By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
THE process of subjugating women according to patriarchal linear thinking is similar to the process of dismantling the dariro and placing the occupants into a queue of competition or a continent of Lusophone, Francophone and Anglophone states.
Slavery, colonisation and apartheid become clear acts of splitting and aggression intended to uproot relational thinking and replace it with linear thinking.
The stages this process takes fall into three main categories, whether we are speaking of destroying elemental female memory or African relational memory.
The first stage is the dismantling and annihilation of the existing structures of memory.
This can literally mean waging a kinetic war.
But it also means breaking all linkages to the society’s or community’s elemental symbols and linkages.
The Great Zimbabwe monument, representing collective African relational memory, is credited to non-existent Phoenicians as having built them, as a way of disconnecting the Africans from their organic and collective sources of memory and identity.
In the case of women and religion, the ancient goddess in those societies which worshipped her, was transformed into Mary with Mary’s son becoming the Son of God to be worshipped.
But for that revolution or transformation to stick, the tree of life in the Garden of Eden had to be carved into an instrument of pain and torture, the Cross, where Jesus was crucified.
And that ritual of violence had to be institutionalised and repeated over and over again to make it stick.
In the case of colonised societies, the violence of the Pioneer Column or any other conquest had to be ritualised and repeated to mark a complete break with original indigenous memory and the establishment of a new colonial order.
Forced removals of whole communities had to be enacted and enforced in order to cut the people’s linkages to elemental sources of soil, rock, water, trees and indigenous medicines.
The second stage is the creation of new and strange myths and rituals to replace what had been removed.
Where the people are stubborn and refuse to give up the original symbols, they must be given compromised substitutes like Mary replacing the Goddess for women and ‘African Customary Law’ replacing African Living Law for Africans.
The third and final stage is the exclusive marketing or exclusive promotion of the imposed order as the only ideal.
This means convincing the subjugated women or the colonised Africans to compete among themselves in the new colonial queue which has replaced the dariro.
This queue of imposed competition becomes the only apparent, available and possible path to ‘success’.
The result is that the subjugated or colonised become fully dependent on the new order for ‘success’ and ‘fulfilment’.
I must apologise for using a word which many English dictionaries may say does not exist: ‘Spectacularisation’, meaning the tendency in the press, media and information to ‘communicate’ by employing spectacles or massive displays or blown-up graphics whose main aim is to overwhelm the viewer, reader or listener in order to achieve ‘impact’, ‘dominance’, or exclusion of other essential images, messages or information.
To simplify, we can say that in terms of the African relational philosophy embedded in the dariro, the purpose of kushaura, kukekeya or kuparura, by someone in the dariro, is to achieve understanding which may lead to a response in the form of kutsinhira, which in Shona is represented by the expression ‘dzefunde’.
If the call or message cannot be confirmed or adjusted to arrive at the interactive meaning, then it has to be corrected until the group understands and accepts it enough to confirm it by saying dzefunde.
But spectacles do the opposite of what the dariro does.
It might help our readers to give examples of spectacles, pointing out that communicators originally copied spectacles happening in nature.
These included volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, wild fires consuming whole forests and grasslands, landslides moving mountains and the after-effects of epidemics or plagues.
Wild animal stampedes are also natural spectacles.
In social and political communication, we have joint military exercises by ‘super-powers’ and their client states; various military formations on national days, defence forces days or commemorations of major military victories from past wars.
These are single-message displays and they do not invite or wait for a dzefunde from anyone.
Major terrorist attacks such as those on September 11 2001 in New York and the Pentagon have now been repeated in smaller instalments worldwide since.
The terrorists aim for their attacks to produce impact in the form of panic, fear, surrender, confusion, uncertainty and even despair.
In response, the affected states aim to assure their citizens by displays of force and might that they are in control and that terrorists will always be defeated.
Such displays are usually single-message declarations as well.
Between spectacles of terror attacks and displays of the ‘war on terror’, citizens also hold huge memorial services and demonstrations to prove that they are not afraid or that terror will not cow or stop them.
The ironic result is that the screens are jammed with spectacular displays of one kind or another.
This spectacularisation is added to the spectacles produced by corporate and commercial interests to market their profiles, to advertise their wares or to exaggerate their statistics graphically.
Like terrorist attacks and counter-terror mobilisations, corporate advertisements and promotions also focus on singular messages meant to dwarf or demolish or exclude all rivals.
