ECCENTRIC PROSE - Malignant Comradeship at a Public University: Why Precarious?

 By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza

We always went through the toughest of times in the midst of plenty. It was frustrating. The price of learning at a public institution intended for all people yet situated in a bourgeoisie suburb in the capital. Love shared was ultimately compromised by self-serving interests in the face of an extremely repressive campus security behemoth (for lack of a better, sane, kinder word). Not that we were inherently a threat to campus safety and harmony. But, well, because of a peculiar but expected conjuction of angst, academic & financial pressures, materialist envy, ideological struggles, a misdirected expression of carnal desires & passions, and catharsis, we were somewhat a threat - in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter anyway because there is always bigger fish to fry; yet, in spite of such truism, our comradeship (a de facto alliance of vagabonds at that time) was always targeted by the authorities that be. Sometimes unfairly. So, we were always not a disease - though our ideas were thoroughly infectious. But because we represented an idealized version of comradeship heavily leaning towards the unorthodox. Rebels. Hence the incessant surveillance. And that is what threatened them. (That beyond the veil of our troublesome misdemeanours - the majority done in private and never worthy of disciplinary attention/action - we portended political threats).

It threatened them; ours was malignant comradeship, a cancer - we were some sort of poison that had to be eliminated with a potent antidote. (And of course that antidote was predicated on denying us our inalienable rights to the freedoms of association, assembly, movement, and expression.) Our living was unconventional at a higher learning institution that does everything in its powers to stifle academic and artistic freedom, as well as the expression of the outlets. Hence our misdirected expression of the outlets - repressed desires. The comradeship we embodied bordered on the revolutionary - even though fraught with lethal contradictions; and to most of these comrades in the vagabond alliance (some who had the luxury of campus accommodation were even in this vagabond alliance) our eccentric living as a collective did not signal any ideological consciousness to them. Because of the convergence of individualism, envy, and angst. Just trying to get something to eat everyday, and to smoke or drink. And at each point I painstakingly brought it to their attention that ours was a riff-raff campus life. With a tinge of leftism.

The experience was mostly unsavoury but we hold no regrets - that eccentricity, unity, starvation, discomfort, precarious living, and constant bickering mirrored an ineluctable understanding of this contemporary neoliberal society. Even if some cdes in the vagabond alliance do not deem this a fashionable discourse. But it is what it is. We - especially for me because I was the intellectual vanguard of the troublesome student vagabonds - palpably felt that we were subjected to perennial surveillance. Our paranoid minds could not exactly distinguish the surveillance but we had a justifiable feeling that state security agents saw all our moves. Big Brother. I felt as if Nineteen Eighty-Four had come alive in Harare. Well, actually, it is. And of course campus security knew all our moves. I agree - we were a recalcitrant bunch of young men. And women. It’s only that at our core, we radiated anarchist charm and defiance. It was needed. We were an oxymoron unto ourselves. And even after such turbulent times came to pass, we remain paradoxes personified. Our rebellious expressions come from a good place nonetheless. Perhaps that’s why our comradeship was - and still is - precarious to the vapid, conformist ethos of the overzealous hostel wardens and campus security guards. Malignant alliances.

 ps: some eccentric short essays. What other option except to revel in eccentricity…the third position, sort of...simply, a collection of essays…

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