Latest News Editor's Choice

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

Globally, the past three decades have seen a flourish of post-colonial theory and post-colonial thinking. These theories and thoughts have pretended to critique colonialism and its aftermaths, culturally and politically, with the underlying understanding that colonialism is "post," that is, a thing of the past. Post modernism too has pitched its projects on that modernity and modernisation have already happened, and that there is no need for major theories and ideologies, people can negotiate their place in life as individuals. In post-coloniality and post-modernism, slavery and colonialism can be studied and understood and their effects observed but they are no longer important influences in the world. The extremists among post modernists and post-colonialists have even come up with post-racism, a very silly belief that in the world race and racism no longer matter that much. In Africa, fortunately, Ali Mazrui popularised and powered the thinking that slavery and colonialism were "epochal" processes that had epic effects on the past, present and the future of Africans, and therefore simple political decolonisation could not end the effects of the legacy of imperialism. Contrary to Ali Mazrui's "epochal school", sadly, Jacob F Ade Ajayi of the Ibadan Nationalist school in Nigeria, advanced the "episodic school" that argued like post-colonialists and the post-modernists that slavery and colonialism were episodes and events that came and passed on. In South Africa, AfriForum and the Freedom Front, in typical post-colonial and episodic thinking, argue that, the white "born free," those whites that were born after 1994 should not be classified as beneficiaries of apartheid. But these young white people live and smell apartheid privilege. Post-colonialism, pos-modernism, post-racialism and the episodic school become nonsensical and mythical when we consider that beneficiaries of slavery, colonialism and apartheid still keep and enjoy their benefits and the privilege that grows out of them. Equally, the black "born free" in Africa still endures the effects of dispossession, marginalisation and impoverishment that structural imperialism has levied upon Africans. White "born free" youths are not free from the ill-gotten power and privilege that apartheid and colonialism gave them. The black "born free" youths are not liberated from the legacy of inequality, poverty and pain that the history of imperialism has occasioned. The idea of the "born free;" together with its theoretical foundations of post-coloniality, post-modernism and post-racialism are mythical ideas that conceal rather than reveal the way the world works.

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:

Shipping vehicles from UK to Zimbabwe for less
Source - sundaynews
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.