Sunday, April 1, 2007

Beyond the Chutzpah Award

My understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe has come primarily from the half hour of television news I get from the BBC by virtue of an agreement they have with PBS. This has not been an easy job for the BBC, since Mugabe's government has prohibited them from entering the country. So all dispatches are filed from Johannesburg with minimal comment about sources (most likely in the interest of the safety of those sources). The American media have not given this story that much attention. As almost always seems to be the case with news from Africa, it just keeps getting bumped down the priority list by other stories. However, the seriousness of the story was brought home to me when my Chutzpah of the Week Award managed to garner the most interesting comment I have received since starting this blog (not that I have received very many).

The comment came from the Reverend Mufaro Stig Hove, who seems to be making a committed effort to bring the Zimbabwe affair into the blogosphere, however, the media may choose to handle it. He found my own post through a Google Alert (which, hopefully, will not imply that I am going to start "going soft" on Google!). Under the "handle" of The Radical Mindset!, I found fourteen blogs on the subject; and the URL for one of them, "THE ZIM FINAL PUSH" is included in his comment. Like the BBC, he appears to be working out of South Africa (Cape Town in his case). I have no way to estimate the level of risk that the BBC is taking in their activities, but I have a gut feeling that the risks for Reverend Hove are much greater. So far I have only examined the "FINAL PUSH" blog. It is one monster of a Web page; and, with all the security checks that Firefox now performs, it takes forever to load. "Labor of love" is probably not the right turn of phrase; it would be better to say that this is a serious "labor of commitment" (however much that word may have become devalued by "the America way of romance"). When I compare what I am doing with what Reverend Hove is doing, I can only think of Marx' final "Feuerbach Thesis" (number XI):

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.

Yes, my own focus (in both the blogosphere and the "real world") has always been on interpreting; and I shall be the first to admit that this is the safer road to travel. Reverend Hove is more concerned with the road of change because, in his context, that is the necessary choice; and I have to admire him for making it.

For my part I have already tried to explain why I like to issue my Chutzpah of the Week awards. That "safer road" is a crowded place. That means that it can often make for a might chorus of indignation, but one of the factors that makes evil so banal is its capacity for oblivion to shame. In other words it does not matter how loud the chorus is if the ears are deaf. So in my own campaign I have tried to invoke ridicule as an alternative to indignation, and there is no better target for ridicule than brazen acts of chutzpah. Mugabe's he-asked-for-it justification of his beating of Tsvangirai immediately reminded me of one of my favorite "working definitions" of chutzpah: The man who kills both of his parents in cold blood, enters a plea of guilty, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the ground that he is an orphan. When my own modest acts of ridicule are of any use to Revered Hove's more serious efforts is strictly for Reverend Hove to decide, but at least I can take a bit of comfort in knowing that there are some ways to interpret the world that have a sharp edge to them!

Meanwhile, if we are to go by today's news from Al Jazeera English (another one of the better sources for these matters), Reverend Hove still has a way to go on his road. However, there is at least one judge who (to paraphrase that pornography ruling again) knows brutality when he sees it:

Nine opposition activists due to be charged with attempted murder and illegal weapons possession in Harare all required medical attention for injuries sustained in custody, according to doctors.

One activist collapsed in the courthouse and the judge agreed to adjourn Saturday's hearing and allow them to get medical treatment, officials said.

The detainees were taken to private medical facilities under police guard.

One probably still has to inquire about the nature of both the "private medical facilities" and the police guard; but it least it was good to see a judge who was willing to take the verb "stand" literally in the phrase "stand trial!"

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