Friday, April 18, 2008

Zimbabwe’s Independence Day

April 18 is celebrated in Zimbabwe as Independence Day. On that date in 1980, Robert Mugabe’s ZANU party assumed control of that new nation after waging armed struggle against the white rulers of Rhodesia.

President Mugabe gave a speech today in Zimbabwe, making no mention of the nationwide election three weeks ago... an election Mugabe evidently lost, though he refuses to release the results.

Mugabe, instead, is now in full-tilt “Blame Whitey” mode, trying to bamboozle his people by pointing the finger at Britain for everything that’s wrong with his country. Here is what the BBC reported today:

17 comments:

Michael Fisher said...

David. If you would be so kind and answer this question. Have you ever been mistreated based on your being identified as a black person?

If you so have, has this mistreatment of you on the basis of you being a black person been done on a systematic basis?

Undercover Black Man said...

Have you ever been mistreated based on your being identified as a black person?

Mmmm... nothing comes to mind, Michael, though my father and older siblings were certainly mistreated thus. (Jim Crow schools, job discrimination...)

Which makes me the beneficiary of America's fluidic social politics.

Now, what does that have to do with the game Mugabe's running?

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"Now, what does that have to do with the game Mugabe's running?"

Well, I'm trying hard to understand your perspective on things.

As you know, I'm no fan of Mugabe and I'm no fan of the MDC, though I know some folks in the leadership of both camps pretty intimately .

Maybe you should consider that indeed "whitey" is to blame for this situation. "Whitey" maybe having manipulated both sides at different times or even today.

It's just that I get the impression that you give white racism too much leeway. That is, it appears to me that you don't think it is much of a factor. And with racism I don't mean a "prejudicial attitude", but in this context a systematic manipulation of politics, economics, culture, and media by white elites to the detriment of black folks.

Given that you haven't experienced racism (I wonder whether that is cause you maybe de facto are able to pass) maybe this is a consideration that is alien to you, just as it would possibly be to a white person.

Undercover Black Man said...

Uhhh... so... to be black means to see white racism as the all-purpose force of victimization on earth? And to not see white racism as the cause of every black problem is to not be black?

If that's what blackness means, I don't wanna be it.

How about the Chinese who are shipping arms to Mugabe to use against his people? Tools of white racism? Practitioners of another black-victimizing cosmic force... Asian supremacy?

Meanwhile, millions of Zimbabweans have simply fled the country... so they can eat.

Mugabe blames the white man in order to maintain his claw-hold on power... and you, an American black nationalist, steps up to say, "He's right. It's those damn white elites."

Well, Michael, you can kick the whites out of Southern Africa... but you can't kick 'em off planet Earth. So they act in their own economic and political interests? For real? That game is called the History of Civilizations.

What would be the fate of black Africans if their nations weren't part of the world economy? If they didn't export goods to the world? If they didn't have resources that were deemed valuable by white people and Asians?

What the fuck is a black African gonna do with uranium... except sell it to people who know how to turn it into energy?

If the only answer for black Africa is to be part of the world economy, then guess what? You can bitch all day and night about white folks controlling so much wealth and acting in their own interests... but you can't change it.

Black people have no power to impose their (self-interested) definition of "social justice" on white folks, Arabs, the Chinese or anybody else.

Their choice, as illustrated so coldly by Zimbabwe over the last eight years, is to make the best of the world as it is... or starve.

Blaming white people does not create wealth. It does not produce anything. And, in fact, may very well be corrosive to the development of the intellectual capital necessary to compete against the white, Arab and Asian societies that have the supreme advantage of centuries of literacy going for them.

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"Uhhh... so... to be black means to see white racism as the all-purpose force of victimization on earth? And to not see white racism as the cause of every black problem is to not be black?"

No offense, David, but that's kind of a strange response to what was simply a suggestion, namely that "maybe you should consider that indeed "whitey" is to blame for this situation. "Whitey" maybe having manipulated both sides at different times or even today."

That means that this is one of the possibilities you may want to consider in your analysis. That's all.

I do think, by the way, that white supremacy is the overwhelming problem in the world today, but acknowledging that particular view is not what makes one "black".

However, being defined as a black person and mistreated on that basis will do wonders for one's analytical spectrum. Check this mp3 out, by the way.

One of the problems in your case is that (as most folks) you don't seem to have much of an in-depth understanding of the history of the region. You know that, and still you take a number of extraordinarily strong positions. I'm not sure that's constructive.

