The culture shift that begs

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Vicky is a young lady that jumped into the mshika mshika (taxi) I was a passenger in on Tuesday afternoon. What struck me is the fact that she was holding two “mint looking” books in her hands which is now a very unsual sight.

State of the Art Admire Kudita

Especially if the books are not academic ones. One is more likely to see someone holding a PET soft drink or beer bottle in their hands on any given street in Zimbabwe.

Miss Vicky

One of the books Miss Vicky carried was entitled Art of War. I can’t recall the title of the other book she was carrying. But I was strangely comforted by the fact. I conversed with her as I naturally am prone to do, her model like looks notwithstanding.

I gathered that she had just received one of the books from her sister in South Africa. She is a book reader and does not do much television this Miss Vicky. I will put her age at around 23 years of age. I am going somewhere with this…

The tipping point

“The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.” The aforegoing is a quote extracted from a book by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell the famous writer of books such as the Outliers, The Tipping Point, David and Goliath to name a few. These books have been visitors on the New York Times bestsellers list.

I read the Outliers after buying it on a trip outside the country. It is one of my treasured books. There is a reason why even the Almighty God put his thoughts down on paper in a book called the Bible.

Books have that much power. We travel through books and learn about life through books. Avoiding the culture of reading books is not very wise. It makes for very dull boys or girls. Most importantly, it makes for an ideologically bankrupt society.

‘Generational slogans’

So there was a buzz in my favourite city when some young politicians visited our Press Club last week. Bottom line is that there was a panel of them across the divide in front and a sizeable partisan one in the audience attempting to advance the idea of a generational consensus blah blah.

I could not really get the gist of what they really were about at first, but at the end of it, the meeting was really about pushing, albeit covertly, the idea of their preferred presidential candidate.

One senior gentleman did raise a pertinent point about the apparent lack of “class content” in their presentations.

He probably is a Marxist ideologue. Still, the message he was trying to convey was that the panel, save perhaps for one lady, had failed to initiate a critical discourse around what this generation wants beyond their slogans intended to push preferred candidates.

“Further, we shall continue to mobilise young people to register to vote and to vote for a leadership which understands our concern and has cutting edge solutions to our national problems. Such leadership is represented in the candidacy of …” one of the leaders of the general consensus movement Pride Mkono is quoted in an interview with our sister paper NewsDay.

Sound and fury

What I heard at the Press club meeting was really “sound and fury” to quote Shakespeare. I did not walk away from the meeting with a given cogent reason why the meeting should have even taken place. It was an underwhelming feeling.

These youths need to join Miss Vicky’s book club perhaps because the entire meeting was bereft of convincing debate around ideas outside the partisan mantras. Perhaps the youths do read, but maybe they are reading tweets on Twitter or messages on WhatsApp and that is a cause for concern.

Hashtag generation?

The hashtag: #generational consensus sounds good. But what do the youths stand for? What are their espoused values going forward given the socio-political context of this country and its difficult history? We need a crystallisation of those principles that eradicate the ogre of ethnic and political intolerance.

This generation must confront tribalism and ethnic mobilisation and mindless mantras or political slogans that engender sycophancy amongst other things. It seems to me that instead of pushing personalities, we must develop the habit of promoting merit and excellence.

Ours is a nation that requires more than anything, a culture shift in which ideas around the correct development trajectory are traded and interrogated. The top down one has not served us well … Why, if we believe our political ideas are worthy of implementation, are we not willing to subject them to the scrutiny they deserve? Labelling and violence is the default setting of our generation.

In my view, this behaviour is a relic of the ruling party’s idolatorous and intolerant political culture. Just how pervasive this malady is, is reflected in the political environment across the party divide.

Marketplace of ideas

We need a culture of ideas. We need our own Areopagus. The Greeks understood that thinking itself is a necessary discipline. They therefore produced the Aristotles and the Platos who have helped shape Western civilisation.

Of course, not everything about their works or Western civilisation is writ. But my point is that all social revolutions require a critical mass of thinkers and ideas. Enduring social transformation demands a transfusion of invincible ideals.

We must reach beyond the mere notion of a favoured individual’s candidacy. We need a culture of espousing life affirming normative values and principles around which to build vibrant societies.

Members of my ideal society must feel enabled and challenged to make a contribution to national development without discrimination based on ethnicity or political creed. Competence is vital as basic criteria for any position of responsibilty in business or public affairs. That is a cherished ideal for my nation going forward.

Point to ponder

There is of course the false dichotomy presented by political and even religious purveyors that we also have to deal with. I am neither for MDC nor Zanu or the hundred others! Political parties vanish with time but ideas transcend them. There is ample evidence of this reality in the history of France for example.

Napoleon hijacked the ideals of the French revolution to become emperor. European despots of the time reacted violently to the French revolution by restoring the old order of things; they could not wish liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism away. I am for a nation built on fundamental values of inclusivity, merit and social justice.

Thus, I must be about the cultural crucible in which the politics and other things ferment.

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