Rejecting the New Normal

Rhodesia’s ill-fated independence, 55 years on. 

Man reading the Rhodesia Herald, November 1964 © Getty Images.

The experience of Rhodesia, the former white power settler state, appears newly relevant as a surge of global isolationism and nativism undermines liberal norms. Dylan Roof, the perpetrator of the 2015 massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina, wore a jacket bearing the Rhodesian flag. Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ rhetoric finds historic precedent in the ‘Rhodesia First’ motto espoused by right-wing whites in that colony in the 1950s.

Fifty-five years ago this November, Rhodesia proclaimed a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from British rule. The dramatic manoeuvre was loaded with symbolism to enhance its legitimacy. The announcement came at 11am on 11 November, the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities of the First World War. The declaration’s opening mirrored the American Declaration of Independence in its syntax and content.

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