Free Zimbabwe 1

Post #26, 13.1 miles into the marathon that is “52 Mondays.”  Most marathoners take their split at the midway point, begin self-assessing how everything is going, and often make adjustments to the pre-race plan.

Well, how is everything going?  Mom likes the blog and says dad would be proud.  That’s more than enough motivation to continue running, I mean writing.

Thanks to the detailed and insightful feedback of a much more experienced and knowledgeable blogger, I am going to make several changes to 52 Mondays, the majority of which will take awhile to implement because of my technical limitations.  Hopefully, I’ll launch a “new and improved” site by the end of the year.  One immediate change is not writing more, but in the interest of shortening my posts, posting mid-week on occasion.  

Transition 1.  A few weeks ago I told a friend of mine at work who oversees our First Year Program that I might create a new writing seminar based upon the positive psychology/happiness studies literature.  I think 18-19 year olds are at the perfect age to seriously explore what’s most important to them and how they want to live their adult lives.  My friend’s response was hilarious because I could tell he was trying to mask his gut reaction.  It was as if I had punched him in the gut.  This is what I read into his squeamish smile, “Are you kidding me?  I can’t believe you’re not just lending credence to that fluff, but you’re considering subjecting unsuspecting students to it too?”

His preconceived notions about positive psychology probably parallel many people’s thoughts when they hear the word “wellness.”  In contrast to a phrase like “social justice,” “wellness” conjures up images of people sitting in a circle, sharing their feeeeelings about all sorts of personal issues, and then sharing a group hug before going out to drink white wine together.

Social justice. . . Che Guevara, in your face street protests, dark beer, youthful, U2, cigarettes, piercings, tats, levis, birkenstocks.  Wellness. . . Oprah, group therapy, strawberry lemonade, middle-aged, Enya, vitamins, pleated Dockers, Topsiders.

So given that baggage, why the subtitle, “Wellness writ-large week-by-week?”  Because I don’t think about wellness as a watered-down version or weak alternative to social justice.  In my thinking, it should incorporate political well-being and be edgier and more substantive than people expect.

Transition 2.  Free Zimbabwe.

In the spring of 1990, while teaching in Ethiopia, L and I spent the week of spring break traveling throughout Zimbabwe.  We were amazed by how excellent the roads, hotels, and housing were, especially in the cities.  Quality of life in Kenya was much higher than in Ethiopia and the quality of life in Zimbabwe was much higher than in Kenya.  Among other highlights, it was awe-inspiring to hear the roar of Victoria Falls from a few miles away and then stand near its edge soaked by the mist.  As suggested, we rented bikes and road over to the Zambian side for an even better view of the falls.  We also visited an artists’ cooperative and bought a beautiful soapstone statue from the artist who made it.  Like in most sub-Saharan countries, there were pictures of Mugabe everywhere.  Even during this golden age of Zimbabwe’s development, some of our guides were critical of his leadership.  Also, one day on a Harare sidewalk, we saw a member of the security forces clubbing a person who had allegedly committed a petty crime.  Still, despite that disturbing scene and the criticisms of Mugabe, we had no clue of the tragedy that lied ahead.

Since then, Mugabe, age 84, has single-mindedly focused on maintaining his grip on power at the expense of everything else.  As a result, no citizens in any country on the planet have experienced a more precipitous drop in quality of life over the last ten years.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the pace and extent of the cataclysm is unprecedented in world history.  In the last few weeks and months, Mugabe has ignored the results of an election he lost and vowed to ignore the results of the “runoff.”  His henchmen have killed at least 86 opposition politicians, illegally detained 2,000, injured and maimed 10,000, and internally displaced 200,000.  Mugabe can match credentials with any dictator on the planet, yet he flies under the radar because the U.S. and other western powers don’t think of Southern Africa as important and Zimbabwe doesn’t export oil.  To make it into George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” you have to be located in a strategically important place and/or have natural resources the West is dependent upon.

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