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JULIUS NYERERE: A Unique Victory

RonPrice

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My inclination to write prose-poetry is always stimulated by something in my environment and, in the process of writing, I try to connect that stimulus to something in my personal history and in the history of the society I have been a part of since my birth in 1944. The society I have been a part of has been an increasingly global, planetized society, a society rapidly becoming One World if it is to survive.

This evening on the Australian TV channel ABC1 Jonathan Dimbleby1, British presenter of current affairs and political radio and television programmes, was on the second leg of his journey across Africa. In this case, in the case of this prose-poem, the stimulus to write was Dimbleby’s experience in Tanzania and particularly his reference, brief as it was, to Julius Nyerere, an apparently modest man from the little I know about him, who assumed the office of President of Tanganyika in December 1962 and died in October 1999. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC1 TV, “An African Journey With Jonathan Dimbleby,” 8:30-9:30 p.m., 16 November 2010.

Dimbleby was born one week after I was born in July 1944 and one week after the failed assassination-attempt on Hitler’s life. The allies were finally turning the corner in their eventual victory in May 1945 in WW2.

I hardly knew you1, then, in ‘62
when I was starting out on that
journey to two dozen towns on
two continents and trying to get
through nine grade 13 subjects,
running-that-gauntlet through
Ontario’s matriculation system.

Indeed, I hardly knew you when
you died in October ’99 & I had
just taken a sea-change, an early
retirement, to an old town on an
old continent to a house beside
a river and very near the ocean.

I was most impressed by what
you did in July 1963 issuing as
you did instructions against the
pomposity in public life.2….Well
done Julius! The Universal House
of Justice had just been elected &
the full institutionalization of that
incredible, charismatic Force was
successfully completed. A unique
victory was won3 in April of 1963
as I was about to write those nine
grade 13 exams to pave my way to
university in those earliest years of
my life. And ’63 was also a unique
victory for you, Julius and for what
became the Tanzania Dimbleby saw
tonight as summer was about to come
to the Antipodes where I have lived
for these last forty years of my life!!

1 Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania, previously Tanganyika, from 1961 until his retirement in 1985.
2 Pius Msekwa, “Tanganyika’s Independence Struggle,” First Magazine: Forum for Global Decision-Makers, 2010.
3 Century of Light, A book prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice, Baha’i World Centre, 2001, p.92.

Ron Price
16 November 2010
 

Infinite Chaos

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Good poem, Nyerere wasn't always the peaceful hero of the socialist left that many believed him to be. He was of the same era as Patrice Lumumba and in many ways took on some of the mantle of Lumumba when the latter was assassinated under the shady auspices of Western inspired cold war dealings.

Nyerere's Tanzania had none of the resources that Zaire / Congo had so it's always interesting to imagine what he would have made of greater natural resources. What I do have against Nyerere however is that his socialist ideal was hugely undermined by the effect of his Arusha Declaration enriching the agents who enforced it on ordinary Tanzanians. Nyerere wasn't as ruthless as Pol Pot in "villagising" his country nor did he completely follow the same route but the policy was unpopular with those very people it was designed to help or aid.

There were other elements about Nyerere I discovered as I grew up which led to my early disenchantment with what he did to Tanzania. In the end - an old saying by Margaret Thatcher comes to mind "the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." Tanzania never had much money to begin with but it certainly wasn't going to improve much under Nyerere.
 

RonPrice

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Thanks, Infinite Chaos. It's always good to get views to help provide a more informed perspective than the one a person already possesses---and I like that quote from Thatcher. In appreciation, Ron Price, Australia
 

Infinite Chaos

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Thanks, Infinite Chaos. It's always good to get views to help provide a more informed perspective than the one a person already possesses---and I like that quote from Thatcher. In appreciation, Ron Price, Australia

I wouldn't pretend to be more informed, I watched the Dimbleby series too and enjoyed his trips around Tanzania and other countries where I'd lived. I can honestly say a lot of people outside Tanzania admired Nyerere and some of his ideals.

