The Law of Unintended Consequences: America's Blessing in Disguise to Zimbabwe
Hello friends. Today I want to reflect on the law of unintended consequences and how it can be understood as a blessing in disguise. For those of you who love to engage in the debate Evolution vs. Creation (or Intelligent Design), you will see that my introductory statement uses language that is applicable to both fields. The "law of unintended consequences" sounds very much much like the big bang theory of evolution, while "blessing in disguise" sounds so religious or biblical, if you will. Who ever imagined that evolution and creation can be spoken of in the same breath? Or that evolution can be religious? Or better still; that evolution and creation need not be mutually exclusive!!!
Dear reader, if I have already bored you to death with my philosophical introduction above, I ask that you take courage and brace up for more boring stuff below. Of course you know that I am joking, but unfortunately, this is the only time you will laugh at my attempt to crack a little humor, but judging by my introduction, you can tell that I am certainly not endowed with a sense of humor. And yet if you will just be patient with me, I could entice you with the suggestion that I am trying to do magic here. The magic is that, I want to convince you that that my boring style of writing can actually be humorous! I am talking about the law of unintended consequences and how America's actions have actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe. Alright, alright, I know you are saying, Pastor Munya, just get on with it; hit the nail on the head; we do not have all day.
Anyway, let me offer some apologies ahead of time, if what I am going to say here will not be all there is to say. These are just my reflections meant to generate more reflections and more reflections.
To begin with, let me refer you to my last blog which I wrote a millenia ago when I was an ape; before I evolved to be, oh well, an ape living in an American zoo, somewhere in the USA. Now, don't rush to judge me. Did you honestly think I was going to say that I evolved into a homo sapien? Well, i wish I would say that, but I cannot do that on two accounts: First, I am a Christian and so I do not believe that humans are the upgraded version of chimpanzees, never mind that some of us do look very much like them. Secondly, as a Diasporan, I cannot say that I have evolved from ape to human, considering that I come from Africa where all apes evolved from, but my daily experience in the western world makes me feel like I am not yet human; it is truly a survival of the fittest. Oh, did I just touch some raw nerves?
Whew! Forgive me once again. I had started to refer to my last blog. In that blog, I used the analogy of a glass of water, whose contents are halfway empty. I then used this analoty to illustrate how we view life. I pointed out that it has been said that a person who describes the contents of that glass as half empty is one who has a tendency to have a negative, pessimistic, and diffident attitude towards life. This person is always surrounded with negative energy and is likely to find fault even with an angel. But the person who describes the contents of the glass as half full is one who is positive, optimistic and confident about life. This person is so full of positive energy that if we are to use a little hyperbole, we could say he/she can hired as a lawyer to defend Satan and he will be declared ot guilty.
Why do I start with this analogy? I do this in order to demonstrate that one thing that might be meant to be negative can actually turn out to be positive, depending on how you choose to look at it. Some things begin to make a lot more sense when we look at them through heaven's eyes. For those of us who grew up in Zimbabwe's countryside - the Strong Rural Background (SRBs) like me - we all know how you proposed that village girl under the muhacha tree, behind that chikomo. She had pimples all over her face, and her hair was permed with cooking oil and a stone (the salon chemicals and technology of the day). The young man took a bath only once a week, going around in pants that have patches all over. But the letters that were exchanged between these two can make Romeo and Juliet green with envy. In spite of her huge pimples, sweat smelling armpits, he told her that she was the most beautiful woman he knew. To her, he was her sugar, her chipondamoyo. So, what makes an ugly girl to one man look so beautiful to another man? It is a matter of perspective. A perspective informed by love and faith.
This is what I am trying to say friends. I am talking about the law of unintended consequences and America's blessing to Zimbabwe.
In Romans 8:28, the Bible tells us that all things work together for the good of those who are called according to God's purpose. The best Bible story that illustrates this truth is that of Joseph; the young so of Jacob, for whom he made a coat of many colors. The boy had huge dreams. And he did not hesitate to share them with his family! But his brothers did not like his dreams, partly because he used to report them to their father for their misdeeds, and partly because he, ah well, young brothers just should not have dreams of ruling their older brothers. Especially if those brothers are from dad's other wives! And especially since Joseph's mother was his father's love of his life.
