Elliot Ziwira At The Bookstore
According to Lacan (1973) in “The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III”, neurosis is deeper than a specific condition, but assumes the form of “legible” delusion that is structured like a language.
Because of its impact on the psyche, corruption is a kind of disease (neurosis) that is not curable, in the sense that it is a condition that is lived, and relived; generation-after-generation, thus becoming an intricate social system, (Lacan, 1973:45).
Stories in “Hunting in Foreign Lands and Other Stories” (2010), edited by Muchadei Alex Nyota, Barbra Chiedza Manyarara and Rosemary Moyana, are set in Zimbabwe, the UK, United States of America, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region as well as Asian and Arab countries.
This multiplicity of hunting grounds shows the extent to which the prey at home has depleted and how desperation forces hunters, both female and male to look beyond their own landscape.
The stories are also divided into sections to capture how neurosis affects hunters and their families, in preparation for the hunt, the journey, the hunting itself and the home front.
Anxiety, despondency, desperation, disturbing thoughts, fantasising and cynicism, obsession; all aspects of neurosis postulated by Boeree (2002) afflict hunters and their families, as new gods assume their roles in a replay of the scramble for minerals synonymous with colonialism.
Deception, avarice, oppression, materialism, corruption, opportunism and selfishness become the order of the day, as brother turns against brother in a new race that has no medals for second place.
The different neuroses that ensue, destroy familial ties and reflect the paralysis and malaise of the national discourse.
Though not limited to it, “Hunting in Foreign Lands and Other Stories” depicts the extent to which corruption as a vice can reduce an entire nation to a basket case of abject poverty, suffering and disillusionment.
Corruption is as destructive as it is obsessive, addictive and oppressive, and leads to the creation of complexes and cults; and in the end, it becomes a culture.
Scratch my back and I will scratch yours, becomes the way to go.
In the end, one will always believe that one has to pay or be paid to get or offer a service, which shouldn’t be charged or paid for.
According to Transparency Ethiopia, corruption has “political, economic and social effects”, (Transparency Ethiopia, 2015).
The political intolerance and economic meltdown that graft causes manifest in a collapsed social system as is illuminated in the following:
In the social sphere, corruption discourages people to work together or the common good.
Frustration and general apathy among the public result in weak civil society.
Demanding and paying bribes becomes a tradition.
It also results in social inequality and weakened gap between the rich and poor, civil strife, increased poverty and lack of basic needs like food, water and drugs, jealousy, hatred and insecurity, (Ibid, 2015).
The Bible is contemptuous of corruption in Isaiah 1v4: Ah, sinful nation a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evil doers, sons who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord; They have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
Corruption therefore, is a vice that impacts negatively on the national psyche.
It is a form of neurosis that has far-reaching consequences as it involves everyone; directly or indirectly.
Desperate to go to the Diaspora, individuals are willing to part with any amount, as is the case in Aaron Mupondi’s “Conned”, and “My Mother’s Beads” by Barbra Manyarara. When something becomes a culture, it involves everyone, consciously or subconsciously.
In “Conned”, Tendai is so desperate to go to London that he is prepared to do whatever it takes to get a visa, and in the end he is conned.
Because of a desperate desire to change his family’s lifestyle and extricate himself from debt, the protagonist lowers his guard, and sees opportunity in a stranger.
Because corruption is an intricate web, he is caught up in it, and he loses Z$2 million.
Conmen are confidence tricksters who thrive on the knowledge that society has been accustomed to shortcuts availed through corruption.
In the end it is not only the perpetrators or instigators of graft who suffer the psychological trauma that comes with it, but their innocent family members as well.
Tendai’s family suffers more as his depression does not only distance himself from his wife and children, but it kills their dream, aggravating the malaise of the family unit.
Manyarara’s “My Mother’s Beads” also examines how the preparation for hunting is as nerve-wrecking as the hunting itself, leaving individuals hopeless and frustrated.
The narrator’s mother, Gogo, is despondent because she has not seen her children who left for the Diaspora, in ten years and have since married and have children of their own.
