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?

Let your life be your own fault

People who don’t know me well often think I am reckless, those who know me better think I’m courageous and those who really know me; have long resigned themselves to the fact that I will always do precisely what I want to do.

And sometimes the precise thing that I want to do also happens to be the wrong thing to do so my close friends usually express their disapproval, give me warnings and then dutifully step aside because when all is said and done – Delta is going to do what Delta wants to do.

My life is almost always entirely my own fault, whatever goes right and whatever goes wrong can be traced back to a decision I made or neglected to make.

…you can’t learn from your mistakes if you won’t even own up to them

But I am neither courageous nor particularly reckless; I am just someone who lives life by making a risk assessment that I have dubbed ‘the worst case scenario’.

I think I started to live that way after I lost my parents and realized that I would have to largely depend on myself to figure out what to do in times of crisis, confusion or uncertainty.

The end result has been a life lived full of errors, trailed by the nasty consequences of bad choices for which no one can take the blame except myself and invaluable lessons for which no one can take credit except myself.

In any event, I taught myself to never do anything whose price I am unprepared or unwilling or incapable of paying.

If I am going to do something I know is wrong, I ask myself ‘what is the worst possible outcome of this decision’, I ask myself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen if I decide to do this very wrong thing that I so badly want to do’.

If I figure out what the very worst thing that can happen is, then I ask myself, ‘if this worst thing possible happened, would I be able to live with it?’

If my answer is yes, then I will go ahead and do the thing that I know is wrong that I so badly want to do.

If I know that I cannot afford to pay the price for an action because the ‘worst case scenario’ is something I am unable to absorb; then I just quit and let the thing pass.

In other words, I live my life by pushing the moral envelope; by taking every choice to its extremities and avoiding the murky shades of grey.

I must be as aware of the wrong choices that I make as I am of the right ones and as accountable for the bad decisions I take as I am for the good ones.

If you’re unprepared to face the consequences of a given course of action – then don’t pursue it.

Someone once noted that the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are often one and the same.

Congratulations on whatever good choices you’ve made in your life and big up to you for the right decisions you’ve opted for along the way… but for the wrong choices and for the bad decisions; I hope you take full responsibility – there are far too many people who simply refuse to acknowledge their mess.

Don’t be one of them. You don’t own your life until you ‘own’ your mistakes.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts”.