Tragedy of unfounded fears

It was the last interview he gave to MTV in 1996, a month before he was shot dead on September 13.

“Fear,” US artist Tupac Shakur told MTV journalist, “is much stronger than love. Often it’s our innermost fears, however unfounded, that drive our actions.”

Surprisingly, Shakur was, on a tragic note, the very victim of his own philosophy. Experts argue it was his innermost fear of death that drove him to his death.

“His fear of death was promiscuous in his songs,” writes his biographer Frank Alexander.  “It made him quite a nervous and cautious man. He attacked whoever disagreed with him. In the process, he created a pool of enemies that followed him with keen, baying for his blood.”

It wasn’t surprising, hence, that it was from this pool where his killer sprouted. They shot him dead at 25. But his philosophy lives on, not just in rap music but in governance as well.

The fear of a gathering danger, even where there are no facts to prove it, has always been at the heart of governance in history.

This fear forces leaders to feel encaged by devilish forces eager to destroy them. The fear weighs deep in them, so worse that they begin to believe that they face a closing window to act.

As a result, they rush to act, striking the first blow in defence. Unfortunately, the moment they do that, they end up opening their own doors of destruction.

The most famous example, of course, was Germany’s decision to start what became World War I.

The German General Staff believed that Russia was rearming on a scale that would soon nullify Germany’s superior military strength. They did not have valid proof to substantiate their belief. It was just a fear that rivals were plotting their downfall.

Even worse, the Germans believed that within two years—by 1916—Russia would have a significant, and perhaps unbeatable, strategic advantage.

Driven by the fear, when turmoil began in the Balkans in June 1914, Germany decided to act while it had the advantage.

To stop Russia from entering a “zone of immunity,” Germany invaded France (Russia’s main ally) and Belgium.

This forced British entry into the war, thus setting in motion a two-front European war that lasted four years and resulted in more than 37 million casualties and destruction of infrastructure.

Not only that.

Germany, the architect of the war, suffered the worst defeat ever. Most of its soldiers, and its economy shattered to the grass.

So, just as Shakur led himself into self-destruction after being driven by fears whose authenticity he couldn’t prove, Germany did the same.

Fear in Mutharika’s government

Can these two scenarios be related to President Bingu wa Mutharika’s government?

Since 2009, President Mutharika has been the centre of criticism and attacks both from within and outside the country. Civil society organisations (CSOs), opposition parties and the international community have barely given him peace.

In their entirety, their zone of convergence has been Mutharika’s leadership style. They argue that Mutharika’s poor economic policies, his diplomatic blunders and political arrogance have reared an ugly head on the country.

Mutharika and his government, however, are yet to detect frankness in what the critics advance.

To him and those on his side, the critics are what Russia was to Germany before the First World War.  All he sees in CSOs and other critics are a group of vile souls, plotting in the dark to remove him from power.

He is too cautious, deeply nervous and hostile to every bit of criticism.

Driven by such fear of losing his power, he has become deeply restless, strangely cautious and hostile to every wave of criticism. He now says the critics’ prime agenda is ‘regime change’.

“There are foreign elements here that are paying NGOs to cause havoc in order to get regime change,” Mutharika told UK’s Guardian newspaper David Smith in an exclusive interview last week.

“It was foolish on the part of the Western interests to do this because they themselves are preaching that we should be more democratic, but they come in and foment this kind of trouble.

“There was already a government in waiting—some people already had a Cabinet, a vice-president and ministers.

“A shadow Cabinet was established here hoping that on 20 July this government would fall and they’d take over. It’s unconstitutional. They are the ones that are destroying democracy because they have to wait and respect the Constitution.”

Asked to identify the forces conspiring for his overthrow, Mutharika replied: “I have no idea. But there are foreign agents, I know, because some of them [civil society activists] could not even afford slippers.

“Suddenly, they can afford to buy a business class ticket and go round the US and stay in posh hotels, when they couldn’t afford a pair of slippers. Where has the money come from? And you know, they are not employed, so clearly someone must be funding them.”

Is Bingu sincere in his claims?

But how sincere is the President with his ‘regime change’ argument?

“He is not being honest,” says Michael Chasukwa, lecturer in political governance at Chancellor College.

“Civil society organisations and the International Community are part of the governance system. They have a role to play in the decision-making process of the country. Hence it is a missed opportunity to interpret their voice as a quest for regime change,” says Chasukwa.

But what is driving Mutharika into this ‘regime change’ argument?

Chasukwa argues that currently Mutharika’s legitimacy ratings continue to plunge.

“This is affecting his capacity to lead effectively. As such, he is supposed to provide an explanation which should aim at buying sympathy from the people. In simple, the regime change argument is just another political game,” he says.

Despite Chasukwa treating it as a mere political game, Mutharika, driven by his innermost fear of losing power—a fear he is yet to provide tangible evidence for, passionately believes that CSOs and Western governments are planning a ‘regime change.’

And the results of actions driven by fear, according to history, are tragic.

Soon, if the ‘regime change’ argument is not dropped, Mutharika, still facing unwavering criticism, will start feeling as if his window to act on critics were closing. Arguably, the controversial arrest of Ralph Kasambara falls within this.

What is remaining is to embark on a wide campaign of acting against every critic to pacify his fears of ‘regime change’.

But as history records of Germany, the moment he will begin to do that, he will have, again, opened doors of his own destruction. He will have led his government to destruction, a final act of self-deletion.

Surely, Tupac’s wisdom that ‘fear is stronger than love’ is something leaders need to think introspectively about. The strength of the wisdom is that the owner, again, was caught in it.

Share This Post