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Sunday, December 9, 2007
To what extent is official patriotism a threat to Britain’s paradigm shift in Zimbabwe foreign policy?
by Hillary Kundishora
Patriotism has been a strategic response used by Post-colonial governments, whose legality and legitimacy is under threat from the opposition or political contestants. Zimbabwe is an inescapable case of an abuse of official patriotism, which raises ethical connotations, because the patriotism implies that “Motherland” however defined is a moral value or moral standard.
Official patriotism is an extreme belief because it implies that citizens should place the interests of the nation above their personal and group interests, and this sacrifice may extend to their own life (some kind of unethical and immoral blindness). From the days of Hitler to this day, troubled political parties and greedy individuals have used patriotism to hoodwink people because if patriotism is something modelled like nationalism, it raises morale and “mental blindness”.
After defining the threats that are posed by a certain political party, group of people, individuals and nations to the government, people are then hoodwinked to believe that they are in a state of war, which then justifies an illegal and un-announced state of emmergency. This would then make it permissible for people to fall over each other in surrendering their rights and strategic interests to the government in order to protect and fortify false national interests.
Leadership contestations will then be seen as rebelling against the "commander of the revolution"(Robert Mugabe) and in fact an anathema, because the ostensibly "spiritually-connected" leaders must be given a chance to drive the nation to a state of safety, which is never real, but just an illusion.
This was the base of fascism and racism during the time of Hitler. People were killed in thousands, (if not millions), economies run down, people beaten and torched to death in the name of "patriotism". All the catastrophic human losses, including welfare losses were then treated as collateral damage, a military term which does not clearly define the loss sufficient to justify a mission, a euphemism for rallying soldiers even for an immoral and unethical war.
People in Zimbabwe are being abused through propaganda appeals, which raise patriotic emotions, so that they continuously think that the “motherland” is under attack and the enemies are the MDC, EU, Britain, USA and Australia. A form of change in leadership is viewed as a direct ambivalent action to authority, not tolerated because the strategic interests of people are under threat, and anyone who dares raise the issue invites patriotic inspired scorn, if not death.
The lessons from the intensity of official patriotism in Zimbabwe are that it is a dangerous strategic instrument and those propagating it are in fact more dangerous to the people because it is used to abuse citizens, hurt them, kill them, torch their belongings and rape them, all in the name of sovereignty and affirmation to the motherland. The patriotic appeals to citizens are used to raise patriotic emotions in attacking political opponents and implicitly accusing them of betraying or “selling” the country.
The dilemma is that the opposition elements in Zimbabwe have failed to read the radar, on circumstances that play well in the hands of this dictatorial tool, possibly because the patriotic vacuum has already been “filled and privatized”, thus to some extent they then reject patriotic loyalty and pride because they feel excluded from the "national project" and see no reason to be proud of it. Dictators since time immemorial have abused patriotism to gain illegitimate and illegal reign over nations and Zimbabwe’s case is no exception.
Since the EU-Africa summit has occurred, with Zimbabwe’s attendance having dominated the pre-summit debate we should ask ourselves: “To what extent are we threatened by official patriotism?" Given that official patriotism in post-colonial Zimbabwe has been based on the purported threat to our sovereignty and nation, in this case from Prime Minister Brown (formerly from Prime Minister Blair). “To what extent are we caught in a patriotic paradox?"
My thesis is that after UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that he cannot locate global issues outside personalities by preferring to stay away from a strategic global event for the sake of the attendance by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe,I have questioned myself: “What is it that is informing this nonsensical behaviour?”, “What is the sense in all this public circus and nonsense?”
I have arrived at the understanding that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s actions can be summed up in a proverbial statement, “ Gordon Brown has thrown away the bath water together with the baby”.
The actions of Prime Minister Gordon Brown herald a new era of the escalation of the political stalemate. An attendance of the summit by him as the most senior representative of Britain would have symbolised seriousness and would have helped the summit meet its goal of building strategic partnerships between EU and Africa.
His sacrifice reflects a paradigm shift in the foreign policy in relation to the treatment they will offer to the Mugabe government. The sense in the Briton’s action is that there is more pressure coming, more sanctions to come and obviously new ways of directly confronting President Mugabe and his government.
What is at play is intense official patriotism, which has been used to justify foregoing important issues in order to achieve strategic goals for both leaders. Like soldiers in a war, Prime Minister Brown and President Mugabe are now caught up in a patriotic paradox, both acting within their strategic interests, with President Mugabe trying to muscle his way in his quest for life power retention and self-preservation while on the other hand Prime Minister Brown is trying to block President Mugabe’s unquenched appetite for power.
The celebration of a new democratic era in post-colonial Zimbabwe entails shattering and demystifying this patriotic myth and script. This gives a mammoth task to the opposition in Zimbabwe to continuously post an image of itself, in a nationalistic outlook in order to avoid falling prey to official patriotism (especially now towards elections) because war cries are already now being loudly heard: "The motherland is in danger!!” and this being a dictator's plea for citizenry patriotic emotions.
Hillary Kundishora is Scholar of Strategic management. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org