An advert for Mercedes Benz will not include bicycles or Toyota or Mazda vehicles.
An advert for Black Label or Johnny Walker will not carry Mazoe Orange Crush or maheu.
Instead of waiting for dzefunde, the corporates and their advertisers will pay crowds to shout dzefunde without ever constructing or organising a dariro.
This is sheer manipulation using forged spectacles.
All spectacles, whether artificial or natural, give themselves to screening very well and the screen is the key vehicle for globalising their prevalence and teaching.
But the screen is contradictory when it displays spectacles.
Its size and overwhelming presence and dominance, on one hand, suggests intimacy and proximity; but in reality it is a distancing device which detaches viewers from the real events and from alternative events.
In the case of terrifying spectacles, citizens’ normal feelings of common responsibility and popular decision-making are replaced by shared fear and shared anxiety which lead to the quest for escape and rescue, which reduce person-to-person or community-to-community co-operation.
The purpose of the spectacle is, at worst, to produce ‘gawking’ — which means to stare stupidly, to gape, to stare in shock or amazement — the way a rabbit stares helplessly in the glare of the headlights of a speeding goods train.
In milder forms, spectacles are meant to produce the following effects:
- to shock and awe as was stated in the highly televised US-UK invasion of Iraq in March 2003;
- to proclaim a dominant and domineering stance which cannot, and should not, be questioned or even adjusted;
- to claim completeness of message through presentation when in fact the message is severely biased and skewed;
- to dwarf or mock all potential rivals and alternatives;
- to reduce complex issues, situations, messages and meanings in order to achieve focus upon a single issue with a singular interpretation.
So, where the relational approach of the dariro tends to foster and invite reflection, nuanced responses, suggestions, confirmation or adjustments, spectacular displays evoke thoughts and feelings of surprise, ambush, confrontation, panic, hysteria, interruption, exclusion, harassment and the need for rescue or sheer survival.
Fortunately for women, and for Africans, capitalist linear patriarchy has reached the limits of its obsession and aggression.
A good example is the end result of the nuclear arms race. Another example is the endless terrorism resulting from adventures of conquest such as in the so-called Middle East.
This terrorism has spread, just like capitalist industrial pollution, to produce a ‘global warming’ of endless terror even in the home territories of the Western powers.
In response, a whole global earth movement has arisen to articulate the original African elemental philosophy which takes the earth as a living organism, of which we are a part.
Even science, especially the new biology, now recognizes and upholds the original African biophilic view.
In contrast, the old linear science of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Thomas Hobbes is characterised not only by the notion of a dead universe and the idea of the earth as a bottomless rubbish dump into which one can pour refuse and pollutants with no blow-backs; but it is also driven by the desire for centralised and unipolar mastery and control.
The new science is not only relational, but it also gives up the notions of survival of the fittest and human mastery of nature and the universe.
According to Karl-Henrik Robert:“The basic structures and functions of our bodies are nearly identical to those of eagles and seals, all the way down to the molecular level.
It is very clear that, from a biological standpoint, we are not the masters of nature, nor even its caretakers.
We are part of nature.”
This is what African philosophy has always taught.
We are part of nature.
Karl-Henrik Robert concludes by embracing the relational and dismissing the linear paradigm, saying:
“We have lost control, and are moving backwards in evolution.
The extinction of (countless) species, deforestation, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and all other assaults on nature are but different aspects of the same mistake – increased reliance on linear processes.”
The problem with these linear processes and the linear thinking that drives them is that they treat the earth as a bottomless bin, when in fact it is a living organism.
This means that productive industries are producing waste made of toxic metals and unstable unnatural compounds for which there are no natural cells to absorb and digest.
This waste is not relational; it is inert.
Therefore it serves to choke evolution, to stop natural interactions of living cells.
Therefore the relational model of science and industry is the solution.
Says Karl-Henrik Robert:
“Above all, it is necessary to cure our addiction to the false, short-sighted economies of linear processes, and to restore the health of nature and society by investing every available resource in cyclical processes.”
These cyclical processes, in African thinking, start with the Creator who created a universe governed by spherical planetary patterns and they come down to the creation of humans, to reproduction, to the making of fire and the molding of pots and various forms of the circle from dariro all the way to the dare. Hence the Shona words kusika, kuumba, musiki and muumbi are tightly linked.