Her gripe is that in four attempts, she fails to secure a UK visa despite the fact that her daughter provides all that is required.
The deeper Gogo sinks into depression, the more she drags her family into it.
As has been said earlier on, corruption thrives on desperation, and because it is a form of social neurosis it affects everyone.
Unlike Tendai in “Conned”, who starts with shortcuts and loses, Gogo’s family decides to follow the proper channels and they still lose, until they give in to the vice, and agree that they “needed to annex the help of a cousin who “knew’ someone”, (Munyarara, 2010:12).
Corruption, like quicksand, has a way of pulling in people, and in the end, it is society that loses. Corruption in high places is the worst form of neurosis, for it involves custodians of societal mores and values.
The wise say that a fish rots from the head first.
Stories that purvey corruption in high places and how it causes malaise, paralysis, jealousy, deceit, enmity, hatred and abject poverty are: Barbara Manyarara’s “Femmes Sans Frontieres”, as well as “Fire Fighting”, “Tauya’s Arrival” and “Name Any Price” by Ruby Mangosvongwe.
When those higher up in the political and social echelons are rotten to the core, then the contagious malignant disease spreads to everyone because they are linked to everyone’s source of livelihood.
Senior civil servants or Government officials should be the vanguards of good governance and accountability because they are entrusted with the national cake which everyone needs for sustenance.
But the tendency in a neurotic society is to use that position of influence for personal gain and expediency at the expense of the majority, thus widening the gap between the rich and poor which weakens civil society.
In “Femmes Sans Frontieres”, Manyarara highlights the destructive nature of corruption on the psyche leading to social neurosis in the same way that Magosvongwe does in “Fire Fighting” and “Name Any Price”, as the hunt for material gains intensifies.
The protagonist in Manyarara’s story Ruzai Makiwa is caught up in a drug dealing syndicate whose powerbrokers are nameless powerful dons.
Told in the first person voice the story examines how petty pilferage can degenerate into a neurotic obsession that knows no bounds. The narrator’s portrayal exposes the void that exist in a society that puts so much trust in personality cults, whose traits they scantly understand, as well as oppression in all its forms; physical, emotional and psychological.
Though she is oppressed physically, emotionally and psychologically, Ruzai is not innocent in this whole scheme. She finds a way of getting back at the society that places the burden of single motherhood on her shoulders. Her own neurosis comes from past hurts; her escape behavior through alcohol, sex and pilferage drags not only her children in, but the society in its entirety.
Her “regressive hallucination”, as postulated by Spivak (1967:275), causes the hallucination of a whole generation, nay generations, because she deals in hard drugs sourced from the SADC region, Asia and the Middle East, thus society suffers through a combination of greed, selfishness, individualism and outright disregard of ethos.
Such is the nature of corruption in high places, it sacrifices individual integrity.
She knows, just like her son does, that dealing in hard drugs is dealing in death, but she cannot extricate herself from the vicious web. As others die through the drugs that she is trafficking, and society is paralysed with the neuroses of drugged youths, men and women, the narrator and her family suffer even more.
The narrator’s father in “Fire-Fighting” keeps “trunk loads of diamonds, rhino horns, gold and most shocking of all were the three trunk loads of the green backs and British pounds,” (Magosvongwe, 2010:92).
In a country where everyone else is wallowing in abject poverty, this is rather obscene, yet he has the guts to call himself a patriot and boasts: “I fought for this country. If I don’t reward myself handsomely, no one else will. I am not any exception. Everyone is doing it. Here there, everywhere. Only a fool can let the golden opportunities pass him by…” (Ibid:93).
There is no sense of accountability or remorse in his tone. He is not wrong because “everyone is doing it”. He is untouchable because “he fought for this country”, so he feels that he has every right to amass wealth without giving a hoot to the consequences of his actions on the vulnerable and weak.
This is what the nation has been reduced to, because of neurosis in both literal and metaphorical senses as new gods arise in the wake of speedy gravy trains and the rush for material gain.