By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
JONATHAN MOYO is a professor of political science currently accused of or accredited with being the leading intellectual of the recently dismantled G40 faction of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
When this latest project is compared with the many roles and projects in which Moyo was involved in the past, most analysts come to see the professor as a professional flip-flopper lacking a consistent ideology or constant principles.
Historians of our period will in future perhaps research and explain Moyo’s actual role in the G40. What one can do in a short feature perhaps is to attempt to explain some of the reasons behind Moyo’s apparent love for media over-exposure; his tendency to personalise national historical issues and to assume an unforgiving and fanatic position against those who disagree with his ideas; his tendency to glorify any project or effort in which he gets involved; his extraordinary defensiveness; and his tendency to substitute manipulative tricks and clever gimmicks for strategic principles and collective wisdom.
First of all, it may help to point out that the ancestors of the Western tradition and discipline called political science include the following:
Niccolo di Bernardo Machiavelli 1469-1527; Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679; Rene Descartes, 1596-1650; Thomas Robert Malthus, 1766-1834; Charles Darwin, 1809-1882; Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903; Thomas Henry Huxley, 1825-1895; and Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939.
The political and sociological views of these Western philosophers were linear and pessimistic in themselves or were interpreted by followers (as in the case of Darwin) as casting a pessimistic view of human kind based on caricatures of nature and the animal world exaggerating the role of conflict, violence and the struggle for individual supremacy.
This outlook can be represented by Thomas Huxley’s February 1888 essay in Nineteenth Century magazine entitled ‘The Struggle for Existence and its Bearing on Man’ where according to Petr Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, Huxley wrote that:
“(From) the point of view of the moralist, the animal world is on about the same level as a gladiators’ show. The creatures are fairly well treated, and set to fight; whereby the strongest, the swiftest, and the cunningest live to fight another day…
(The) weakest and stupidest went to the wall. While the toughest and shrewdest, those who were best fitted to cope with their circumstances…survived. Life was a continuous free fight, and beyond the limited and temporary relations of family, the Hobbesian war of each against all was the normal state of existence.”
As Huxley’s passage suggests, some of the common features of this tradition still found in traditional sociology and political science include the following:
l Determined efforts to universalise aggression and adversarialism based on exaggerated readings of the natural world, the animal world and human history.
l Progressive devaluation of the genius of solidarity and co-operation in civilisation in favour instead of the celebration of individual cunning and cleverness as substitutes for wisdom and as natural bases for success, victory, conquest and survival.
l Determined efforts to take as natural, inevitable, modern and modernising the histories of Western aggression against communal societies and indigenous peoples as shown in the Christian Crusades, the Great Inquisition, slavery, colonisation and apartheid.
l The progressively linearised glorification of the shifting text as an exhibition of individual genius, which expanding new media technologies and techniques have now drained of any remaining features of social or historical context, leading to the privatisation and personalisation of otherwise public affairs. This is what we see in Jonathan Moyo and Donald Trump on their twitter accounts. These techniques, perhaps started with the idea of binoculars, are now celebrated through twitter and the other various forms of texting.
l Finally, when we add narcissism, postmodernism and new media to the political philosophy represented by the founders of political science and sociology listed in the preceding paragraphs, the end result is a world turned inside-out, a world in which what used to be public concerns and public assets are privatised, in terms of personal possession and in terms of individual expression, while what used to be regarded as purely private assets and private affairs become the subject of public debate, public display and public scrutiny.
In the case of Jonathan Moyo and the G40, two slogans stand out: The posters which appeared at the burial of national hero Dr Sikanyiso Ndlovu saying ‘Munhu wese kuna Amai’ referring to Grace Mugabe, former First Lady. The posters at Heroes Acre were credited to Jonathan Moyo, even though he did not accept the allegation.
From the perspective of African relational philosophy, the slogan could be translated crudely to mean “From now on every Zimbabwean reports to the President’s bedroom” which was Amai’s basis for claiming supreme national political leadership. Moyo’s claim on BBC that Grace’s entitlement to supreme power came from her Women’s League post is not true in light of slogans such as: “Baba ava isimbi yangu yebasa”, which in terms of African philosophy means “The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe is my crowbar!” for opening personal opportunities for me.
