Lend me your eyes… those who can read

So… the United Nations has revealed that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa (again!). While I am not surprised, I must admit that I hadn’t given this much thought in recent years… Like myself, sometime during the decade-long downward spiral into economic nothingness, people just decided to forget that the country was packed with a multitude of people who can not only read and write, but would put any young ASBO from Bristol to shame with their literary prowess… “So – you might ask – What’s your damn point? Why the unnecessary waffling? Get to it already”.. Well, a friend asked me what significance this literacy has – if any – and why the “smart” people of Zimbabwe are not using it to pull the country up… This question.. as with most, turned into a debate (or shall I search for a synonym and call it a “deliberation”) on whether there is a correlation between literary intelligence and socio-political and economic success….

…. I found myself (as often is the case) coming to the defense of Zimbabwe… I toyed with crossing the line into a barrage of ruling party propaganda on how my beloved country is the victim of a neo-colonial pseudo-paternalistic political game of squash (Yes, it’s all a game in my eyes) that prevents people from reaching their full potential – even though they can read food labels.. Then I realised just how close I had actually gone to suggesting that Zimbabweans (myself 101% included) were blameless…

So the question again: What have we done with our amazing (if not outright astonishing… there I go with the synonyms again!) literacy rate? The answer is really quite simple.. We have all gone and done the chicken run… Some of us have physically left the country, others have done so metaphorically. I’m no patriot and tend to steer clear of ballot boxes… I suspect there’s a phobia that I could google and use as an excuse, but I won’t. As much as I want my country of descent to prosper, I – like the millions of my fellow countryfolk “outside” the country – am rather self-serving. I want to prosper more… It’s selfish. I know.

So while the majority of us sit back and just watch the country decay – mostly on flat screens bought on credit – we leave the others, the ones that are cancerous parasites, to gobble up as much of the national pie as they can…. meanwhile, the rest of us are seemingly too complacent to want to fight the leeches or summon back those in the diaspora… We are ALL to blame…

Yet I like to think we can all at some stage come together and help our country prosper. We have the building blocks right before us, but simply don’t know what to do with them… instead of building a bridge (or a house for that matter) we are hawking off each brick to whoever is willing to pay… If in this brief analogy the letters C*H*I*N*A (in that order) flashed in your mind’s eye… then three points for you.. must be that literacy rate at work… We need to work towards utilizing what we have to benefit us – not only as individuals, but as a nation.

Let’s face it, we operate in a highly politicized neo-imperialistic world. We need more than just the ability to read to be able to survive and prosper. We need SPINE. We have a lot of work to do to rebuild what was once the regional bread basket. A lot of work. We’re moving slowly, but it can be done…

I have a dream – a Martin Luther King Jr kind of pragmatic idealistic dream – that one day African states’ representatives will be able to walk into the negotiating room and say “If you don’t meet such and such a demand we will NOT sell you our tobacco.. our tea.. our oranges.. our roses.. our chrome… our gold… our platinum… our diamonds… but never our souls”. We are just not there yet… Disappointingly, we are too used to being “politically insignificant” to realise that political strength in 2010 comes from economic strength {and despite what George W Bush might have made you believe during his 8year reign… being book smart helps too!}…

Please note that I am not completely disillusioned and appreciate that with the global political “playground” as it is, it’s unlikely that the intelligentsia of a “poor” Sub-Saharan African country will one day effect a paradigm shift some time after having their breakfast… but like I said: MLK Jr.

Thank you for lending me your eyes… you can have them back now.. and, if you’ll excuse me… I must go read.

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