Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

God's Chosen Country

My recent post, That Good, Red Dirt..., received an excellent response from Oju Kemenyi and I quote from it as follows:

Remember that your idyllic existence came at a cost. Whether of course that price was worth paying as long as famine was avoided is a question for another day, another place....and for the Zimbabwean people themselves.

I am glad that Oju has pointed this out. My skimming over certain political and other matters in this and other posts on Zimbabwe has been quite deliberate yet does make it seem that I am not aware of them. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have avoided politics in these posts purely because I did not wish to stir up old animosities and misunderstandings.

Now I find that I can no longer keep silent. Oju's comment has made me realize that a story only partly told is not the whole truth. And an earlier comment by Dillon has brought to mind the tale of a man who paid with his life for the politics of Zimbabwe. It needs to be told and I cannot do so without looking at those politics. I shall attempt this in a later post but, in the meantime, I want to explain why this is so difficult for me.

To my mind and taste, the best writer of the 20th Century was a German fellow by the name of Gunter Grass. An award should also be given to his translator into English because, between the two of them, they produced literature of the highest order. Grass is probably most remembered for his first novel, The Tin Drum, which dealt with his feelings regarding his youth in Nazi Germany. Many of his later works center on the guilt feelings that pervade German literature of his era, understandably so.

To some extent, anything that I write of Zimbabwe must contain an element of a lesser yet still noticeable guilt similar to that felt by Herr Grass. In my youth I lived in a country that was the pariah of the world, hated and reviled by all except the even more detestable South Africa. It would be easy for me to disown all guilt, claiming, with truth, that I was too young to have done anything about it. But that would be to acquiesce in the general consensus on the matter; to accept, along with some of the truths, the many misconceptions and blatant lies that form a part of that consensus. I owe Zimbabwe more than that.

In another post, Louis Trichardt, I made a statement that none of my commenters picked up on: that Zimbabwe was "God's chosen country". That is how we felt about it in those days when I was a student hitch-hiking to university and back. Without exception, the Zimbabwean students that I knew at university would all comment upon the enormous relief of tension they felt as they crossed over the South African border and were back in Zimbabwe. It was God's chosen country because it was devoid of that racial tension that so marred the atmosphere in South Africa.

Of all the countries in Africa, Zimbabwe had the best chance of developing into a truly multiracial society. And it stayed that way throughout the 1960s, only degenerating into hatred as politics became a matter of life and death in the 1970s. That may have been largely a result of the patience and goodwill of the indigenous population but it was a fact nevertheless. We were heading in the right direction before foreign politicians demanded a rate of change that we knew would destroy what had been building for so long. A new generation of white Zimbabweans was growing up with a full understanding of how the races must work together or perish apart. But political pressure from outside and the corresponding resistance of the white settlers led to a polarization that ultimately tore the country apart.

Maybe that was always going to happen; perhaps that bright hope we had in the sixties was a false dawn that could never arrive. It would have been good to be left alone to try for it, however.

There is much that I have said up there that is open to attack from all sorts of quarters. This is the fight that I have avoided all along, the deluge of preconceived notions, the avalanche of empty slogans, misconception piled upon misunderstanding. I know the arguments; bring them on. As a white Zimbabwean, I have heard them all my life.

But let me just say this first: I was there, I lived it. Can you say the same?



I haven't lived it and only read it, In many ways we have come a long way in many places, but we still have a long way to go. Thank you for telling us about the first hand experiance
Date Added: 09/11/2005

I haven't lived it and I wasn't there (though you probably guessed that by the fact that i wasnt born).
Recently i have spent a fair ammount of time looking at the way the european nations treated natives of the countries they 'discovered' Most of the time i am apalled, however, there are also many stories of incredible acts of bravery and generosity from both sides to suggest that the occupiers and the indigenous peoples usually had a high regard for human life no matter the colour of the skin. Of course i am focussed on Australia and the attrocities that were visited on the Aborigines and not the far , far off land of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I do find it interesting though that the world has NEVER turned its attention to Australia and condemned them (and indeed the UK) for their treatment of the indigenous people here. It is estimated that when the white man came to Australia there were approximately 300,000 natives calling the place home. In 1995 that number was placed at approx 20,000 (draw your own conclusions). I have visited (briefly from the safety of a vehicle ( dont want to mingle with the natives wot!)) the areas that the natives live in. Now the white Australian will tell you that they are gven houses, schools etc, and i will confirm this is true. However, the houses and schools that they have we would not deem fit for habitation. Would you place your children, in 30+ degree heat in a school with no air conditioning? A school that has 2 classrooms to service all age groups? And this is happening here daily. It shocks me to my very core as, coming from the motherland, i have watched a nation tear itself apart, relinquish its values and slowly eroded by diversifying to accept all cultures without hatred. The UK, i have to say, is not the hotbed of religious, political or racist tension that seems to be prevalent throughout the ex colonies and/or euope. Before i left for sunier climes i always thought it a shame that back home we had school signs in multiple languages, that some English children were being taught gudjeratti (excuse spelling) or that religious assemblies had been banned due to religious sensitivity. Now i applaud the moves, they have removed the barriers for generations of children to grow up mindful of cultures and free of racial/religious prejudice. Maybe, by being left alone Australian societies will integrate in the way you believed Zimbabwes would. I hope so. Still, on the plus side, if the rest of the world had not meddled in the affairs of Zimbabwe they would have robbed me of my best friend and that would be most galling. Wouldnt the world be a much better placeif we all just got along???? Remember: Eat Pig, it will solve all your problems
Date Added: 09/11/2005

Gone Away
Oh, don't worry, Janus, I have plenty more to bore you with. This was just an introduction! :D
Date Added: 09/11/2005

Gone Away
You're a gentleman and a scholar, Keef (no, that's not an insult - it's a compliment!). Once again you make a comment deeply considered and insightful. And what a good point you make in that there might never have been the alliance of the two musketeers, Keef and Mad, if things had been different. It reminds me of something I heard during one of the radio broadcasts of Nik Kershaw's visit to Zimbabwe. He and a Zimbabwean friend were at the Victoria Falls and looking at the statue of David Livingstone that stands there. Nik asked his friend whether it bothered him that the first white explorer of Zimbabwe should be commemorated in that way. The other replied, in those gorgeously deep and rich tones of Africa: "Oh, he wasn't so so bad. After all, he made you met me!"
Date Added: 09/11/2005

what a lovely comment by the 'blackfella' (as they say here).
Date Added: 09/11/2005

Gone Away
Yes, Keef; it shows a degree of understanding that was way above Nik Kershaw, I think. ;)
Date Added: 09/11/2005

Hello Gone, What wonderful heartfelt comments you make. I hope those silly people with their misconceptions don't annoy you. Anyway you have first hand experience they don't. I really appreciated your sentiments. Most people living in a land not the country of their birth have many negative comments to make. You on the other hand have given a personal account of your feelings and the politics of the time and have given us a true picture of 'your' country. Your love for Zimbabwe shines through. ps I know Bryce Courtenay only writes novels but wow they hit home. Glenni
Date Added: 10/11/2005

Gone Away
Thanks, Glenni. :)
Date Added: 10/11/2005

Phil Dillon
Clive Thanks for the wonderful start that I'm confident will be filled with insights we who live far from Zimbabwe need to see. I see the tragedy unfolding there and have great difficulty coming to grips with it. I'm sure it must be much more difficult for you to see the things unfolding in "God's Country" as well.
Date Added: 10/11/2005

Gone Away
Too difficult, Phil. Over the last twenty years I have tried to avoid hearing about the dreadful things happening in the once-happy land of Zimbabwe. Inevitable, I have heard enough to make me sad and angry that the country that raised me has been so ravaged by a few men's greed and ruthlessness. I do not want to sort out my feelings on the whole thing but it seems I must; the responsibility weighs heavily on me now.
Date Added: 10/11/2005

I'm working my way from the recent to the past, except for one post at the start. I skipped the next to last and went to this one sure that it would be a comment on the American habit of thinking of their country as "God's Own Chosen". Perhaps you have already commented on America and religion and I'll find that post later. If not, I'd love to hear what your observations and comments are.
Date Added: 13/11/2005

Gone Away
I'm following you, Isay, trying to keep up with your comments and answer them! ;)

I have written a post on religion in America: Pontification and a Vineyard. Looking forward to your comment on that one too... ;)
Date Added: 13/11/2005

multiculturism only works if everyone sees and respects all the races living in that particular area as equal human beings .THIS IS NOT THE CASE and NEVER WAS in zimbabwe as Clive Allen is trying to suggest. we've also lived the life ,born in an independant zimbabwe ,the white race saw themselves as more equal than others although academic records don't show the same.although i dont support the manner in which the whole political scenario towards other races is in ,i feel the triggers were tolerated by other races for a very long time until they said enough is enough.i would like to ask Clive Allen how many black friends he had in Zimbabwe and what he personally did to promote multiculturism
Date Added: 14/07/2006

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