Moyo turned a deaf ear to these utterances and had the audacity to tell the world that Mrs Mugabe’s campaign of personal attacks and demonisation of perceived rivals represented ‘democracy’.
The emotional and spiritual predisposition which makes the population extremely prone to conflict in a neo-colonial situation such as that of South Africa, Rwanda or Zimbabwe is mediated political narcissism which, in terms of the need for knowledge, produces solipsism. Solipsism refers to the tendency of the individual to believe his or her success is entirely self-created and that the world will always grant his or her wishes.
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 the overloading of that public space with private sphere concerns or personal concerns. This collapse is consistent with a political philosophy which foregrounds conflict, violence and individual cleverness at the expense of the genius of human solidarity.
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 solidarity, the space for the peaceful conduct of citizen relations.
But in reality, the breakdown is 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, 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’.
Moyo’s media attacks on President Mnangagwa and Vice-President Chiwenga are always laced with hatred of a vendetta type.
In simple language, postmodern capitalism has created an alienated middleclass whose children (the equivalent of our lost generation) feel unloved and abandoned by their ‘parents’ and therefore hate them. Politically speaking, in Zimbabwe, war veterans are the parents of our new nation.
They have therefore attracted hatred from the likes of Jonathan Moyo. In addition to hating their parents intensely, these children also feel extremely insecure and guilty.
They feel insecure because they have no confidence in relating to others and to the world with competence; and they turn their hatred of their ‘parents’ against themselves and the world in general. Moyo cannot believe the mass demonstrations in Zimbabwe on November 18 2017 spelled total rejection of G40.
But all these feelings cannot be expressed honestly and 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 from close range are catastrophic for the individual.
So twitter as a device of distance becomes handy.
So, feelings about past experiences and past relations have to be deflected and disguised through distanced slogans and jargon to avoid pain and open conflict. This is where media come in.
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.
Moyo’s Zimbabwe on twitter and BBC smacks of denial and fantasy.
As the Brockhampton Dictionary of Ideas puts it: “The implication is that in an age of mass media and multi-culturalism, clarity and coherence of meaning are no longer possible. This collapse of progress and signification is seen (and propagated)… as symptomatic of (global) society as a whole.”
The implication is to globalise Western media confusion even in places such as Zimbabwe.
In other words, what began as a decorative effort to make collages of styles for fun has become clearly ideological.
It is now a war against the insurrection of ‘Third World’ history and moral coherence against the dominant Anglo-Saxon myth of progress and civilisation of the last 500 years.
The massive resurgence of national polities and economies breaking away from Western hegemony has caused the West to declare that history no longer has meaning, the world is now one babel of entertainment spectacles and blips.
But beneath that babel, the Western hegemonic narrative has remained anchored and embedded.
The postmodernist deception comes from confusing history with costume and decoration, confusing style with content, confusing the control of platform with command of relational sources of content and truth. As Joe Staines states:
“Pastiche, parody and playful quotation from the past became the order of the day … Notions of good and bad taste became irrelevant … form no longer followed function; it positively undermined it. Nowhere was this more spectacularly apparent than in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s costume designs for pop star Madonna, the ultimate post-modern entertainer: manufactured, provocative, deliberately blurring public and private, fact and fantasy; and above all, ironic.”
If we transfer this technique to Zimbabwe’s postcolonial and Second Chimurenga history, it means that the Western journalist and the Western-trained academic and video-maker demand the full licence under postmodernist deceptions to quarry, scavenge, sample and even spit bits and pieces of what we take to be our sacred history of national liberation and national reconstruction.
While Donald Trump is accused of impulsively trampling upon and flip-flopping on US history and on critical US foreign policy issues using his twitter personal account, Jonathan Moyo is accused of reducing the whole political history of Zimbabwe and Chimurenga legacy to private blips and hate-filled sound-bites punctuated with the endless name-calling of his own former colleagues through a personal twitter account.
The large picture therefore is that society is sadly saddled with a sociology which, for the most part, cannot explain society; saddled with mass media platforms whose primary mission is no longer the pursuit of knowledge and understanding; saddled with a political science which is now pre-occupied with selling celebrity and charisma in order to confuse real political relations on the ground.
Our colonial mis-education happens to have dire consequences. Jonathan Moyo is only one of them.