There can be no greater threat to world peace today, than the delusion of one’s greatness. As the world sits on the precipice of the collapse of the world order, thanks to the delusion of self perception from two of the world’s leaders, one cannot help but envisage how the very foundations of these great nations are dismantled brick by brick. When Donald Trump descended the escalators of the Trump Tower and declared to “Make America Great Again” on 16 June, 2015, little did the world know that this was the moment that the prophesy of journalist H. L Menchen of The Baltimore Evening Sun will come to pass. On the 26 July 1920, Menchen wrote that
“As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron”.
That day began at noon EST on January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. That was the day Trump embarked on his odyssey, to “Make America Great Again”. The question we could ask at this stage is whether America was ever great in the first place. If so, what made America great? There is little doubt, that the United Sates of America is great, and was still great until Trump took that mantle of greatness, which stands to be crushed into rubble. America’s greatness was not based on its landmass, its population, or its economic muscle. America’s greatness was not based on its superior military, its world currency or its language. The greatness of the United States was rooted in the world’s perception of a country that was the LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. That is where America’s greatness was entrenched.
It is therefore not surprising that this great country was fondly referred to as the land of the free, the land of opportunity, where every individual has the chance to realise their dream. America was the country full of optimism, where nothing was impossible. The election of the first black president of this nation was the clearest manifestation of America’s greatness; that irrespective of your colour, creed, origin, sexuality and etc., this country will give everyone the opportunity to fulfil their human potential. These are the very tenets upon which America’s greatness was founded; not because the country invented ford, Chrysler or held annual thanksgiving on July 4th.
This is how America was perceived by the world, as leader of the “free world”. America’s greatness was rooted in its belief for free, fair and democratic institutions. As leader of the free world, America did not only practise its democratic philosophy but took every step necessary to ensure that its view of a free world was replicated all around the globe. That was why America employed whatever means necessary (not to everyone’s liking) to preach the sermon of freedom democracy and democratic institutions all over the world.
Leaders all over the world, who refused to accept freedom and democracy as a way of life, a way of politics and the path to a free world did not escape the wrath of America. America embarked on regime changes, through wars, sanctions, and encouraged clandestine methods by way of supporting rebellions, uprisings and coups, to ensure that the sermon of democracy reached in every corner of the world. Those leaders who failed to toe the line found themselves ostracised on the world stage. This is the role that America played, and where America’s greatness was born; at least.
But as ironies go, Trump’s idea of making America great again was to withdraw from world organisations like UNESCO, UN Human Rights Council, and TPP etc. His isolationist stance is now the greatest threat to world multilateralism; the very glue that held the world together. Such a delusion and contradiction in terms have been allowed to go on for some time. Democracy seems to go have gone full circle; as it perfected itself. Unfortunately, democracy is now at a stage of self-cannibalism; the art of eating oneself.
Today’s politics has been littered with alternative facts, as we continue to live on alternative planets. The world seems to rotate on the political axis of Trumpism and Borisland, with both carrying uncanny resemblances in the unfolding of events in their respective countries. Both countries have always been kept on the straight and narrow by checks and balances, accountability and the rule of law. Sadly, those very foundations are now threatened by the twin forces of delusional egomania. As both see themselves as seemingly above the law that governs their respective societies, both equally seem to have a vice hold on the very members of their parties, who for party political dividends have abandoned all semblance of rationale and lateral thinking; at the expense of the very things that made their societies great.
In today’ political atmosphere, lying has become the new truth. But it is the authority and audacity with which these lies are peddled without the slightest iota of compunction that looks scary and make belief.
A comedy sketch programme called “Little Britain” was aimed at non-British people, parodying the life of various classes of British society. With humorous effect, the sketch made references to the narrow-mindedness and complacent insularity of Britain. Perhaps like H.L Menchen, this was another prophecy of things to come; and there can be no better sketch than the Brexit Conundrum. Like Trump, Boris has vowed to withdraw Britain from the biggest trading block in the world. If all goes to plan, Britain will be a bystander when Europe makes trading decisions that will affect Britain, but with Britain voiceless to have a say. Some will argue that this is some people’s idea of putting the great back in Great Britain; taking back control.
Such delusions have been pursued by what many see as reckless abandon, and anyone standing in the way has been left scorched. With the Brexit relay in the 3rd baton change, the race to the finish line has seen a lot of constitutional, democratic and the rule of law brushed aside to make way; the very institutional leanings that put the greatness of these countries up for world admiration and aspiration.
But what do these mean for the world at large. Africa is known to have the longest serving heads of states; with Paul Biya of Cameroon serving for 44 years and 96 days to date. Africa has the unenviable record of coups d’états, rebel wars and political interregna. Slowly but surely, the continent is waking up and with reluctance getting to embrace democracy as the nearest one can come to good governance. The AU is stepping up to the plate, to ensure that Africans solve African political problems. The continent is slowly warming up to the idea of two-term limits for leaders. When the former president of The Gambia, Yaryah Jammeh toyed with the idea to overturn the mandate of the people, we all saw how the AU and other regional bodies stepped in to avoid bloodshed and turmoil. In Zimbabwe, the South African Development Community (SADC) intervened in tensions between Mugabe and his generals. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was forced to step down in Guinea, after he seized power, following the death of Lansana Conte. Even Dr Bai Koroma flirted with the idea of a 3rd term, injury time, extra time etc. in Sierra Leone. You can bet that someone had a little word in his ear.
But just when you think that political sanity was slowly but surely returning to this continent, the purveyors of the whole concept seem to re-enact years gone by in Africa. Trump brought in members of his family, not as co tenants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but as members of his government. In Africa, it will be called nepotism. When his political opponents or dissenting voices are raised, he tags them with treason. In those days in Africa, such people with such tags would surely face the firing squad. Those who disagree with Trump and Boris have been summarily sacked; or euphemistically resigned their posts. We see how these leaders are goading opposing factions to get at each others’ throat. Trump has threatened the outbreak of civil war, if he is impeached. Boris has prophesied civil disobedience if Brexit fails.
What is happening in these countries today are so reminiscent of the African continent; that you wonder whether people like Mugabe would have attracted any criticism from these guys today. You wonder whether past African dictators would have been guests of our big brothers today. The worry for some will be whether some African leaders would try and imitate their Western bosses, knowing full well that they don’t have any leg to stand on, to condemn them. With the wind of change to democracy slowing ebbing its way along the African landscape, and with African affairs now sublet to Africans, the hope is that Africa will not return to the spectre and cloud of “the dark continent”; now that the “connoisseurs of democracy have decided to rip up the rule book.
Our Lives Begin to end, the Day we keep Silent about the Things that Matter.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.