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Zim has been through quite a lot in the 49 years I have lived on this planet. Economically, whilst much of the Western World has experienced unprecedented steady economic growth and low inflation, Zimbos had a much bumpier ride, including civil war, world-record hyperinflation and periodic shortages (from fuel to toilet paper). Social upheaval was a mirror image of the economic situation in many ways and the two were intertwined. Much has been written about this by much cleverer people than me so this article is not about past troubles but rather about the effect these trials have had on our Zim culture.

I suppose there is a continuum of ways everything played out on individuals ranging from extreme bitterness through pragmatic acceptance to happy-go-lucky nonchalance, I am not in a position to judge any one person’s reaction. My interest, however, is on how it all affected Zim society as a whole. By this, I mean Zim culture, the unwritten rules governing the way we interact with each other in day-to-day life. I have lived in several countries and invariably find myself conforming to local culture over time so it is not about individuals. To me, cultural expectations are in many ways more important than the individual right to behave exactly as we wish in creating a healthy society. This is where I truly believe we have struck Gold in Zim.

Now, after 50 (or more…) years in the crucible, and despite Zim’s ongoing problems, I look around and see a bunch of resilient people who have faced some pretty tough challenges together but respect each other more than ever and can share a laugh in the toughest of predicaments. I see people who take responsibility for their own lives, resilient self-starters in all walks of life. These people chose to stop complaining & fighting each other and get on with living their lives as best they can during the short time allotted to each of us on this planet. These are people who are friendly to strangers, respect their elders and understand we are all part of a greater society. These are not self-obsessed individual consumers intent on indulging their every whim. However this all works out, these are the people I want to live my life with.

I am not sure how the mechanism works but it seems shared hardships can refine a culture if people choose to help each other rather than fight amongst themselves. In this respect, Zim has a lot to teach the world and we are all privileged to live in this pressure-refined society at this time. My only hope is, as things improve economically, we don’t weaken the solid gold parts of our culture too fast.

As a visitor to Zimbabwe, I ask you to bear this all in mind during your travels around our beut. of a country. Enjoy our wild places and friendly people but make an effort to try understand how we got to this point. It’s a story filled with ups and downs and good and bad, but most of all with human resilience and determination to get up and try again. Maybe you can take something else home with you more life-changing than photos of waterfalls and elephants (nice as those are!).

Go you Zimbos.

Ant Bown

Ant loves Zim, Ant loves Zimbos. Ant moved away from Zim. Ant moved back to Zim, Ant never wants to leave Zim again. Ant wants you to come and visit him in Zim so he can show you why you too will love Zim.