Jamwanda2 on Saturday
Macaulay on Milton
I am reading an old book on Prose of the Victorian Period, edited by William E. Buckler. Among the contributors is Thomas Babington Macaulay who, ordinarily is associated with his notorious Victorian views on the purpose of colonial education on native Indian mind under the British Raj.
In this collection, however, he writes a critical appraisal of John Milton, the writer of the existential epic, Paradise Lost, Books 1 to XI.
Those schooled in literature recall that the 11 books that constitute Milton’s epic compendium imaginatively recreate the Story of the Creation and the subsequent Fall of Man from the good graces of the Creator.
Milton’s self-declared goal is “to justify God’s ways to man.” Whether or not the compendium does that, has in fact been a subject of interminable debate among students of Literature.
For me, what I find quite interesting about Milton’s God and Satan, is that the latter comes through as more interesting, more dynamic and relatable as a character than God! This sounds impious, sacrilegious even, yet quite a legitimate thought and argument within the realm of literary discourse.
For the Devil without knowing it
The reason for that impious outcome is not hard to fathom: whereas Milton could freely create Satan as a character in that fictive narrative, it was a lot harder, in fact well-nigh impossible to do the same with his God.
How does one portray God as a character in a fictive narrative without taking away from His Divinity, indeed without reducing him to a mere human being? In the end, Milton thus became of the Devil’s part without intending to do so! This is what makes Milton such a riveting read.
Poetry, the province of undeveloped man
But that’s not my interest in the afore-quoted book, and on Macaulay’s piece in it. In typical Macaulay fashion and style, the piece on Milton wanders tangentially off its subject matter, to make broad points about human evolution and the growth of knowledge.
Macaulay’s basic thesis, which is quite controversial and contestable, is that poetry belongs to undeveloped man whose fascination is with the particular, with intense detail, at the expense of generalisations upon which broad knowledge is built.
Poetry thus represents and expresses human intellect in its infancy, which is why early man expressed himself through poetic incantations, and never through broad philosophical precepts. Argues Macaulay: “ Generalisation is necessary to the advancement of knowledge; but particularity is indispensable to the creations of imagination [poetry].
In proportion as men know more and think more, they look less at individuals and more at classes. They therefore make better theories and worse poems… Analysis is not the business of the poet. His office is to portray, not to dissect.”
Hour of dystopia
Even during its hour of dystopia, the United Kingdom still finds time and urgency in minding its overseas interests and mission. To that end, it despatched Professor Stephen Chan to our Zimbabwe so he could still dip his political stick into our politics as these hurtle towards elective finale.
One must give it to the British establishment that even in the throes of some leadership crisis, it still remained mindful of the electoral calendar here. That partly shows how deeply invested the British are in our politics.
Much more, that clearly shows how they correctly appreciate fatal weaknesses in their project here, making it vitally important to keep it under intense watch. But one feature gave me joy: the list of aspirants to British premiership gave pre-eminence to men and women of colour. Let the empire continue to strike back.
Lady Robinson brews mischief
Their lady Ambassador here has not been idle or distracted by the bloodletting back home either. She is fixedly here, brewing mischief bad enough to irritate her hosts. She tried – without success – to rally church organisations here, in direct contravention of provisions of the Vienna Convention.
The issue is not that she failed, or that she was caught by our ever vigilant system; it is that she tried, and did so amidst the hubbub back home. She may even have reasoned it was the best time to strike; when all of us thought Albion is on her knees. But this was just one flank.
Capturing Chapter 12 Commissions
Another flank involved a senior African official working for United Nations Offices here. A group of western embassies, the British included, sought to use “small” monies managed through the United Nation Offices here, to gain control and win the loyalty of our Chapter 12 Commissions. All of them, ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
Soul for lucre
Thankfully, some alert commissioners rendered inert that assault whose success or breakthrough would have seen key Constitutional Commissions monthly reporting to the UN man — obviously for the benefit of sending western embassies — in return for some filthy lucre.
Again, the issue is not that the mission aborted; it is that someone ever tried it in the first place; and that our Commissions, which at law report exclusively to Parliament, found it even possible and sensible to oblige the invite. Something looks seriously wrong, which is why such effrontery to our sovereignty by these foreign envoys becomes conceivable in the first place.
Dipping the stick
But my story is on Stephen Chan, the SOAS Professor the British and American Establishment whom the British routinely despatch here to study us in the colonial spirit of know-thy-native. Chan never attempted to hide his coming; he announced it, brazenly too.
