21 February 2007

Zimbabwe against the world


It's interesting to see the rhetoric that people use in lining up one way or another on the big issues, and how the various worldviews apply - or don't apply - to that part of the world known as Zimbabwe.

The dictator of Zimbabwe, Mugabe, is a nasty little t├╝rd who is driving his people into misery, poverty and early death. Nothing good can be said for such an individual. May that long-suffering country soon dispatch him beyond this world in order that they may survive in this. More power to those who work against him; even those who shield him from the inevitable are doing Zimbabwe a service, however indirectly or unwittingly.

Not having been there, I can't do much to help the opposition to Mugabe. If I wanted to speak out or act against Bush, or Blair, or Howard, big organisations would sweep me up in warm embrace. There'd be demos to join, chants to yell, petitions to sign, letters to write, all that stuff. Where is your anti-Mugabe movement? Here is a grand cause for a demo. Nobody defends the bastard, and all decent people stand against him. Whaddawe want, whendawe wannit ... hello? Anyone? Hardly what I'd call "fever pitch".

Mugabe is nominally socialist in an era where this is irrelevant for all but a few on the commanding heights of newspaper opinion pieces. Mugabe isn't white and he does a solid line of invective against Tony Blair. His opponents seem to be bourgeois neo-kulaks and centrist do-gooders, and where is the old Trot who doesn't love giving such a bit of stick?

The left have always fancied themselves as being unrelentingly anti-fascist, but this was never true. As long as you get your rhetoric right, the Western left will forgive you much - particularly if you say one thing in charmingly broken English, and another thing in your native tongue to break people in a thoroughly uncharming way. This ruse worked for Arafat, it worked for Castro and Ortega and Gaddafi and Mobutu, and basically any tinpot scumbag with an army and a flag. Saddam Hussein had plenty of fans in the Western left. Even ratbags without flags, armies or much of a clue, like Baader-Meinhof or the Black Panthers, were fawned over and insulated from rightist assaults. Now that those guys are dead (Hussein, Arafat), cowed beneath the Western yoke (Ortega, Gaddafi) or enjoying their pelf in exile (Mobutu), surely they'd turn their lonely eyes to you, Mugabe. But, it would appear, no.

If you're the sort of sorry soixante-huitard wanker who thrills every time Castro and Chavez (but not so much when they imprison/execute dissidents), then surely you'd stick by Mugabe like shit to a blanket. Where are you, Pilger, Chomsky, Tariq Ali? Why do you desert your brother Bob so? Have you all followed Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens in full retreat from the (imaginary) ramparts?

Then, there's the right. If you're really serious about standing up for democracy, like Bush and Blair and Howard, then Mugabe would represent some low-hanging fruit. No armed forces to speak of (it appears fully occupied suppressing civil society), no sympathetic body of support - he's a godless commie!!! It woulda/coulda/shoulda been cheap 'n' easy to wipe out Mugabe and Send A Clear Signal to his better-entrenched ilk. Kim Jong Il, Ahmedinejad, even Saddam; they'd have all learned the lesson and either made nice or gotten out. A cakewalk, as it were.

Troublesome Africa would be much better governed, and investments there returning much more strongly, had Mugabe gone down for the Greater Good. Zimbabwe has a much stronger tradition of democratic (and, yes, pro-business) government than places like Afghanistan or Iraq. The problems with Chalabi or al-Maliki "going native" wouldn't have applied in poor old Zimbabwe.

By overstating the importance of Saddam Hussein, and ignoring that of Mugabe, it's hard to maintain that the war in Iraq isn't all about another quality that Zimbabwe lacks - a black liquid that President Bush and his most fervent backers refer to as awl.

Zimbabwe really is the shoal on which the rhetoric and the hopes of the world for many in the West are wrecked. Action-oriented problem-solvers dither in the face of an opponent who is not nearly as formidable as he is despicable. This forces those who keen for this benighted land into waiting - for how long, for what desolation will Mugabe leave behind?

While this land is, as it seems, to be exempt from the wider forces sweeping the globe, the certitudes that we apply in our outlook on the world remain inadequate.

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