Saturday, April 13, 2013

Let Them Do Their Worst

North Korea seems to punch way above the weight of a country perpetually on the brink of starvation. It seems every time the Supreme Leader feels like it, he can send the world’s only superpower into a tizzy. Lately, he’s been playing up the idea of a war on the Korean peninsula, abrogating the 60-year armistice with the south, threatening all manner of terrible inflictions and issuing warnings to diplomats that his government could not protect them once the impending hostilities were underway.

Only, there are no impending hostilities. It is an entirely contrived and scripted crisis reminiscent of the Barry Levinson movie, Wag The Dog. Yet the dog is wagging. Alert levels have been raised, naval assets redeployed, allies assured of protection, anti-missile systems sent to faraway islands. The question concentrating minds in Washington and Beijing and Tokyo and Seoul is “What does he want?”

Of course, this is not the first time the North Koreans have manufactured a crisis and the only reason anyone takes them seriously is that they may have a nuclear weapon as well as one of the world’s largest armies and we are not too sure that their instinct for self-preservation will always keep them from using both.

In a sense, our elected representatives are not all that different from the North Koreans. They too are prone to throwing childish tantrums, threatening all manner of consequences if we do not acquiesce to their demands. Like the North Koreans, they have a nuclear option –they can shut down the government by refusing to pass crucial legislation- and say they are willing to use it. This too is proving a successful tactic as minds across the country are focussed on what they want: an outrageous increase to their bloated salaries before they have even set foot in their offices. Like the US, our government is also casting about, trying to talk them down and come up with a number they can get on and work with.

Well, as a father, I know a thing or two about childish tantrums. And the first lesson one learns is not to reward them. In fact, the best policy is to simply ignore them. The more attention you pay, the more intense they become. Soon, this tiny, weak human being who could not survive more than a few hours on his own, who is dependent on you for every form of protection and sustenance, becomes convinced of his power over you. The tantrum becomes the expression of that power and its effectiveness is predicated on your not calling the bluff.

So my wife lets my kids hold their breath, sulk in the corner or scream till they are blue in the face. It doesn’t take long for the myth of power to crumble. I think there is a lesson there for my fellow Kenyans and the world. We do not have to respond every time spoilt MPigs or tin-pot dictators regress to their terrible twos because we refuse to cater to their every whim. There’s no need to feed their delusions, or give in to their imagined power.

Sometimes, we just have to ignore them (and their demands), as we did successfully with the matatu strike a few years ago. Call their bluff. Let them do their worst.

We should however be on the look out as MPigs being Mpigs, they may try to sneak in their increments through the back door.

No comments: