Opinion / Columnist
The born free and other dangerous myths
14 Aug 2016 at 13:17hrs | Views
It comes easy in Africa to call the young men and women born after political independence as the "born free" generation. What the nature of their freedom is, what they are free from, and what privilege if any that freedom delivers to them is scarcely discussed or understood. In the multiplicity of African countries, the so-called born free young men and women have carried themselves with political apathy, indifference to history, and most times immense cultural abandon characterised with brave if not reckless experimenting with culture and fashion.
To be "born free" has frequently been experienced and exercised by youths as liberty to think as an individual, to be bored by history and its baggage and to be cool and calm, away from the weighty matters of politics and ideologies. In being ahistorical and apolitical in manner and conduct, the so-called "born free" has become the most historical and political entity for the tragically wrong and also dangerous reasons. By way of example, 55 percent of the South African population is made of the so-called "born free" people. These people have embraced the South African protest culture with massive gusto but are largely apathetic to political organisations and the political habit of voting.
The few who belong to political parties are largely fiercely sceptical if not totally hostile to narratives such as the Black Consciousness Movement, nationalism, the history of the liberation movements and blackness itself. What in the Zimbabwe of the nineties were called the "nose brigade" in present South Africa are called "coconuts," young black people who believe that you can be black in skin and be white in everything that you choose, culture, language and mannerisms. The extremists among them go on to bleach their skin and carry out all sorts of militant ways of trying to be, in all things, white. In South Africa in particular and Africa at large, education systems and the entertainment media, and even the church have been found usable in producing and sustaining "born free" consciousness, mindsets, sensibility and culture. The South African Democratic Alliance, the white liberal and black fronted party is electorally richer today because the "born free" did not vote, and those of the generation who voted were too disgusted of the ANC and ashamed of the EFF to do anything but vote the DA. The "born free" is an unpredictable and dangerously careless entity. He or she may begin the political protest sensibly on that "Rhodes Must Fall" and the "Fees Must Fall," after which the biggest library with the richest archives in town goes up in flames in a struggle that destroys everything to build nothing in its place. Politically and socially the "born free" can be nihilist to the point of being suicidal. It is important to understand the "born free" phenomenon in history and theory.
Post-coloniality and Post-modernity
Looking at the Corpse
In most cultural traditions of Africa when new babies are born in the family, the young ones of the clan are nicely told, to protect their tender minds from the wilderness of adult life, that babies are bought from shops or picked up from trees like fruits. When family members die, the young ones are protected from the blow of death, the corpse is hidden from them and stories are told that the dead person actually went away on a long journey or was stolen by angels and will eventually come back. These fictions and myths are concocted and circulated to insulate innocent children from the ugliness and the pains of real life. The "born free" consciousness, mentality and sensibility belongs to such myths and fictions that are meant to insulate the simplistic and naïve native from the reality of what Noam Chomsky has described as "how the world works." Decolonial thinking and the theories and philosophies called decoloniality seek to explode the myths of post-colonial thinking and exhaust the fictions of post-modernism, and expire such fantasies as the idea of a "born free" in Africa. Decoloniality signals a farewell to political and philosophical v-rginity and innocence. In the real world, babies are born from adult sex and people die and they must be buried before they rot and smell. Decoloniality is at once a demythologisation and difictionalisation of the real world. The " born free," that baby who is supposed to remain innocent of the past, the ugly rape of history and the rotting corpse of the imperialised world must be exposed to the exact way in which the world works. In Africa, if decolonisation is to be taken further, schools, the media and the church, just as they should not be abused by post-colonial regimes, they should not continue to circulate myths and fictions that there is anything called a "born free" or that slavery and colonialism are done with us. We still live in the dangerous world of heavy ideologies, bad news that hide themselves behind good stories.
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena is a Zimbabwean academic who lives in Pretoria: email@example.com.
Source - sundaynews
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