Saturday, June 25, 2005

Africa: Gaining Perspective of Self

Okay…one more article regarding Africa if you can stand it, I’ll explain in a moment:

I don’t know if you have been following what has been happening in Zimbabwe for the last month, but it is turning into a strange story. Apparently, President Robert Mugabe initiated Operation Murambatsvina (also called Operation “Restore Order” or “Drive Out the Trash”) earlier this month in attempt to relocate the poor urban dwellers of the country back to the rural areas that they had emigrated from. President Mugabe, 81 years old, calls the initiative an “urban renewal project”. Mugabe (who has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from the Brisitsh in 1980, first as prime minister and then as president since 1987) also initiated a land redistribution program in 2000, whereby thousands of white-owned farms were seized to be placed into the hands of Zimbabweans. Before those of you who are “pro-reparationists” praise President Mugape as a hero, read on...

The part of this story that carries civil rights implications (beyond the obvious evicting the poor from their homes) is that Mugabe may have initiated Operation “Drive Out the Trash” to punish members of the political opposition party which is compromised mostly of the urban poor. The many shacks and shanties that housed the urban poor have been bulldozed and burned to the ground at the start of the winter months. They have also destroyed the kiosks whereby the poor were making meager livings by selling wares. There is large black market for basic goods that President Mugabe claims he’s trying to shut down by getting rid of these illegal street markets. Many civil right experts believe that President Mugabe is not trying to relocate the urban poor so much as he’s trying to eliminate them.

Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa with the most productive agricultural industry in Africa. However following Muagbe’s chaotic land redistribution campaign of 2000, the exodus of white farmers has crippled the economy (triple-digit inflation, recently) and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Zimbabwe actually has to import food now to feed it’s 12 to 14 million inhabitants (population estimates are very difficult because of the AIDS epidemic, at last count more than 25% of the population was infected). Also, ignoring international condemnation, Mugabe is thought to have rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. Opposition and labor groups launched general strikes in 2003 to pressure Mugabe to retire early, but his security forces maintain their brutal repression of regime opponents.


So as you can tell, I have been reading a lot about Africa as of late. The whole continent seems to be under assault from nefarious forces. It’s not my intent to keep posting "negative" stories, but maybe if these atrocities were discussed more by everyday people like me, it might raise the collective conscience enough to produce change. But even if no one reads my blog, thinking about these events helps me to put life into perspective. It's kind of hard for me to get upset about last night's Spurs-Pistons game, when real evil is running amok around the globe. Reading stories like this makes me feel uneasy about living in the US, and enjoying so much security, prosperity, and frivolity. But these uneasy feelings are healthy…they reveal a tender-heart that is sensitive to someone else’s suffering. I may want to put blinders on, and chase the American dream, guilt free (the pursuit of happiness has degenerated into the pursuit of stuff, just watch an episode of MTV cribs), but the original American dream was freedom to grow, freedom to love, and freedom to think…not freedom to own Coach bags, Escalades, and bling. Owning stuff is not bad, but sometimes my pursuit of stuff has clouded my perspective. I f the pursuit of stuff is inhibiting my ability to grow, love, and think, the stuff must not have very much value.
When I allow my more worldly interests to dominate my thinking, my values get distorted by the shadows of self-interest. (In the words of the Notorious B.I.G, “money, clothes and ho’s is all a nigga knows”… that’s a tragically dark cognitive existence.) I think I have walked around in the dark long enough, so I’m going to try to keep my mind focused on world events more closely. While some may say the news is “negative”, I think stories like this only reflect what is actually happening in the world…they hopefully reflect truth, and truth is neither negative or positive…it is what it is. But truth is a light so bright that it exposes our personal discordant values. For instance, when I read that story about the Hutu rebels using rape as part of their warfare tactics, it was disturbing, but the truth pierced through the clouds of my self-absorbed perspective to reveal to me how blessed I am. The problems of the day that had previously seemed so large were now tiny in comparison. It was my self-centered myopia that had made these problems seem large, but truth from the other side of the planet allowed me to see my problems accurately.
Anyway, I feel like I learned something the last few days…not just about Africa, but about myself. I wanted to share this pearl of wisdom, but mostly I wanted to document my little revelation for me personally. I have no doubt that the problems of life will once again crowd the rays of light out of my perspective in the not too distant future. That’s just how I am…Hopefully, by writing this down, I will be able to remember one of the ways to gain clear perspective.
Sometimes when I pray, I find myself thanking God like a school boy saying his prayers out of rote memorization. But after reading everything I have over the last few days, I guarantee that tonight, my words will be heartfelt, when I tell God “Thank-You”.

Your temporarily enlightened brother,

"If you're proactive, you don't have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own."
~ Stephen Covey


Post a Comment

<< Home