Authoritarian ideology always manages to die hard — that is when it manages to die at all. There are and remain right ways and wrong ways of going about something. To abrogate the rule of “your elders and your betters” by doing your own thing is nearly always automatically considered the wrong way of doing things — no matter reasons there I might have for approaching life differently.
We all have a bit of the authoritarian father-rule in us. For us, there is a need to defer to the authority of the ones who rule, who always know best.
That is safe. That is assured. Anything else is risky.
But to confuse idioms of risk with mere gestures of childish petulance is almost always the mistake of the conservative.
I have been reading a book called THE POLITICS OF RECONCILIATION, about Zimbabwe’s … state politics. Of reconciliation.
It’s written from a Christian point of view, and is automatically heartwarming, therefore. What it lacks in its ideological perspective, which is concerned with linking post 1980 conciliatory politics with Christianity, is the understanding that black Zimbabwean culture was not solely influenced by ideological streams of Christianity in its racially reconciliatory outlook.
The reason that the plaque commemorating the 16 whites who died fighting the Matabele (for their land) still remains standing, under state guard, in the new Zimbabwe has much to do with other cultural currents. Not just Christianity.
And one of these currents is an archaic chivalry, which respects the rights and dignity of the fallen warrior. This is so quintessentially African that it is remarkable that the author missed it. African culture is geared even more towards respect for the warrior than it is geared towards attention towards race. And yet — even under circumstances of civil war, this aspect of African culture was unequivocal. The aspect of chivalrousness towards the vanquished enemy. A cultural element that remained from past times. Not something entirely novel. Not entirely Christian, either.
The other aspect of culture that allowed the plaque to remain for commemoration was ancestor worship. To destroy the emblem of the esteemed ancestors of the whites would invite severe misfortune. A disturbed ghost is an unhappy and vengeful ghost. Hence, one does not rouse ghosts. Hence the plaque remains commemorating — and not exactly for Christian reasons, once again.
So often Westerners read their own ideals and counter-ideals into Africa. In this, they are unwitting neo-colonialists, trying to guide Africa’s future on the basis of an understanding that is foreign (more or less) to the cultural spirit that engenders African identity.
To read Marechera as a neo-colonialist is to berate him for not following sufficiently the light of Western ways. Western Universalist ideology proclaims: “These ways are all of our ways, and it is a sign of maturity to follow them.”
What I see that kind of criticism as is a sign of emotional blackmail. Neo-colonialism trying to pull a subtle act in order to impose its own form of ideological control.
But how can you be so sure that you KNOW what you already presume true, O neo-colonialist?