Friday, February 03, 2006

Misconceptions and Conceptions of the African Dilemma

I didn't pay much attention to Bush's State Of The Union address (SOTU) Tuesday night, and hadn't intended to respond to it--just wasn't interested. I must confess that I have now spent the last couple of days mulling over the speech, or at least what light it shed on the west's concerns for the world's oppressed and poor people.

After the speech in which Bush referred to Zimbabwe as one of the places where "the other half" of the world's population are living denied both justice and freedom, Zimbabwe's government like Iran's fired back their own salvos labelling the American both a "warmonger" and "bully." This didn't surprise me. In fact I'm still waiting to hear from old Uncle Bob himself as he hasn't entered his voice in this the latest chapter in his longrunning feud with Bush and Blair.

What shocked me was that moments after Bush's reference to Zimbabwe as one of the places where "the other half" of the world's population exists derived both freedom and justice, my phone and inbox were set alight by angry Zimbabweans. "How can he compare us to Iran and Syria. Can't he see that Zimbabweans are bigger victims of poverty than they are of oppression," was the question that has been posed to me most over the last few days.

More than just a patriotic knee jerk response, I sensed a deep seated dissdain for the apparent misconception of the crisis in Zimbabwe from the concerned Zimbo's that called and emailed me.

In my humble opinion, I think a fair comparison could be made between the events transpiring in Iran and Syria and Zimbabwe's catastrophic leadership. One could even draw some parallels to some of the world's worst dictators, Hitler and Polpot to name a couple, with Mugabe's heartless leadership. At the same time, I can also see how our nation's recent history can seem totally unrelated to the nuclear ambitions of the former, or the latter's facilitation of militant attacks in Iraq, especially to those worst affected by the Zimbabwean meltdown.

Bush's speech awakened me to a chasm that exists between how these people, often victims of the malignent intentions of some of the worlds worst despots, percieve themselves differently from how outsiders understand their predicament.

A case in point is Zimbabwe. What Bush said in his speech is the ethos of the western outlook on Zimbabwe i.e. that Zimbabweans are an oppressed people just like the Iranians. But according to the Zimbabweans that have registered their anger with the Bush speech, the main complaint in Zimbabwe is that of poverty and hunger rather than that of freedom and justice. How can we talk about oppression when people are so hungry they can barely stand?

From the west's neo-conservative paradigm, poverty and hunger result from a lack of both freedom and justice. Off course the leftists in the west counter to the contrary. Most important is that the very victims, in this case we the people of Zimbabwe, rarely think of ourselves in that mould. My first, my most basic concern for my family isn't that they can't go where they want to whenever they want to, or that they can't access or express information deemed harmful to government; no, it is that they find something to eat, that they have clothing on their backs, and a roof over their heads.

We the people think of ourselves as victims deprived not only of our freedoms and indeed justice, but most importantly of our livelihood. To Zimbabweans, the concern for the wellbeing of Zimbabweans people is much more immediate than that for the wellbeing of the Zimbabwean democracy. Bush's sentiment didn't reflect that.

Sadly, his efforts and outbursts on the Zimbabwean people's behalf will always be viewed cynically by Zimbos regardless of how benovelent they might be because they are not fully congruent with what the people are feeling about themselves.

It seems clear to me that a true understanding of how some of the world's worst afflicted view themselves is most basic to any undertaking to alleviate their suffering.

It seems to me that we the people are seeing our predicament, and most certainly ourselves differently from how we are viewed from without. And if you go back over my writings from the past year or read other Zimbo bloggers, you'd find that we are saying this exact thing, "The freedom and democracy Zimbabweans want are the kind that will put food back on their tables, and not just the right kind of government in office."

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