Living in Tough Places

As human beings, we spend our days searching for a place of safely. In today’s world with transport and communication being so easy, it sometimes feels as if the world is at our feet. It’s not of course because we put up barriers to travel and migration which can make it pretty difficult to get around these days – just try to get a visa to visit Britain for example.

Source: Living in Tough Places – The Zimbabwean

Eddie Cross

In my own life I can recall speaking to students at a Danish University and saying that I advocated free movement of people across the world. I was surprised by the reaction in that most liberal of countries, they were horrified. Then I spent a semester at that holy of holies, MIT in Boston, teaching a class of 268 of the most intelligent, confident and what seemed to me, wealthy, young people on managing a transition. What horrified me there was that those young people had no desire or intention of doing anything with their lives but making money.

What a change from when men and women of real capacity and intelligence left their lives of comfort and plenty to move deliberately to the toughest places on earth following a higher calling. Many were Christians and they left their mark indelibly on the countries and societies they served, many losing their lives in the process. Was this a senseless calling, a waste of their time and lives?

I can remember Professor Lawrence Levy and his wife. Both very capable and outstanding doctors of medicine – Lawrence in the field of neurosurgery. Both came here from their homeland to teach doctors at the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in Harare and they lived out their lives here. Working for virtually nothing, living in a home that was nothing to write home about, driving a small battered car, this marvellous man gave his time to the poor and disadvantaged and can recall him holding the hand of a young guerrilla from the ANC in South Africa who had been shot in Botswana and was paralysed from his neck down.

He comforted the young man who really had nothing to live for, spent hours in surgery trying to put his broken body back together. He later died but not alone and without the best care the secular world could supply, only because that man gave his life for those who were worse off than himself. Is that spirit in the world around us completely dead? If it is we are all poorer for it.

In our desperate search for safety and security, we will move across the world to make a life for ourselves in countries that we think offer a better future for ourselves and our children. But this comes with a cost. I was stunned last week to read a statement by a conservative politician in the United States saying that this was the time to attract people of capacity from countries in crisis like Zimbabwe.

I have always argued that migration on a selective basis means that we in the developing world are constantly seeing our best go to those countries of privilege who enjoy a very high standard of living, like moths to a light. On Thursday a Zimbabwean who grew up in Harare and went to a local Government school was in the NSSA team sending a space ship to Mars. When I went to New York during the time when I was in the MDC and fighting here for democracy, I met 15 Zimbabweans in a Boardroom – all them at the very top of the New York banking and finance industry.

I was proud of what they had achieved in the toughest business game in the world – but what a loss to the third world. If we are going to create a more equal world, we have to recognise that you cannot constantly bleed the best out of the developing world for the benefit of the developed world and see change happening. You cannot replace that with money – no matter how much you throw at it.

At the same time, I recognise that we in the developing world have to recognise that we are in competition with everyone else for skills and intellectual capacity. So we should be developing policies that will pay our Civil Servants a decent salary and retain the skills we need to deliver a better life to our people. Here the ideologists in our midst have created a real problem with their emphasis on equality. All those countries that have pursued such policies languish in the backdraft of successful countries. I was watching a satellite picture of China at night the other evening and was astonished at the lack of light in North Korea compared to the South or even China itself. The same for Cuba compared to the USA.

Given the way the world has opened up and the competition for skills and experience, we have to match the conditions our best will secure in the developed world. It means we will become more unequal, but that is the nature of the world system today and it’s not pretty.

It brings me back to the continuing need for humanity to seek a higher calling than just pursuing money and safety. We need to return to an era where our motivation for living in a country is based on a sense of nationalism and patriotism. When my son came back from his first visit to the USA he commented to me how patriotic the Americans are – flags flying, standing for the anthem and supporting their sports teams and Government. He commented that we do not see that here and how much we were missing out.

I am an African of European extraction – but my home is here in Zimbabwe and I stand for our anthem and sing along with the others when it is played. Is that important, yes it is in every way. When the people of Israel were called back from exile to rebuild the Temple and re-establish a Jewish State in the Middle East 2000 years ago, it was this sort of fervour that enabled them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 53 days, an amazing achievement in those days. Motivation is everything, take it out of the equation and everything we do is hard labour.

Modern Israel is a 21st Century example of a country that has somehow managed to rebuild a country despite the fact that it is in the desert, has no natural resources and is surrounded by hostile nations. It has been at war for most of its recent history, yet the calling to the Jewish Diaspora was strong, it has attracted the very best and Israel now leads the world in almost every field. That it was based on the determined sacrifice of its leadership cannot be disputed.

Somehow we have to emulate their example. We in Zimbabwe have everything – peace with our neighbours, huge natural resources and because of the sacrifices of many in the Church, the best-educated people on the continent. But we have driven out of the country a third of our population to other countries, we have failed to attract or hold and inspire talent in every field. We do not need the money of the developed world, we need to believe in ourselves and in our country.

I can remember taking 60 boys of about 12 years old to camp in the Eastern Mountains of Zimbabwe. Somehow when we divided them up into teams we ended up with all the small boys in one team. After two days they were totally dispirited – beaten at every game. I took an outstanding team leader and told him to take over the team, by the end of camp they were beating everyone at everything. Motivation and leadership, I have never forgotten the lesson.

Can Zimbabwe become a winning nation again, of course, but it will take leadership and change! Change in the way we are doing things, change in our policies away from failed experiments and change in our attitude. But most of all we have to believe in ourselves and be committed to our country and its people. Then we can do anything.


  • comment-avatar
    Ndebele 2 years ago

    Eddie, now that you are full on Zanu we shall ask for sanctions to be applied to you so that you can feel the love.