WAR IS NOT AN ANSWER
"If you get hold of MDC supporters, beat them until they are dead. Burn their farms and their workers' houses, then run away fast and we will then blame the burning of the workers' houses on the whites. Report to the police, because they are ours."
- Phillip Chiyangwa, Member of Parliament, Zimbabwe. (Addressing ZANU PF youth and filmed by Channel 4, UK.)
Terror engraved 11 September 2001 as yet another bloody date in the turbulent history of mankind. As the news spread around the world, so did the pain, because this was not a violation against one nation or one people but on the principles of respect for civilian life cherished by all people.
As I made my way home through the shock waves of that day, burdened with a disbelief that stunned my senses, I stopped at a shopping mall to return some videos I had borrowed. In the shop I found myself in a bizarre trance as I stared at the glossy images of violence and opulence that engulfed me. Shelf after shelf beckoned me to consume illusions of power, war, devastation, spite, blazing guns and contempt. I wondered, were these made to make us feel good?
This celluloid world that uses more gunpowder than any other non-military industry and where steroid heroes single-handedly vanquish evil, all of a sudden, inadvertently or not, made a mockery of everything that had happened that morning. I found myself speculating whether this "irreverent virtual entertainment" might have been the seed of the imagination in the audacious means of delivering wanton death and destruction whilst plotting that sinister act of infamy. Images real and imagined - Hollywood's staple - has never been more unpalatable.
As the ash and dust of the following day began to settle, it also brought with it a numbing silence as people contemplated and mourned atrocity's victims. Speaking to friends, it appeared that they felt immortality had been breached. The closer ones confided the fear that privilege and vulnerability were not exclusive.
Amongst these colleagues, these events triggered a sudden realisation that I had come from a place (Zimbabwe) where terror and fear are the daily diet for many. As I searched for differences, I was hard pressed to find any, besides the fact that nobody really paid any attention to our ongoing plight. The similarities though, are chilling:
1) Humanity's rights are despised and crushed to serve their own selfish agendas;
2) Their actions are calculated and ruthless to achieve their objectives;
3) They are manipulative and immune to reason;
4) While they are educated, law and order is not part of their vocabulary;
5) They feel they have the god-given right to accuse, judge and sentence whoever questions or opposes them;
6) More often than not they are motivated by hatred;
7) They spit at the idea of democracy.
Like this event, I cannot forget the brutality inflicted on the people of Matebeleland in the 1980s when Zimbabwe's elite forces were used to murder and maim thousands of civilians to silence their opposition to oppression and consolidate power for the ruling party. Nor too, today, how government inspired anarchy and violence is being used to hold Zimbabweans hostage to a desperate, archaic, corrupt and power hungry regime.
Witnessing the solidarity, courage and support of the victims in New York and Washington is an eye-opener to what has made this nation more than the sum of its parts. The damage control and cleaning-up exercises, totally dedicated rescue, medical teams and firemen and general public involvement are a tribute to mankind.
While it is only human to call for retaliation after experiencing the depth of this tragedy, day three saw the congealing of rage that in few cases spread onto the streets, as people of middle eastern descent went to ground. Herein lies the real tragedy for us - when ethnicity, race or religion is allotted the blame for the criminal acts of the misguided. This also exposes a double standard in a nation that is built on the cultural mosaic of its peoples. After the Oklahoma City bombing, did Caucasian people feel alienated and threatened because the perpetrator of that crime was white? Was Christianity under siege because of his beliefs?
Today and tomorrow see cries for war - as revenge, as exorcising the heart-felt anger, as a time to rid the world of evil - once and for all. There is baying for much blood and carnage from a populace who have the capacity and will to deliver the unfathomable. The problem is that the enemy is undefined, yet it seems that the powers that be feel that the window of political opportunity to strike with mighty force, commensurate to the occasion, might close soon.
While I believe the perpetrators should be punished, I fear that some nations and their many innocent civilians, might bear the brunt of a devastating reprisal to truly satisfy the notions of justice and revenge. As painful and enormous as this outrage is, it is not the time for anxiety and malice. While it is not a time for inaction, it is a time for reflection, calm, cooperative planning and coherent thought towards a long-lasting resolution. Because what this nation does, ultimately impacts the world. While nobody speaks openly about this, the idea of nuclear retribution should not even be entertained or we will forever have to answer to humanity.
I am not a fortuneteller and can only hope that the path chosen will not be regretted for generations to come. We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to create an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and respect for each other and for human life.
There are no easy decisions here, but war is not an answer.
It is in times like these when great leadership spreads its beacon of enlightenment further than the present and into the future, to guide and hold its people together in a sense of security and hope.
USA, 16 September 2001
For more information, contact:
Mr. Chaz Maviyane-Daview
About the Author
Mr. Chaz Maviyane-Davies runs a design studio in Harare, Zimbabwe (The Maviyane-Project). He is a prolific designer, film-maker, writer, lecturer, and juror with numerous awards, distinctions, and honors from around the world. Following studies in the United Kingdom he worked in Japan for several years.