I RECENTLY read an article in one of the State-controlled newspapers about the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) symbol in which the writer alleged that the symbol was a jihadist symbol.
The writer claimed that the symbol reveal a violent streak inherent in the CCC and did not augur well for the upcoming election campaigns.
In the wisdom of the writer and the analysts quoted in the story, Chamisa’s party’s adoption of the symbol was a bad move.
The claims by the writer and the analysts were faulty on many levels as I shall demonstrate in this article.
Firstly, a symbol is something that represents something but there is no direct link between the symbol and the thing it represents.
For example, black is associated with mourning but death doesn’t look like black or does it?
A symbol is, literally speaking, a sign and a sign is something that represents something to someone in a given context.
This takes us to the second point, that is, a sign and or symbol is contextual.
It is a product of specific political economic-socio-cultural conditions.
This means that the meaning of a sign cannot be universal since different contexts attach different meanings to the same sign or symbol.
For example, the V sign in certain contexts represents victory while in others it is obscene.
The owl is associated with witchcraft among some Shona communities while some Europeans associate it with wisdom.
In this vein, the CCC symbol’s meaning is not universal, it is not cast in stone.
To the jihadists, it may mean one thing while to CCC it may mean another thing.
It could be a symbol associated with their leader’s mantra of #.
Pointing a finger to the sky could reflect their belief that God resides in heaven which, I must admit, is shared by many people.
The other problem with the writer’s claims is the assumption that signs or symbols have one universal meaning.
As demonstrated above, the meanings of signs are contextual and this means that due to contextual differences a single sign or symbol may have many meanings.
None of these meanings should be considered as the correct one or should be made to take precedence over others.
In this light it is very usual for different people to get different meanings from the same sign or for the same person to discern different meanings of the same sign at different times.
Furthermore, it is also common practice for political players to appropriate or lift signs from their original contexts, sanitise and attach them to new contexts with new meanings.
The deployment of signs such as Nehanda and Kaguvi by Zanu PF is a case in point.
The two spirit mediums were lifted from their original contexts, sanitised and attached to Zanu PF during the liberation struggle and again during the post-2000 fast-track land reform programme, the so-called third Chimurenga.
Similarly, we recently saw the battle over Tsvangirai in the opposition with the opposition politicians, even some who once openly labelled him dictatorial, calling him “the doyen of democracy”.
The intention is to harvest the social currency invested in these signs.
In the light of the foregoing it is safe to say that the attempt to universalise the meaning of the CCC symbol is just political gamesmanship.
- The writer, who is known to NewsDay, has asked for anonymity.