Zimbabwe's Peaceful Revolution, and Crisis of Imagination
The march on Saturday was cathartic. Thousands of people gathered in Harare under the banner ‘Mugabe Must Go!’ People were everywhere – walking, running, singing, dancing, driving, jumping, and climbing trees. I walked with the others, all the way from Highfield to the State House in the City Centre. The crowds were awesome and peaceful, like giant whales singing joyous songs in the ocean, their bulk entirely in harmony with each other. There was no violence, no looting. It was a remarkable show of solidarity, life, and celebration. Zimbabwe danced a classy revolution, the steps of a people longing to just be free.
In the end Mugabe resigned. In the end, this revolution was as peaceful as could be, inspiring the world to dream anew.
Still, I could not help noticing that – as always – people were throwing their trash wherever they stood, and that the trees still wore their usual advertisements – Treecutter! As one of my friends pointed out “taking away an individual never changes the system”, and the question that we face now is what kind of system will Zimbabwe choose? Zimbabwe seems to me to be like the alienated and abused kid at school, who desperately wants to be loved and accepted by the majority – the calls for investors, jobs, rigid adherence to a constitution that may or may not apply in extraordinary circumstances, pleas for any further activity to be sanctioned by the international community and international organizations – all of these speak to a desperation to achieve what Zimbabweans think that other countries have.
This is not wrong, and it’s perfectly understandable after all of the suffering that Zimbabwe has gone through. It is also true, however, that the system Zimbabwe longs for is a broken system that is destroying the one we all come from and whom we can’t live without – the Earth.
I couldn’t help feeling sad when I watched an old man with a broken mind read a speech he seemed to not comprehend himself. His mouth chewed and tripped over words as the entire world watched. As I watched him speak, I realized that we have come too late for Uncle Bob. Mugabe will not understand what he has done wrong in this lifetime. At this point, it seems he is unable to understand much of anything. We around the world have channeled our anger at somebody who has done very bad things – and who will never pay for it. He has lived a good life, and whatever his end, it will not do justice to the harm he and his system have created. Zimbabwe needs a lot of help. Mugabe will not be here to feel guilty over that. The farce of last night is either very deep or very shallow – either Mugabe tricked his generals, or the generals tricked him. Either way, taking him to task should not be the final goal of the coup that is not a coup.
A country in collapse presents an opportunity to do something both difficult and creative – reassess values, and build accordingly. What is Zimbabwe’s foundation? Rule of law? Justice? Tradition? Culture? Education? What do all of those words mean? What does education mean, for example? What does it mean to educate children and youth? What idea do they have of the world, when they leave school? I am disturbed by the amount of educated people in Zimbabwe who think that very old trees need to be cut down, because the older and bigger they get, they greater the possibility that they can fall. “When they are little, they are not a problem,” I have been told many times. Meanwhile, it is the old trees who teach the young trees how to be trees. It is the old trees who teach us how to be human. A woman posted on kubatana.org, chipping in to current discussions about what is coming next. She wrote, “… school infrastructure has to be improved and make sure children are not learning under trees.” I find this statement amusing and worrisome – after all, schools in developed countries are now struggling to get their kids under the trees that are hard to find, in order to combat nature deficit disorder, thought to cause mental health and behavioral problems. The question is truly, how can Zimbabwe choose to create a new system that honors the Earth and therefore subverts all of the problems that political systems worldwide are grappling with? After all, isn’t true freedom precisely the freedom to create something new, rather than the freedom to have others dictate to you how you must live and what you must honor?
What worries me is how easily the sentiments of a nation can be manipulated. What worries me is that none of the discussions in or out of Zimbabwe have mentioned the importance of the Earth. What worries me is that everyone is talking about bringing investors to Zimbabwe and creating jobs, but nobody is talking about sustainability, global warming, and all of the alarming destruction that developed economies have created around the world. What does it mean exactly, to want jobs? Who will provide those jobs, and what will those jobs be about?
What is the work that needs to be done?
Zimbabwe is desperate for some kind of normalcy, but the idea of normalcy in Zimbabwe is frozen – it still has to do with legal, economic, and social systems that are rooted in the falsehoods of separation, human domination over the Earth, violence as the first and most natural answer, money as an end to any means, a short-sighted history of human war, and all of the discrimination, slavery and harm that have resulted as a consequence of these. Now, when the West sees that those systems are failing because they do not have at heart an Earth-honoring philosophy that acknowledge us as only a small part of the larger spirit that unites all of us, God’s creatures – now the West is looking to change, looking to reverse the insane raping of the earth that has been sanctioned for so long. Now, at this juncture, Zimbabwe looks to investors, to a farcical constitutionality, to jobs created by those who come from the outside – hoping that somebody will notice Zimbabwe’s wealth and finally make it work for Zimbabwe.
Of course, for people to hear the free beating of their own hearts after so much oppression takes time. For now, these are powerful endings, and hopeful beginnings. What I would hope for, is that in this dream of a fresh start and a New Zimbabwe, the system goes with the man, and all of the riches of this country – the old stories, songs, ceremonies, and unity with all beings in every world – all of this is replanted into the Earth, along with the tears, the grief, the anger, the prayers, and the hope, in order to grow something truly beautiful, that blesses both the People and the Mother.