanctions. If he indicates to us that there is a case for easing some sanctions; that is to reward the reformers and show the hardliners that reform does actually pay dividends, then we will be open to those sorts of arguments."

To validate the relevance and credibility of Morgan Tsvangirai Craig Emmerson had the temerity to tell the ABC Television that the man "had a wonderful history of fighting for freedom in Zimbabwe," of course all other freedom except the freedom that took away colonial rule, creating Zimbabwe from the colonial ashes of Rhodesia.

So there is this stick and carrot policy that is meant to teach the African that compliance with Western diktats "does actually pay dividends."

We have a political environment that has made many of our people believe only in definitions coming from the West, be it in matters of democracy, human rights, economic policies, or even in matters of culture.

As indicated earlier the environment builds a body of knowledge from which our experiences are derived. What we think we know about democracy today is largely built from an environment of white hegemony hailing uncurtailed from the days of slavery through colonialism to the current neo-colonial machinations.

This is precisely why the idea of free expression is based not on the African culture but on what happens in the West, why our idea of elections is based not on the needs of African societies but on how they do it in the West.

Zimbabweans have of late been debating on how best to come up with a constitution that resembles a Western society, and the efforts made by individual drafters to prove familiarity with and expertise in Western values was impressively dramatic, if not comical.

The knowledge base built into us by our political environment has created an experience in us that teaches us how incapable we are of doing certain things. This is why the issue of "unskilled and incapable black farmers" was so topical at the peak of the land reclamation program.

Despite the Zimbabwean having a rich history in farming long before the coming of white colonisers, it still made sense for some to believe that only white commercial farmers had the skills and capability to make farming a success in Zimbabwe. Roy Bennet and Eddie Cross are evidently still stuck in this flummoxing hypothesis.

Today we have people in Zimbabwe who believe job creation can only be carried out by investors from the West, and the Prime Minister is the Commander in Chief of this inferioritised brigade.
So we have just about every one of these people developing goose pimples over the prospect of indigenously controlled business entities and corporations.

To these people Saviour Kasukuwere's economic empowerment policy has become the definition of insanity, not for the unsoundness of its formulation but for the political incorrectness of making the black man the majority shareholder in a business involving white ownership.

In fact many of such people are solidly convinced that the black Zimbabwean cannot be trusted with control of the country's main stream economy, especially in such ventures as mining, banking and so on.

It is sad that we have people among us who use as arbiters of truth those who have lied to us most the white people.

We find it logical to use the same oppressors who made slaves out of us as arbiters of freedom.
We want to define democracy by the standards of those who denied us the right to humanity through colonialism.

These are the widespread kind of contradictions that make African politics the crazy circus we see today.

The experiences we have acquired from the colonial legacy and the neo-colonial hegemony of the Westerner have created in us beliefs that have developed in us certain values that are so detrimental to the progress of Africa.

We have a young generation whose values are simply borrowed from a Western world whose culture they hardly know anything about.

Our aspiration is not to compete with the European but to imitate him. The imitation culture has had a more egregious effect on Africa than colonialism did.

We have a people so motivated to forget the African personality, and we have governments so addicted to Western aid.

We have so many of our people keen to forget our history, convinced totally that confronting our history causes unnecessary anxieties.

These people cannot stand the anger, the fear, the shame, and the guilt associated with the African experience.They think the escape route is pretending yesterday has nothing to do with today.

The fact that we choose not to remember our traumatic colonial history or not to learn of a traumatic history that makes us feel ashamed does not mean that such a history is not controlling our behaviour today.

Even if we genuinely did not know our history, it does not mean that the history is not controlling our behaviour.

The values we derive from our beliefs, themselves shaped by our experiences, are the determinant factors to the choices we make. The choices we make determine the final actions we carry out, in themselves an expression of our behaviour.

The forces that are known in psychology as shaping human behaviour are those factors that are consciously not remembered by human beings; those experiences that one can swear he has never had.
The very things that shape us and make us behave the way we do and see the world the way we do, or relate to people the way we relate are often those things that occurred in our lives at points we cannot remember.

Our political choices today are shaped by events we can hardly recall.We have a generation of Zimbabweans that are not aware that their addiction to Western values is a direct result of historical events that happened many years before they were born.

It is like the psychological theory that says human behaviour is determined by events of the first two years of life. How many of us can recall what happened in our first two years of life?
The political culture in Africa today is that of puppetry, dependency, corruption, violence, intolerance, and borrowed reasoning.

These are actions in expression of the choices so made by the African politician, based on the values so acquired from the beliefs inherent in the African community beliefs entirely shaped by the life experiences in Africa, experiences so derived from the body of knowledge that has been created by the environment in which the African population lives today. Sadly we have a bastardised environment created for us by the colonial legacy.

Unless we change our environment by radically changing the core determinants of it we cannot envisage a time when our actions will change for the better. We cannot be a success story when our knowledge base is made from what happens in foreign environments, when our experiences are based on a faulty knowledge base, when our beliefs are based on the wrong sort of experience, when our beliefs create in us values of betrayal and inferiority, when such values lead us to make the wrong choices, and when such choices result in actions that only expresses our hopelessness as a people.

The hope of Zimbabwe is in the sovereignty of the country, in its sovereign control of its resources and its decision making processes.

Our hope is not in jobs created by foreign investors; our hope is not necessarily in a democracy impressive to Western institutions, and our future is not based on the removal of sanctions by the West.

If anything the economic sanctions have positively helped Zimbabwe to move from dependency to self-sustenance painful as the experience has been to all of us.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.



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