I have a right to be wrong

There is something defiant and vulnerable about speaking one’s mind.

Defiant because we are often not forgiven if what we think is at odds with what others expect us to think. Vulnerable because people can only attack your ideas if they know what your ideas are.

Perhaps that’s why so many people succumb to the temptation of concealing what they really think to avoid being criticized.

And criticism hurts.

…I reserve the right to be wrong

I have just recently recovered from the smarting of a stinging attack on ideas I held two years ago which are contained in a YouTube video that was made by some High School kids I interacted with in the USA.

The video was posted on Facebook by someone I don’t know (although their name is familiar) and the backlash was instantaneous, unrelenting, venomous and vitriolic.

My ideas were attacked, shredded, pummeled, stomped on, spat at and dare I say, generously covered in all manner of verbalized excrement – all in a bid to voice just how disgusting my point of view was to most of them.

In the video I stated that I believed the land issue in Zimbabwe was a moral justice issue and that framing it as a political one and particularly framing it is a ‘Mugabe-is-the-problem’ one was advancing a narrative that was incomplete.

…it’s so safe to remain in the bud of ‘popular opinion’ because blossoming into a contrary way of thinking can make you an easy target

Given the audience I had availed to me and given that the conversation was an informal one the following flaws are evident:

i) my ideas were paraded naked as I spoke off the top of my head, ii) my ideas were presented in their raw and unprocessed state un-subjected to the rigors of research iii) my ideas were un-propped by facts and iv) my ideas rested precariously on the notoriously unreliable premise of broad, sweeping and overly simplified generalization v) my ideas were informed by a skewed and biased narrative on the unequal distribution of the land and consequent economic marginalization of the black majority.

In short – I was wrong.

In any event, I ended the conversation on a flippant note by drawing parallels between the Zimbabwean land narrative I had presented and the storyline of the film Avatar! because it occurred to me that the audience I was addressing would be able to relate.

This was in 2011.

I don’t know about you…BUT I celebrated when the blue creatures in Avatar won their planet/land back! And I would celebrate a similar triumph in a just and equitable land re-distribution in Zim!

I came back home and all but forgot about it, because conversations around the land rarely made it into the conversations I ordinarily engaged in.

 As I pointed out above – I am guilty of uttering several inaccuracies but inaccuracy is almost inevitable when offering an opinion or interpretation of historical events that you have no living memory of.

Reflecting on that video many months later when it came up in a class discussion during my Masters’ studies in the UK; I realized how much of what I said was what I had heard incessantly in the public media.

It occurred to me that my recollections of the history of land dispossession in Zimbabwe was part of a broader public and institutionalized narrative of the nation’s past – a narrative that advanced the political interests of ZANU PF at a time when it faced overwhelming opposition.

…studying for my MA taught me how to confront my wrongness and challenge my assumptions

I began to think of why there had been no alternative discourse – no rebuttal – no disputation – no challenge and almost no counter narrative.

I began to think of how the media influenced what I remembered and how I remembered it and about the framing of the land narrative.

I began to think of how I could challenge this obviously biased telling of the nation’s past when (a) I had no living memory of those events (b) I was part of the ‘born-free’ generation and (c) I never fought in any war and when my ignorance deprived me of the capacity to create an alternative narrative.

It was with these preoccupations and frustrations that I later went on to write my MA dissertation on the framing of collective memory in Zimbabwe’s post-independent generation who – like me – were either too young to remember or had not even been born at independence.

I still maintain that the issue of the land is as much about  JUSTICE as it is about anything else but there is a lot that I would amend from the views I put forward in the YouTube video that has come back to haunt me in recent weeks.

I don’t suffer from belief perseverance…In case you’re wondering what it is – belief perseverance is a tendency to cling to ideas even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.

It is a great source of relief that I do not suffer from belief perseverance. I have never asked for anyone’s permission to hold an independent thought, I just do. In a blog post, when I stopped to think about it, I asked why do we “beg” to differ? Why can’t we just differ?

