At the United Nations General Assembly last Monday, Sir Robert, the Lord of Salisbury (born ‘Robert Gabriel Mugabe’) had the following to say about homosexual rights:

“We reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs […]”

‘We’, of course, refers to him alone. Like the veteran collectivist he is, he supposes to speak on behalf of his entire country, attributing his hateful and anti-libertarian views to millions. He said this in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s threat of cutting American aid to nations which do not adopt a more enlightened approach to treating people who disagree with the dominant opinion fairly.

Yet, only days earlier, he asked for the host of sanctions against Zimbabwean politicians to be lifted. For Zimbabwe to succeed in its developmental agenda, the sanctions must be done away with. Sir Robert, in effect, is saying that his government should be entitled to do as it pleases, but other governments must not be allowed to respond accordingly. Some blatant royal arrogance only to be expected from the peerage. No, he is entitled to reap the rewards of Zimbabwean statehood yet shoulder no responsibility. He has single handedly sent a once prosperous nation on an economic down spiral and presided over a regime more brutal than Ian Smith could ever achieve. For this, he expects to be treated with respect and dignity.

My Facebook feed has been littered with articles about how ‘Zimbabwe is not as bad as the West says’ and that the country is not at all as poor as popularly regarded. What exactly is the motive here? Are we congratulating a regime for managing to stay afloat despite being one of the most dictatorial in the world? Obviously, it is private businesses who are struggling for dear life, which are keeping the country from total collapse; yet this is ignored. Again the ‘postcolonial’ African narrative comes to the fore: Zimbabwe is not a failed state! It does have an effective government! It is Zimbabwe’s sovereign right to do as it pleases!

The postcolonial narrative skips over those important aspects of sovereignty which include the responsibility of state governments to protect and treat the people within its borders fairly. Of course, sovereignty is a generally rejected concept in libertarianism as it alone is often used as a justification for any kind of oppression imaginable. But the postcolonial types take it to a whole other level, even complaining when international judicial tribunals seek to hold African political leaders who have presided over genocide of Africans to account. Apparently they oppose liberal democratic values for its own sake, and not because of any genuine concern for Africa’s future.

The fact that entities such as the African Union, and countries such as our very own South Africa will continue to entertain Zimbabwean delegations, condone Zimbabwean elections and look the other way from Zimbabwean atrocities shows that the postcolonial philosophy is not to be regarded as anything morally superior to Western ideological imperialism. Western ideological imperialism has led to the spread of liberal democracy, increased respect for individual human beings and orderly governance. There are currently no African solutions to African problems. Certainly not while Jacob Zuma keeps shaking hands with Sir Robert and smiling widely as he does it.

For postcolonialism to earn the respect it desires, the following, at least, needs to happen:

  • It should stop existing merely to oppose Western ideas. Moreover, it should stop existing merely to oppose good Western ideas while embracing destructive, deadly Western ideas, such as Marxism, corporatism or military dictatorship.
  • It should ensure its proponents are squeaky clean – Sir Robert, among other supporters, needs to be jailed and chained. Respecting the dignity of a politician for its own sake is a Western idea. Robert should be dragged through the streets on his way to lockup.
  • It should develop a consistent theoretical foundation. As it stands, postcolonial theory defines concepts such as ‘oppression’ ad hoc not according to what is being done, but according to who is doing it. Oh, Sir Robert slaughters 20,000 Zimbabweans? Nah – sovereignty. An American sewage company cleans our drinking water?! Exploitation! Western oppression!
  • As a further matter of consistency – it should stop imposing its ideology on people while decrying the West for doing the same. To draw an arbitrary geographical distinction here would be illogical. The mere fact that a gay person finds himself in Zimbabwe should not mean that he somehow has to conform to the opinion of a local politician, while he is absolutely forbidden from conforming to the opinion of a politician right across the river-border.

That’s a start. At least without bloodied hands the postcolonials can come to the table of mature engagement and receive the message of liberty. They can have their own ‘values’ but any idea loses its legitimacy if it is imposed through force. Force negates any ideological legitimacy because it essentially compels conformity, rather than persuade it. You cannot regard something as a ‘common’ value or tradition if people are merely complying to spare themselves the death and destruction you will inflict upon them if they don’t.

Martin is the Academic Programs Director for Students For Liberty in Southern Africa (www.studentsforliberty.org/africa/). He is a co-founder and editor of the Rational Standard and the Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian (www.beinglibertarian.com). You can find him on Facebook or contact him via email at [email protected]