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Victim mentality won’t help

Candid Comment with Joram Nyathi

ANYBODY who has read literature on self-motivation or personal mastery will tell you there is nothing as psychologically damaging as nurturing a victim mentality to explain your pr


I haven’t read much on this subject, but enough to be able to notice these traces of self-denial and perpetual hopelessness.

Why this is damaging is because by assimilating the victim mentality, we are saying there is nothing we can do about our situation. Instead of fighting to alter our condition, it is easier to find somebody or something to blame.

We are reduced to crying and waiting for a saviour to pluck us out of a very bad situation. We are in fact powerless to do anything. But so long as we can find somebody to blame, it is convenient. It is, in the final analysis, an attitude thing. Instead of adopting the attitude that God helps those who help themselves, we would rather kneel down and shut our eyes in front of a lion and pray for salvation.

I found an article in the Sunday Mail by Dr Tafataona Mahoso this week very instructive in this respect if not very dangerous. He was responding to a Herald article on April 26 which was critical of a report done by NGOs which said some Tonga cultural practices promoted the spread of HIV and Aids and other sexually transmitted infections.
These practices include not using condoms, elderly men having affairs with minors and people having multiple partners.

All this was imperialist hogwash, said Mahoso. How come nobody talked about Aids when actress Elizabeth Taylor married nine husbands? he asked. Or when Bill Clinton was accused of having a chain of mistresses?

Mahoso is not worried about the disease and its impact on society and the economy. He wants researchers to focus their attention on the “primary causes” of the disease so that we have someone to blame for the social and economic devastation wrought by it. His thesis is based on the discredited claim that Aids was the result of an experiment that went horribly wrong. It was imperialists who wanted to exterminate Africans whose fast growing populations posed a threat to their “global interests”, he says.

Even if that bunkum were true, where does it leave the poor victims of imperialist machinations and genocide? Those already afflicted by the scourge who want relief, not somebody to blame?

Unicef research shows that 115 000 children between the ages of 0-14 are HIV-positive while over 500 contract the disease every week. Over 500 others die a week. That is the amount of sorrow and tears flowing across the nation daily. There are thousands of orphans across the country left under the care of private institutions or individuals. How are these supposed to benefit from researchers telling us about the origins of Aids? How will such knowledge help prevent more people getting infected without behavioral and attitude change?

“Why should President Thabo Mbeki’s views (on the causes of Aids) or Vice-President Jacob Zuma’s personal behaviour (having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person) or the culture of the Tonga people be used to excuse the failure of HIV and Aids activists to curb the pandemic (Aids) which they claim they are being paid to curb,” asked Mahoso.

You don’t know how to react to this level of frivolity in one occupying such a high position in society. But then the issue is so serious in Zimbabwe some of us can’t afford to derive pleasure in fashioning imperialist conspiracies. If such theories led us towards a quick remedy we would indulge them. I have already explained why some sexual practices, not just Tonga, predispose people to infection. The point about Mbeki and Zuma is about what are called role models for society, in case Mahoso doesn’t know. Which should be very worrying. Are we not supposed to learn something from the behaviour of our national leaders?

But I was even more shocked that in seeking to entrench the victim mentality Mahoso, instead of helping to reduce the spread of Aids, wants to blame NGOs. He says Aids  activists have failed to do their job of stopping the spread of the disease and that is their problem. Can anything be more callous and reckless?

So some people are paid to fight the Aids scourge while he is paid to give us excuses for inaction? What does it mean to say Aids activists have “failed to do what they are paid to do”?  Here you have activists talking about attitude change and safe sex and on the other hand people like Mahoso, who should know better, declaring that if “sexual promiscuity was the primary cause of Aids” North Americans and Europeans would be extinct by now.

This is an extravagant claim that can only be made by one who has done sufficient research on the rates of Aids infection and the sexual habits of the people concerned. But if Mahoso is extrapolating from the single case of Elizabeth Taylor and her nine husbands, there is definitely nothing for me to learn about Americans. It serves neither his propaganda purposes nor the interests of the Tonga or Africans that he wants to turn into perpetual victims of an evil imperialist world.

It would be interesting to know for how long Africans leaders are expected to remain in this comfort zone of blaming colonialism for their mismanagement of national affairs and the suffering of their people.

Sooner rather than later we will discover that the world owes us nothing and that those who know the purpose of history have grasped its lessons and moved on. Africa was not the only continent to be colonised. Why are the others doing so much better?

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