As the story was told to me, the intellectuals had joined the elite class in the country since its founding. To join this small band of elite citizens, one had to either be born into a well connected family or one had to go to school and become an educated person. Although the latter did not ensure one’s entry into the elite ruling class, it helped; sometimes a little bit of luck was required.
But as time went on, it was observed that the rich got richer and the educated got more educated. The children of the rich and educated got richer and more educated. Needless to say, they enjoyed tremendous privileges: They ran the government, commerce and all the major institutions. They organized and joined fraternal organizations and erected status symbols. They traveled abroad for business and leisure – all in all, they lived lavished lifestyles.
On the other hand, the plight of the uneducated, the underclass, got worse and worse. Their living conditions became more and more deplorable. Things that were once readily available were now getting scarcer and scarcer. It seemed, as the upper class was moving forward, the lower class, composed of the vast majority, was moving backward. Not only were they retrogressing, they were doing so at an alarmingly accelerated pace. At the rate things were going, they could literally imagine their own extinction. Yes, extinction was becoming a practical reality.
As has already been established, the poor had lived in deplorable conditions for so long, suffering had become an acceptable way of life. Yet as much as they had accepted poverty and seemingly embraced suffering, the one thing that scared the living day lights out of them was the fear of extinction. When a group of people stare the possibility of annihilation in the face, whether real or imagined, a new reality sets in. The natural urge is to fight back.
So one day, terribly afraid of this frightening fate, the underclass fought back. The underclass managed to accomplish its widest dream: They ran the elites out and became their own leaders. Now their fate was in their hands; they had become masters of their own destiny! How this did happen? Although I hate to bore my readers with the details of how it all transpired, I must share a few fascinating details as relayed to me.
One day, as the story goes, a young man who had traveled extensively and was considered by many as a natural leader, decided to take matters into his own hands. In the tradition of the great pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, he was going to rouse his people to action. They said he stood on a makeshift podium in the center of the capital and delivered a fiery speech inciting rebellion against the ruling class. He called on the “masses” or “majority” to take matters into their hands and stop being subservient and subordinate to the self-appointed elite.
Indeed, he is said to have quoted Thomas Paine who one said: “…a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason”. The underclass did not have a responsibility to obey custom.
“We must not allow them to kill us all. Their bad leadership decisions are killing us slowly while they just get fat on our labor. This ‘monkey work bamboo draw business must come to an end now!’ They can’t kill us unless we allow them to do so. Must we allow ourselves to die so they can continue to enjoy themselves? No. What we must do now is fight back. Let’s fight them. Let’s all join this fight and they can’t win, because we the people are the majority. We are the masses. Who made them our masters”, he asked?
“This new fight we shall call chimurenga or bongozozo.” When asked what these words meant, he simply said, “Everyone must fight”. According to eyewitnesses, his speech was so moving that everyone present could not resist the immediate urge to join a good fight, a fight to save his or her own life. The fight was on immediately! People took to the streets shouting, “Chimurenga! Bongozozo! Chimurenga! Bongozozo!” And before they knew what had happened, the system had gone through an instant metamorphosis!
Note: (“Chimurenga is a Shona word which means to fight or struggle. Traditionally, chimurenga or bongozozo is a fight in which everyone at hand participates. The word's modern interpretation has been extended to describe a struggle for human rights, political dignity and social justice,” Solomon Murungo) & Zambuko Projects, 2004)
The young activist was persuasive in letting his people know that they were doing nothing wrong by fighting for the right to survive; the alternative, as he told them was extinction. After all, he argued that it was only democratic for the masses to be in control of their own fate. Again it must be stressed that because of the huge disparities in the living conditions, it didn’t take too much to convince the foot soldiers.
Shortly after the charismatic leader delivered his fiery speech, the revolution was in full swing. The great crowd took to the streets chanting, “Chimurenga, bongozozo, chimurenga, bongozozo! This is our fight. Our time has come.” As word spread like wild fire, the crowds got larger and larger. They began to enter government offices and force the occupants out. They went to the nation’s Capitol and all the ministries as well as other offices of importance including the courts and simply took over. Many of the occupants, fearing for their lives, simply abandoned the offices and got lost, literally.
Of course while this was going on, other crowds went to the individual homes of the elite and occupied them as well. They helped themselves to the food and other available supplies, as they felt entitled to these things. They ate and drank and settled down to be merry. They drove the cars they found in the yards to run needed errands and there wasn’t much the actual owners could do. Everywhere was heard the chants, Chimurenga, bongozozo, chimurenga, bongozozo!”
Before long, there had been a coup; the government was overthrown in a bloodless maneuver. According to the story, the people said they sought no revenge against their oppressors, the intellectuals. All they wanted now was to run things and the intellectuals were free to stay and participate. But from now on the orders would be coming from a new direction. Many so-called intellectuals decided to stay – they simply changed their stripes and learned to dance to a new tune. After all, that seems to be one of the definitions of acquired learning: “To be able to adjust oneself comfortably to one’s immediate environment.” Many intellectuals simply closed their books and learned a new vocabulary; a new struggle for survival had just begun.
The group that made the transformation as easy and peaceful as has been described was the armed group. The soldiers, policemen, and other paramilitary groups associated themselves with the masses and joined the chimurenga. But they also acted to prevent chaos and bloodshed. They rescued individuals that were being mobbed and to their credit, there were only a few casualties, making the transformation relatively non-violent.
There were only a few casualties because hardly did anyone resist this new movement. Simply put, they were overwhelmed. The intellectuals and others members of the ruling class simply abandoned their homes and other properties and ran when they heard the revolutionary cries. A few greedy, stupid or ill-advised ones put up a fight; they were simply chased into the sea.
After the coup was announced successful, national
leaders emerged from the underclass and promised to
run the affairs of the country in a fair and equitable
way. They declared that there were enough resources
in the country to make the citizens live comfortable
lives. But it was urged that there would be no free rides. Everyone was encouraged to continue to work as hard as they had done under the past regimes, while the redistribution of wealth was sorted out.
In the end, the homes of the rich folks were returned to them. Their cars were returned as well, but no family was allowed to have more than one car. If a family had one car, it was free to keep it. On the other hand, if it had more than one vehicle, it was compelled to choose one and give up the others. Some were even “encouraged” to share their homes with new comrades. Fair?
Powerful chiefs from the interior and other local personalities from the various communities were brought in to man government ministries and other offices. Some of them were unlettered, but had proven track records of leadership in various spheres of life. All seemed to be working quite well as I observed. Some of the intellectuals and other members came back to work, but in subservient roles. Many of them were mainly advisors and there were checks and balances. Many others were clerks and interpreters. They made themselves useful in their learned craft. They were warned not to deceive.
I noticed an impressive calmness as the international community returned to work with the new government. I asked who the new president of the country was and they told me it was a former athlete of international fame. An illiterate fellow, they told me, but they loved him nevertheless. I was also told that the vice president was an international singing sensation. She had started out on the local level and gone on to become a star with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs before becoming an international star. Neither had any previous experience in politics or administration. But the people had spoken and one of the tenets of democracy was being tested in a real-life situation: “Government of the people, for the people and by the people”. I woke up and tried to make sense of this strange dream. Can anyone help me interpret it?