@Jamwana2 on Saturday
Government, folly of mankind?
Barbara W Tuchman is a prolific writer on politics as read through history. I enjoy her take on her subject.
But she is American, western, itself an important qualification epistemologically. Presently I am reading her book, “The March of Folly.”
Typically, she opens her books by firing a salvo.
“The March of Folly” is no different. Here she is, belligerent as ever: “A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than any other human activity.”
Four types of misgovernance
I work for Government, worse, serve at its highest echelon. Everything I say, once politically incorrect, is sure to be self-indicting.
For how do I quote Tuchman without impliedly judging my employer?
I am skating on thin ice, yet skating I still will, even here in the Savannah.
Tuchman itemises four kinds of misgovernment, “often in combination.”
These are: tyranny or oppression; excessive ambition, vaulting ambition, in the words of William Shakespeare; incompetence or decadence, whereupon a system simply collapses from the sheer weight of its own decay; folly and perversity, which is when a system “pursues policies contrary to self-interest of the constituency or state involved.”
She adds: “Self-interest is whatever conduces to the welfare or advantage of the body being governed; folly is a policy that in these terms is counter-productive.”
Judging policies within reigning mores
Tuchman says for anything governmental to qualify as folly, it must, inter alia, “have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight.”
Fair point, very fair.
And she invokes an English historian to back up her point: “Nothing is more unfair,” says the unnamed English historian, “than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present.
Whatever may be said or morality, political wisdom is certainly ambulatory.”
Every policy, she concludes, is determined by the mores of its age. Ignore the big words she uses; that’s the language of erudition!
More important than the Earth
This week, two developments which claimed my involvement have been noteworthy.
The first was global, namely COP’27, or what is fully known as Conference of Parties, 27th Edition.
I attended the first Earth Summit held in Rio De Janeiro, far back in 1992.
It set in train these periodic climate summits, whose capacity to marshal humankind’s will to act remedially, appears to decline in inverse proportion to human time and human hysteria at the staring apocalypse.
In Egypt, the UN Secretary General said humanity was speedily along the superhighway, speeding headlong to self-doom.
Yet in terms of concrete outcomes, nothing matched this hysteria, this looming planetary disaster.
So Sharm el-Sheikh came, and very soon will be gone and forgotten, to pave way for COP’28, and to more hysteria communicated in various tongues of this doomed, deaf earth.
It was telling that Americans created a sideshow to COP’27, by way of their mid-term elections which dissipated attention and focus on the climate disaster we are told faces us.
Electing representatives of this one nation seemed more newsworthy than the whole dying Earth, and its fretful teeming human multitudes.
So many more sideshows
Not only American mid-term elections.
There was a CITES Meeting set somewhere in South America.
To a very large extent, themes on COP’27 and CITES coincide or overlap.
Ministers of CITES are probably the same ministers of COP’27; certainly in our case as Zimbabwe.
Ministers had to hurry through COP’27, to then fly to South America! I will not mention the war in Eastern Europe; or tensions in the South China region, thanks to meddlesome America.
All these made sure world attention was distracted, or divided which is why Presidents Xi and Putin never showed up, while Biden only arrived after all his peers had flown back to their capitals.
Never was a Summit so ill-fated before it began!
In search of self-interest and ruinous profit
As I flew to and from Sharm el-Sheikh, I wondered why Barbara Tuchman had confined folly to national governments.
Or even postulated that folly is when the State acts in ways contrary to self-interest.
Our present global climate crisis comes about from actors and actions which are more than governmental; they also come from actors and actions aggressively pursuing self-interest whose name is that small, ruinous word: PROFIT!
If Shylock wanted to extract a pound of flesh from his debtors, today humanity seeks more than the same from its creditor, the Earth! What do you think this is, dear Madame Tuchman?
But all that is global, too broad for my little inner eye. Let me play the game I match.
At Sharm el-Sheikh, I saw many angry youngsters operating under various (Non) Governmental Organisations.
All of them were creatures of governments other than those they voted or can vote in by rights of citizenship. Or creatures sent by governments they live under.
Yet they still call themselves NGOs, non-governmental organisations.
In Tuchman’s scheme of things and analysis, we adjudge them to be perfectly excused from the folly that afflicts governments, or so she and they want us to believe.
We will soon find out!
Frenetic NGO Agitprop
In situational unison, and bound by the strong cord of common foreign sponsorship, these energetic youngsters denounced governments and men, both for ruining “their” earth, which they considered its only deserving holy inheritors.
I admired the energy and the pitch of their indignant yells, and of course the denunciatory expletives they had so ornately written on banners and placards, both made from cotton and paper, ironically grown and made from trees cut elsewhere on this ruined planet.