As to Zimbabwe and Africa in general. There is a book by Martin Meridith called the The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (he also wrote a volume on Mugabe) that you might want to check out. It's heavily slanted towards your point of view, but it does have some essential info.

As to the rest of what you are saying. I'm not sure where you are getting this from, but I'm afraid that you are atributing things to me that really are not accurate.

First off, who said that black folks should not be part of the world economy? If people want to sell uranium then in fact should be able to sell it at a fair price. Maybe that price would be knowledge? The problem we have today is that we have an unfair system of trade. We don't operate a world-wide capitalist system, but in a monopolist system where cartels largely based in Europe and North America dictate availability of credit, terms of trade, and prices in general. Effectively it is a system of socialism for the powerful. That's just a fact.

"Blaming white people does not create wealth. It does not produce anything. And, in fact, may very well be corrosive to the development of the intellectual capital necessary to compete against the white, Arab and Asian societies that have the supreme advantage of centuries of literacy going for them."

Recognizing that someone is withholding intellectual capital from you and manipulating political and economic processes is not the same thing as expecting the process of blaming someone for doing so to create wealth. That would be ludicrous.

As to "centuries of literacy". What does that mean concretely? Have you, David Mills, been literate for centuries? No, of course not. Any one individual can be taught to be literate. Maybe in exchange for uranium?

"Black people have no power to impose their (self-interested) definition of "social justice" on white folks, Arabs, the Chinese or anybody else."

That's a very interesting statement.

Let's look at it very carefully:

"Black people have no power..."

This begs the obvious question: Why?

So why is that the case? How did that happen?

"their (self-interested)"

And that begs the questions: Should black people have a self-interest?

"definition of 'social justice'"

Should black people enjoy social justice at all, David?
If yes, what should that definition of social justice look like?

What do you think this self-interested definition of social justice that black folks apparently want to impose on others currently looks like?

And lastly, what does "being black" mean to you personally? What is the content the function of being black to you?

Is it solely being related to black folks? Is that enough? Because plenty of people classified and functioning as white are related to black people. Maybe they have a great-grandmother who is black. maybe even a father or a mother.

Please don't take that as an offense, but maybe, just maybe, you are functioning as a white person, David? Have you ever considered that?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Well, Michael, now we're getting into some real shit. And if you're willing to go as far as I am, we could have an extraordinary conversation.

For now, let's stick with Zimbabwe. I acknowledge that I'm barely educated on the history of Southern Africa, and that your knowledge of the region's political history is broad and deep.

That is why I haven't authored any books on the subject.

I'm just here popping shit on teh internets, as a function of "thinking out loud" and working through my own understanding of what's happening over there.

What fascinates me about that region, intellectually, is its proxy status for American racial politics.

Surely the reason many bright young American blacks became activists in the struggle against white minority in rule in Southern Africa is because that struggle fit the black-nationalist paradigm: white folks are the enemy, and fucking their game up is all that matters.

Once Zimbabwe and South Africa achieved black rule, it was like “so much for that”... who cares what happens next? So it wasn’t really about the people in those lands... it was about defining one’s righteousness by one’s oppositional posture vis-à-vis whites, wherever they may be on the globe.

I’m interested in the next phase: Can black nationalism deliver on its promise of a better life for black people?

In that way, Zimbabwe is a fine test case for critiquing black nationalist ideology and rhetoric. And that’s where I’m coming from.

You don’t have to be a geopolitical scholar to understand totally what Mugabe’s doing in the vidclip I posted. It’s the “Blame Whitey” politics so familiar in the U.S. over the past 40 years.

Looking at where it got Zimbabwe, I say such thinking wouldn’t lead to better results here in America.

Recognizing that someone is withholding intellectual capital from you...

Here we go. Michael, do you believe black Africans are the “special-ed kids” of the world economy? It’s somehow the duty of other societies to teach African nations how to prosper like Europe prospers?

You seem to accept as a given the weakened, needy status of African people vis-à-vis Europeans and North Americans. Africans need “knowledge” (which white folks possess); some outside force is withholding “intellectual capital” (which Africans will need in order to prosper).

Kinda makes you think: What good was all that black-power talk on a national level when, internationally, you still gonna have to deal with white folks with all the power? Somebody didn’t think their shit all the way through.

You should devote some thinking to this conundrum, Michael, because when you do, you’ll wonder, “Damn, starting so far behind... how can Africans ever catch up?”

You wrote: “Any one individual can be taught to be literate. Maybe in exchange for uranium?”

