Attention on politics at the expense of all else
Posted by CM on April 1, 2007
It is very difficult even from afar to not be consumed by thoughts of the worrying political events at home. Whatever one’s political leanings, I don’t think it is possible to look at the images and hear the reports of political tension, violence and the mind-numbing numbers about inflation and not feel anxiety. For me, the events at home subconsciously occupy my every waking thought. Thousands of miles away, it is difficult to truly be carefree knowing the tensions that one’s loved ones and countrymen must live with.
Yet the reality is that particularly from so far from home, there is little if anything we can do to influence politics at home. The worry may be understandable, but it is not productive. It in no way makes the situation any better for anyone in Zimbabwe.
I have been a politics junkie for many years, both reading anything political voraciously as well as contributing commentary every now and then. I have always argued with those who said, “I am not interested in politics” that we did not really have a choice not to be “interested in” politics. Whether we like it or not, politics, particularly in poor countries and in those where the state is paranoid about control, affects everything else. The only real choices available to us are to decide at what level we will be politically involved-to vote or not to (where the vote is available, and assuming it really reflects the public will); to be otherwise politically passive/inactive, to be citizen activists or to actually be politicians.
Yet as necessary as some level of political engagement is because of how politics affects everything both positively and negatively, (and whether we like it or not); an all-consuming pre-occupation with politics is also counter-productive. This is the situation we are in in Zimbabwe. All our attention and energy seems to be taken up by matters political, to the great detriment of all the other politically-dependent but separate issues of “development,” however we choose to define that nebulous term.
I admire those groups of Zimbabweans, where there are significant communities of them such as in the UK or South Africa, who are militantly active in petitioning their host governments, demonstrating and so forth. They are performing an invaluable service by keeping the issue of Zimbabwe alive.
Yet I wonder of this is the only or even the main role those of us outside the country can play. Where we have the opportunity, we should work hard to earn money, build businesses, gain useful technical skills, find organized ways of rendering assistance to the needy at home. Both now and in the future, doing these sorts of things in a very deliberate way may be far more useful to individual Zimbabweans and to the country.