Political parties strangle vision

2013-11-22 13:54

A luta continua...! Contra tribalismo! Contra ignorância! Contra analfabetismo!

Contra exploração! Contra superstição! Contra miséria! Contra fome! Contra....!

As I sit back in my chair, the words of Samora Machel, ring in my mind over and over again.

“The struggle continues! Against tribalism! Against Ignorance! Against illiteracy! Against exploitation! Against superstition! Against misery! Against hunger!...” Inciting anger, heartbreak, hope, passion...oh that roller coaster of emotions plunging into a pool... a pool where freedom could easily be stifled into subjection. Subjection to a system, to a culture, an ideology or perhaps subjection to the self, marred by myopia-tainted lenses and framed by an ill formed world view.

Inside of me, the urge to fight momentarily rises . Oh that tight fist yearns to rise and my skin itches for the earth coloured garb revolutionaries wore then...and now in some cases. Fight what, fight who, fight for how long?

Searching, seeking, on high alert...my antennas pick up a signal. It resembles something of a sonogram...a sonogram of an unbirthed vision. A vision men like Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, Ketumile Masire and others conceived. A vision I would like to believe men like Robert Mugabe near or far, hold to their hearts. A vision I hope at one point or another Jonasi Savimbi, Idi Amin, Moise Tshombe, Mobutu Seseseko envisaged, even for just but a fleeting moment.

Like all humans, visionary leaders are prone to death, incapacitation and the very unfortunate reality, fallibility. With strengths and weaknesses some rise, with strength and weaknesses some fall, with strengths and weaknesses their memory remains. From each one, in this moment I choose to draw lessons, that I may realise my own strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses of present society with the hope of drawing up a map to salvage the vision of a more equal society. A society that tolerates, yearns for knowledge and pursues wisdom. A society that never wearies of questions and questioning. A society that is not threatened by inquiry but embraces it as fuel to maturity. A society that is not afraid to show weakness and vulnerability for the purpose of acquiring help as opposed to concealing puss infested sores.

Looking back at the leaders, some of whom I would have rewound time to meet, some of whom I would rather history extinguished the memory of their existence, I wonder why against the backdrop of such remarkable history makers, we still speak of a struggle, a war, a battle...strife. Never at peace, always threatened by something or someone. Never truly free but always speaking as victims of some force, some system yet all man-made. Victims superior or inferior, rich or poor, black or white, privileged or deprived. Making decisions, governed by fear for the most part. Fear that this or that person may reject our views. Fear that this or that cluster may gain the favour of the beholder over us. Never comfortable in our own skin, our own vision...our own dream.

And therefore society deems it necessary to organise society for the purpose of governance, religion, economics and even for social cohesion. Social cohesion – organising organisations to organise society for the purpose of reminding one and all to play nice! One could almost fracture a rib from the humour implied by the failure of society to implement the most basic principle engrained in society’s very foundations... a discussion for another day. So society carries on, forming ideological clusters of all shapes sizes, some quite alluring to many a beholder while others resembling a stray page from a whimsical comic strip. All selling one vision or another, a few original, many recycled and I wonder...when are we going to bring these to book for plagiarism and copyright infringement?

While I am not the one to determine and bestow title upon hero or villain, I am inclined to think that Africa’s political parties on the greater part, strangulate the vision to eradicate ignorance, misery, tribalism, exploitation and illiteracy. Clipping the tentacles that hold together the vision of a cohesive society, where people generally play nice. Sowing division, quoting the same icons yet chide and aim jibe riddled missiles at one another. Political parties lose or win elections, along with them undesirable and desirable elements rise or fall. Political parties, concealing and legitimising vision stranglers, reducing true visionaries to talebearers in the guise of office bearers.

“Oh we did this, we are thinking of this and we will do that...!”

“A luta continua” it was for FRELIMO back then. “A luta continua” it remains in Mozambique now. "A luta continua", at peace and at war! Replaying an old record that many a Mozambican knows by heart. Singing a song  Samora Machel composed and perhaps adapted, that many an African has wearied of hearing. A song which like a matchstick, gives but a moment of light then dies for lack of fuel to ignite an enduring flame. A song echoed by the likes of Nelson Mandela, that many an African would bellow from the depths of their very soul, yet a song drenched by notes of melancholy for many. A song Patrice Lumumba,  Laurent Kabila inhaled to give way to death. All beautiful songs in the hands of the composer, yet renditions by choirs in the guise of political parties are often stripped of all artistic genius in the name of preserving the party. Parties turn real visionaries into trophies, lifelike bounty mounted on the wall. Brag-worthy memorabilia, artifacts reminding us what could be and could have been. When "movements" become parties, it seems on the greater part they become dormant, immobile vehicles purporting change under the command of touting politicians.

