Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

The psychology of blacks’ support of Mugabe

Posted by CM on September 8, 2007

I am using this site to feature perspectives about Zimbabwe that I think are interesting and important, but that for one reason or another one are unlikely to find featured on most Zimbabwe-dedicated sites. This consists of articles I run across from across the world, some of which I will comment on, and others that I will feature without comment.

In addition to new articles I will sometimes write, I am also going to use this site as a repository for old articles of mine previously published elsewhere. This is not merely about my ego, although a part of recycling these articles is to begin the process of compiling them for myself, and for old and new readers who may still find them interesting and relevant.

Another reason for using this site as a repository for them is that some of those still-relevant or interesting articles (a great advantage of a blog is that one gets to decide for himself what qualifies as relevant and interesting!) are no longer available in the online archives of the publications that first featured them.

CM

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Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
OPINION
May 10, 2002

by Chido Makunike

JUST before the presidential election, and since then, we have seen and heard many non-resident Zimbabweans, and blacks from various parts of the world, being given space in the state print and broadcast media to go to town in defence of President Mugabe while trashing those who disagree with his policies and methods.

Whether they are hired guns or volunteers to the cause, I have been fascinated by blacks who vociferously defend Mugabe, without qualification, for his recently adopted anti-Western stance, while showing all the signs of personal enjoyment at what the West has to offer. What motivates these “revolutionaries” of afar?

We often hear from them ringing denunciations of the West for all sorts of things-slavery, colonialism, trade practises, racism, you name it-they spout it. What then keeps so many of these long distance “revolutionaries” not only far from the scene of action, Africa, but cocooned in the West, a place they attack so strongly?

I often chuckle to myself when I read how such and such an eminent analyst, journalist or “revolutionary” based in Europe or elsewhere in the West has blasted his adopted home and come out in support of “comrade” Mugabe for his “defiance” of the West.

Why don’t more of them have the courage of their convictions and come back to Africa to put their expressed beliefs about the ‘revolution’ into action? Why are they so fervent in their verbal support of the Mugabes of Africa in their fight against what they say is attempted recolonisation by the West, while enjoying the comforts of that same West? Does this not compromise the effectiveness of their defence of the excesses of Mugabe and others?

There are very few blacks anywhere who do not feel some kind of emotional pull towards restoring the dignity of blacks elsewhere. The history of the often unfriendly interactions between Westerners and non-Westerners, blacks in particular, is well documented. So to the extent that Mugabe’s words and actions are designed to remedy the inequalities resulting from colonialism and its after-effects, all blacks will support them.

But how is it that some blacks who chaff under the often hostile and racist conditions of the West, find it so easy to excuse all sorts of brutalities against the very intended beneficiaries of the ‘revolution’ back home?

I believe that the psychological state of siege that being black in the West often entails provides part of the answer.

No matter how educated, wealthy or prominent a black person in the West becomes, in most Western countries they are still very much ‘the other,’ with all the associated humiliations. Yet the West also offers the kind of freedom and material comforts to even the rank and file of its inhabitants, including the ‘second class’ immigrants, that would be unthinkable back home.

So on the one hand, the black person in the West suffers the daily psychological wounds of not being fully respected there, but continues to be lured into continuing to stay there by the many inducements and advantages of Western life. Generally speaking, the West can be a very cold, hostile place for a black person, particularly an African, but one that is also very seductive materially and for the freedoms it offers.

Whether the seductions of life there make up for the humiliations is a question many feel they can not afford to spend time pondering, and the answer differs from person to person.

One way to compensate for this contradiction is to adopt a more radical attitude than all those around on all issues involving differences between Africa and the West. So you find Africans and other blacks firmly ensconced in life in the West physically, or steeped in Western traditions back in Africa, but verbally expressing a hatred of the West and all it stands for!

So an African comfortably based in London, and enjoying the freedom to bitterly attack virtually everything about his host adopted country, will defend the anti-Western posturing of Mugabe partly because it gives him a carthatic release from many of his resentments about his treatment in the West. If that defence of Mugabe means having to support him even when back home, he limits the freedoms the pro-Mugabe defender so cherishes in the West, well, so be it. But while you may have the freedom to scream your head off about the frustrations of being black, African and foreign in the West, you do not have much power to change conditions there.

A person like Mugabe with his anti-white rhetoric of recent years, and the generally torrid time he has been giving whites, gives a black person in the Diaspora the vicarious satisfaction of knowing ‘blacks are on top,’ in a way they cannot be as a group in the West. Black empowerment in the West ultimately depends on the acquiescence of the white majority. Even if those whites tried to put themselves in the shoes of a non-white person, it is unlikely that they would sufficiently understand the reasons for, and the depths of blacks’ multi-faceted grievances.

In Mugabe, blacks resident in the West see a black man who is aggressively pushing the black cause without asking for the the blessing of whites, a necessary condition for any change in the situation of blacks in the West with their minority status there.

So even the fact that Mugabe’s version of aggressive, spite-the- whites black empowerment actually hurts and disadvantages many of those same blacks can be ignored. They are seen as mere ‘collateral damage’ in the process of the revolution. If some people have to starve, be beaten up, raped or killed in the wonderful cause of telling off the West, well, oops, sorry, ‘you gotta break some eggs to make an omelette.’

Except it is so much easier to defend the breaking of those human eggs while enjoying the comforts of London or New York, far away from the line of fire, and from the hardships that will accrue to those least able to fend for themselves in the upheavals that ensue. Despite their anti West spoutings, Mugabe and his aides show a rather enthusiastic appetite for things Western, while hurling insults at that West and those of their citizens who would like to afford those same things.

As long as the West, and by extension local whites, have been shown ‘who is boss in Zimbabwe’ a way that it is impossible to contemplate in a group sense in any Western country, then according to the thinking spawned by this psychology, Mugabe can do no wrong.

Any blacks who support the general cause of empowerment and correction of historical wrongs, but disagree with methods that seem to result in the continued suffering of the intended beneficiaries, can be dismissed as being short-sighted, squeamish or lackeys of the West, even by our intrepid revolutionaries whose very lives would suggest rather deep involvement with the West!

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