The French guillotined their royalty, but that did not mean the country fell into ruin.
Instead, the former dwellings of royalty have served to attract millions of tourists annually creating employment for hundreds of thousands of French people from tour guides, taxi drivers, airline industry staff and many others.
In 1791, the revolutionary Assemblée Nationale decreed that the “Louvre and the Tuileries together will be a national palace to house the King and for the gathering together of all the monuments of the sciences and the arts”.
Today the Louvre counts 8,5 million visitors per year. More or less the same number that visit the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and other places of interest in France.
Fast forward to 1974, a year after the Middle East oil crisis during which many European countries underwent a torrid time after the Arab countries imposed an embargo on them and the US for America’s support for Israel during the Yom Kippur war.
A young and newly elected Valery Giscard D’Estaing (I do not really like to praise the right) came up with a slogan: “In France we do not have oil, but we have ideas.” The result? Nuclear energy as the main energy source for France followed.
The French have always been a rebellious lot especially towards authority, in a positive sense.
It was the French Philosopher René Descartes who proclaimed: “ I think, therefore, I am!” You see it throughout French history from the Enlightenment period when philosophers asked a lot of questions of society.
The result is a winning mentality in the French psyche. Now let’s talk about you, dear reader, starting with the negative.
A poverty mentality complains that South Africans are selling Victoria Falls as if it is in Southern Africa. Where is your own marketing campaign?
Another example is when we lament the lack of donor support as a reason for our lack of progress whether in economic recovery or our personal inability to thrive.
Where is your Great Zimbabwe idea?
Here are a couple of outrageous ideas: The Zimbabwe ruins are unique and unparalleled in southern Africa and, therefore, a reason why we too should be having 8,5 million visitors travelling down the carpet to Masvingo every year.
The road would still be a carpet because of the revenue from the tourists. Scotland has its Lochness Monster which draws thousands of visitors after reported “sightings”. Why is Nyami Nyami not putting in an appearance every so often and hopefully after elections when the waters are a lot calmer?
What’s that? I hear you tell me that Zimbabwe is a damaged brand?
Why don’t we harness all those glib comments from visiting Cricket players, musicians and poets who declare Zimbabwe to be safer than New York, London or Mumbai?
Have you ever wondered why Colgate brings out a new type of toothbrush every year, each one doing the same thing?
Have a look at the different types of salt shakers that you have in your kitchen. Surely all you want is to add taste to your food and yet you pay more for different designs of shakers that do not make the food taste any better?
Someone is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to your ego. So where is your unique Great Zimbabwe idea?
If I recall correctly, we have had Michael Douglas, Michael Jackson and a whole host of other superstars visit Zimbabwe before, staying at places like Sanyati Lodge or The Livingstone and Stanley.
So, get Paris Hilton over here and use her love for publicity stunts to tweet her fans about how great Zimbabwe is. She will get us more attention than Beenie man, non?
How about adventure tourism?
How many Americans go “hiking” in dangerous Iraq only to stray into Iran? There are millions of tourists who want to live on the edge if that is what their perception of Zimbabwe is! A self-deprecating sense of humour will not hurt us at all.
Similarly for the individual Zimbabwean, you need to be comfortable at being laughed at before you can be comfortable with risk taking.
It is our world view that determines whether we succeed or fail!
This means shaking off thousands of years of risk–averse thinking and replacing that with a sense of adventure, curiosity and “rebelliousness” that we once saw in science fairs when we were in junior school.
Your move! Start being as unique as Great Zimbabwe. If our forebears could build such a unique structure and society, imagine what we can do!