In the political conversations that I have been privy to, belief perseverance appears to be an ailment that afflicts many Zimbabweans.

But I suppose it is to be expected when you live in a country where the political conversation is monopolized by ideological bullies who will take it as an attack on their person – equivalent to the mentioning of their mothers’ unmentionables – if you happen to hold a different point of view. 

I don’t mind having my ideas attacked. I may not like it and it may not be a pleasant experience but if my ideas hold no merit and are un-constructive then they should be attacked.

…I’m going to get things wrong every now and again; but I won’t let that stop me from cultivating my mind

But attacking me personally is an entirely different proposition because when I’m provoked I don’t think my silence is a gift I should bequeath to me provoker.

I resist being bullied and maintain that I have a right to believe what I wish and to express it whilst retaining the right to change my mind about any stance I take.

In other words, I have a right to be wrong.

And when I am wrong, you have a right to point it out but that right does not afford anyone the luxury of hurling insults at me.

I once remarked in a blog post I wrote about Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo titled a woman who said something important:

Sometimes even when what we have to say is wrong… if it is important – it will get a reaction precisely because its wrongness points to what is right.

I think with regards the YouTube video – I must have said something important if the backlash is anything to go by. For all its wrongness, perhaps it forms a premise to have conversation about what could be right.

With hindsight, my MA dissertation did just that – it unpacked the fallacies I once held as fact and granted illumination upon those narratives I once held as gospel truth.

“it’s very dangerous to have a fixed idea. A person with a fixed idea will always find some way of convincing himself in the end that he is right” ― Atle Selberg

When it counts, I enjoy being my own critic – it eases the sting of hearing it from others whose dissension often comes laced with malice and marinated in venomous diction that seeks not to counter my view but to demean my person.

Anyway. There are no hard feelings.

I recently did an inventory of all my vital organs and precious body parts following the thorough cyber-bashing that my good name and person were subjected to on account of the views I expressed in the aforementioned video – I am delighted to inform you that I am still intact. Thank God, criticism is not life-threatening; I may well have been staring at death’s door.

It is said we have to live today by what truths we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.

Today I let my thoughts roam naked and be prepared tomorrow to point out the flaws, the stretchmarks, the unsightly cellulite and the blemishes on the surface of those nude ideas.

I don’t fear having my voice drowned by the hysterical disapproval of others because it is impossible to drown the voice of a writer.

Besides, when I write… who can shut me up?


10 thoughts on “I have a right to be wrong

  1. Look back at your footsteps in life
    and be glad they took you there,
    wherever you find yourself.
    Without them you’d never have got anywhere
    and probably never have known as accurately as you do now
    that wherever it is you find yourself,
    is or is not a good place to be.

    By me.
    See how your story has inspired the poet in me! Lol

  2. Denny says:

    Yeesh. My one great boon in life is that very few of my opinions are documented. God help me if I were ever to become a public figure! Because I have few inhibitions when it comes to stating what I think (or even just showing what I think through my very expressive face), but I’ve had to change my mind several times on minor and major issues over the years. In addition, the more I learn, the more ignorant I know myself to be. A wise person would probably have their mouth sewn shut forever. But I’m not wise – I’m idealistic – and often struggle to suppress my opinions. They bubble out of me at the slightest provocation; the tenderest prod makes them explode. So I’m learning to educate myself more about issues I know I can’t shut up about. I’m also learning that there are situations when other people are more clued up so it is better to let them speak before you, so you can use what they’ve said to bolster your point. This way I minimise the risk of putting my foot in it.

  3. itsdelta says:

    Lolest….yeah I hear you. But putting your foot in it is inevitable when you’re opinionated and feel strongly about something. I am beginning to tamper my opinionatedness by pursuing a life in academics where every argument must have a premise and must allow for the possibility that one is wrong. But you live and you learn.

