"It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society." --Krishnamurti
A Look at Zimbabwe: A Visit and Subsequent Thoughts
Second (and Final) Reply to Reaction:
And my "final" reply, which was not published on the Zimbabwe Situation Web site, as is their prerogative. It's understandable though, as they are a news site, not a forum for debate. I would consider posting this on the Rhodesians Worldwide Bush Telegraph message board, but I am not going to open that can of worms (with which some of you are familiar) as I am not a regular there.
January 4th, 2004.
Craig's "Final" Reply to Reaction to "The Tourist"
I seem to have touched a raw nerve with a few people in Zimbabwe. As one of them said, I suppose that's a good thing in a way. I find it interesting, however, that nobody has claimed that anything I have said is false, other than the person who refuted my claims regarding marriage and relationship breakdowns. However, her opinion is no more valid than mine and is just that -- an opinion, and as much a "blanket" statement as mine was.
What some people have done is attack the messenger, calling me mild things like "irritating" and stronger things such as an "outright racist". So I'm a racist, huh? Please... attack me with something a little more original. The accusation of being a racist is supposed to make me roll over and wet myself for fear I will be ostracised by the "good people" in society. It doesn't wash anymore -- sorry. Besides, deal with the de facto racism that I pointed out exists among both blacks and whites in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa (the three countries into which I have some insight) before you dismiss me with such a spurious accusation. Yes, you go to a gym that admits both blacks and whites; of course it does. But in social and political circles the de facto segregation does exist, and the country's bureaucracy is clearly antagonistic towards whites. Oh, I'm sure you can point to examples where this is not the case, and so can I, but generally speaking it is.
Ann wants to know why I didn't go into a grocery store. I already explained that in my original essay; I said that I wasn't looking for a "story". Besides, I had only two opportunities and in both cases I stayed in the car with my host's children while he went in and did the shopping.
Why was I so "scared" to ask my Zimbabwean contacts about changing forex in Zimbabwe? Are you serious?! I wasn't afraid for myself, and I gave a real example in my original essay which highlighted the danger of potentially implicating someone in Zimbabwe in a way that could even remotely annoy someone in power! Why didn't I use code words "like everyone else does"? Maybe it's because I had no secure way to communicate with my Zimbabwean contacts in order to set up a system of code words "like everyone else does". Besides, think about that for a moment; why the hell should I have to use code words to seek information on what is, in a free country, a normal, everyday transaction?! Your questions show an astonishing lack of understanding and critical thought.
Taking photographs "was a pretty stupid thing to do, and [I] was lucky to get away with it"!? You've labelled me as a tourist and the last time I checked one of the things tourists do is take photographs; not only do tourists get away with taking pictures in a free country, they are expected to take photographs. I did not take any photographs of the usual restricted buildings: military bases, police stations, law courts, airports, etc. Do you want to know what one of the "top secret" things I photographed was? It was the swimming pool at the University of Zimbabwe, for God's sake! That's the place where I was told to put my request in writing and where I went ahead and took the photographs anyway. By the way, the pool was built in the late 1970s and is now a scum-covered pond. Score another one for good governance.
Again, another question that shows the reader didn't even read much of what I wrote: "What one [sic] earth did he want to take the zim $ out for..."?. Other than a single Z$500 note (to "stick on [my] bar"), I exchanged the Zim dollars in Zambia for kwacha. As I said, it's my money and I'll do what the hell I want with it. No thieving border official or cop is going to take it away from me without some effort. I have no hair-raising stories to tell other than the one about the road block where I was in danger of having my money stolen by a police officer. Thanks for the "How to Win Friends and Influence People" advice on dealing with cops at road blocks but, as you also failed to read, I said that the police officer "told us, without any preliminary discussion, to pull over to the side of the road." The driver of the vehicle (I was not driving) did not have an opportunity to impress the cop with his "smile, smile, smile" and did an exemplary job of dealing with the cop without losing his cool. Smiling worked quite well for me at Zambian road blocks (where about the worst thing they will do is give you a ticket for a broken tail light), but if Zimbabwean cops are intent on relieving you of your foreign currency with hardly a word or a look in your direction, all the smiling in the world isn't going to make a damned bit of difference.
As for "opportunists in Zambia"; so it's OK for opportunists in Zimbabwe to dabble in the forex market, but people in Zambia (and other neighbouring countries) who want or need to travel to Zimbabwe should just bend over and exchange their money at the official rate at Harare International Airport? I see. Remind me not to ask you for travel advice the next time someone "bring[s] [me] back" to Zimbabwe.
As for the fact that you haven't heard of the occurrence of any wife beating or the existence of any alcoholics in Zimbabwe; well, if you believe that Zimbabwe is a model of good governance for the rest of the world, then I suppose it's not a stretch to believe that there isn't a single wife beater or alcoholic in the country. Everything I have read and heard since proves to me that what I said was, if anything, an understatement, and applies to the blacks in Zimbabwe as much as the whites.
