Friday, October 1, 2010

50 Hearty Cheers to Our Politicians!

"We got our independence on a platter of gold in 1960 and 50 years after, we are still behaving like the prodigal son who never suffered any want”

Good morning, students. And how're you all?

We are fine, sir.

Good. Today's political science class is going to focus on what present and past world leaders and philosophers have said about politics and we shall examine how these apply to our own experience. First is Thomas Payne, the 18th century American political philosopher. He may be famous for his books, 'The Rights of Man' and 'The Age of Reason' but right in America he is better remembered for the role he played during the American Revolution. His words: "These are times that try men's souls", he declared on the eve of the war of independence from the British. "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It's dearness that gives everything its value". Who can decode that to suit our own political environment?

I, sir. The man is perfectly correct. We got our independence on a platter of gold in 1960 and 50 years after, we are still behaving like the prodigal son who never suffered any want. We have squandered our riches on vanity, chasing shadows all over the place and catching none.

Okay, okay...Any other contribution?

Yes, sir. We don't seem to know the value of what we have and that's why we don't show respect for our national flag or anthem. All over the world Niagarans are known as the only nationals that don't give a damn about their national pride. Visit America on July 4 and see the display of the American flag in every home, on every car and at every public place. Here the nation's birthday is nobody's business because we did not sweat blood to become independent. Go to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, South Africa and even Ethiopia that was never colonised and see genuine smile on everybody's face on their national days. Here, what you see is larcerated smile on shattered faces because the politicians have continued to let down the nation....

Okay! Let me introduce the next speaker and what he has to say. Hear him: "No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people", Walter Lippmann in 'Revolution and Culture: A Preface to Politics'. What's your understanding of this?

As for me, I think the man is saying that education is key to the understanding of how democracy works. Democracy is not working in Niagara not only because of the attitude of the politicians but also as a result of the low or lack of education of the electorate...

Let me cut you short by introducing Bertrand Rusell and what he said in 1958 in 'Silhouettes in Satire'. "If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of (rice), at what stage of starvation will you prefer the (rice) to the vote?". Can anybody put this in perspective? Yes, Alex.

This one na kongi, sir!

How do you mean?

I mean this is a tough one. But let me try my best. I believe a poor, hungry man will not even think about democracy at all before opting for the bag of rice. To him democracy of the stomach is superior to any form of government. And the uneducated man? He cannot differentiate his left from his right. Definitely he will also opt for the grain. This is exactly what has been happening since independence. The politicians and the few educated but selfish elite in government underfeed and undereducate the masses in order to keep them perpetually in bondage.

What you are saying, in essence, is that the status quo ante remains because poverty and ignorance remain weapons of repression in the land. Good but how about this as a warning of repercussion? "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich", President J. F. Kennedy said this in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961...Eh! Hold it! Take this also for measure, "Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime", says Aristotle, the great philosopher in 'Poiltic'. Now, you can react.

Sir, I think Aristotle has preempted me. All these political shenanigans will have to come to an end one day whether we like it or not. And, if I may add, sir, the problem is not peculiar to Niagara except that the rest of the world looks up to this once-upon-a-time giant in the sun to lead the way in bringing about a sort of politico-economic renaissance in the continent to prove that we, indeed, can make the difference. Permit me, sir, to also quote a former American ambassador in Kenya who was contributing his views on the political changes then taking place in Africa. He said and I quote, "Africa missed the industrial revolution which formed the basis of modern democracy in the West". That may be true but my worry is why Africa through the African Union cannot initiate an agrarian revolution and become the food basket for the rest of the world. Instead we are better known for our "African tigers and lions". Sheer bunkum! Niagara should be at the forefront of this kind of initiative...

Shh! You want to spoil a good argument. Niagara is in no mood for any revolution whether political or agrarian or ethical. Ours is a system of "anything goes". But lest I forget, let me remind you that what that ambassador was saying is that democracy without a strong economy is a blatant dream. Unfortunately in our own case politicians think the art of governance is not a serious business and thereby don't give a hoot seeing the ship of state drifting in the sea of uncertainty for the greater part of the country's 50 years of independence...

Sir, I think they are all a pack of jokers.

Why do you say so?

It's only a joker who would say the art of governance is not a serious one. Sir, I humbly submit that politics is serious business. Even a circus show is a serious business. Acrobatic displays in mid air can, indeed, be fun but it's serious business all the same.

Well, I have listened to all your contributions and I just want to remind you that the average Niagaran politician is a lotus eater and that's why they keep coming back like locusts. You should not take them serious. The current hooplah and shouts over who becomes the next president will sooner than expected simmer down like hot plate soup because as one philosopher once said, the first rule of politics is never say never. "The ingenious human capacity for manoeuvre and compromise may make acceptable tomorrow what seems outrageous or impossible today". Politicians' actions are often dictated by self or class interest. The common man is the unknown factor, the unidentified grumbling object and the undistinguishable character in their formula of sharing. Unfortunately they seem not to know that in a chemical reaction, which politics has gradually become over a period of 50 years, 'X' is always the unknown factor.

Sir, that's an explosive one! But I tend to agree. Perhaps this is why we are where we are today. Niagara is ripe for change. Real, meaningful change, not just generational shift.

Change indeed!!! Happy anniversary, though, to you all but, please, don't forget to submit your long essay on GREED AND PREJUDICE: THE POLITICS OF ‘LONG THROATS’ IN AFRICA or STEPPING ASIDE AND STEPPING BACKWARD IN AFRICAN POLITICS, THE NIAGARA EXPERIMENT to my secretary before you go on your Independence break. Have fun. Chill in, don't chill out. Kidnappers are many in town. Catch yah!

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