None of the lot seemed to notice the folly and irony of pasting their messages on raw material which depletes wooded land, itself the foremost carbon sink!
Nor would they allow such irony to stand in their way, let alone dampen their borrowed zeal for a healthy Mother Earth.
Coal, Hwange and Manhize!
Coming from Zimbabwe, I noticed a few of our own in this synthetically enraged motley global crowd.
They denounced all forms of ruinous energy, principally fossil fuels. Our Zimbabweans! My mind raced back home.
It settled on Manhize Steel Works which is still under construction, and billed to be the largest steel works on our Continent, once through its phased implementation.
The Chinese are building it.
It needs millions of tonnes of coking coal to fire it; coking coal is a fossil fuel we have in abundance, chiefly in Hwange, but also in Chiredzi.
Our deposits are thought to run into more than a century of steady exploitation.
What becomes of Hwange 7&8?
My mind also raced to Hwange Seven and Eight generators, both under construction, in fact near completion and ready for commissioning early next year, to meet our growing energy needs.
Like the steel works, the motive force is coal, a fossil fuel.
I also remembered a project for which funding has already been secured, at great cost, to rehabilitate and refurbish Generators 1 to 6, plus little thermal stations in Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare.
These, too, run on thermal coal, a fossil fuel.
So why is Batoka an orphan?
My memory went even further. It recalled Batoka Hydro-power project which, in spite of generating clean energy, appears to suffer stillbirth for want of financiers.
It was for that reason Presidents Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe and Hichilema of Zambia met, on the sidelines of COP’27.
I asked myself: if the issue was clean energy and green industrialisation, why would Batoka be an orphan in this green-hyperconscious world? Did these yelling demos know all that, including how overpriced and senselessly patented the technology for manufacturing solar panels so critical to a transition to a green civilisation, is?
What opportunity cost for Zimbabwe?
In the case of those poor environmental warriors from our Zimbabwe, whose voices so many foreign governments were happy to hire and fly to Sharm el-Sheikh — all on ozone-depleting and destroying big flying machines — did they, I wondered, quite understand the import of their hired campaign?
That Zimbabwe let’s fallow of its vast coalfields for the sake of repairing a planet ruined by over more than 400 years of exclusive and excluding carbonised civilisation of the West?
Without any other affordable energy recourse, except one sinking it deeper into debt-dependency, even then assuming sanctions do not come into play?
Where is climate justice, which none of their banners agitated for?
If they were alive to all these key questions – which I doubt they were – did they ever cost that decision to go green, energy-wise: by way of industrialisation opportunities foregone?
Economics teaches that every decision made carries with it costs by way of opportunities dropped in its wake.
Had they also read that chapter, which is not even a post-script?
Forego oil, forego gas, clean Zimbabwe!
Much worse, I mused: when had they been flown into Sharm el Sheikh?
Could that have been before Invictus was formed? Before God the creator of heaven and his stool – our Earth — had created the fossil oil-oozing and natural gas-hissing rocks of Guruve, our homeland?
Sezvine chinodero — like there is something saying it, to invoke Shona parlance — barely three days after Sharm el Sheikh, Invictus told us Zimbabwe had hit oil and gas, following its huge, earth-boring drilling machines which reached the marrow of our inner territory!
Whereto our carping hired environmental agitators, busily doing the bidding of ruinous civilisations of others, all for filthy lucre, all against our bid to fire our hopes for industrialisation, all against our own national interest and against those national endowments that should lift our people and Nation up?
We forego this new find in times like this?
We forego this rare chance to become OPEC’s youngest member, all because of our yelling, foreign paid agitators?
One Samkeliso Tshuma’s storm
Which takes me to the second occurrence. Once back from COP’27, I ran into a Twitter storm brewed by some young girl from Bulawayo.
Her name is Samkeliso Tshuma.
She introduces herself as a proud founder of several (N)GOs, chief among them LetsConnectZim and TheWinnersCircle.
I will pretend there is nothing sinister in the naming, and give her the benefit of holy, pious goals.
She was irate; she raved incandescent about individuals she claimed were from our secret service, who visited her in industrial quantities, and called her so frequently that she knew no sleep, and felt thoroughly harassed as a citizen.
She was one person who loved her country, loved her government and loved all institutions that manage our national affairs, she opined.
Soon below that plaintive cry, she confessed to not knowing what or who Office of the President was, presumably itself the source of all her troubles.
It was at that point I felt strongly pulled into the vortex of her non-selective anger.
I am clean, says Samkeliso!
Why were they visiting her, calling her?