Joseph came from what we might call today, a dysfunctional family. If you think that as an African, it is bad to be (mis)treated as closer to the mountain gorillas of the Congo forests than to humans of Hollywood, then you must listen to Joseph's story. And although human evil manifests itself in many ways of which these past couple of centuries, it has been race and ethnicity, the truth is that it manifests in many other forms, of which the oldest is family sibling rivalry. Think of Cain and Abel. In Joseph's case, it was his own brothers that tried to kill him and then decided to sell him into slavery. His experience in slavery was what some describe as "half orange-half lemon. One minute he was all successful and getting all sorts of promotions, another minute his boss's insane wife was seducing him to be her "small house." Yes, women have small houses too. Joseph ended up in jail. For refusing to do what others would lose their limbs trying to get!!!
The law of unintended consequences is a blessing in disguise! Joseph's brothers intended for him to die or to spend the rest of his life as a slave. And Potiphar's wife intended for him to be hanged by lying that he had tried to sexually assault her. But what all of them intended for evil, God used for the good. It was Josph's economic strategy in the Diaspora that saved them from a total economic meltdown, leading into hunger and famine. It was Joseph's econimic principles that made Egypt an economic powerhouse, a major exporter of grain, to which his murderous brothers came to find food for survival. These blessings were the unintended consequences by all the evil people that Joseph ever met in his life.
Now, dear reader, I am sure your eyes are becoming weary. You must be saying to yourself, oh pastor, what a wickedly clever preacher you are for intending to preach the message about blessings in disguise by talking about America's blessing in disguise to Zimbabwe! I am not even going to attempt to deny it. How can I deny it since you have caught me so red-handed. But notice, if you caught me, then you are the one who is wickedly clever. At least I am not that clever because I am going to finish the rest of the story.
What is it that America intended which turned out to be a blessing in disguise? Since year 2000, Zimbabwe was plugged with many politically triggered economic problems. Many different theories have been given to explain the causes of the economic malaise, with President Mugabe and Zanu-PF as the chief criminals. Of course, Mugabe and Zanu-PF have stubbornly countered their accusers charges by insisting that it's the sanctions imposed by America and Britain that have dented our economy like a small car that was smashed by a bulldozer or a freighttrain. Dear reader, you should listen to a typical debate about Zimbabwe's economy and what has caused it to be that way. I have never seen a time when more consipiracy theories were spinned than when Zimbabweans debate about this matter.
Whew! I have enjoyed writing about this topic so much that I keep drifting off topic. However, for your sake and mine, dear patient reader, I want to conclude this matter. What are the American intentions that turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe? Well, I have two suggestions. But please forgive me for the last time dear reader, to mention another blessing in disguise; at least, I did not plan on including this one. The blessing of asylum seeking. Yes, never mind that asylum feels like the being in a zoo; being a public spectacle. You know those animals in the zoo? They are good for watching and throwing left overs at and also musing at their eccentricity. But hey, for me the SRB, it is far much better being in the jungles of London and New York, suffering under the new laws of civilized animals (or homo sapiens) than the rain and mosquito infested forests of Honde Valley. What Mugabe intended as dictatorial misrule turned out to be a blessing for many of us. We who never dreamed that we would reach the shores of England are now so blessed to be in its womb. Do not underestimate the law of unintended consequences; not all good gifts come in nice-looking packages.
Anyhow, if the Zimbabwe economic malaise and whatever its causes has resulted in opening up "privileges" for many to go into the diaspora, how have those who remained back home benefitted? I suggest that there are two ways this whole matter has been a blessing in disguise.
First of all, the Wikileaks!!! What a blessing dear friends, what a big blessing. What a unifier! If our people have learned or should learn a lesson from the Wikileaks at all, it's that we should not wash our dirty linen in public. We should not, as our wise ancestors say, we should not open our armpits to show strangers what is in them. I am sure all Zimbabweans who went to the American officials thinking that their secrets are hidden have learned, with the eggs of shame splattered all over their faces, that a westerner has no secret, especially if it can help them accomplish what they want. However, while all of us are handing towels to our friends with shame to wipe away the egg, let us not forget the blessing that the Wikileaks have brought to us.