I think I too (probably through my more liberal leaning parents) until I began to hear and study some of the things being said by Tanzanians. He had mighty ideals but he could also be somewhat ruthless with opponents and worst of all - many of those his policies were meant to help didn't have any real say or input or chance to voice that Nyerere's agents of change were reaping the benefits and helping themselves to riches while impoverishing others.
 

RonPrice

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We tend to get more informed as more information comes in, Infinite Chaos. Of course, the more we know the more we know that we don't know---and humility before the ocean of knowledge is, ultimately, our only position. I wrote the following about David Suzuki but got some very helpful comments/feedback expressing critical views of Suzuki, views that helped 'inform' my position.-Ron
--------------------------------
LEGACY

All my adult life I have lived with a sense of urgency, a sense of the crisis facing humanity, the anarchous nature of society since the Great War of 1914 and since WW2---the two wars that my father and grandfather lived through. This anarchy has been increasingly characterizing western and global society in the last half of the twentieth century and now into this third millennium. Writing poetry during my early, middle and late adulthood, in the half century from 1965 to 2010, has helped me articulate a response to this tempest, this gloom and doom, this war and bloodshed.

Back in 1962 about the time of the Cuban missile crisis when society came about as close to nuclear war as it has done thusfar, just after I started travelling and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community, I began to ‘run’, psychologically. Perhaps it was because I was a child of the cold war with the threat of the A-bomb always hanging over my head.

Perhaps I was just temperamentally wired, configured, constituted, to run. My dad always said so as he watched me bolt-down my food yet again. In the late 1960s I came across Paul Ehrlich, American biologist and educator, and then in the following decades David Suzuki. Their writings and talks reinforced my sense of urgency, what had become a sort of sixth sense fertilized by my study of the Baha’i teachings. It would also seem, in retrospect as I now gaze back over seven decades of living, my body- chemistry was a crucial factor in all of this seriousness, pressure and sense of criticality.

I’ve just finished reading, or more accurately browsing through, Vietnam We’ve All Been There: Interviews with American Writers.(1) I have felt like a war-veteran for years: not in the sense that I’ve seen it on TV or that I’ve been there as one of the troops, but in a wider sense of fighting a far different war on the home front and overseas. All the battles of life are ultimately within the individual. More than 50 years of various battles in my personal and professional life as well as pioneering the Baha’i teachings has frankly warn-me-down in the sense that Roger White describes it in his poem Lines from a Battlefield:(2)

......I tire of this old-born war.
..........
I am alienated from angels and celestial concerns,
..........
Locked in a grief so ancient as to have no name,
in this dimming light,
..........
Ah well, not every day can witness an anabasis*
and I, a sorry soldier, camp in ruins,
speak from weariness of battle far prolonged.

* a large scale military advance.

Still it is joy that is also experienced and remembered; happiness and a vision of the future must be at the centre of one’s life and inspire that life, if one is to resume the battle on a daily basis---at least for me. More of this essential juice, this joie de vivre, has been present in the early years of this 3rd millennium as I moved into late adulthood---the years after 60 as some human development psychologists call these years in the lifespan before old age sets in at 80!

Last night I heard Suzuki, now 74, give his “Legacy” lecture at the Perth Convention Centre.(3) This 90 minute talk provided me with a much more detailed ecological, environmental, biological, and generally scientific basis for the vision of the future I have had for more than half a century. There is, again at least for me, an inevitable and necessary institutional political and religious unification of the planet in the decades and centuries ahead. It’s utopia or oblivion as Buckminster Fuller put it in 1969 in his book by the same name. He had the very first science programme on BBC2 which was broadcast in April 1964 just as I was beginning my study of the arts and sciences at university.(4) –Ron Price with thanks to (1) Eric James Schroeder, Vietnam We’ve All Been There: Interviews with American Writers, Praeger Pub., Westport, Conn., 1992); (2)Roger White, Another Song Another Season, George Ronald, 1979, pp.111-112; (3)David Suzuki, Big Ideas, ABC24, 22 November 2010; and (4) Buckminster Fuller, Wikipedia, 24/11/’10

Ron Price
22 November 2010
 
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