Monday, March 8, 2010

Pillars of the Earth

I have been in South Africa again and it is some time since I contributed to this diary. South Africa is always an experience of value giving me time to read, digest, evaluate and think about the present and the future of Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.

Have you read “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet? If not I commend it and the sequel, “World Without End”. They are both novels, the former set in 12th Century England and the latter two centuries later. What is staggering to me about “Pillars of the Earth” is the similarity between 12th century England and 21st century Zimbabwe. The central characters in Pillars of the Earth are ordinary people trying to make a life for themselves amidst the medieval political and social minefields of the English aristocracy where the enriched and powerful Kings and Queens, Lords and Earls and some Bishops and Priors make the life of the serfs a complete and utter misery. The enriched upper class are almost without exception, arrogant, greedy, treacherous, lustful and devious. They use their positions only to increase their power and their riches and for them, murder, rape and torture of the struggling lower class are not crimes, only methods to achieve their personal gains.

Transport this political and social system to most of Africa in the 21st Century and nothing has changed – only the players. There is perhaps another difference – outside Africa there is another world that has moved on to democratic principles of government and where information moves literally at the speed of light. This difference should make a difference to Africa – but will it? A look at Liberia and Haiti tells us otherwise.

I managed to learn a few other things. In South Africa there is constant talk of how it might or might not degenerate into another failed African state and the comparison is always Zimbabwe. Some South Africans have no illusions about their future political and economic prospects. The one difference is that in South Africa the future will be created by the ‘Generation Xers’ – the Julius Malema’s of their world. Julius Malema is a 30 something hothead youth leader within the ANC who has a congenital hatred of the white South Africans. His hatred for whites is only less of a motivational driver than his hunger for power, which if he gets it, he will clearly use to ‘deal with’ his opponents in the same manner that Mugabe deals with his opponents. But in Zimbabwe it is the youth who offer hope for the future. In Zimbabwe the youth are well educated and have personally witnessed the destruction wrought by authoritarian misrule.

Does anyone ever learn anything from history?

1 comment:

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