Here’s the thing: It’s not about what an “individual” can be taught. It’s about what kind of societies develop without a written language... without an accumulated base of written knowledge.

The Zulus didn’t have a written language. The Chinese did. The Navajos didn’t. The Arabs did.

So how could you possibly expect, Michael, that “power” would (or even should) somehow be distributed equally among human populations? Those populations didn’t develop in the same ways.

Maybe the problem African nations have in prospering on a competitive planet have less to do with Whitey... and more to do with how those cultures developed on their own, over centuries.

If your concept of “social justice” depends upon all outcomes being “equal” – all power, all goods, all benefits being equally distributed – you’re in for a broken heart. And you need to find an idea of “justice” more in accord with the world as it exists.

Michael Fisher said...

David, power is likely never to be equally distributed among people. That isn't the problem here. The problem is the question of "social justice". Which should be no question at all.

I think one can reduce the concept of social justice at the very least to one central overwhelming tenet, namely this:

"Thou shall not steal".

The use of superior knowledge as manifested in literacy, weaponry, technology, etc. in order to cheat, steal from, and exploit less knowledgeable people, is just morally wrong. It is a criminal endeavor.

Now maybe you subscribe to a socio-Darwinian notion of the rule by the "strong" over the "weak", but I do not.

If one is not allowed to steal and cheat, then one must create win-win situations in order to obtain what one needs.

In situations where crimes of theft have been committed it is not enough to punish a perpetrator, the perpetrator must make the victim whole.

The Zulus, Matabele, Shona, Xhosa and Khoisan did not travel to Europe and claim vast stretches of Germany and Holland for themselves.
Sure, they didn't have the capability, but fact is, they did not. Nor did they invite the Europeans into their land. Nor was the land "empty" as the Boers like to claim. Nor did the Africans force Europeans off their land in Europe and herd them into reservations where their inability to feed themselves off that land forced them to become cheap laborers for the Europeans. That is, their labor power was stolen.

Civilization without a basic moral compass: "Thou shall not steal", is not civil, and thus not a civilization.

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"...you need to find an idea of “justice” more in accord with the world as it exists."

And...

Aren't you making exactly the argument for Mugabe here? That is: the reality is Mugabe is in power, he can maintain himself in power, thus he should be in power.

Undercover Black Man said...

Now maybe you subscribe to a socio-Darwinian notion of the rule by the "strong" over the "weak", but I do not.

The "strong" will always dominate the "weak." How could it be any other way? On what practical basis can the "weak" determine how they are treated by a more intellectually, technologically and economically people?

(Which is why the egalitarianist Left has as its core mission not the strengthening of the weak... but the weakening of the strong.)

So I ask again, Michael, what good is "black nationalism" in an interdependent world where black folks are the least advanced intellectually, technologically and economically?

If, as you suggest, black African nations are in need of white folks' expertise... what is the meaning of "black power" or "black liberation"?

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"The "strong" will always dominate the "weak."

Well, if that is your criterion for social organization, in that case, taking things to their logical conclusion, Mugabe should do his utmost to stay in power and physically kill off his opposition outright.

You are confusing strength/weakness with justice. The just do not have to be weak. In fact, in order to ensure justice you have to be strong.

However, if one sticks to te injust "strong v weak" scenario, there is always a beginning and and end to everything. So it will be with the dominance of European power over the rest of the planet. The seeds of destruction of the system of white supremacy are sown within the system itself.

If one follows the (ill)logic of the system to the very end, the system logically must collapse and do so likely with a violent cataclysm. This will likely take the majority of the world's people of color with them, but destroy all people classified as "white". And it will be white people who will kill off all white people. In fact, the process has already begun en masse.

Think it through.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Uhhh... I thought you wanted to get deep, Michael. I guess I was wrong.

On a previous thread, I asked you whether "justice" demanded that the land of North America be given back to the Amerindians. You said, in apparent serious, "yes."

Let's say that every American Indian alive believed that to be the case... that this was the demand of "justice." It would be meaningless, because nobody's less powerful, more marginal, in America than the Indians.

So I ask again, Michael, what good is "black nationalism" in an interdependent world where black folks are the least advanced intellectually, technologically and economically?

Michael Fisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"So I ask again, Michael, what good is "black nationalism" in an interdependent world where black folks are the least advanced intellectually, technologically and economically?"

In a world that is organized under social-Darwinist principles, the banding together of the weak in order to oppose the strong is necessary for survival.

