BY ZIFISO MASIYE
Just how is it that we have sunk to this place of self-worship, of hyper individualism and vain-glory — the place where our common humanity takes a backseat and the groans of a neighbour are an annoyance and his pain, his personal business? A self-assured arrogance and a gnawing sense of sole allegiance to a ring-fenced personal life mission that shows a middle finger to the world seems to engulf and ensnare us. Everywhere you turn, be it in families, in business, in communities and surprisingly, in the church too, society has been invaded by an unmistakable, overbearing reverence of the “self” over “the group”.
“Damn the world and just do you!” so goes the script. An aggressive me, myself, I global crusade of selfishness, supremely sponsored by devilish global capital media appears to be on the prowl and in ascendancy, winning this never ending see-saw warfare between personal glory and common good.
In more respects than one, the world owes modern civilisation to a to ancient Greek philosophy. My greening years of sociological tutelage, courtesy of Gordon Chavunduka and Prof Angela Penelope Cheater came alive in a recent reflection with the Class of 88, on just what might be the underlying narrative behind our moribund nationhood and shameful condition. A friend of not-too-many-words, sobered our frustrated, wild pontifications when he touched base and reminded us of that Lecture Sociology 101 about Man-In-The-State-Of-Nature versus Social Order. He pointed out, rather sadly, that empirical social science suggests that to some societies steeped in prehistoric cognitive conditions such as ours, 50 years may be too short a period for humans to emerge from their primitive and base animalistic instincts of “chinhu-chedu” that is typical of kindergartens, their toys and candy!
To clear our puzzled minds about the nature of the challenges facing Zimbabwe today, he invited us to consider a fundamental human development schema proffered by Greek philosophy and repeated sociological observation. To better understand the continuum of democracy, leadership, good and bad governance, the basic motivations of patronage, avarice, corruption and empathy, equality and justice… it is useful, no, it is absolutely mandatory to apply our minds to understanding a universal, basic framework of human typologies. There are three broad types of human beings in any society:
In everyday parlance, this is a reference to some advanced level of stupidity and sheer mental deficiency. However, in sociology and human behaviour, the idiot refers to that individualistic fellow who rejects his natural and social connectedness to other human specie and elects to be utterly encircled, private and self-centred. Typical idiots isolate themselves or may be thrust by social circumstance into the public sphere, but their allegiance is only to themselves and the relentless pursuit of their personal gain and self-aggrandisement. Perennially, the idiot seeks self-validation and empire-building with neither empathy, nor instinct for advancing the good of anyone else, let alone the public. Only to the extent that they rally the public for their personal glory or to enrich their nest of treasures and enlarge their sphere do Idiots ever feel a need to connect with others. Idiots are the centre of their sorry world. They are typically clumsy and impatient in the public sphere, lacking in emotional intelligence and people skills and, while they may pretend otherwise, idiots are often deficient of any real social soul, character or virtuous disposition to contribute to a flourishing society. Often these idiots are proud, self-assured introverts with a singular world-view and hardly any true acquaintances, except for cronies and praise-singers, who feed off the idiot’s palm in exchange for perennial ego-stroking and patronage. Scholars argue, in fact that this group of people, the idiots, are just upgraded barbarians. Running through one’s circle of interacts, in the family, in the neighbourhood, in the community, in the church, in political parties and in government, one cannot help but get a sense of alarm and shock in the abundance of real idiots. But the catch, my barber warns, is that only the worst dirt attracts the biggest flies! If my circle is so full of idiots, he argues, I should check in the mirror. There I am likely to find a bigger idiot!
The tribes people
The fact of belonging to a certain tribe or identifying with a certain culture is itself good and desirable. By tribes people, the second broad category of humans you may find in any society, is that group of people whose mindset is primarily tribal and whose framing of every discourse and every resource is shaped by ethnic allegiance and a tribal mentality.
This is a mentality particularly prevalent in this country and deliberately sponsored everyday by political party leaders, championed by government leaders, opposition leaders, regional secessionists and others. You can feel the tribally nuanced conversation in taxis, in salons, in workplaces, in boardrooms and policy circles everywhere, its like official vocabulary. Zimbabwe’s first of the 11 languages.
Typically, whether in power or outside, tribes people are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. They cannot see or think beyond the confines of their small tribe or ethnic group. The primary allegiance of tribes people, or indeed their ultimate and only allegiance is to their tribe or ethnic group. They feel a compelling need to ring-fence resources to the confined circle of tribesman and they will twist laws and policies to ensure that they exclude other tribes and limit access to life and national wealth to their own. Typically the divisions among Ndebele, Shona, Kalanga, Tonga, Zezuru, Manyika, Venda etc always appear taller and bigger than the walls of Great Zimbabwe! For tribes people ‘mutupo’ (totem) is the angel, tribe is their God and tribalism is the collective religion. They are typically afraid, suspicious and fearful of people and things that are different or alien to the tribal inner circle. As such their preferred and only approach to dealing with different people and diversity is intimidation, force and violence. Their war-cry and signature mantra “Pasi nanhingi…” (down with so-and-so) is a distinctive indicator of the intrinsic desire not only to exclude, but to destroy and demonise those “outside of tribe”.
I dedicated the next instalment to discussing the greatest void and deficiency of this, our country, the ideal person, the citizen . . .
l Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.