Then there's Debbie Jeans whose travels around the world make her opinions more valid than mine because she travelled "not as a tourist but as a simple, cash-strapped passionate athlete." Come again? I'm really sorry; I know that you believe in all of your cute sports analogies, but they have no connection to reality. Yes, "life is a stage" and all sorts of other nice metaphors, but go and tell your stories to the black former farm worker who is starving to death because he is accused of being an MDC supporter because he worked for a white farmer, or tell the orphaned child whose parents were killed about how a champion goes for gold... and all the other good stuff. I've read positive mental attitude books; I'm familiar with the argot. If/when you lose everything but your life, let me know if you still feel that the "journey is far more important than the material worth."
"How dare you make blanket statements about our insignificance as whites toward making a difference now and in the future of our beloved country. How dare you." How dare I? Is that the best you can do? How dare I?! You've been living too long in a society where people do not dare voice their opinions. I call it as I see it; the whites in Zimbabwe are very small fish in a very big pond, and no amount of "how dare you" is going to change the fact that at any moment you could all be swallowed up in the blink of an eye. Sure, most of your "black brothers and sisters" would not countenance such a thing, but who ever said that the majority rules in Zimbabwe? Take a close look at your last two elections -- parliamentary and presidential. President mugabe is one of your "black brothers" and he'd love to see you all pack up and leave... or worse. The only thing stopping him is that it just might be a little too much for countries like Britain and the United States to stomach, and they just might turn Zimbabwe into the next Iraq and mugabe into the next Saddam, the lack of oil in Zimbabwe notwithstanding.
And where are all your "black brothers and sisters"? Well, many of your black brothers are in the army or the police, raping and beating their black sisters (and grandmothers, and mothers, and daughters, and wives, and girlfriends) and pillaging at will. If all of your black brothers and sisters would unite for five minutes mugabe would be history in the sixth minute, but they clearly lack the backbone to do that. Yes, as always, there are exceptions -- those who have the courage to work actively for the MDC and people like Henry Olonga and Andy Flower who put their money where their mouths are... and are now personae non grata in Zimbabwe. The rest of them are snivelling in the corner, kissing mugabe's arse and happy to get just one more bowl of sadza... as long as they can produce a ZANU membership card.
Please also spare the world you jingoistic "our beloved country", "new national pride", and "God Bless Zimbabwe" crap. I used to be patriotic, but in recent years I have come to see more clearly where patriotism and arrogance gets you: It pisses people off to the extent that they fly airliners into your skyscrapers; it allows the "leaders" of countries to throw the youth of their country into battle as cannon fodder. Pride in one's country is one thing; defending it to the death no matter how wrongheaded the policies of its government are is something I expect of sheep.
"[S]trong, healthy, happy, disciplined" children are not unique to Zimbabwe (and there are significant exceptions to that description inside Zimbabwe), and your (now polluted) "African sky" is not "free" because you are not free. Maybe all of your friends are positive optimists who refuse to "debate ... whether or not there is a future" in Zimbabwe, but other people I met there certainly do. Let me point out again that I was not a silent observer who just made up stuff as I went along; I spoke to people in Zimbabwe, and much of what I wrote is from their own mouths. Talking to someone face-to-face out in the solitude of the mountains of Nyanga where one is less likely to run into the Zimbabwean "Thought Police" is more likely to elicit the "real" story than talking to someone at the gym, in the bar, or via e-mail.
I will partially agree with Debbie on one point: "[W]e have absolutely nothing to gain from delving on [sic] the past...." I disagree to the extent that, as I said in my original essay, we have to learn from the past. However, my essay did not focus on the past; it focused on the present and the (in my "pessimistic" opinion) bleak future. I do agree that the "when we" Rhodesians and Zimbabweans amongst us spend too much time focusing on the past.
I will close my "final" word on this issue on another positive note, by agreeing with something Tony Ballinger said. Yes, my main thrust was to be critical of mugabe and his henchmen and yes, I am very sympathetic to the situation in which Zimbabweans find (or have put, depending on your point of view) themselves. Perhaps the people who said that they would be interested in my opinion of what was "really" happening in Zimbabwe did not expect to see me address such non-political issues as wife beating and alcoholism, but those were issues I encountered and so I did address them. If you wish to focus on those issues rather than the broader political issues and let them rule your response to me, then that's your prerogative. Sometimes it takes an "outsider" -- a "tourist" -- to point out things that you no longer see.
I wish all Zimbabweans good luck with their "Happy Ending". I'm not being sarcastic; I will be as happy as anyone else if my analysis is proven wrong. However, if I thought I was going to be wrong, I wouldn't write what I did, would I?
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