It is an interesting and exciting time; a new President, a new Constitution and tales of corruption that never cease. The question hanging heavy in the air is ‘what next?’
When you sift away all the froth and bubble, a murky picture emerges. This is all about the dynamics of power. How do you get it, how do you keep it, how do you lose it and then how do you get it back? There is nothing that exudes drama, fizz and suspense like a story about power. It is interesting to dissect in a theoretical model how the dynamics of power pan out.
Whilst reflecting on this, my mind drifted to two nursery rhymes. Poetry can often convey subtle emotions more effectively than even good prose. I think nursery rhymes can do a similar thing. They relate a complex story in a very simple format.
There are two very old nursery rhymes that have survived hundreds of years and are still sung, as they have some magic about them, to relate in a very simple way some eternal truths. Over the years they have been given various interpretations and I think they lend themselves to shedding some light on our current political scene.
This nursery rhyme, which was first published in 1797, goes as follows:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
Three score men and three score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty what he was before.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty was a powerful person as he was the one sitting on the wall. Power creates a hunger for more power. (It is like eating nuts, it creates a compulsive desire). So every year he put another row of bricks on the wall. The wall rose higher and Humpty Dumpty became more powerful.
Humpty’s power was entirely dependent on the support of his acolytes. If he lost their support, he lost his power. So Humpty had to keep the acolytes happy. He gave them what made them happy.
After sometime the acolytes had got so used to their positions of privilege that they were petrified that Humpty might remove them if they made Humpty cross. The tables had turned. At first Humpty depended on the acolytes to get him into power but then the acolytes depended on Humpty for their wellbeing.
"When nobody could touch him in any way as the wall was too high to reach him, Humpty became dictatorial. He did not tolerate challenge from anyone. Good decisions are dependent, on debate and discussion. This ceased to happen. His acolytes did not challenge him for the fear of losing their roles that were becoming increasingly profitable. He let his acolytes indulge in fun and games for a good reason. His power depended on a strong force of acolytes who were fearful of losing his patronage and therefore beat any opposition and kept them away"
When nobody could touch him in any way as the wall was too high to reach him, Humpty became dictatorial. He did not tolerate challenge
from anyone. Good decisions are dependent on debate and discussion. This ceased to happen. His acolytes did not challenge him for the fear of losing their roles that were becoming increasingly profitable. He let his acolytes indulge in fun and games for a good reason. His power depended on a strong force of acolytes who were fearful of losing his patronage and therefore beat any opposition and kept them away. That was an essential part of the equation.
Humpty Dumpty was never satisfied and wanted to keep on increasing his power and so he kept on increasing the wall. Finally it was too much and even the acolytes could not help him to balance on the wall and he fell down.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. The key characteristic of an all powerful leader is the ability by and large to do as he pleases. As Humpty Dumpty was a strong leader when he lost this position it became a great fall. When he fell off the wall he lost all his power. He could not do any of the things he could do before. He also lost his ability to bestow favours or presents on his acolytes. Humpty would have found it very difficult to accept becoming a nobody.
Three score men and three score more, could not make Humpty Dumpty what he was before.
When a strong leader falls there is great apprehension amongst his acolytes. Great fear that their positions of power and influence will wane or disappear in a flash. There will be panic, urgent discussions and the inevitable conclusion that they must restore their leader. Humpty Dumpty would also have besieged his acolytes to get him back on the wall. The first flush of great enthusiasm for getting Humpty back on the wall will give them a reprieve in their minds from the earlier fear that all was lost. After this initial flash of excitement, reality will begin to dawn on them. The rules have changed. Humpty Dumpty can never ever sit on the wall. As he can’t, then all the power that accrued to the one sitting on the wall will never be available to him again. The nursery rhyme has a sad ending.
The three score men and three score more, could not make Humpty Dumpty what he was before.
The second nursery rhyme was written in 1881.
A ring a ring of Roses,
A pocketful of Posies
We all fall down.
This nursery rhyme is said to have been inspired by the great plague in Britain. At that time the country was doing well. It was summer when all the flowers were blooming. Everyone was outside dancing amongst the roses. The girls had bunches of flowers (posies) in their pockets.
It is Atishoo, Atishoo. Then the plague arrived. A deadly disease with no cure. Everyone who got the plague died very quickly. If you sneezed it meant that you had gotten the plague and then one died very quickly. Hence the rhyme goes Atishoo, Atishoo we all fall down.
When a great leader falls, it is not only his close acolytes that get affected. Various kinds of benefits would have been dispensed to a wide circle. Some would have claimed to know the leader so as to gather various benefits for themselves .Throughout the land there will be people who are doing better due to their alignment with the great leader. Many of them will also use the link to find ways and means of getting some boodle into their pockets.
So when the great leader goes it is like a plague that descends suddenly. People are dancing, their pockets are full and then when the leader goes suddenly, the plague will very quickly remove all the people with the flowers in their pockets.
This scenario gets captured in this second nursery rhyme. This rhyme is well known in Britain and it is still sung in summer with children holding hands and dancing in a circle. Then someone goes ‘Atishoo’ and they all fall down.
It has kept going over the years as it relates a story that is applicable to any unusual event.