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The wily foxes and tearful crocodiles of our time

08/03/2017 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
 
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POSSIBLY, the only literary work of art in which a fox is portrayed with some sympathy, nay, with some empathy even, is John Masefield’s epic narrative in the poem ‘Reynard the Fox’.

The spectacle of landed gentry and their baying hounds hunting foxes in the English countryside persists to this day despite protestations against the practice.

One cannot help wondering if the stereotyped depiction of the fox as a wily and cunning trickster always on the lookout for an easy meal is not in some measure responsible for the disaffection against the fox. Invariably, in most picture book stories and cartoons the fox is given a roguish avaricious expression and is always absolutely drooling for something or other.

The fox is a schemer and though he may generally always be frustrated he never gives up on his schemes. He looks lithe but is paradoxically also glossy. The implication is that he can never satiate his appetite and has the strength and stamina to go after what he desires.

In the arena of artifice and deception the obvious comrade-in-arms for the fox is that ancient reptile – the crocodile. Lest we be accused of being far-fetched, we do have foxes in Africa. They are quite common in certain parts of Ethiopia.

The crocodile is a terrible foe when aggravated. When it snaps its jaws the sound is as loud and frightful as that of a rifle going off. To my knowledge, not even the most devout of monks in any religion can sit still and quiet for as long as the scaly monster does on any day. Talk about conserving energy! Crocodiles are masters at that. They do not move unless they have to, not even to bat an eyelid!

A crocodile can lie still and lifeless like a log and it can nourish itself on some of the most nauseating things you can think of. Flies! And all that it does is to open its mouth wide and when there is a prestigious catch in his mouth the crocodile closes its powerful jaws and it’s bon appetite time.

Crocodiles were created for the long haul. They are survivors and willy-nilly appear to know that the consumption of a food is not necessarily a daily requirement. They can go for long periods without food and what they eat lasts them a while. When crocodiles are basking in the sun, the uninitiated can be forgiven for thinking he is looking at logs. But should there be movement near the water or in the water itself the speed and precision are awe-inspiring. Lord help you if you should be the target. It is usually all over in seconds whether the prey be human or a hapless wildebeest.



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I once came across a graphic cartoon featuring a fat, well-heeled man glowing with the surfeit of the good things of life. Everything about him was loud and expensive: the imported shoe, the designer suit, the cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. Sitting in the dust under the shadow of the rich man, in rags that hardly covered his emaciated body, was a thin and hungry-looking man holding out his begging bowl. The rich man wailed and howled until the beggar’s bowl was overflowing with his copious tears – so easily shed like the tears of a crocodile.

This scene is enacted everyday across the world as the great pretenders of our world play out their farces. That is the only way to explain the reason why Ethiopia the land that gave coffee to the world still wallows in poverty when the whole world is drinking coffee which, by the way, still grows wild in Ethiopia. Despite the anomaly of being a land endowed richly with natural resources, Ethiopia is told by the World Bank that she is a lion economy that will one day roar and become mighty and grandiose. Her future is painted in bright colours until we begin to believe the fiction. Fiction it has to be, because in all this the benefactors are silent about their own obscene gains. What’s a few billions of United States dollars if the West makes trillions and trillions over time? Thus so-called foreign aid in certain paradigms is always a myth.

Kwesi Armah, recently a member of Ghana’s Council of State before his passing on, was also a member of Kwame Nkrumah’s independence government. In his book, ‘Peace Without Power-Ghana’s Foreign Policy 1957-1966’, Armah dispenses with many of the misconceptions surrounding Nkrumah and his reign. Primarily, Armah states that Ghana’s Pan African policy “was based on the ideas of black pride, black identity, African emancipation and unity.”

This conception is still seminal today and is a powerful manifesto of the African cause. About a decade ago Angola requested financial assistance from the World Bank for the purpose of carrying out development projects. The request was turned down. Instead, a loan to service HIV and AIDS programmes in the country was offered. That might seem at face value to have been a noble offer.

But the devil is in the detail. Angola would have had to pay back the loan from her productive activities. Given that that HIV and AIDS initiatives are capital-intensive, Angola would have incurred serious losses from the arrangement. Predictably, the Angolan government let the offer pass.

Economists today are largely sceptical of the efficacy and effectiveness of so-called ‘development assistance’ or foreign aid. While the stated objectives of such packages often include growth and development, these two phenomena continue to elude the recipients of such assistance. Instead we end up with the scourge of poor indebted nations that from time to time receive meaningless reprieves through the agency of loans to clear existing loans, thereby perpetuating the indebtedness. So there is growth and development indeed but only for the donor’ nations. The rich become richer and the poor become ever poorer.

These rich countries are the crocodiles of this world. They will commiserate with miserable countries and weep tears of blood as they pontificate about how the world should not have to be so hard. The countries that receive this tainted aid are turned into surrogate economies to create jobs in the north.

We have seen how over the years the IMF and the World Bank have often prescribed austerity programmes known as economic adjustment programmes and how these programmes have invariably been anti-people and caused upheavals because of imbalances between demand and supply, food shortages and price distortions. Economic adjustment programmes have sometimes taken on the character of regime change programmes instead.

This is how instability has continually been made a part of the body politic of countries like the DRC. Chaos is amenable to foreign exploitation of a country’s resources.

When a fat cow or goat stands too close to the edge of a crocodile-infested river it becomes irresistible and is soon pounced upon. Whenever a country appears to prosper on the basis of its own paradigms and trajectories, it sets itself up for subversion. The fall of Libya is a case in point. The crocodiles wept in sympathy to poor oppressed Libyans who were so poor that there was free universal education up to university, free health, free electricity and the highest wages on the continent. The foxes came in with their smooth talk about how to overcome the dictatorship. They dazzled some of us with promises of sophisticated weaponry and quick victories.

Today Libya is in a shambles and has become a conduit for poor refugees trying to reach the golden shores of Europe. For the Libyan in the street the aftermath has become a bitter tale of lies and deception. The oil dividends that each citizen received in their bank account annually have vanished. So-called reconstruction in Libya is by foreign companies which then create jobs back home for their own people while killing local initiatives. Nkrumah foresaw it all when he described neo-colonialism as the last stage of capitalism.

Recently, a fellow columnist in this paper, wrote about the increased propagation of the myth of white victimhood and how this is feeding into white supremacist politics around the world. The white narrative denies blacks even that sacrosanct honour of being, of existence. The foxes (‘vanatsuro magen’a’ in Zimbabwe’s Shona language, meaning your suave and smooth operators, the deal-makers of this dog-eat-dog world) make our own demise so palatable that we do not seem to see the gaping jaws of drooling crocodiles all around us. The spin doctors and fake news merchants are the cunning foxes waiting to trick us into selling our souls for trinkets. When are we ever going to learn?

 

 


 
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