‘MMM Culture’ and the African worldview: A match made in hell (2)
In 1998, 18 years after emerging from Rhodesian apartheid rule, Zimbabwe was at a crossroads. One of the key promises of the Chimurenga (Liberation War) was that expropriated land held by wealthy farming descendants of Rhodesian colonists would be returned to its rightful owners. Expectedly, the land holders were doing everything in their power to filibuster land redistribution which had been encoded in the Lancaster House Agreement that ended the Chimurenga. With a restive rural population of smallholders and war veterans to deal with, President Robert Mugabe’ administration was at a crossroads.
They could try to find a solution somewhere at the junction of policy and international diplomacy to force a peaceful resolution and restart the land redistribution process, or they could put together a package of palliative measures to pacify restive war vets and buy some more time to fix the country’s basic underlying racial economic imbalance. Neither of these two options would bolster Mugabe’s political credentials as a liberation war hero, so his government took the MMM way out.
African interpretations of Christianity and Islam in particular encourage the pernicious idea that you can divorce cause from effect if you just ‘believe’ hard enough
What started as an isolated land squatting campaign by war vets on isolated white-owned farmland suddenly became a nationwide campaign of chaotic land seizures as Mugabe ordered the police and military to stand down. For about five minutes, he was probably the only Head of State in the world with an approval rating approaching 100 percent, as Zimbabweans suffering from the same MMM virus revelled in their victory over the white oppressors. At last, they had their land back! What followed is a case study in what always follows the initial euphoria of MMM culture-motivated actions.
Within a decade, Zimbabwe was reduced to a pauper state accepting food aid from Malawi, with the sort of ridiculous hyperinflation that only modern Venezuelans or middle-aged ex-Yugoslavians would understand. Trade and economic sanctions coupled with a lack of access to pretty much any international capital turned the sweet victory over whitey into a bitter, pyrrhic one. An estimated 18 percent of the population was forced to emigrate, finding their way to the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and across the border into South Africa.
Today, apart from bone-headed government policy, MMM culture across the continent manifests itself chiefly as a slavish devotion to superstition and religion. Sometimes it is South African churchgoers eating grass. Other times it is Nigerian Christianity, Islam, traditional religion and kidnapping forming an unlikely nexus in search of alleged powers conferred by ritual human sacrifice. Most recently, it is bald men being murdered in Malawi based on a belief that their heads harbour gold. A growing number of Africans seem determined to posthumously vindicate the views of an English colonial racist, about our ability to perceive the world and interact with the mechanism of cause and effect.
Breaking free from ‘MMM Culture’
At the root of all manifestations of this diseased worldview is a firm belief that it is possible to get something out of nothing, or that it is possible to repeat the same actions ad-infinitum and somehow get different results at some point. In other words, MMM culture rests on the basic belief that the basic universal principle of cause and effect can be disrupted. African interpretations of Christianity and Islam in particular encourage the pernicious idea that you can divorce cause from effect if you just ‘believe’ hard enough.
This means that as a society, if we want to stop proving a dead racist right about us, our first assignment is to do away with any religious or superstitious beliefs that infer that something can come out of nothing. Whether it is an Imam praying for divine inspiration for a student to pass an exam they have not studied adequately for, or a Daddy G.O. telling a fairytale about driving from Ore to Lagos on an empty tank, we need to recognise these as fraudulent MMM culture components. Regardless of how much esteem we have for such purveyors of societal MMM, we need to have more respect for ourselves and our children’s future.
Letting go of our religious MMM culture also means that we should stop trying to use our religion like an attempt at Celestial Internet fraud, where instead of scamming a white man in Connecticut and getting him to send dollars by pretending to be a woman who loves him, we scam a white man in heaven and get him to send us blessings by putting on an act of piety and devotion. If there is an all-powerful being watching over us, he or she is certainly not impressed by our platitudes and affectations of piety.
We need to put religion in its proper place and stop using it to compensate for a lack of personal philosophy and actual spirituality. There is no point holding house fellowships, speaking in tongues and always praying the longest and loudest, while inside we remain greedy, selfish, vindictive, duplicitous and unpleasant people.
The next thing we need to do in getting rid of MMM culture is to stop rewarding bad behaviour with silence or acquiescence. We all know how it feels to queue up for something for several minutes, only for a queue jumper to arrive out of nowhere and start making eyes at us. It might feel as if letting them in if they ask nicely is the humane thing to do, and if you don’t, you might even get people saying “What’s this one’s problem?” However that simple act of allowing a queue jumper cut in without challenge is one of the markers of MMM culture – tolerance for habitual shortcut seekers and indulgence of undeserving people.
It is this exact willingness to let bad behaviour go unaddressed that results in us consistently electing and re-electing people who are objectively terrible human beings and worse leaders. Remember that the basic tenet of MMM culture is that cause can be divorced from effect. Thus, a failed leader who should be voted out of office keeps finding their way back because they put up lots of smiley posters and distribute bags of rice. The people who should hold him accountable for four years of mismanagement accept the Greek gifts like you accept the sheepish smile of the queue jumper at the toll gate, and they let the politician cut in ahead of them, after which he forgets about them for another four years.
The final step on the road to breaking free from MMM culture is to adopt a habit of planning. Lugard’s assertion was that Africans have an animalistic, happy-go-lucky, one-day-at-a-time approach to life that does not lend itself to long-term strategy. According to him, the African approach to life is that of bravery born out of animal instinct, rather than moral virtue. To prove this assertion wrong on a personal level, planning for inevitable events like death is key. Being deliberately and intentional about decisions like getting married and having children – as against gambling with new lives – is possibly the most important example of this.
And of course, don’t invest in ponzi schemes!