The psychology of violence in A Tragedy of Lives

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FRANZ Fanon analysed the psychology of violence among the poor in his compelling book, The wretched of the Earth.
The majority of confessions in section two and three are indicative of a society suffering from a disturbed psyche as the summary of a selected few before shows.
Beti drops from school after ‘O’ Level and jets off to marrying a husband who soon abuses her because he is now involved in extra-marital affairs.
She boils cooking oil and pours it in his ear when he is asleep and kills him.
She serves an effective one year six months term for culpable homicide.
On release she is still bitter about stormy marriages and she vows to teach “all women in bad marriages to leave before they get into trouble” (p49).
Her stance remains unrepentant, criminal and unChristian. It smacks of radical feminism.
Sabina is another confessor.
She is a self – professed criminal.
She steals some cattle from a white farmer.
Her defence is that she wants to fend for her children.
Like Beti she betrays a deep-seated criminal streak which harbours psychological violence.
Her moral cynicism has no boundary.
The way she treats her family, not to mention the larger society shows that she has been hardened by poverty into an inhuman beast with hardly any feeling. She says of her children: “I have six children, four boys and two girls.
“My eldest daughter is married and lives in Masvingo with her husband.
“We have no contact since she left to live with her husband.
“My second born completed his ‘O’ Level examinations a few years ago, but did not go to inquire after his results.
My third born is in Grade Seven.
“I do not know whether he will be able to write his exams this year.” (p 50-51). That there is absence of the seamlessness of filial bonds in the mother is too apparent to be missed.
Her cynicism is passed on to her children.
Maria is another of Msengezi’s interviewees who demonstrates that violence begets violence.
She falls pregnant when she is in Grade Six.
She gives birth to three pregnancies before killing her husband with a pole in an altercation involving extra-marital affairs.
She serves three years only to be released on Presidential amnesty.
Maria’s life is mirrored in that of Monica except that Monica’s is more complicated.
She drops out of school and marries a guard turned taxi driver only to be separated from him by jealous relatives from Zhombe.
They accuse him of marrying a foreigner, a Zambian whom they consider of lower caste.
She remarries a policeman who refuses to pay lobola to her parents before dumping her for his friends.
She steals the household goods and sells them in retaliation.
The result is a prison sentence.
When she comes out she concludes: “I do not want to get married again” (p 76)
Rhoda’s confession is perhaps the most appropriate to conclude these summaries before shedding light on the psychology of violence among the oppressed.
She marries into a humble family and gives birth to seven siblings.
Then her first-born dies at a school in mysterious circumstances.
Just after his burial a neighbouring woman makes a bizarre confession that she has the body parts of the deceased, that she uses his ‘penis’ as a whistle to invite other witches to witchcraft crusades.
Angered by the provocation, Rhoda follows her up and in the physical melee that follows she kills the witch’s husband and son with a matchet.
She is sentenced to life imprisonment.
At the point of interview she has spent 18 years.
This is a typical case of suppressed violence let loose in a moment of madness. It is not any unique from other forms of violence meted against fellow beings; it is only extreme and therefore worthy using as our spring board into examining the nature of bottled anger in the colonised, a condition Fanon described as autodestruction (destroying oneself).
What is happening in the stories above is a manifestation of what Fanon terms a ‘vicious circle’ a dog-eat-dog condition where the colonised still in a state of unknowing/unconsciousness turns his bottled anger against fellow victims.
A vicious circle portrays a chain of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new problem that aggravates the original difficulty. Unfortunately those involved are so ignorant of the larger forces that disfigure and reconfigure their knowledge of selves and their attitudes to one another.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon renders an incisive psychiatric and psychologic analysis of the dehumanising effects of colonisation upon the individual man and woman under the spell of colonial fetishes.
Fanon’s characterisation of the aggressive colonial victim explains the conditions we find in the whole anthology.
This is what he says: “The colonised man will first manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people.
“This is the period when the niggers beat each other up, and the police and magistrates do not know which way to turn when faced with the astonishing waves of crime.
“When the native is confronted with the colonial order of things, he finds he is in a state of permanent tension . . . The town belonging to the colonized people, or at least the native town, the Negro village, the medina, the reservation, is a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute.
“They are born there, it matters little where or how; they die there; it matters not where, nor how.
“It is a world without spaciousness; men live there on top of each other, and their huts are built one on top of the other.
“The native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal, of light”
Such a world is the one inhabited by our characters never mind the fact that the confessions of the characters refer to the period after independence.
The point is political independence does not automatically translate into self-knowledge or knowledge of our real enemies.
The colonial enterprise is a complex process whose effects span across generations if there is no sufficient counter-revolution to reverse its effects.
And this revolution must touch all the facets of a people’s life that colonialism desecrated.
Of these facets the most critical is the poisoned psyche which cannot be addressed by re-education alone, but by indigenised education which comes not in the same conditions of poverty colonialism created; but in a revitalised economy directed by the people in which everyone is empowered.
This is what is missing in the environs of our victims who blame one another for their lack and deprivation.
They all drop from school because this school has no meaning for them.
The education there is not meant to empower them.
And worse, the economic environment they flee to is not designed to accommodate them.
Yet none of them knows the author of their predicaments.
Hence they turn their aggression anywhere in search of elusive freedom.
They steal.
They drink.
They prostitute.
They abort.
They kill and they get killed.
Yet none of them comes round. Prison itself softens none of them.
That is where the tragedy is.
True this is a tragedy of lives.

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