Sunday, 21 April 2013

Power And The Common Man

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's
character, give him power." — Abraham Lincoln

Some years ago, I was sitting in front of a bus all alone while the driver loaded passengers going to a location I cannot particularly remember right now. And then he showed up; my friend, the Policeman, dressed in his full regalia complete with an AK 47. He opened the door with more force than was necessary, not minding my arm that was resting on it.
‘Ow’ I winced.
Tilting his head to the side, he said calmly ‘move inside!’
‘Sorry?’ I muttered, sincerely confused.
‘I said move inside. Wetin you no understand?’
My mouth was open. I refused to understand.
Beside the driver were two seats, I was sitting on one, the other was actually the engine with a plank on it.  The Policeman actually wanted me to sit on the hot engine move inside and thought bullying me into submission was the way to do it.  I didn’t move an inch. I’m still alive. Fill in the blanks J

I had just arrived the gate of the filling station when he began to shut the gate; the fuel attendant that is. The only way for me to get back on track was to pass through the filling station and join the traffic back to my house, a drive of less than 5 minutes or drive all the way down the road and climb the bridge, a journey of about 30 minutes with the kind of traffic I saw ahead. My tank was on E and I didn't think the car would make it back home so I asked the attendant, very politely if I might add, to allow me drive through so I could take the shorter route. I could have been talking to a brick wall. Looking at me like I was part of the culvert, he rolled the gate and slowly passed the chain through the bars, shut it, put the key in his pocket and walked away with such swagger he looked like Johnny Bravo from behind. I was pained. What would it have taken this guy to let me pass through? What? It took me another 30 minutes to cover the same distance I would’ve covered in less than 5 minutes; thankfully, the car made it.

We parked at an adjacent car park owned by the  firm where we had a meeting. My friend did the driving. Meeting over, we entered the car and made to drive out, then the security man showed up. He stood by the driver’s window; unyielding. We knew what he wanted. My friend told him she wasn’t going to give him anything especially because of the shoddy way we were treated before we eventually found parking. With a brazen sense of entitlement he asked her ‘Must I tell you before you know what to do?’
Pissed, she drove off. I heard him muttering something about a next time…

I was invited for an event at one of the embassies. I was asked to declare the contents in my bag. I did. I had some contraband- lip gloss, pressed powder etc. you know, stuff you’ll find in a lady’s handbag. 
'So what do we do?' I asked the security lady. 
She asked if I got an invite beforehand and whether they mentioned prohibited items. I told her I did, and the letter didn’t mention those items. She looked at it, nodded in agreement and collected the items from me, gave me a tag and kept the items under her desk, where I noticed similar items. As I walked through the screening door, a lady walked in.
‘Why you no tell your guest wetin to bring now?’ the security lady asked her.
‘What do you mean?’ She inquired, an unnecessary frown creasing her forehead.
Me and my long mouth, I quickly chipped in ‘She meant prohibited items; they weren’t expressly stated in the letter.  I think you should make it clearer in future, just saying’.
My goodness! You should have seen her face. She looked like she had just been slapped.
‘Where is the letter? She demanded. I handed it to her. She glanced through it and pointed out a paragraph with some technical terms scribbled all over.
‘How can you say it wasn’t listed? Here it is. And by the way the descriptions used were approved by the embassy!’
Ok. Ok... I thought. No problem, right?
Triumphant, she turned to the security lady and spat ‘She is not my guest, it’s a public event, so if she is not clean, do whatever you want with her’.
She shoved the letter into my hands, gave me ‘The Look’, hissed, arranged her jacket and stormed into the embassy.
‘Madam please return the tag and step outside’
Shit! (Pronounced ‘Shet’) I muttered under my breath.

I can fill a higher education notebook with similar experiences, trust me. It's so commonplace I'm now jaded. Everyday we talk about our leaders; how they’ve gone bonkers, act stupid and completely lost touch with reality. How they lack commonsense and can't even make simple decisions to positively impact the common man. How they grovel for votes but erect impenetrable fences around themselves once voted.  How they abuse their office and take the citizenry for a ride and that’s fine. Arm chair critics perpetually whining about the state of the nation and how governance isn't rocket science; that's fine too, afterall, the best footballers are usually found in viewing centres. But you see, all the time I see everyday people who by virtue of what they do, find themselves in some position of influence or authority and gradually turn into creatures that are unfit to live amongst mortals.

Leaders don’t drop from the sky. They are people like you and me who collide with time and chance. Authority, Influence, Power, Leadership magnifies what is already resident within; our strength of character or lack thereof, so these are not virtues we learn when we find ourselves in the spotlight. I see the way some people carry on and the thought of those same people in power sends chills down my spine. 

Sprinkled in our everyday existence are opportunities to learn, show and harness traits that will ensure we function effectively when opportunity knocks, sadly for some of us, its an opportunity to oppress others and exert half hearted obedience or respect.

Overcoming our innately selfish and insensitive nature is a battle every human fights on a daily basis but the new week presents a perfect opportunity to strive towards greater, nobler ideals. 

The definitive word is STRIVE. It's the least we can do.

©Naomi Lucas

1 comment:

Tessa Doghor said...

Let's just say that: I have been trained right for the place I am head.
The top!

I will be kind and treat others kindly
I will make an excellent leader
I refuse to lobby, that is a way to spend the rest of your days as a criminal in suit. hummph!