No to patriotism without criticism

LONDON - It has become a common tendency to describe those who criticise the government as unpatriotic.

In response to my article last week blaming the government for the predicament of our immigrants in South Africa, one commentator somewhat interpreted such criticism as self-hate by Africans.

Such people subscribe to a notion of patriotism that does not brook criticism of black governments. Any criticism amounts to self-loathing and lack of patriotism.

It is the same charge that is levelled against this newspaper. Because it has dared expose the decadence of a black government, it is, therefore, unpatriotic.

This brand of patriotism enjoins us to collective blindness to the self-induced post-colonial maladies.

Because our rulers fought against colonialism, they should be above criticism.

This is a brand of patriotism we must reject.

If anything, critics of the government might even be more patriotic than their detractors.

It is the bootlickers, instead, who, for their own individual advantages, have done more harm to this country.

It is these grovellers, who have sold their souls, who have failed to tell truth to power.

To reject criticism of the current conditions and pull out the “patriotism” card is simply to try to preserve the status quo.

But who, in their right mind, among the generality of citizens would honestly want to maintain the current conditions?

It cannot be self-hating and unpatriotic to question a system that benefits a few, fails to provide lack of clean water, regular electricity supplies, and is responsible for ever-crumbling service delivery, unemployment, repression and so on.

True patriots would say: “We have failed; people are suffering, we must change course. ” But in the warped thinking of the “patriots”, there is, in fact, cause for celebration because so far things have been good.

Whoever said patriotism is the last refuge for scoundrels was correct. And we, unfortunately, have more than our fair share of these.

These scoundrels and their media also think that it is fine for someone, in a presumably free Zimbabwe, to “disappear” from the face of the earth, without trace, because he is a “nobody”.

A political movement cannot gloat about liberating people when citizens are subjected to the authoritarianism from which they promised to be liberating us. Now, multitudes have left their home country for foreign lands, even danger from murderous hosts does make most want to return.

Didymus Mutasa once said something to the effect that it did not matter if Zanu PF ruled a few after this mass migration.

He and company, now out of Zanu PF, have realised, rather late, that people should always come first.

President Robert Mugabe had assumed that all of us would worship him and his colleagues eternally for “liberating” us. This meant unqualified support any criticism would constitute ingratitude.

When people began to question post-colonial realities and organise themselves around grievances, Zanu PF was quick to tell us, no, we were not thinking for ourselves; it was the West or former colonisers thinking for us.

Until today, despite the intolerable conditions before us, it is the former colonisers thinking for us, we the brainless.

Yet the same government prides itself in producing the most literate and educated people in Africa, unless this education is not producing independent-minded, critical thinkers.

We must reject the idea of patriotism without criticism.

As Mark Twain said, patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it. He was right; to love my country does not mean I should automatically love my government.

I should be able to love my country and still love justice, equality and fairness. And a government that trumps these values should not count on my loyalty.

That does not make me unpatriotic.

Edward Abbey was more to the point: a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

It is bootlickers instead who have failed to defend this country against the Zanu PF government.

    Comments (1)

    vabaya gudo nemukanwa chaimo. hapana chokwadi chinopfuura apa.

    heavy - 28 April 2015

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