For the first time, we Zimbabweans, and perhaps the rest of Africa, have the rare opportunity of taking a long look at our history and putting our act together. I have always insisted, rather controversially, that Africa's biggest curse is the problem of selling out fellow brothers and sisters or fellow citizens to foreigners. Since the days of slavery, Africa's main problem has been to take their brothers and sisters to the World Trade Center and barter them for any western privileges they need. This practice has continued all through colonial times. After colonial times, our new leaders were like serfs, the caretakers of western bounty in our lands. But this new era of "removing dictators" has issued a new paradigm for African sellouts. It is the oppressed who are now the new sellouts. The opposition parties only need to go all over western countries, doing what Africans have done for centuries, selling their birthrights (African resources) and selling out their brothers and sisters (those whom they oppose). Some have even campaigned for sanctions!!! To fix their own brothers and sisters!!! And the Americans and other foreigners only act on what they are told, whether it is true or false.
Now, thank God for Wikileaks. If the Americans are just as thankful that they do not have to be blamed for meddling in world affairs because people approach them asking for help - that is another thing. But I think we as Zimbabweans ought to be very thankful that those among us who Nicodemously go into American embassies selling out on their fellow citizens have now learned that it is best to settle our own affairs because the alien will spill the beans. To me, Wikileaks is a blessing in disguise because for the first time, we can all be united and find ways of working together in spite of our differences. We do not have to waste time running off to the foreigner to cry to them how things are so bad back home. Unity is strength and a people who are united can do anything they wish. Jesus Christ said, a kingdom that is divided within itself cannot stand. Wikileaks, which was intended to create angst and shame among us, can be a rallying point for unity. We can now all look back to the years of the locust in which our economic development ground to a halt because we could not talk to each other and we can correct them by now talking with each other. The mutorwa will let us down be telling our secrets in public to shame us.
The second blessing in disguise that I think has come to us through wrong American intentions is the blessing of self-dependence and self-determination. This blessing has come as a result of sanctions, especially the American one called the Zimbabwe Economic and Democratic Recovery Act (ZIDERA). The sanctions law virtually makes it hard if not impossible for Zimbabwe do engage in meaningful international trade. It was meant to drive our economy to its knees and backed by a section of our own people, the intended result was that Zimbabweans will vote for candidates that are liked by Americans in order for our country's resources to be connected to western capital, ostensibly for our "own good." For years and years we were told that we need wetern capital to survive. Those who impose sanctions on us have a belief that without them, we can never survive. And to their credit, there have been so many among us who believed it. And more so, looking at how our economy took a nose dive and how the inflation shot through the skies; for a moment, the theory that we need western capital to survive had so much credence. And then one year turned into two, and two multiplied to four, and by the time we were in the sixth year, Zimbabweans who did not take advantage of the blessing of asylum seeking, got used to the "poverty" back home. They did not miss the westerner anymore. The law of unintended consequences started taking effect. The apes start evolving, from walking on four legs to upright position. Zimbabweans simply stood up to be counted. With coordination from those that had gone into the diaspora, they eked out a life from the debri of economic collapse they had witnessed. Like butterflies evolving from the coccoons of their former caterpillar status, Zimbabweans grew wings. Now they only fly and they keep flying. Those who were meant to suffer under the yoke of sanctions have discovered their identity. What better lesson to learn in life than to know that in this world, God is the guarantor of life. Like Joseph to whom his brothers intended evil; that young man about whom they said, "lets kill him and see what happens to his dreams," Zimbabweans have found a way of surviving.
But these blessings in disguise have taught us to be a people of character. A people who learn to resolve our own problems together, rather than run overseas and be exposed through Wikileaks. A people who learn to adapt to the challenges of our own environment and find ways of surviving with our God-given resources. Necessity is the mother of all invention. New ideas of survival are now emerging from within our borders.
Like Joseph in the Bible, we cannot be bitter against our American brothers and sisters. We can stand up and look them in the eye and say, "the sanctions you meant for evil, God has turned them for good." We have now learned to do things on our own. Yes, we are not quite there, but to learn to fend for ourselves is the best blessing imaginable on earth. The more I think about this, the more I am starting to wonder if our leaders should stop the anti-sanctions rhetoric and focus more on what we can do on our own.
These are just reflections... I have been thinking aloud brothers and sisters. But even if you do not agree with my political perspectives, do not forget that this blog post might benefit you in ways I did not intend. For every negative, there is a positive. It is my prayer that you too my friend will pray to God to show you how negative circumstances in your life will be a blessing in disguise, even though, you might be saying to yourself, "alright pastor, you used very weird illustrations to make your point." God bless you.
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