Creating an Empire State of Mind

It is not often that I watch a movie that really catches my attention. It is for that reason that I prefer to look for books.
Trawling through bookstores is for me infinitely more satisfying than going through movie reviews to find something that is worth spending two hours of my life on a couch for.
But once in a while I do bump into a movie that grabs me by the scruff, plonks me on a seat and makes me suspend all disbelief for a cathartic couple of hours.
One such experience this year was with “The Hunger Games”. Yes, it is a 2012 movie but I couldn’t have been bothered to watch it on release because – as a general rule – I do not watch hyped up movies.
And to my pleasant surprise I found that the movie was based on a 2008 novel by Suzanne Collins.
Having enjoyed the movie, I had to read the book. I still haven’t.
Reflecting on the movie, I could not escape the notion that “The Hunger Games” was like a modern version of the very brilliant book by William Golding titled “Lord of the Flies”.
It does seem like a bit of a stretch seeing as “The Hunger Games” is a science fiction work, but that idea of young people being isolated and fighting for survival and establishing a social hierarchy of their own had something of “Lord of the Flies” about it. But that is not my point. My issue is when I tried to encourage a friend to watch “The Hunger Games”.
He told me that he bought the DVD weeks ago but had not had the opportunity to view it for one simple reason: his wife and daughter.
They had bought a collection of African-American romantic comedies and they wanted to go through the two sets of 25 discs each before the European football season begins and the Man of the House regains full control of the TV set. And his daughter wants to watch the movies while sitting next to daddy, so there is no escape.
I felt his pain as I went through the list of titles that he had seen over the past week alone.
But one of the titles stuck in mind: “Think Like a Man”. It reminded me of comedian Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”, and I subsequently found out that the movie was indeed based on that book.
And here is why that title stuck in my mind.
The former Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of the UK, Douglas Hurd – who now claims he does not remember recommending Knighthood for Robert Mugabe back in 1994 (hahaha!) – once made a very interesting remark about Zimbabwe’s leader.
He reportedly remarked: “The trouble with Mugabe is that he thinks like us.”
President Mugabe has survived the Western onslaught longer than anyone could have ever imagined. No other leader anywhere in the world – with the exception of Fidel Castro – has withstood the slings and arrows of the West for so long.
And I think it is largely because of that observation that Hurd made: President Mugabe thinks like the West.
Steve Harvey would tell our leaders to “act like Africans, but think like Westerners”.
Baffour Ankomah of New African magazine has put it as “replicating” the attitudes and strategies that have made Europe, America and Southeast Asia so successful.
It is about having “an empire state of mind”.
Right now Africans mostly think like victims. We consider ourselves underdogs and we are treated by the rest of the world as such.
Africa’s development starts with its state of mind. What we think of ourselves, how much we value our citizens, what status we assign to our worth to the world – all this determines what Africa is and will become.
President Mugabe envisioned a Zimbabwe where the indigenous people owned their land and their economy. 
It was painful, but he did it and is doing it.
If we envision an Africa that cannot industrialise, that cannot feed its people without Western aid, that cannot provide education, healthcare, water and sanitation without general budgetary support from the EU and World Bank, then that is precisely what we will become.
It all starts with a state of mind, and a positive state of mind is consciously nurtured and fed the very kind of self-belief that makes America so arrogant, Europe so self-assured and Southeast Asia so confident.
August 2013
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