  4. Mziwandile Ndlovu says:

    Very powerful piece. I had sight of the said video though I never fully understood all the dynamics around the controversy. I actually thought it was recent. Welcome to Zimbabwe, where everything is viewed with polarized political lenses. It becomes even worse when a Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition functionary is known to have uttered what some people believe is taboo in our sector. But you are not alone. I don’t know if you have changed your opinions but I agree with some of their sentiment. I believe in the ideals of land reform. While I am saddened by the human rights issues around the manner in which the land reform was done, I celebrate the fact that prime agricultural land has moved into the hands on native black Zimbabweans like me. More importantly, despite these human rights sensitivities, I believe the land reform should not be reversed. We should only do a land audit and dispossess those greedy black natives so as to share equitably with their needy kinsmen. The land is ours and it should remain so. There is also no reason why our poor African governments should pay a dime of compensation for land that was forcibly seized form our forefathers in the first place. If anything, the racist colonial regimes should compensate us, the descendants of the natives they pushed off the land. It was not a human rights issue when they pushed them off the land decades ago. Why should it be a human rights issue now when we mandatorily expropriate our God-given land without compensation. Like you I do not hide my opinions. I put them on these public platforms and the fact that I work for a civic organization should not hinder me from thinking the way I do.

  5. You have a right to your opinions regardless of whatever anyone can and will say. It’s quite unfortunate that people refuse to accept that views will not always agree… diversity is needed.

  6. Saw the FB post and I am disappointed. I am disappointed at the levels of uniformed polarizatrion displayed by the comments on that post. Outside her views on land (which she is entitled to) Delta is being attacked because she is a woman. its really sad that the bulk of the comments are comming from notable Civic Society Leaders whom we expect to employ a great leverage for tolerance of opinion. The struggle for any form of liberty/democratization of Zimbabwe is not about Mugabe and it will never be..we are fighting a system and judging from the responses in question I think we need to get rid of some elements – those who find linking everything about Zim’s democractic, land, economic and other challenges to Mugabe financially lucrative.so much such that they choose to be blinded by their hate of one individual.

  7. […] having established in my post from yesterday that I have a right to be wrong – this post is about continuing a conversation around the emotive land […]

  8. McDonald says:

    Powerful staff Delta, am adding the “right to be wrong” to my arsenal of rights. I am happy that criticism brings out the best in you – thats a good thing, because others just give up, cant admit where they were right or wrong and that opinions can change, but even if they don’t – we are allowed to have them, and they should be tolerated and those with differing opinions should be able to engage them in a mature fashion that shows that people can disagree without becoming disagreeable. I noted Nyasha Sengais sentiments – and they touched me – because those of us, who are in “organised civil society” and are at the forefront of advocating for tolerance, difference, and a better standard, are often the ones that are at the forefront of spewing obcernities, engaging in intolerant conduct, and have no respect for opinions of others that may be different from ours. Its unfortunate, that based on those that she saw comment, an entire sector is then brandished – but, unfortunately thats the way it is sometimes, in the same way that someone took your comments from 2 years ago, and made them by association, the comments of a the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. I guess it really is true, that sometimes those fighting for freedom, are no different from those they are fighting, because they have not seen a different way of doing business – and even in their pursuits, they perpetuate the very ills they are fighting, becoming the disease they are trying to cure, becoming the animal they are trying to kill.

    But…I am inspired, let me not take up your valuable space here, after all I have my own blog, for my own thoughts, which no doubt, someone will pick from in the future and try to trash me with what i said there. But who cares – I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE WRONG.

  9. What a well written piece Delta. I admire your courage to speak your mind. We need such brave and unapologetic voices if we are to move forward as a nation. Keep up the good work of stiring debate. All the best in your new endeavour. Alluta continua!!!!

  10. Sharon says:

    You know what, I watched the video and enjoyed every bit of it. So what if you were just stating things from your own perspective. Is it not your God given right? Thank God it was you, cause I assure you if it were me, I wouldn’t bother apologizing. We are different people and we have our own opinions. So whats the big deal if my opinions are different from yours? You go girl and don’t be intimidated.

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