Have you ever wondered why intelligent men (and women) in African governments will stay put in their positions even when they should quit because their bosses abuse them?
Wonder no more, because they are not alone.
Over time, we have witnessed people we thought were better than they actually were, individuals whose personal intellectual and moral worth put them several rungs above where they were placed by lesser individuals who happened to have the levers of power in their hands and the poor devils had to “stick it” as a way of surviving and “eating” while they could.
A murderous buffoon in Uganda once caused a video to be filmed in which he was addressing a real Cabinet meeting in which we could identify the crème de la crème of East African intelligentsia and the idiot was dispensing primary-school level homilies on everything under the sun. Some of the ministers looked like they were about to shove their pencils up their nostrils as they listened, but they stuck it.
The thing in Africa is that a Cabinet post, or anything like that, is an opportunity to “chop” as my West African friends would put it. “If da man wey dey give you chop be madman you be madman self to refuse am,” would seem to be the organising principle.
But you do not expect the same thing to apply to wealthy Western boys (and girls) who happen to serve under a madman like Donald Trump. These are guys with independent means, some of them having been born with silver ladles in their mouths. For heavens’ sake, they don’t even have to work a day in their lives because theirs is old money, which was being made even as the Mayflower was berthing.
Quitting not an option
But Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, who looks and sounds like he is suffering from his boss’s public gaffes, says he will not quit, contrary to speculation in the “Beltway,” which is what they call Washington.
Tillerson even called a non-press-conference to say he was going nowhere anytime soon, that he was working for a “smart” president and that there was business for him and colleagues to transact that made him happy to be of service.
Come on, Rex! This is the same man who recently called his president “a moron” and now, questioned at a press conference about his very apt remark, he doesn’t deny it but says he will not descend so low as to discuss the “moron” comment.
Sadly for Tillerson, the media, that nemesis of Trump, will not let go; they are going to be lampooning it for many weeks to come. It is just too good to pass up, like anything that makes Trump like he is the idiot that he is.
But what is it that makes Rex want to continue to serve under a moron? It certainly is not the money. The man is literally sitting on his wallet, and cannot want for anything material; he is one of the Brahmins who did not come to Washington to “make money,” a phrase whose meaning he may even have forgotten.
No, he is there to serve. He is a confirmed neo-con whose world view comprises the great idea that America has been diluted over time by people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and that the greatness of his country needs to be reasserted over everything, or anyone else. That is the mantra that brought Trump, the chief priest, to power, and Rex is his subservient altar boy.
These are ideological theologians. They believe in a body of beliefs for which they are prepared to sacrifice everything, including self-worth and personal pride. If serving under “a moron” is the way to participate in making “America great again,” so be it. America is an ideal to whose service everything else must be subordinated.
We have much literature telling us that rich Americans, even as non-state actors, have gone out of their way to try and influence the course of US foreign policy, simply because there is a deep-seated worldview that has not changed over time.
They do not have to be paid to do that job. That is why Rex and his colleagues will continue serving a moron in pursuit of their ideals, while our so-called intellectuals will continue to serve anyone, and anything, at all. There is a difference.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]