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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Covid-19 exposes the fallacy of sovereignty

By Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

The thin veil of national sovereignty continues to be exposed as a vacuous principle by natural disasters and global epidemics that are sending out the loud and unambiguous message that the world has simply become a global village.

Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

Every day, we are being reminded that national boundaries serve no purpose serve to remind ardent denialists of the reality of a single world community.

The spectre of the Covid-19 phenomenon has shown that we are one world community, nay one global village facing the same threats.

National sovereignty has simply become a notion of make-believe. Every day, we appear to be reminded that these presumed national borders and boundaries are just but marks of unbridled artifice.

From Wuhan to Rome, from Canberra to Durban, from Calcutta to Conakry, we have all sought sanctuary in the safety of our homes for fear of the coronavirus.

The global lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have sent out its own unique message that the world has become one village living the lie of diversified national sovereigns. Now world has undergone a unitary lockdown, with the differences in individual States being only a matter of degree and not substance.

Otherwise what we currently have in place is a global lockdown.

Zimbabwe is a sovereign nation, or at least it purports to be. Last Saturday we celebrated our 40th national birthday to mark our landmark achievement as an independent sovereign State; which independence was achieved through a brutal liberation struggle in which some of the sons and daughters of this land paid the ultimate price.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which for Zimbabwe comes as a sequel to the equally devastating Cyclone Idai, has shown that the world is just but a single village.

We are all villagers from the same hood facing the same calamities that continue to travel and knock down the borders that artificially divide us.

That is why we are taking our cue in this calamity from our neighbours South Africa to the extent of almost being copycats. We are equally keeping a keen eye on how our friends in the region are responding to this pandemic. It all speaks to the interconnectedness of the species that is called the human being; which species shares a common village called Earth.

Indeed, national sovereignty may be a self-serving Westphalian myth that we flaunt at each other; a subjective convenience that is nothing else but a futile denial of the fact that we have simply become a global village.

The World Health Organisation, the global ministry of Health is doling out funds to assist the global community in what has become a stark testament of the reality that we are one global village.

It may have taken Covid-19 to remind all of us of the stultifying sameness pervading the globe. The billionaire in downtown New York, the villager in Rushinga and the tramps and beggars in London and Lagos are all peering from their respective novels; each one of them wondering whether this chronic flu will spare their life. Forget their dissimilar bank balances and their starkly different forms of accommodation; they are all inhabitants of the same village living the lie of different sovereigns and variegated civilisations.

Yet we are all human beings sharing the same space. We all have the same fears; we are all experiencing the same threats while at the same time sharing the same aspiration to live a dignified life.

Never mind the different colours of our skins and our different languages. This pandemic has told all of us that we are all members of the same race—the human race.

Covid-19 has just knocked down national borders. It has trammelled these national boundaries of artifice.

Indeed, we are in this together as a global community. .

We live in the same village together –those who use “sophisticated algorithms” to disburse money to the vulnerable and those that physically hand out food and other essentials to all their people. These variations in approach denote the different household management styles that are bring employed to deal with the same threat in the same village!

Covid-19 is a stark reminder that all that we brag about on this Earth is vanity. There is a God up there in Heaven who is a leveller of circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us we are all inhabitants of the same village. It has knocked down boundaries and exposed the fallacy of national and individual sovereignty.

International law and other tenets such as R2P may have struck the initial body blows against the mantra of sovereignty. And yet, despite the so-called return to nationalism as exemplified by Brexit and Zimbabwe’s strident walk away from the Communwealth, we continue to be global citizens sharing a common village called Mother Earth!

We can’t walk away from each other. We are a commonwealth of important individuals before the same God.

Indeed, whether scarfed or besuited, whether shoed or sandalled, we are all the same villagers in a crooked world whose artificial walls are caving in to expose the sameness of our experiences. the similarity of our fears and the congrruency of our anxieties.

The Westphalian notion of sovereignty that gained currency in 1648 may well be a myth facing a brutal exposure as it gets torn asunder by these now frequent global calamities of our time.

I have often argued that our culture as Africans does not recognise this fallacious notion of individual sovereignty. Your aunt will always be a stakeholder in what happens in your bedroom.

And if your neighbours hear your children or your spouse cry in your own sovereign household, they can even knock down fences, pulverize durawalls and break the doors to assist distressed souls pleading for help.

There is simply no sovereign household in our beloved Africa.

And the neighbours and elders are well-trained to distinguish between the genre and the nature of the cries emanating from your compound, particularly your bedroom.

Indeed, theit ears are experienced enough to sift between a moan, a wail and a desperate cry pleading for help, lest they break property to interrupt pleasure!

If it’s a genuine plea for assistance, they will break down your door— whip your back even—-if you engage in any domestic violence because the notion of sovereignty, simply does not have a place in our rich culture. There is no sovereign household in our culture. We sink or swim together as families, at least before the advent of alien cultures of individualism.

We go with our brothers to marry “our” wives and that is why our young brothers could even take over our sacred places on the matrimonial bed in the event of our demise, at least before the shrill cries from women’s rights groups intervened to tone down the excesses and the abuses that were sometimes inherent in this long-standing African tradition.

After all, even the scriptures attest to this unstinting reality of a global village. Our oneneness has been affirmed by the Grace that He has thrust on all of us, regardless of our perceived boundaries and differences as nations and individuals.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, we are all villagers in this village called Earth. .

Lastly, remember to stay safe. Stay alive. Wash your hands. Wear your mask at least to cast some semblance of a sovereign individual.

Yet the mask is unto itself an affirmation that we are one people in the same village. It attests to the fear that as individuals, we could pass on this pandemic to the next villager.

That face mask is a recognition of the rights of others with whom you share space in this global Village.

Have a happy weekend, fellow villagers.

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy National Spokesperson of the MDC. He is a multiple award-winning journalist who was the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.

He won the Book Prize for Best Student when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe. You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.

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