Once here, he published pictures with all anti-Government actors he met, climaxing with Chamisa. He even tried his luck on a meetings with the President. Of course, that fell through. But he had tried and, in his words, through his good friends within echelons of our ruling establishment.
Poet-Politician who cannot dissect
Chan’s visit expresses British anxiety and acute angst over the conduct of their poet-politician on whose mediocre person they have reposed their interests. He has caused them deep worries given his high school political experimentations with interests of a great Empire.
Chamisa has exhibited a disturbing degree of levity in respect of a matter and interest which shrinking Albion regards as existential. Britain badly needs the opposition to prevail here, come the 2023 elections. Alongside the Americans, the British badly need a pliant State in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
That assures them of a firm foothold in Southern Africa. We have seen a dogfight in the Pacific, where the English world is pitted against China for the control of strategic islands. The fight is no less intense here, and hence Chan’s trip.
Politics of Poetics
Both the British and Americans are worried that Chamisa’s poetry will not deliver the victory they so badly desire. He provides colour to politics; he cannot dissect, which is why thinking about strategy and consonant structures is well beyond him. Chan was despatched to nudge him and his team to think strategically. The West wants to know who he proposes for the purse, for land and for industry: three key portfolios which sum up their interests here.
A Cabinet of Eunuchs
Chamisa has since obliged. He has made Biti the shadow minister of Finance. That pleases both the British and Americans, more so the Americans whose wish is to see Biti near enough to stab Chamisa at earliest opportunity, and grab the yellow thing sooner.
Some little known Eric Murai has been given Lands, thus telling England’s embittered landed gentry that they will have matters their way, in the unlikely event he prevails in 2023. Industry has been given to Madzimure, the man who brought Parliament down by quipping “castrated” Honourable Members of Parliament, when he meant “incarcerated” Honourable Members of Parliament.
The appointments have all the hallmarks of a hurried job by a pawn caught unprepared. Which is just as well: for the British, assurance takes the form of feeble minds in this never-never Cabinet! Castrated indeed!
America lifts sanctions
As I write, America’s notorious Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, has just lifted sanctions on Russian fertilisers and all other inputs needed to grow food for itself and the world. Such is the importance of Russia in world affairs, or the obverse, the enfeeblement of America in global affairs.
Pound, Euro get pounded
As I write, too, both the British pound and the Euro, both of them mighty currencies once upon a time, are in some vertiginous fall vis-a-vis the United States dollar. In hallways of power, Prime Ministers and foreign ministers of different European Nations are resigning or threatening to.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 is viciously resurgent, with United Kingdom having surpassed 200k death mark. Not to mention the searing heatwave which is scorching Europe and America, and China to some extent. Everywhere it’s looking grim.
Empty homilies in Holy Land
Sleepy Biden is in the Middle East. He was in Palestine where he said absolutely nothing, beyond empty homilies followed by photo-opportunities. He brought nothing for Palestine and Palestinians. No American President ever does. America’s heart and purse is in Israel.
America reads no beatitudes
Biden’s real destination is Saudi Arabia. He hopes to convince the Saudi Government to drench the world with fossil fuels, much against COP’26 ideals.
Both on the Israeli-Palestinian question and in respect of the House of the Saudi, human rights no longer matter. Hungry America never reads beatitudes!
America always profits from European wars
I want to say a little more on falling currencies, against a firming USD. Except for the outgone Merkel, no other European leader seems to know history, let alone profit from it. Whether in the first or second European War, America always emerges stronger and more dominant, vis-a-vis Europe.
This is why America never fights wars or, if it is dragged in, joins very late in the fray. What makes America great and mighty is a Europe ravaged and prostrated by a bitter war, which makes Europe dependent.
One does not need to be an historian to know that Europe is now pulverised Ukraine’s alter ego, every inch an extended patient of the war it is not fighting but is only losing!
Gold versus US bill
All told the whole world is being reshaped, variously. Including here in our little Zimbabwe. For once, we now know the value and importance of making new friends which history denied us.
And of becoming our own best friends by inching towards self-sufficiency.
Elsewhere, and especially after Sri Lanka, the world knows that ideals are for sermons; they do not shape real politics. What it does are bad environmental decisions, which often make good economics. I notice even COP’27 has changed its lingo: it’s no longer about cutting down on carbon emissions; it is about adapting the world to a damaged ozone layer! Long live Hwange!
The next great seismic shift is from paper money to commodity currency, something Zimbabwe has already started. But, hey, I often despair of my people: you put a nugget of gold next to a US$100 bill, a Zimbabwean rushes to grab the US bill!
This is how damaged we are. No wonder I prefer braying zvangu.