In contrast to the American Indian in the United States, there exist vastly more people classified as "black" (in the narrow sense as descendants of the African Diaspora both in Africa and abroad} than there are "white" people and certainly vastly more non-whites than "white" people.

The very fact that significant changes in the system of domination by the "strong" over the "weak" have occurred speaks to the strength of the "weak". That strength is the result of the banding together of black people as black people. What you call "Black nationalism". In the absence of this phenomenon, by your very definition, change would not have occurred because the "strong" would not have had an incentive to respond to anything and change things.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Ah, a mini-Stakes Be High. I was getting a little worried that my two road-dogs were too busy engaging in a hugfest.

I'm gonna have to dig into these comments a little closely tomorrow. Pretty interesting from what I read. Gotta get to bed because I'm trying to get back in going to work in the morning shape.

Take care fellas.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I know you gotta make the donuts, so I didn't wanna push... but if you have any thoughts on what's happening in Zimbabwe and what it means to our larger discussions in the past, they would be most welcome, DeAngelo.

eeaster said...

There is one point you miss, David. Fundamentally wrong is your analogy of Southern Africa to what's happening or what has happened here in the US vis a vis civil rights, and black nationalism.

As was repeated to me often when I've visited Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa by a number of people on the ground, there is one critical difference between us and them.

That is, simply, there is no such thing as Black nationalism in Africa. The nation was and is theirs. So their fight was not about some drink of water in a fountain, but the ownership of critical resources, the means of production, responsibility for defense and the ability to trade globally.

As such, the mindset is radically different from anything you can compare it to. When they talk about imperialism, they're not talking about racism and poor treatment at the restaurant. They are talking about, as M. Fisher stated, price fixing, price gouging, capital programs, currency valuations, etc..

The line said to me "American Blacks fight for civil rights. Our fight is for liberation. There is a difference."

Real shit.

And while Mugabe did indeed turn out to be an ass, he's not completely wrong that the British (and the Dutch and the French and the US) have continued through independence to exact undue influence on the ability of the independent African nations to own and monetize their own resources.

And the issue is not that those nations are not powerful, it's that they have the potential to be too powerful.

You have to always remember that Europe is relatively tiny and lacks many natural resources. The European move to explore and colonize had little to do with some great intelligence. Not that there were not great advancements, but fundamentally it was about survival.

Africa, to its detriment perhaps, has always been a plentiful place (news images notwithstanding). Fresh water, temperate weather, abundant game, great farming, amazing fishing. Development there stalled because of the lack of necessity. And most of the development that happened was to make it easier for white folks who settled there, not for Africans themselves.
The rainforest in the Congo alone is responsible for about 15% of the world's oxygen.

As the world chokes itself to death and uses up all its resources, where do you think they will go?

And who do you think is poised to run shit when they do? Africa.

You think the powers that be want that to happen? if there were ever anything coming close to free and open global trade, the re-balance of power would be dramatic.

Take a read of Del Walter's article on EbonyJet.com [Stranger than Fiction http://www.ebonyjet.com/politics/national/index.aspx?id=6717] about the NSSM program and the planned destabilization of Africa through de-population. It's stunning in it assessment of attempts to limit the power of Africa.

Have certain rulers and parties squandered opportunities in Africa? Indeed. Shamelessly.

But does that make their issues with Europe and China any less problematic? Not in the least.

It's about as complicated a situation as you coupled possibly imagine and you can't even begin to boil the complexities down to some issue of black vs. white, smart vs. not smart or first world vs. third.

Anonymous said...

A very good discussion here, and I think eeaster summed up the situation more clearly what michael was getting at. However, Mr. Mills seems to have drank the kool-aid prepared for him by the propaganda outfits intent on making Mugabe look like Hitler. It's a shame that someone so intelligent has fallen into the trap of the imperialists.

David, I really don't have time to teach you the history of neo-colonialist's operation in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Unless you understand the larger struggle of social progress sought by colonized countries and the push-backs of imperialists, then this conversation will make no difference in your outlook of the situation. You have been bombarded with how evil Mugabe is, yet you don't even have a clue what is so bad that Mugabe has done. Instead you're arguing with Michael, who not only knows the history but also understands the basic problem Zimbabwe is facing, but you're also embarrassing yourself by continuing to regurgitate the propaganda that has been created to distract Mugabe's message about neo-colonialism and foreign interference, which by the way ARE behind the STARVATION of Zimbabweans because of sanctions imposed on by these imperialists. Learn first, then argue.