Philosophy and Violence in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe.

Author:Rutsviga, Alois


It is my argument that violence is not what the contemporary Zimbabweans believe it to be. For this reason Nietzsche once remarked that "man scarcely knows the drives that constantly propel him, their number and strength, their ebb and flow, their play and counter play, and, above all, the laws governing their nourishment remain unknown to him" (Golffing, 1956: 12). Hence I believe that the people of Zimbabwe are ignorant of the true nature and meaning of the notion of violence since in our time, violence has appeared the most common unknown drive which has hungrily manipulated our every state of affairs.

Therefore, the problem I seemingly identify is that in post-colonial Zimbabwe common sense understanding has distorted the concept of violence and covered it with a lot of myth, and hence the concept needs to be intellectually cleansed and defended. And the notion of violence needs to be demystified or demythologized through the analytic lens of the philosophies of Heraclitus and Parmenides. The intention of this study is not to gather as much information about violence as is possible but to sift through and establish the nature and scope of violence from a philosophical point of view.

Thus, this research is a philosophical consideration of the concept of violence in post-colonial Zimbabwe. I will first define and explain the two notions or concepts: violence and intellectual awareness. Then I will scientifically demonstrate that in post-colonial Zimbabwe violence is misunderstood and hence abused. Because it is abused, violence has become endemic and no one is immune. Violence is evidently abused and used to harm and destroy. Confusion, destruction, and disorder have become the order of Zimbabwean society and especially fuelled by the current desire for unlimited political power, a desire for wealth and pleasure (cf. CCJP 2009, Sachikonye 2011 and Kaulemu 2011). However, the work will proceed by critically reflecting on the people's experiences of error, distortion, and abuse on the reality of violence in post-colonial Zimbabwe through the conceptual analytic frameworks of Heraclitus and Parmenides. The choice is not random; their contribution to the subject on violence and human nature is of paramount importance to this work. They provide this work with a foundation and a theoretical framework. But a historical jump from ancient Greece to contemporary Zimbabwe can easily be identified and the jump needs rational justification. The jump will be rationally justified.

Definitions of the Notions of Violence and Intellectual Awareness

A notion is a word, an idea or an understanding of something (cf. Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, 2006). Brenan (1967: 690) argues that the term "violence" comes from the Latin term violentia, denoting great force or excessive force or constraint. Thus, violence is power, energy or force. Brenan (1967: 690) further notes that the first two meanings, 'great force' and 'excessive force', are taken from the perspective of an agent's activity, and the third meaning, 'constraint' is taken from that of a passive principle affected adversely by the activity of the agent. Thus, violence exists not as an agent but as an agent's intention and activity. The word, 'denoting' seemingly implies that violence is something that can be physically pointed at; violence exists in the physical order. May (1972: 42), like Brenan, also views violence as largely a physical event.

In line with Brenan, Hanks (1979) defines violence as both a noun and verb. As a noun violence means that which can exist; a possible being. What it means is that violence is a relative concept. It is power or ability to become. Violence thus, exists not on its own but exists in the other. It exists in the agent as a possession.

As a verb, 'violence' can also be defined as 'intensity, conduct or treatment or illegal use of force' (Hanks, 1979). The meaning of violence as an action answers the question about the manner or mode in which violence exists. As an action violence exists in the agent and as possession, violence becomes the agent's conduct; it is the agent's intentionality, behaviour or character (cf. May, 1972: 42ff). It is the agent that gives violence form or shape, and once it has form or shape, violence becomes what the agent intends. Hence it becomes possible now to answer the most confusing questions: Can violence kill people, cut people's hands or destroy people's houses? The answer is probably no! Violence probably neither destroys nor builds, but it is the agent who does both through the use of violence. There is an old adage that says: 'Violence in the hands of a barbarian destroys but in the hands of a civilised man it builds.' Tentatively, violence can be defined as a physical force or power, possessed by an agent, who can use it to build or to destroy. This view sounds rather controversial and discomforting, given that many people consider violence to be an evil without anything positive about it. However, the above analysis on violence is evidently the reason why I picked on Heraclitus and Parmenides as my conceptual analytic frameworks to assess violence in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

