STOCKDALE PARADOX AND ZIMBABWEAN TEACHERS
By Mudzuri Harison (PTUZ National Coordinator)
During the Vietnam war, a military officer called Admiral Jim Stockdale, was captured together with others and were kept in prison.
This place was Hell on Earth for the captives.
They were tortured and dehumanized for eight good years.
Stockdale was tortured many times by his captors and never had thought that he would survive the prison camp and someday get to return home and see his wife again.
Many people died in this captivity BUT Stockdale and few others survived and were later released.
What is strange and paradoxical is that those who only had HOPE that they were going to be released in the near future are the ones who died.
It was hope followed by disappointment that caused early deaths to most of the captives.
So is hope not important when one is in gloomy conditions?
Yes, hope is important BUT hoping alone without action is called hopeless hope and it kills.
While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prison mates who failed to make it out of the prison alive.
After his release , Stockdale observed that:
“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas,’ and Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘ We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
What the optimists failed to do was to confront the reality of their situation.
They did not choose to DO something about their situation but to burry the heads in the sand wishing the difficulties to go away.
Civil servants in Zimbabwe, teachers included are in the same situation today as that of Stockdale and his mates.
The civil servants in general , teachers in particular, are in professional prison and face many occupational hazards such as slave wages, poor working conditions, stress related diseases, and victimisation from the employer.
They are in Hell in their occupations.
But, what do they DO?
They are optimistic that one day negotiations alone will bring them joy and high life.
They hope and believe that one day Pharaoh will change his heart and they will be paid handsomely.
They hope that the next negotiations will bring them Heaven on Earth.
The negotiations will come, and negotiations will go.
Nothing for teachers and other civil servants.
The next round of negotiations is promised. Negotiations will come and negotiations will go still teachers with NOTHING.
Until teachers and other civil servants decide to take ACTION regardless of the response from the government, there will be no reprieve for them.
Most teachers died long back but are waiting to be buried one day.
STRESS! HEART BREAK! DISAPPOINTMENT! SHOCK!
Yes, teachers and other civil servants must retain faith that they will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time they must confront the most brutal facts of their current situation, whatever the cost
Yes, whatever the cost!
Teachers cannot watch while teaching is being deprofessionalized and mediocratized.
Doctors, nurses, and other health personnel have moved out of their so called safe zone and have decided to confront their real situation.
Teachers and other civil servants must also get out of their so called comfort zone and fight for what they deserve.
The time is NOW!