The positive side of our misery

By Kevin Shadwell



I HAVE been told recently not to get so stressed about what is happening here. Much of it is way beyond my control and paltry influence, so why worry?<
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This piece of advice is (has been) rather hard to swallow, as is with all good medicine, but it did set me off thinking. A fresh perspective is always a good thing and mine was that perhaps the government really does think it is doing its best to help its loyal and faithful citizens.


So I decided to reinterpret some of the recent events and (mal)practices of the leadership as well as personal observations of the actions of my fellow citizens, and see if I could fathom any humanitarian motives.


Well, the first thing that came to mind was that they are trying to make us all good citizens of planet Earth by turning us all into environmentalists of the highest order.


How on earth is this being achieved in a “third world” country when the world’s greatest nations are struggling to even cut carbon emissions by a pitiful degree?


By creating a “conducive” investing environment (price controls, chaotic supply chains, shortages of raw materials, shortages of money), they have driven what heavy industry we had to the very edge of survival, reducing the “pollutants” they put out by a significant margin.


Well, as an additional part of their strategy for environmental health, they made coal unavailable for our thermal power stations. No burning there and hence no pollution! Only good clean electricity from the one remaining hydroelectric plant at Kariba or we get it on credit from our more credulous neighbours who believe they’ll be paid for it eventually.


As if that were not enough of a brave step, they arranged to make fuel (a) very expensive and (b) hard to find. This means that we conserve what we do manage to buy and then only make essential trips.


Many people have opted to park their vehicles and walk or cycle everywhere, providing the next benefit — a healthier lifestyle. As a side effect, this has led to the engenderment of a great sense of community as, walking about, you meet a lot more people than when previously entombed in speeding metal coffins. A more placid lifestyle seems inevitable, as we return to the “pace of the ox” and take things in our stride.


Our contribution to a healthier planet have won one of our ministers great accolades, culminating in his election as the UN representative for sustainable development.


Many have interpreted this variously as failure on the part of the UN, the smaller countries giving the West the “finger,” a negation of the efforts to isolate the top boys in the government and just plain bad, seeing as the minister in question “owns” several farms that have been reported as having fallen into decay.


Deploying this fresh perspective, one could argue that he is helping the natural environment to regain its natural state by letting previously productive food farms lie fallow. I mean, we can buy food thanks to the price controls, so why grow it?


Still on the environmental theme, we have all unwittingly been turned into great conservationists.


Instead of just throwing something away, you now think hard and check that it can’t be used for something else.


If it is a durable product, you do everything in your power to see if it cannot be repaired and if not, then, and only then, is it discarded.


This goes for everything from car parts to old vegetables.


On the subject of food, I must mention that I have lost over six kgs since the price controls began because I can’t find my normal “unhealthy snacks” (bread or mealie meal) to buy and so I eat only once or twice a day now. Coupled with all the walking I now do, all other diets pale by comparison.


The government’s concern for our health does not end with our corporeal bodies. With all the electricity “sharing” there is often no chance to vegetate in front of that great evil, television (although I do miss regular access to my other indulgence, the computer).


Not that I ever watch(ed) much TV, but I now find I can read upwards of five books a week, in addition to having more time to spend with the family. I mean, we sit and actually really talk to each other instead of paying attention to those flickering, mind-numbing dots.


Our minds grow (as our waistlines shrink) as we have discussions on a wide range of issues and topics, stimulated by the written word and good conversation.


Inflation was (is) our greatest enemy, labelled as the “Aids” of the economy — prices spiralled beyond reach of most ordinary citizens and goods were scarce.


The price controls have enabled people to buy meat, an important source of protein and fat as we all know, leading to great rejoicing, creating short-term and intense happiness for the common citizens, leading to greater mental health. A feeling of happiness drives away the unhealthy negative thoughts and makes burdens seem lighter.


Knowing our worries and concerns as intimately as they do, the government acted with decisiveness, scoffing at historical precedents which every single time showed that price controls do not and cannot work, to provide us with this brief euphoria of being able to “afford” goods and services.


This time it will work we have been told. I myself wait with great anticipation to see how they will provide the next round of “affordable” goods once current stocks sell out.


The land “reclamations” were a necessary part of the government’s drive to make us better citizens. All the previously disadvantaged “landless” peasants overnight became part of the landed class, the gentry if you will.


They immediately realised their new social status and decided to act accordingly — not to work the land themselves but to wait for the “labourers” to till the land while they enjoyed the fruits of their hard-won liberation.


Where are these labourers going to come from though?


Again the government provided the answer: why not strongly suggest that people leave the urban areas for these needy rural farming areas by (a) flattening their houses en masse and (b) using that “conducive” investment environment described above to “convince” or enable businesses to close, providing fresh legions of unemployed to now work the land.


Sadly, most have remained “unpatriotic” and have elected to remain in the towns and cities instead of contributing to the glorious agricultural revolution.


Our mental health is protected thanks to an unrelinquished legacy of censorship (thanks Smithy!).


Disturbing and stressful information about events and circumstances such as allegations of corruption, murder, beating of opposition figures and theft are kept hidden, while we are treated to wonderful news that the government has bought 53!, yes you heard me, 53 tractors, since the 2000 reinvigoration of land ownership, that will revolutionise and mechanise agriculture and provide food for the nation!


Meanwhile, we carefully avoid the thought-provoking factoid that that many tractors used to be imported in a month in Matabeleland alone.


Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes and if you don’t know, how can you worry?


So, from reading the above, it would appear that the country remains the “jewel of Africa,” blessed by a “caring” and erudite government that puts the rest of the continent to shame.