I used to like the old bloodless coups more: more drama, more mystery, and more Gotterdämmerung. From a purely sanguinary perspective, a sobering thing to be sure, the recent military caper in Zimbabwe, thankfully illiquid, seemed like a Sunday afternoon picnic with conclusion foregone from the inception. It is the wave of the future.
Scratch a returning to power was obvious from the start. Nobody in their right minds would turn or return to a stumbling, lost cause 93-year-old. That is, unless it is for the position of Elections Chair. In this rendition in beautiful Bulawayo of aspirations to democracy, (that farcical business surrounding the much touted will of the people) it was through the irresistible auspices of the barrel of a gun, many guns. Whichever celestial realm Chairman Mao now inhabits, he did have the last inarguable word and laugh on that score. And anyone audacious enough to posit that he was undemocratic has another think coming.
What was seen and heard and read was: stand down, stand still, and stand silent. These were all at work from the distant dusty barracks to the metropolitan seat of power. Now, unlike the coups of long gone by yesterdays, the generals and colonels of the more civilized 21st century are content to concentrate on theoretical war games, as opposed to raw military and political ones. Blood is off the table and usurpation of power has transformed into the dirtiest phrase around; it just will not do. Kaieteur may have a full field day and in colour, too, but for the more staid CNN and vastly cerebral BBC, the children must not be frightened. And the same should be extended to worried political leaders wherever they may be cowering. Even Fox News, that beacon of truth and sizzle endorses the clean and simple where today’s coups d’état are concerned.
This is but one consequence of the globalization of thinking and action; even the men of arms are now more at home in drawing rooms full of delicate china, and muted clean conversation. None seeks to be associated with dirt anymore; too passé. The disciples of Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, and Alaric the Visigoth are comfortable presenting an unprecedented textbook case of kindness and gentleness, which has been hitherto unbeknownst to the warrior caste. Things are now so boringly predictable (everywhere) as to be claustrophobic.
In all of this, I am reminded of that fateful second lease on political life (if not of life itself) once so generously granted to a now deceased leader from the neighbourhood. It was all due to the same squeamishness in the stomach that came back to haunt. History has reminded one and all just how much trouble that caused in the aftermath; truth be told, some of that still generates severe agitation to this day. Still, I must wonder if the Zimbabwean officer corps has not inadvertently given ideas about force feeding democracy through the application of a military surgical insertion into the social and political mainstream. It could be representative of a new force field at work in the political arena, as ideas are what power men to commit to the unthinkable, if not the unconstitutional. Of course, it helps immensely when guns and tanks and stealth are on the side of the initiators.
With the Zimbabwean adventure now come and gone, I foresee that it is goodbye to green, orange, velvet and other revolutions of similar hue and pedigree. I will be so bold as to predict that those social media revolutions ‒ armchair as they were ‒ have now been surpassed, and for the long run, by a resurgence of the old revolutions of steel, be they cylindrical or sharp pointed. Given time, things will once again resort from bagpipes to body bags. It has always been that way, hasn’t it?