The situation under which Dr Joe Diescho has apparently made the choice to leave Namibia is concerning. While much of what he recounts as under-handed efforts to frustrate him professionally has the ring of truth, the worries I have are much deeper.
Life taught me painful truths like this one:
“In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not…become oppressors…but rather restorers of humanity.”
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), Paulo Freire
Frankly, I disagree with the revisionist and inaccurate comments Diescho has made in the last few years as he speaks/writes about his high-minded views on the hard-fought independence struggle and our flawed, but undeniably heroic leaders.
And yet, I defend his right to say/write what he chooses. If Diescho is repressed today, it can easily be you or me tomorrow. Who decides which person should be silenced next and for what?
All who by word, deed, or knowledgeable silence, approved or observed actions that had the result of ‘shunning’ Dr Diescho, do not understand the heavy price of democracy. Freedom is difficult to maintain; oppression is easier. The formerly oppressed must fight hard to never use the modus operandi of the oppressors.
I recall my days in the anti-apartheid movement in the USA working hard to stop support for an apartheid regime in South Africa and Namibia that was silencing those who were demanding independence and fighting for platforms to tell the world about the evils of white supremacy. That same revolutionary fire still burns in my belly.
No doubt, criticism can hurt and sometimes those doing the criticising often don’t have the whole story and other times, personality issues can infuse opposition commentary. But, taking on the ‘slings and arrows’ of different points of view are the foundation of democracy and absorbing uncomfortable blowback is a part of the price of leadership and privilege.
No one in Namibia ought to use the tools of the oppressor, to go after those who say things they do not like; ‘that way madness lies.’
Before she died, my grandmother taught me that ‘Evil thrives when good people do nothing.’ She and my mother constantly taught me how the KKK and other racists have lynched, terrorized, raped and repressed my people, in full view of hundreds of millions who watched for over a century, and did absolutely nothing in the face of evil. Their silence about wrong-doing, lit the match for every single cross that was burned. Those who witness things they do not agree with and remain silent are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.
Life taught me that people, selfishly trying to save their own skins, will throw others under the bus. ‘Self-interest’ is a powerful demon that fuels silent approval of someone else’s misery.
In the Land of the Brave, “that’s not my problem” is a growing attitude that is eroding this country. When will we challenge ourselves to strive for the moral high road and not look to silence those who may disagree with us and those who we may not like to hear? Will any of us be able to fearlessly state our opposing points of view, offer advice, present different facts and other perspectives? It rebounds on us, when we are mean-spirited.
Consider the words of Malcolm X:
“Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad…Basically it means, what goes around comes around…”
The lesson of that powerful comment is: Diescho today; you and me tomorrow.
Having suffered public humiliation in Namibia because I used my natural ‘hood terminology in an emotional response to corruption and waste, I had a tiny sip of what Diescho and others have had to swallow from an overflowing beer barrel. For several years after my unnecessary dismissal from an SOE Board, I was unable to win positions for which I was short-listed and had the highest score in the search process. Over the years, several decision-makers involved in those employment processes came to me privately and apologized. They felt ‘pressure’ and excluded me, most times without even being asked to do so. How many others have been subjected to this kind of thing?
Make no mistake, the ‘shunning’ that happens when people say things that those in power do not like, is meant to punish! And yet, such vindictiveness is an antithesis for those who overthrew their oppressors in the name of liberty.
If Diescho didn’t meet the stated requirements for a position he wanted, then so be it; that’s life. But, if he was excluded from consideration because someone ‘felt’ that those in power wouldn’t be happy about his inclusion, or officials didn’t want him to say the ‘wrong’ thing in public, then such injustice is possible for any of us, at any time, and that is scary. The liberated oppressed must always work hard to overcome the stigma cast upon them by their oppressors.