I think you know what one means. There is always someone else whose fault it is that life sucks.
My recent encounters however with large dangerous predators of the Big Bad Wolf type have been nothing but positive. Food and books? Yum. More of the same, if I may, and many thanks! And I’m fairly certain you, voracious reader and hogger-down of delectable porcine morsels (no offence intended to non-partakers), have a similar salutary experience to report about these outlets.
But if you’re that shy retiring creature known as a politico, you might be forgiven for ceasing and desisting from dancing a jig about three little pigs – and with good reason. Because as every elected representative worth his (or her) salt knows: there’s always some large dangerous predator – real, imaginary, or conjured – who’s “coming to get you”. ’Twas ever thus…
Just think about the monsters we have already met and confronted with varied degrees of outcome. In the violent past, there were very real trolls – high on treason and terrorism – whom the state trounced in the end. In vile enough recent times, there were arguably dragons breathing antidemocratic fumes, whose imaginary flames were doused at the premature polls they called themselves. But these days the duly conjured up creatures take subtler more nuanced forms, for public consumption and the inducement of fearful vomiting by folks who can’t stomach the bitter pill of realpolitik.
There be heebie-jeebies under the beds of just about every citizen good and true… even – or especially – under ‘good governance’. These are mainly if not mostly of the making of our political ‘lords and masters’ (as they like to think of themselves in-between elections!). Three examples follow.
The incumbents fear that the big bad wolf of the past will return one day with a vengeance. For some of these – if
this frightful possibility becomes a reality – it means personal obliteration. For others it portends political oblivion. Thus the need to impress on the present polity the past misdemeanours of our erstwhile governors to secure the future of the incumbents. This includes chronic reminders about how bad it used to be, the odious comparisons of apples with oranges, the charades of show trials.
Of course none of this precludes the potential power that the former band of brothers & co. still wields. Power like that – friends in high places, supporters in the state mechanism, the mass appeal of populist rhetoric tinged with ethno-nationalist chauvinism – does not simply evaporate overnight. Be they relatively invisible for the nonce, these big bad wolves are still lurking in the thicket – it’s a real threat.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: MR & Co. are manipulating the media and segments of the state.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Bad or ugly as they may be – Good Governance needs some real opposition to challenge its ostensible motives.
THE TRUTH LIES IN-BETWEEN: There is an unwritten contract between players at the highest levels that permits a managed spectacle of staged conflict while real villains go scot-free.
Some of the present incumbents fear that their political shelf life will be limited if they don’t continue to make an impression on their constituencies. So their strategy has been as blatant as defending war heroes (who need no defence) from the diaspora (by defying the international community). Or their tactics have been as nuanced as endorsing the efficacy of the bond commission proceedings by patting the long arm of the law on the back.
But this does not necessarily mean that there is no fire where there was once an ominous trail of smoke. And to the chagrin of the Green Other Party in the present incumbency, there is little to do but grin and bear the humbling proceedings while casting aspersions at the AG’s Dept. to (in some way) allay their embarrassment.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Such a good thing as the bond commission could never have happened under the previous regime.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Yes, but the investigation is slanted and goes beyond its mandate in certain strategic or sensitive areas, while ignoring the calls of those summoned before it to pursue certain ignored aspects of the scandal or players therein.
THE TRUTH LIES IN-BETWEEN: It’s a convenient arrangement for both champions and critics of good governance.
The humiliation of ministerial wrongdoings aside, the party which feels that its valley was never greener is going great guns on the constitutional front. As a sincere effort to make our country more democratic and inclusive at every level for all its citizens, it scores in the high percentiles – despite transparency in the process leaving something to be desired. As a smokescreen to hide the political ambitions of would-be future executives safeguarding their party’s political future, it fails abysmally.
That goblins and gremlins are invoked in its instrumentality is par for the course – i.e., that the Third Republican Constitution will keep at bay the Hun at the Gate. It’s amusing that the Huns – the JO – play along by playing up and playing to the gallery predictably enough.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: We’re ignorant about what’s happening.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Ignorance is bliss.
The truth lies in-between.
THE FOXY TESTS
1.“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that no one’s out to get you.” Discuss this axiom of wily old fox Dr. Henry Kissinger with reference to bond commissions as a means to humiliating arrogant incumbents; Bond scams as par for the course under a democracy keen on wider friendly participation in kleptocracy than family; Bond charades as managed spectacles to keep the citizens occupied with bread and circuses until the cows come home with something to show for their efforts at governance.
B. Short Answers.
1. What makes you suspect that political conflict among parties of the present day is a managed spectacle? (BTW: full marks for subscribing to my conspiracy theory.)
2. How well do political leaders overseas use fear as the key to unlocking the support of sympathetic electorates fearful of starvation on home streets or nuclear war in their local neighbourhood? (HINT: first defuse the ticking time-bomb under your car or chair.)
1. Who is the big bad wolf abroad we fear a lot these days?
a. Trump the old boar
b. Putin the old bear
c. May the foxy vixen
d. Merkel the merciless minx
e. Kim Jong-un the ill-wind-blown nuclear iguana
2. Who is the big bad wolf at home we’re more than frightful about on the way forward?
a. MS the bore
b. MR the barefaced
c. RW the old fox
d. None of the above nucleus of the managed spectacle
3. Where will it end?
a. At the beginning of the usual dark nightmare
b. Before the dream of a new society fades
c. Caught between a rock and a hard place for our citizenry
d. Down in the doldrums for democracy
4. What is it that the powers that be do to frighten you most?
c. Blow the house down
d. Blow the House up with their damn grandstanding against a good thing
Is there a point to the text above and the test below it?
Perhaps, perhaps not! Maybe the point of the exercise is that we have lived too long in the shadow of bogeymen conjured by canny politicos. Maybe it’s time to move on to the vast sunlit uplands of the various hard-won liberties we hardly pay heed to these days. Maybe it’s high time for the savvier segments of our polity to mature and develop to have sophisticated responses to the managed spectacles that sundry parties and their respective leaders have foisted on us.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. We have nothing to lose but our shackles and our craven dependence on shameless swindlers who have cheated us of our sovereignty by perpetuating the old political culture under a new mask – and look like they’re gearing up to do it but once again.
(A senior journalist, the writer was once the Chief Sub Editor of The Sunday Leader, 1994-8, and is ex-LMD, having been its Editor, 2004-8. He has made a career out of asking questions, and not waiting for answers.)