They wanted to know more about the NGOs she ran, particularly the identity of her funders, she answered.
So, why won’t you give them that information, innocent and loving as you are, I asked?
Whereupon she descended into a self-exculpating torrent, swearing by God, man and mother she was innocent, law-abiding and had broken no law, whether by any fraction, or in full measure.
Or if she had, why not call in the police, she added mournfully.
Dear girl, I advised with kind brutality, it’s not for you to say how much you love your country, how clean and innocent you deem yourself.
It is for those officers tasked to mind State Security to say, assuming they are from our secret service.
In any event you are expected to be loyal to your country, however much you may hate or love it, I added!
State agents are “not” covered by the Constitution!
She would hear none of it; she strenuously sought to mobilise those on Twitter by waving the card of victimhood, and her assumed Ndebele identity by which she thought she was entitled to claim victimhood.
Politely again, I told her to co-operate, adding such co-operation was not a favour to the State, but rather, a duty of every citizen, certainly a requirement for those who deigned hobnob with foreigners, as most (N)GOs were wont to!
As expected a few of her sympathisers jumped in, including one who sounded like some poorly read lawyer.
His name was John Nkomo, but who used some muscular Twitter name which spoke of war and the art of war.
Samkeliso had no obligation to entertain these people, declared this knight in false, shining armour.
In the absence of the Police, added Nkomo, she should just tell them off.
State Security agents were not in the Constitution anyway, he threw a challenge clearly aimed at me.
Section 224 covers our Secret Service
I must say I flipped, saucily reminding Nkomo how remarkably ignorant of the law he was.
Taken aback by my resoluteness, he then changed tact, to ask me to show him under what section the Secret Service was covered.
I declined, curtly urging him to be literate.
In case there are some like this poor John, who think our Constitution provides no legal leg for our Secret Service, I suggest they read Section 224 of our Constitution!
But all that is an aside.
I am Government in my own right!
On probing a little further on Samkeliso Tshuma, I came across this tweet by her, itself one of many the prolific girl regularly posts: “The govt gets funding. Which institution can do its work without funding? Don’t you go to the bank and get assistance? Why is funding problematic when our govt is the most funded by foreign institutions? Anyway we have no funding so ukhuluma ngani?”
Now she knows . . .
I don’t know what Tuchman calls this? Naïveté or folly? Static or marching, racing in fact?
Simply, Samkeliso confirms she is foreign funded, ironically through her copious, yet hare-brained defence and justification for foreign funding, all capped by a pithy yet bald denial!
She even sees herself as a counterpoise of Government, itself a key, elected part of the State! Much worse, she thinks getting funded by foreign interests is akin to going to a bank to “get assistance”!
I am sure she now knows she owes the State some honest audience; that she is not a state-within-a-state, whatever fumes of greatness her foreign sponsors might have pumped into her head, and, that getting foreign funding from a hostile foreign State is not quite the same as getting “assistance” from a bank, whatever that means!
Letter to Barbara Tuchman
Back to Barbara Tuchman.
My dear Barbara, all of the above marching folly comes from the governed, not from governments.
In all cases, governments, whether assaulting or defending States in question, do act clinically, and in firm self-interest.
For those governments creating GOs – Governmental Organisations – such as were sent to Sharm el-Sheikh, or such as those “founded” by Samkeliso, they are acting in, and pursuing clear self-interest which profit from the dashing folly of some of our own, vocally living in our midst. In this saucy article, I have tried to correct and answer your otherwise brilliant question which I reproduce hereunder: “Why…did the Trojan rulers drag that suspicious-looking wooden horse inside their walls despite every reason to suspect a Greek trick?” Today the wooden horse is mis-named NGOs, and those who drag it into walls of Zimbabwe are not rulers of Trojan, but its gullible or treacherous citizens!
Teach the children the truth on world about them
Of course those Governments arming themselves variously, including through laws like the PVO Bill which surprisingly, is taking too long to process through Parliament, are not marching in folly.
They are enlightened actors whose policies match a mores so full of threats to their authority, and to the sovereignty of the State they are elected to protect and defend.
Of course the un-enlightened portion of their citizenry provides a spectacle of lunacy, to use your own expression, my dear lady!
To our scholars who mould tender minds under your care, including Samkeliso, please teach the children the truth; avoid homicide through misleading and misapplied epistemology.
Turn those bloody, Eurocentric theories up side down, and test them on the hard anvil of national experience, national threat and national interest.
That way we won’t have Samkelisos!
Learn from us, donkeys: we may share the same pen with cattle, goats and sheep; but our mating season remains inflexibly fixed!