There is no denying political parties have brought change, positive change, negative change, small change and big change. While political parties are ideally vital for establishing some degree of the balance of power, in the hands of individuals with a second hand vision, they often prove to author the demise of the very society they seek to redeem. Structurally organised clusters seeking to be legitimised cost money to run, yet I wonder how many would forgo legitimisation by ballot and opt for legitimisation by societal consensus due to their work speaking for them.

Without much Mother Teresa won countless elections in my book and ruled over territory many a government would dare not tread upon.  Rough around the edges as he was, Che Guevarra (love or hate the man) momentarily ran Cuba  yet a political party and office became an inhibiting factor.  If the bulk of political parties resembled anything of the dictionary definition or better yet, their political manifesto in essence, then without much ado about nothing...let the partying continue! Alas, more often than not, all I am left with are the resounding words of that one great leader or the other long gone or ailing, along with one or two muffled voices from bodies still in action. Leaving me wondering, how far can the visions of what we regard as icons carry a nation...a continent forward especially where the vision bearer is a politicised body under the command of leaders with “a point to prove”. A cluster of individuals who gravitate towards each other because of ideology and less on realism? Why spend more on campaigning for political parties to be legitimised rather than  spend on society so it can be left to the majority to legitimise political parties based on their works?

I do not discount the fact that we are inspired by someone or something and so is our personal vision shaped. Neither do I believe a man should be an island but I believe one should formulate their own vision and work towards it, for living on a borrowed vision steers the ship in the wrong direction. Worse still, leaders with a distorted vision, visionless leaders more often than not turn into puppets or tyrants.

“A luta continua!”  Sweeping up arms to fight a battle, never picking up tools to erect the monuments of peace to signal the imminent victory against ignorance, misery, illiteracy, hunger and tribalism. Party – living up to the their name, giving a moment of pleasure by peddling ear-tickling promises that conceal the harrowing reality many a man or a woman confronts daily. Parties - spending on borrowing a voice to legitimise their desire to fulfil some vision while on the other hand, throttling the very vision in infancy.

“A luta contina...contra miséria!” The hearer then wonders, “against whose misery?”  Show me you know misery by living in my squalor! Show me you know misery, by living on less than R10 a day! Show me you know misery, by travelling to work on the metro every day! Show me you know misery by barely earning enough to save towards retirement let alone pay for medical aid! Show me you know misery, by sending your children to a school where no one cares to tell them 33% is not good enough, let alone return home in one piece physically and morally! Show me you know misery and understand what it is like to apply for a job and hope you get it on basis of competence rather than which side of the colour bar you fall! Show me you know misery and show me how to overcome it for myself! Or at least, show me you have not forgotten misery by forgoing luxury travel and accommodation and unnecessarily extravagant celebrations  so I can have a shot at a permanent address! Show me it is possible for me to fight my own battle against misery and that the vision does not rest the moment you walk away to rest in the confines of your walled fortress! Show me you live the vision you try to sell me! Show me it is truly yours, not borrowed, not recycled, not adapted, not coined to outdo the other, not a response to what so and so said or did, not a bid to merely seek legitimacy and to sound politically correct, not a parade to seek affirmation! Show me you own the vision and are willing to carry it to full term regardless of the office you hold!

My head reeling, I find myself in a furnace. Testing my own vision for fallacy that it may be tried over and over again till I see some semblance of me at the fore. In the background rests the cloud of witnesses, the greats who lived or died for their vision for me to own mine. Those who did not perceive nor aspire to someday, have their old socks auctioned but owned a vision that existed before falling into a cluster of institutionalised ideologies. Endeavouring that as an individual and perhaps many more, we may each formulate our own vision. When all of them become collated, that they may bring to completeness the mural that tells us the battle for survival is no more for life has come! That gentle hush that reassures... “To strive no more! To live forever more!”

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