Awareness means having knowledge of something. It is an ability to perceive and to feel. It is the state or condition of being conscious, having knowledge or discernment of something (cf. Jonathan, 2012). Being conscious according to The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (2006: 294), means "noticing that something exists or is happening and realizing that it is important." The same dictionary defines consciousness as "the knowledge or understanding that something exists or is important" (Ibid). Intellectual means relating to the ability to think in an intelligent way and to understand things, especially difficult or complicated ideas and subjects (cf. Ibid). Thus, intellectual awareness may mean knowing things at the level of the intellect. It is a level higher than experience or common sense level. At intellectual awareness level beliefs on violence are rationally or critically examined, and information is transformed into knowledge (cf. Koehn, 2005).

Rational Justification of the Historical Jump

The historical jump from ancient Greece to contemporary Zimbabwe can easily be identified and the jump needs rational justification. Hence we ask: Why a jump from ancient Greek philosophy to post-colonial Zimbabwe? Why from the ancient figures, Heraclitus and Parmenides to Kaulemu and Mangena? Can Heraclitus and Parmenides teach and correct Kaulemu and Mangena? How can the teaching of the ancient age (Greece) have any influence or relevance for today? Barclay (1971: 27) critically condemns the jump and he argues thus: "No one could try to teach doctors today with Gallen and Hippocrates as their textbooks; no one could try to teach agriculture on the basis of Varro, or architecture on the basis of Vitruvius." Thus, ancient writers in other spheres are interesting; they are part of the history of their subject. But no one accepts them as authoritative for the life and living today. Why then accept ancient Greek philosophy?

In response, I may argue that externals can change while underlying principles remain the same. Take the case of buildings. There is a very great difference between the Pyramids of Egypt, the Vatican City of Rome and the Rainbow Towers of Harare. Externally, they historically look worlds apart, and yet underlying them all there are the same laws of architecture. Thus, the externals can be as different as can be; the underlying principle is the same. The philosophies of Heraclitus and Parmenides are not limited in space and time, but have transference value. Thus, the jump from ancient Greece to contemporary Zimbabwe is clearly historical but not philosophical. Philosophical principles are not space and time bound but metaphysical, that is, they hold true everywhere and at all times. Hence Ortega (cited in Bailie, 1995: 241) argues that once it began, philosophy never fundamentally changed, for it has the notion of violence as its necessary beginning, indeed, without which philosophy itself could not begin. Thus, the philosophies of change and permanence of Heraclitus and Parmenides respectively can reliably act as the well-spring of the Zimbabweans' understanding of the notion of violence.

Abuse of the Notion of Violence in Zimbabwe

That violence is misunderstood and hence abused or misused in Zimbabwe is common sense knowledge. By being misunderstood I mean that violence is taken as a negative and destructive word and by being abused or misused I mean that violence is used to cause harm or destruction. It is my submission that in Zimbabwe violence is understood as a negative concept and is used to harm and destroy.

Turning to the experiences of Zimbabweans with regard to the concept of violence, we are immediately confronted with a hard question: Can we go to the very root of the notion of violence in Zimbabwe and be free from it? The question is very important, for it reminds us that the issue of violence in Zimbabwe is not only ideal but requires further interrogation. For this reason, Regamey (1966: 45) argues: "Independently of any bad intention, violence is inevitable. It is inescapably bound up in the very nature of all human beings." The notion of violence is then an indispensable and inescapably enduring component of our human life through which we participate in Planet Earth. But it is interesting to note that in Zimbabwe, the notion of violence is not only erroneously associated with destruction but is destruction itself (cf. CCJP, 2009). Kaulemu (2010) acknowledges this fact when he argues:

The life of many Zimbabweans today, is unnecessarily characterised by fear emanating from different forms of personal, social and political violence. Domestic violence, abuse, rape, murder, car high-jacking, house robberies and organised social violence...

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