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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Systems of Oppression

This post may be a bit deep compared to my usual ones, but it is an issue that I have been wrestling with lately, both on an individual and national level.

‘Make a plan’ is the Zimbabwean catch phrase. It refers to the ability of people to get an end result despite the circumstances and is a testimony to the ingenuity of a people. It has one draw back; it fails to address the root cause of issues. We pull a proverbial rug over the hole in the carpet rather than repairing the defect. Zimbabweans in general seem to be more concerned with making plans than dealing with the core issues of governance and policy. Governance in this respect does not just refer to a political system, but incorporates the ideas of self-governance and corporate governance.

History is filled with examples of nations that have thrown off the yolk of an oppressive system only to accept another. African dictators abounded following the independence from colonialism. One of the issues that resulted in the American civil war was the perpetuance of oppression in the form of slavery. Even today the legacy of that oppression continues in the lives of many African-Americans. There were multiple French Revolutions, the Russian revolution overthrew the Tsar but replaced it with an even more oppressive system of communism. Why this trend? I believe one of the reasons is a lack of self governance by the individual. When all your life the responsibility of governance has rested with the state and that is the source of your self control, you are ill equipped to handle the liberty that occurs when that control is removed. Eventually, unless self-control is achieved the state (which often begins by promoting self governance) will begin to take over control again. Tyranny occurs when the individual abdicates the responsibility of self-governance to the state or any other system or persons.

This is not an affectation of the modern and post-modern eras either. Biblical Israel rarely went for more than a generation under righteous rule before resorting to evil and despotic rule. The Ten Commandments are there to promote self governance and a respect for God, other men and property. Part of the recent price escalation in Zimbabwe and the subsequent intervention by the government has been due to unfettered profiteering-again, it is not the only cause, but it has played a role non-the-less.

Oppression is not limited to national governance only. People can be oppressed when they are bound to companies that assume responsibility for the provision and welfare of their employees. When your house, car and education are provided by your company and you expect it as a ‘right’ as an employee, you are bound to that company. When you expect ‘free’ healthcare from your state, are you not bound and oppressed by the taxes you pay and the level of care you recieve-you have given away responsibility for your health to a system. Robert Kiyosaki has expounded frequently on the mindset behind the employee and the difference of that of the businessman or investor. Often the former operating in an environment of oppression will never experience true financial freedom.

Why does this happen? Part is ignorance, people know no better. When you have been governed by one system all your life, you only know one way to treat others, and only one legacy to pass on to your children. Part is that self control requires effort, an effort that many are not willing to expend. It is easier to be ‘thunk’ upon than to think, and in the short term hurts less. Continued oppression removes self value and worth. When you have no value then you will not stand up against anything that infringes on that value.

The solution? Well honestly I don’t have a complete one, but a significant part has to do with a change of attitude. Another common Zimbabwean phrase is “I am not the one”, this needs to be “I am the one.” In a similar manner to ‘ask not what America can do for you, but what you can do for America’, we need to assume responsibility for our actions and what we can change and control. With responsibility comes accountability, we should be accountable for what we have, and hold others to account for their actions and decisions. Rather than being passive lumps of humanity complaining at our raw deal in life, we need to become vibrant agents of change in the world around us, lifting others out the pit and building a better nation.

1 comment:

tkfmc said...

Actually I was wrong - this wasn't depressing - it was honest. It is a good piece of writing!