By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
ON July 3 2018, Madzimbahwe woke up to a screaming NewsDay feature story: ‘On the Ground, Zimbabweans tell of hopelessness ahead of elections.’
The reader expected that the feature article would definitely feature representative voices of many groups from all over the country.
The editor really would not spin such a sweeping headline if the alleged hopelessness could not be proven to exist everywhere.
The first alleged voice of hopelessness was that of a 58-year-old vendor, a former soldier, but does not say which army he served in.
A clue as to which army he might have belonged to came only from some of what he told the unnamed reporter:
“The Smith regime was much better (than the current new dispensation) because he (Ian Smith) paid us enough to survive and still have a little more to save.”
The second proof of universal national hopelessness for NewsDay came from one Chantelle Emmanuel, just 18 years old, who is also a vendor selling second-hand clothes and making US$50 per month.
The third proof of nationwide hopelessness, according to NewsDay editor, came from Shalom Zanowe (23), also a vendor and mother to two children.
Her concern was that if ZANU-PF won the 2018 elections the new Government might try to decongest the streets of Harare and Chitungwiza by relocating vendors to designated points.
The fourth source of evidence for nation-wide hopelessness, in the view of Newsday, was Lorraine Gwati (38). She was occasionally hired as a boutique hand in the Copacabana area of Harare. Gwati’s message was: “All we want is a new leader; we need to give fresh minds a chance.”
These four persons, all from the Harare-Chitungwiza area, constituted the evidence of nationwide hopelessness.
Some Patriot readers might also ask what is wrong with coining such a sweeping title for the views of just four urban dwellers from Harare-Chitungwiza?
l First, the story could have been entitled honestly as that of four prospective voters from Harare. There was no need to cover the entire nation with such skimpy testimony.
l Second, the feature is a disservice even to the four persons interviewed. They deserved to be exposed through the same published feature to perspectives of fellow Zimbabweans differently situated and differently educated. They were let down because when the feature came out, it was so wrongly framed as to make it sound like a global view of life in all of Zimbabwe.
l Third, the interviewer of these urban dwellers also failed them by not asking them to explain their views in the context of the common Zimbabwean experience and history.
How does a so-called ‘new Government’ translate into improved livelihoods? What is contained in the ‘fresh minds?’ which must be given ‘a chance?’
Why does the ‘chance’ have to be ‘given’ and who is supposed to give these fresh minds ‘a chance?’ Is it not all the voters of Zimbabwe whom both those interviewed and the one interviewing them have totally shut out of their mindset and feature?
After the July 30 elections, NewsDay published another equally sweeping headline on September 1: ‘Poll results dash young people’s hopes.’
But if hopelessness was already universal at July 3 2018, how could hope be dashed by election results in August 2018? This shows the editor is not reading his or her own headlines!
This problem of suicidal selectivity and elitism is widespread.
Last week I wrote about lawyers who use the court-room not to produce hard evidence in pursuit of justice but to repeat lies as allegations which help to create and entrench a perception.
The Newsday story: ‘Chamisa lawyer bares all’ on September 3 2018 makes interesting reading in this context.
What the story reveals is that Advocate Thabani Mpofu was not pushing hard primary evidence.
He was pushing a certain perception of the respondents in lieu of evidence.
In other words, he was appealing to what he believed were wide-spread and entrenched prejudices against the respondents.
The prejudices were supposed to carry the day despite lack of evidence. The advocate even boasted such hard evidence as required by law was itself already so tarnished by the same prejudices to which he was appealing as to be of no use!
In media, academia and politics, three practices have emerged as part of the onslaught of cultural imperialism against African philosophy and history.
Lawyers caught up in the same media and politics have also succumbed to the same practices.
The first practice is post-modernism which we cannot fully explain for lack of space but which for the purpose of this instalment should be defined as a belief, theory and practice which discourages analysis, limits explanation and ignores the need for coherence in the telling of our own story, choosing instead to emphasise appearance, perception, impression and spectacle in pursuit of instant impact.
The second related practice is tabloidisation, which is a media practice and tendency to limit speech to sound bites and blips and to cut all stories to no more than a paragraph or two while focusing on loud colours, images and pictures, based on the assumption that in the age of WhatsApp and facebook no one has the attention span or capacity to wait for or sit through serious explanations or analyses of events. We have seen the tendency of television to bombard audiences with so-called entertainment and advertisements at the expense of current affairs and documentaries.
Radio shows have now been reduced to young people talking gossip to themselves and women who spend hours just giggling at the microphone. We have seen the cover page of The Chronicle resembling that of H-Metro.
The third related practice and condition is narcissism, which may even lead to solipsism. Narcissism can be defined as excessive pre-occupation with oneself and lack of interest in listening to others or understanding others.
Editors now deliberately seek out only those sources and witnesses who may confirm and sustain their own prejudices against the rest of the nation.
All these practices result not only in the narrowing of texts to tit-bits and spectacles but also in the shrinkage of one’s worldview to only those things that matter to myself, my family, my ethnic group or just my generation.
The combined effects of these practices include the following:
l Politically, the unity of all citizens is abandoned unless these are citizens willing to unite around just myself and my small group or my preferred charismatic ‘leader.’
l Balanced development of the entire economy to benefit and unite all the people is also seen as impossible and unnecessary because the narcissist has no concept, feeling or experience of the larger nation, unless that nation agrees to exist solely for facilitating the self-enrichment of the individual and his/her group. The economy is therefore narrowed to Harare, Bulawayo or just the banks or my sector and my businesses. NewsDay on July 3 painted the picture of a universal vendor economy of thought centred around Harare and Chitungwiza.
l History has to be condemned or dismissed as ‘water under the bridge’ because it reminds us too much about the struggle and bad times and it prevents us from trampling on sacred values, sacred l From Page 6
places and revered heroes. To the narcissist and solipsist, history is not just boring, it is burdensome.
l Heroes are acceptable as long as they serve as decorations for my current achievements or ambitions. They cannot be foregrounded as torch-bearers of an on-going revolution which requires even me to change my ways or to see a common future with all Zimbabweans. Therefore war-veterans become either a threat or a burden to be discarded.
The emotional and spiritual predisposition which makes the population extremely prone to conflict in a neo-colonial situation such as that of Rwanda or Zimbabwe is narcissism which, in terms of the need for knowledge, produces solipsism rather than conscientisation as in the pungwe of the liberation years.
The Western imperialist communications strategy which maximises the exploitation of narcissism and solipsism is postmodernism.
In The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism, Richard Sennet defines ‘narcissism’ as the collapse of the public sphere as the space for the peaceful conduct of citizen relations because of its overloading with private sphere concerns or personal concerns.
At worst, narcissism may result in national events and national platforms being abused for personal aggrandisement of individuals at the expense of the nation and national vision.
In the Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, Christopher Lasch agrees with Sennet that narcissism on a social scale causes the breakdown of the public sphere as the space for the peaceful conduct of citizen relations.
But he does not agree that the cause is the overburdening of public life with private matters. The breakdown is therefore in both the private sphere (the space of love, friendship, intimacy) and the public sphere (the space of citizen relations).
The cause for both breakdowns is the collapse of moral fibre and memory, the destruction of unhu and history under post-modern capitalism. What causes this breakdown is “…the incorporation of grandiose object images as a defence against anxiety and guilt” or “…a psychic formation in which love rejected turns back to the self as hatred.” The narcissistic generation is deeply motivated by self-hatred which, in Zimbabwe, is hatred of the African identity and heritage.
In simple language, postmodern capitalism has created an alienated false middleclass whose children (the equivalent of our lost generation) feel unloved and abandoned by their ‘parents’ and therefore hate them. In addition to hating their parents intensely, these children also feel extremely insecure and guilty. That explains the selectivity which automatically deletes or excludes all views which appear to contradict the vendor’s view in the July 3 feature. Many journalists of the same generation also feel insecure because they have no confidence in relating to others and to the world with competence; and they turn their hatred of their unresponsive parents against themselves and against the world in general. War veterans in Zimbabwe are the iconic ‘parents’ who gave birth to the nation through independence and sired and raised the current generation of youths.
But all these feelings of self-hatred cannot be expressed directly, either because society and the work place do not allow direct expressions of such negative feelings or, even if they do so allow, the consequences of openly expressing hate and rage are catastrophic for the individual. So feelings about past experiences and past relations have to be deflected and disguised to avoid pain and open conflict.
This is where media come in.
Hatred of oneself and one’s own parents and grandparents at home is therefore given free rein via the media!
This is where the postmodern strategy of communicating and the narcissistic character and way of relating come together.
The most important common feature between the two is fantasy. The narcissistic character fails to separate ‘images of self’ from ‘objects’ and persons outside the self. ‘These images fuse to form a defence’ against bad memories and bad experiences of the past.
From two opposite ends of the world, two types of narcissists find each other.
The neo-colonial narcissist copes with self-hatred, insecurity, anger and anxiety by adopting an attitude of ‘blind optimism’ about the generosity of the Western imperialist and his agents, the NGOs.
The neo-colonial narcissist “…has little capacity for sublimation (or creative originality and autonomy). He or she yearns for sponsorship and rescue by the donor or any patron fantasised as super-parent. He therefore depends on others (foreign sponsors and patrons) for constant infusions of approval and admiration.
He must attach (himself) to someone, living an almost parasitic existence. At the same time, his fear of emotional dependence, together with his manipulative, exploitive approach to relations, makes these relations bland, superficial and deeply unsatisfying.
He or she cannot maintain deep, organic relationships which require loyalty and commitment.
This leads to rampant corruption of the youths.
The imperialist mass media and cultural projects (designed for the South only) help to sustain the dependence of the neo-colonial narcissist.
In other words, the narcissist in Europe and North America needs the neo-colonial middleclass narcissist in the South.
According to British writer Mick Hume: “… the crisis that has brought all this (grand posturing) about is not in Africa, but in Britain. There is a crisis of authority afflicting the political class, and a crisis of common values in our society.”
This means the elites in imperialist society, just like the elites in Zimbabwe, have raised a generation of narcissists afflicted by feelings of emptiness, purposelessness, self-doubt, self-hatred and moral bankruptcy which require massaging through postmodern fantasies and spectacles of invincibility against elders espcially.
“There is a poverty of leadership [among the new generation] at every level, and a dearth of any sense of purpose that is bigger than oneself. Against this background in British life, Africa has become an all purpose [postmodernist] stage on which everybody from a pop star [such as Madonna or Geldorf] to a politician [such as Tony Blair] can try to show off their moral worth and sincerity. Everybody is keen to emphasize that the primary purpose of this summer’s events (in 2005) is to raise, not cash but ‘awareness’ – in particular, a self-awareness that we are on the side of angels in Africa.”
In other words, the massive Anglo-Saxon investment in an African opposition to war veterans and to the liberation movement in Zimbabwe in the last 17 years is meant to secure access to the mineral and energy resources of this land as well as to create a fawning, grovelling class of African leaders who will also supply the needed propagandistic, emotional and moral assurances required by Anglo-Saxon leaders to make them feel human and civilised in spite of their self-hatred, hatred of the world and their inheritance of global holocausts going back 500 years.
The alliance between the Western imperial narcissist and the African neo-colonial (middleclass) narcissist means a common hatred of history and memory as well as a common love for postmodern media spectacles and deceptions.