IN the opinion of philosophers Man, the angriest and the saddest of all animals, invented laughter to cushion himself from the pains of the universe. Man has invented gods, music, dancing and beer to manufacture the feeling that the world is better than what it really is; a huge cemetery. Man must find straws on which to clutch in this wild sea of tragedy and life. The ugly geography of our bodies we have covered with clothing of all shapes, colours and sizes. The death that we are born with keeps us permanently decaying but we have all sorts of fragrances to cover the stench. Man is a creature of cover. Under cover, Man is happy. Unhappiness and pain makes man turn everything from sex to science into a sport. With our thoughts we build illusions and fantasies that comfort us and insulate us from the ongoing death around us. We dress up life. The tendency to dress up and to cover is a creative quality of Man from the fall from grace to the present. One can see how we are trying so hard to turn death into a celebration, reducing funerals to parties and decorating graves with flowers and state of the art tomb stones. We can’t look death in the eye as a moment of loss; we are better pretending that death is a member of our family, not a cruel thief of life.
In our private and public lives, to be alive is to be able to dress up things, pray, sing and dance away our realities. We fear death and the truth of our nakedness so much that we cover it with choreographed faith and happiness. In the history and politics of Zimbabwe we have elevated the human art of dressing up and covering to the level of a national habit. I suspect the fiery womanist parliamentarian Priscilla Misihairambwi sought to jolt us out of the slumber and cover of our dressing when she brandished, in the August House, a couple of items in shape of used female underwear. It was a moment of history; our historical encounter with second hand underwear; in Parliament. “She surely could have made her point without bringing exhibits,” was the wisdom from a senior wartime male politician. Misihairambwi had made her point, not only for the womanist movement but for the human condition at large. Zimbabweans have been reduced by the economy and politics to second hand people who consume second hand goods and services from our former colonisers in the Northern parts of the planet. The colonists that we chased from our mines, factories and farms are now sending us, with love from Europe, second hand underwear. We can endure talking about that, but we don’t want the “exhibits!” we don’t want the naked evidence of our nakedness and death as second hand people of the Third World.Advertisement
I write today to observe that Zimbabwe, in history and in politics has arrived at its moment of ripeness. All pretenses have been stripped down to our national dirty underwear. Zimbabwean politicians and thinkers must face up to the nakedness, the ugliness and death of our condition. Political gamesmanship, stratagems and covert intelligence projects can protect certain politicians and political parties but they will not rescue the economy that is turning more employees into vendors. Instead of talking to China, to Britain and America, Zimbabwean politicians in the ruling party and the political opposition must urgently talk to each other. The struggle for power can wait because presently, economically and politically there is no power to win or to lose in Zimbabwe. When the time comes to engage China, Britain and America on the Zimbabwean condition, these foreign empires will not listen to a regime or a political party, but to Zimbabwe. Dressing up as party this and party that is presently a profitless enterprise, the Zimbabwean question demands stronger answers than pretending and inventing excuses.
What is an Underwear Moment in Politics?
A fellow by the name of William Zartman described in politics what is called “a ripe moment” for negotiations that arises from “a mutually hurting” political and historical “stalemate.” This moment happens when contesting parties in history and politics find themselves unable to win totally and unable to lose totally as well. In that moment history dangles possible penalties for non-action, history demands action, negotiations and a political settlement that rescues all the contesting parties from a political and historical imbroglio.
The South Africans had their own. Inspite of the infamous “Total Strategy” of Magnus Malan, and the “Cossing the Rubicon Speech” of 15 August 1985 that announced the intensification of apartheid and racism, the Botha regime was on its knees from punitive sanctions, a collapsing economy and multitudes of angry black people in the streets. On the side of the liberation movement, the militants such as Chris Hani, Mark Maharaj and Siphiwe Nyanda, under the “Total Onslaught” strategy were plotting “Operation Vula” to violently take power in South Africa. But the liberation movement as well was on its knees, the Soviet Union was collapsing with all the supplies of money, food, training and weapons for the guerrillas. Both the apartheid regime and the liberation movement were publicly dressing up, covering up the fact that both contesting disputants were stark naked in a mutually hurting and punitive stalemate, none of them could win totally or lose totally either. Compromise was needed.
Underwear in Parliament … Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga