A confessed ponderer, Tinofireyi Zhou shares his cogitations on the subject of patriotism.
I have been accused of over-thinking. The problem, they say, is that I like to overly abstract on things without ever reaching a conclusion. I am still thinking about that. I like to think that the generation to which I belong has the rather dubious fortune of not having to shed blood for its own Nationhood. I like to think that we as a generation may not have to bear this ultimate patriotic act; death, as one would a cross on one’s shoulders. I like to think that this is what the countless generations that preceded us would have hoped, and may themselves have paid this ultimate price by way of blood to ensure that we, their descendents would never have to. I like to think all these things, but whether this is so, whether I may never have to take up arms to save a community or tract of land, or to secure one or other border, remains to be answered.
How patriotic are you?
It’s a complicated question this “Would you die for your country?” and I cant help but think of it only in its rhetorical sense, as a question that one cannot immediately solicit a one word answer for, like “Yes” or “No” or even “Maybe”, but of course not many years ago, young women and men no older than I am today had to answer this very question by a simple “Yes” or “No” for in this time a “maybe” would not suffice. My own sense of patriotism could be easily questioned. I imagine it ‘shaky’ at best. I, along with many others I know, like to enquire deeper into things, to question, and these are the very traits that Patriotism is against. One must not enquire further if one is a patriot. A question was posed to me in one of the countless forwarded messages that we receive.
How many of us count the number of impersonal messages that reach out to us on a daily basis? From friends and strangers, who themselves are simply performing their duty as mere receivers in an endless chain; passing a message on to other recipients in their contacts list. From the words of thought leaders to the random rants of downright idiots on the gigantic world wide web. Who can one blame when a random message masquerading as a positive force pops up in one’s inbox. In many cases forwarded messages are hardly read or understood. I know this because I too am guilty of the ‘pass-it-on’ syndrome that plagues modern society. What seems to always be understood though is the simple request that usually closes off these messages. “Please pass on this message to ten people you care about”.
Is patriotism waging war on minorities?
It is hard for me to describe what this message was trying to convey in its at one moment comedic banter- interrogating the idea of ‘Zimbabweaness’ satirically, and other times sprinkling biblical references here and there. Biblical references to a predominantly Christian nation will warrant deeper interrogation, there is an expectation of profundity on whatever the subject may be. Modern Zimbabwe, a nation built around the Christian faith, has an inbuilt respect for the bible. Anything with a biblical reference may be treated as a sacred cow in the bustling streets of Jaipur would. But it got worse, in its zealot-like stance, there was some bashing of ‘other’ religious beliefs.
The typical gay/lesbian-bashing rant, in this country where ‘the majority’ according to some unknown entity out there who has apparently recorded statistics, thereby making it official, that the majority of Zimbabweans are totally against gays, lesbians ‘and their money’. I imagine that this forwarded message was an open call to all Zimbabweans to take up arms against gays, lesbians, Muslims and anyone else who is not ‘part of the national plan’. I am a firm believer that holding opinions and beliefs is not wrong and all humanity should at least be allowed a voice. I am a firm believer however, that force-feeding one’s opinions onto another is wrong. I have difficulty navigating self righteous belief systems, proudly boasting of some ‘chosen-ness’ which no other nation can share in.
Questioning my patriotism
I questioned my patriotic beliefs, asked myself how far I would go in upholding national pride, in defending national pride in whatever way I can. There are no definite answers to questions around nationality. I may be patriotic but not to a point of blindly following. This is an interesting time for all Zimbabweans navigating uncharted territories. A vast number of Zimbabweans are having to navigate nationality from across borders, looking into their homelands from outside, as outsiders. For those who navigate this question as they stroll through Zimbabwean cities, parts of which they were previously not allowed to walk, it is an equally interesting time.
Tinofireyi Zhou aka Aero5ol is a Zimbabwean cultural artivist who uses the creative expressions of The Spoken Word, Writing/ Blogging and Street Art to capture and investigate the modern world’s everyday realities from a uniquely African perspective. Exploring topics and ideas based around the continent’s post-colonial surroundings, and informed by his own personal heritage, he aspires to reflect in his creative work, the historical and current societal landscape around him, from the hopelessness brought about by poverty and lack, to resilience, faith and an acute sense of people’s ability to aspire and dream.
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