Dictators in our Midst

Many leaders as you see dem
Na different disguise dem dey, oh
Animal in human skin
Animal, he put on tie, oh
Animal, he wear agbada
Animal, he put on suit, oh
Beasts of No Nation, Fela Anikulapo Kuti

A dictator in the world is like the abusive father in the community that no-one wants to report.

Everybody knows what is going on. Everyone hears the screams coming from the house. Night after night. Everyone sees the state of the children. No one questions the father’s authority.

I for one am fed up of the unquestioned authority of the patriarchy.

Enough already. And in the same way that communities have to start speaking out against abusive fathers, I began to feel a huge sense of relief this week when Nelson Mandela finally publicly expressed concern about what is going on in Zimbabwe.

Dictatorship only becomes an acceptable word to think about, let alone utter in public, when the elders have given their blessing and/or used the word themselves.

So it only becomes okay to have an opinion about Zimbabwe now that the elders have spoken. Now that Mandela has expressed concern, all the fence-sitters can come out and say that they too think it’s time for Mugabe to step down.

Every ethnic group, every community has that pull and tug. The not wanting to let down the side. That would be like talking family business outside the family. At the end of the day, no-one wants to stand apart from the people they’ve always known.

Which is why I suppose it’s always so hard for children to accuse adults they know of abusing them.

So Morgan Tsvangirai, the abused child, has given up his fight against Mugabe and his Cepep-esque gangs. No child wants to question the authority of the father, especially when the father holds all the power. Power to cut your tail or your food or your access to education.

In a way, you can’t blame a dictator like Mugabe for his don’t-care attitude. I mean, even Dubya “stole” an election. Even Dubya fabricated a whole weapons of mass destruction fantasy to justify the invasion of not one but two sovereign states and now he’s spoiling for a fight with Iran.

In the land of the free and home of the brave, the President “steals” an election and scares his people being afraid of their own shadows. What’s the difference between Bush and Mugabe? Mugabe is using his own to kill his own. Bush is using his own to kill and be killed by others.

Besides, you really have to wonder if Zimbabwe had oil would Dubya be so resolutely uninterested?

If Zimbabwe had something the capitalists wanted to get their hands on, Morgan Tsvangirai might have had his own CIA-funded and trained Mujahideen.

And there is no doubt that in the fictions of the BBC and the CNN there is a lot of thinly veiled racism that completely removes the North from any responsibility for what is happening in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America.

There is no doubt that there still is a feeling among those people who took an active and vital role in our underdevelopment, that we can’t actually rule ourselves. Whether we are in Pakistan or Bolivia, somebody always wants to play big brother. Some blasted economic hitman is always coming in pretending to know exactly what is best for us.

And there is no doubt that we too believe that we can’t do it. We too get caught up in semantics. We too can’t trust ourselves to create our own structures, our own processes or own institutions without asking massa if it meets his approval.

That’s why Port-of-Spain looks less like a Caribbean city and our airport looks like it should be somewhere in middle America.

For the sake of keeping up appearances we betray our children. For the sake of keeping up appearances we betray our nations. We do a disservice to all human beings when we stand by and let dictators run roughshod over democracy.

Unless, of course, we imagine that they, like us, must obviously like the abuse we’re getting.

An Afro-Trinidadian can’t in good conscience criticise the PNM. An Indo-Trinidadian can’t truly criticise the UNC. We can’t possibly get anywhere with that in the backs or the fronts of our minds.

At some point the people—whether they live in Harare or Phase 4 Beetham Gardens—will figure out that the followers are the ones with the power. Without the followers the politicians have no chance. Without the followers the politicians are stripped down to their bare naked megalomania.

The thing that scares me the most is that I don’t know how much time I will have to wait for the elders in Trinidad to ever publicly condemn the abusers and dictators in government and opposi- tion and the private sector.