By Tapiwa Gomo
FALSE equivalence is a logical delusion in which an equivalence is drawn between two subjects based on flawed or false reasoning. This delusion is often categorised as a fallacy of inconsistency. In politics it is used to manage public opinion — to rationalise or navigate imbalances. The human mind is fed with ideas, thoughts and beliefs to condition its worldview towards the false equivalence. Lies thrive because they are cast into the minds via narratives that convince them of what is right or acceptable.
I want to look at the situation unfolding in one of our neighbouring countries but using my grandmother’s folklore perspective. I find no better way of crystalising the situation other than looking at it from the village perspective.
My grandmother would start by saying so many moons ago, settlers arrived at the shores of the southern tip of Alkebulan. The land was originally occupied by Alkebulan people who were divided into tribes and sub-tribes scattered across its vast expanse and organised into several villages. They survived on hunting and gathering with some spasmodic traces of civilisation in farming, mining, manufacturing and trading. Lack of advanced tools delayed their progress, but they were on course.
As the settlers moved in, they colonised, industrialised, acculturated all indigenous groups and inhabited all the productive land. Their conquest was not a walk in the park. Guns, firearms and advanced armour along with ships and wheeled carts gave the settlers significant military advantage over the Alkebulans wielding bows and arrows, clubs, hatchets and spears.
Upon gaining control, the settlers renamed everything including rivers, mountains, caves, places and obliterated local culture and languages. They pushed all indigenous people to the periphery of the newly-established towns. Discriminatory laws, rules and regulations were imposed and the settlers made it compulsory for indigenous people to acquire the settler’s culture and language via paid education before they could be accepted into the settlers’ life.
Several attempts to mount resistance by the Alkebulans against the settlers were thwarted and met with brute force, life imprisonment or death. Boys and youth were enslaved and those who dared to challenge the system were imprisoned without trial or killed. There was sorrow, sadness, destitution and death in the land of Alkebulan, while the settlers enjoyed the fruits, milk, honey, minerals and good weather.
One night after so many moons, the gods inspired new determination among the people of Alkebulan. The youth of the land rose and mounted a huge and fierce fight against the settler regime. While the regime was better equipped for warfare, it lacked the numbers, readiness and determination. The youth were willing to die for their freedom. Indeed, many died. The war persisted. Realising the incontrovertible rage of the tide of change, the settlers yielded. But not without conditions.
They drafted a governing and equality document, perhaps in the mould of modern-day constitution, outlining terms and conditions for the transfer of political power. The document included conditions such as that everyone would remain where they are economically, socially and geographically, and crossing lines was illegal. Everyone was free to access everything and everywhere as long as they could afford the high cost of doing so. People of all races were allowed to move freely, mix and mingle as long they could afford the high cost of doing so and abide by rules and parameters set by the settler regime.
Access to natural resources including rivers, oceans, mountains, land, farms, caves, places, minerals and others without the permission of a settler authorities would remain illegal just like any form of trespassing. Access to employment, even though menial and peripheral, would be granted only upon acquiring a three-year certificate of settler education. The settler’s language would remain the only official language.
Trading was only allowed in the currency, terms and via intermediaries of the settler regime. The settler regime, through its markets, would have the final say on key political and economic decisions. Anyone who threatens the economic status quo would be regarded as a threat to national security and, therefore, treasonous. All Alkebulans were required to apply for a settler regime identity card before accessing any service.
The leadership of the Alkebulan people accepted these conditions unconditionally and wholesomely. That marked the end of what was celebrated as a watershed moment for the land of the Alkebulan. They saw victory. The war ended. They assumed political leadership and called it freedom or independence. It was a new beginning. They enjoyed the euphoria. They began to dream and saw opportunities in the settlers’ world. As they would learn later, the road to the settler’s world was littered with meanders and undulations. It was just unbearably unreachable.
The settlers too saw victory. They retained real political, economic and judicial power. They retained control and ownership of all means of production and all levers of power. They called it power to govern from behind the scenes. They continued to enjoy the best of fruits, milk, honey, minerals and good weather in Alkebulan uninterrupted. Just to guarantee themselves of security, peace and comfort, the settler regime offered the new leadership of Alkebulans opulent accommodation in their confines. They also offered a few Alkebulans jobs as security to protect the settler regime and the Alkebulan leadership against potential invasion or unrest by Alkebulans.
With that, the Alkebulans and the settlers found a middle ground. They were now equal; they both won. They both acquired freedoms, including from each other. So, they preserved the new-found unity, freedoms and false equivalence. To cap it all, they called it democracy. While all freedoms were granted and guaranteed, but access and affordability divided the two groups. The settlers made it obscene and antithetical to raise access and affordability issues linked to freedoms. They argued that it would destabilise the hard-won unity, peace, stability and prosperity. The leadership of Alkebulan concurred even as the Alkebulans were getting hungry each day.
- Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.