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Entitlement gone wrong

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The other day I woke up and my phone didn’t work.  I’m a lucky Harare resident who’s had next to no problems with my line; thus, I’m not used to having a non-functioning phone.  I was sure a big mess and stress would ensue to get the line working again.  But it was also a troublesome feeling, this idea of being used to the possibility that basic services can come to an end.  I didn’t bother to wait it out and had no luck phoning because ironically Tel One’s phones never seem to work.  Instead, I marched myself down to Tel One so I could start my lobbying to get my line fixed.  Once there, I was told it was a city-wide problem being fixed and that my line would be working soon.  I so did not believe this.  Having gotten used to the fact anything and everything might stop working at any given point.  Having gotten used to the fact that people such as Tel One representatives might stretch the truth and tell customers what they want to hear.  But alas. When I got home, my phone was working. I was happy about that, but sad about what I’ve gotten used to.

One encounter during the walk home strengthened my thoughts around accepting what I’ve gotten used to.  A pedestrian engineered himself into my route. As expected the same old ridiculous conversation came my way.  Not even a greeting from this man, just the usual.  Where do you stay?  Can I get your phone number? I want you to marry me.  A persistence occurs that is out of this world unbelievable.  No matter whether I provide polite, engaging, rude, witty, silent, or whatever response, some men believe it’s ok to ask random strangers these questions and if they’re asking, I guess they’re holding hope that one day a random female pedestrian will say:  Yes, let’s go now to the chapel and get married, but first you better tell me your name.

I’ve gotten used to this.

So there it is.  Two vignettes.  One where what I’m used to did not come to be. And another where what I’m used to did come to be.  Everybody navigates all the possible outcomes concerning what one is used to, but for Zimbabweans seems it’s become a more complex navigation, one which disrupts the patience and confidence to assert rights around what citizens are entitled to.  In turn, potentially disrupting the ways people understand and practice the broader concept of entitlement.  Citizens are entitled to services such as phone lines, running water, and electricity.  For the many Zimbabweans who don’t regularly receive these services, this can brew into frustration and anger. People become complacent and get used to things.  I can’t help but wonder where the frustration and anger goes?

Certainly the male pedestrian I encountered is operating in a deeply historical, layered cultural, and unjust mind set which makes him feel he’s entitled to have power over women.  Yet I have this sneaking suspicion there’s a link with respect to the degree to which basic services (or entitlements) are denied and the persistent pursuit of at least being or feeling entitled to something.  This is to suggest that perhaps, to a degree, some men subconsciously feel that something such as having to just shrug your shoulders and accept a broken phone line becomes a threat to their masculinity because what they are entitled to has been taken away.  In turn, the frustration and anger is misplaced and this propels even greater desire to assert entitlement for something, such as power over women.

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