Sunday, January 21, 2018

Of Deserving & Merits

"Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite."

Or as it is typically translated to in English, "Every nation gets the government it deserves". 

I don't know about the "deserve" part, but I would more agree with "Every nation gets the government it merits".  

Deserving implies some nations don't deserve better governance, the kind of thought process that could lead Europe to, for example, go on a colonization craze. 

Merit on the other hand leaves room for the nation's ability to do as well as it can muster. 

Since the election of Donald Trump I make it my business to check FoxNews every time I feel the need to check NYTimes and Wapo. It makes no sense to listen to vessels that reinforce my existing beliefs. The more I watch what FoxNews and NYTimes spin, the more it makes sense that Donald Trump is president. 

Yesterday I had brunch with a couple, Ghanian and English, and the Ghanian said, "Watch this. Trump will get his second term". I shrunk in my seat, but to be honest, watching from afar, there is nothing to suggest otherwise. 

About a year ago, I read a book called "Tower In the Sky", about the youth struggle in Ethiopia in 70s, leading up to Red Terror and mass incarcerations. I highly recommend the book, by the way, simply because it broaches a topic most Ethiopians of that era are unwilling to speak about. The author isn't particularly forceful about her beliefs to the reader, but her passion and her convictions at the time are present throughout her story. 

Having missed the whole Red Terror era, from me one of the saddest insights from the book was in realizing that all the Ihapas (EPRP), MEISONs, and Dergue were, at the core, the same people. Sure, they had some differences, probably safe to say now hardly worth the blood shed. None of them were willing to compromise. All them believed the other should be exterminated because each believed their vision was the one and only true way. Alas, one of them ended up being strongest, and proceeded to wipe out the other two. Their behaviors imply that whichever of the three proceeded to power, would have behaved like the Dergue : intransigent, self righteous and willing to use force to enforce its vision. 

 "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite."

Image result for you cannot negotiate with people who say what is mine is mine and what is yours is negotiable
Not to justify Dergue's horrific rule, but it only seems plausible that Ethiopia's institutions, coupled with constructs of its society & culture at the time could only allow/merit the type of government it got. Anything drastically better would have been eliminated by all the hardheaded uncompromising hardliners who were bent on enforcing their way. Alternatively, anything drastically better would have had to outperform the harshest of opposition (i.e. thereby being harsher than the harshest) to assure its success, thereby eliminating itself from the 'better' pile in the process. Some key aspects of such an outcome can be explained by Escalation of commitment

The more I watch African governments, and visit African countries, the more I am convinced any group that speaks of sweeping reforms can only be a disaster. Any opposition that can't compromise and work with the incumbent will be a disaster. Any incumbent that is unwilling to work with any opposition is awaiting disaster, if not already wallowing in one. 

What we seem to overlook or unwilling to accept is that any incumbent is, in its core values, as terrible as its opposition. Society can't accidentally grow a full government of uncompromising people, and a bevy of enlightened opposition leaders, or vice versa. If the government is filled with people who can't work with the opposition, the opposition is filled with people who can't work with the government. 

Africa is filled with many such oppositions and incumbents, from Kenya to South Africa to Zimbabwe to Ethiopia, etc.  

Of late, after years of grating and devolving political culture, the US appears to have joined the club. Albeit on the far end of the functional spectrum, but still the same club. 

What a s**tshow.