11A101 The Man with a Silent "G" by Jim Davies, 4/13/2011    

As in gnash or gnat, that is; I'm not sure whether or not the G is silent in gnosis or gnu. But Laurent Gbagbo has two Gs, and the first is hidden when the name is spoken, yet he is one of Africa's vilest villains. He lost an election, but was not sporting enough to concede; he let his supporters fight it out until the French stepped in and arrested him yesterday. Many hundreds have died as a result of his reluctance to do the right thing, yet his first jail cell is a nice hotel room, so his captors show themselves far more civilized than the US Bureau of Prisons.

Having tasted the heights of power it must be hard to let go, and this year has given us several examples; Ben Ali and Mubarak went, albeit unwillingly, Qaddafi hasn't yet, and Assad and others are pending cases. They are, of course, all heavily addicted to power, by far the world's deadliest drug.

According to the Telegraph, Gbagbo began his education in a seminary, presumably Roman Catholic, and at some point became "a member of a Christian evangelical church who talks openly about his faith." Seems that being a confidant of the Almighty added to his certainty that he had rights over other people that they had never given him; in earlier times that delusion was called "the divine right of kings" and it seems if anything to intensify the narcotic effect.

All politicians are thugs, since they arrogate to themselves the power to rule lives that are not theirs; but I must admit some are thuggier than others and Gbagbo is high on the list. He gained power in Côte d'Ivoire in 2000 not by winning an election but by mounting a coup, a technique used quite often. Oddly, his profession was that of history teacher; one would think he might have learned something from history, but perhaps it was only that most people don't. Or that power comes from the barrel of a gun. He gained his history doctorate in France, at Paris-Diderot, a college respected particularly for its mathematics faculty.

I recall there was another fellow reluctant to concede an election victory, and he too began his name with a "G": Albert Gore. That 2000 election was very close, so a recount or two in Florida was quite proper, but after the Supremos decided Shrub had won it fair and square this one graciously conceded; but then, his G was far from silent. Perhaps that's what makes the difference.

American (and all other democratic) politicians have learned a most important lesson about power: pretend you don't really have it. That means in practice that you keep it only for a short while, such as 4 or 8 years, but heck, what a high while it lasts! Then you get to retire and give speeches for million-dollar fees, and write memoirs that sell well, and be interviewed by David Frost and other important journalists. It's an attractive career path. Commit all manner of atrocities, then afterwards earn more than reasonable people can possibly spend, while being protected from possible revenge-seeking victims by bodyguards paid out of stolen money. Churchill began it, and he could at least write excellent English; FDR surely would have too, had he lived. But then, he grabbed more than the 8-year optimum, devastating the American landscape for 13 years. It was only after his disastrous reign that they formed the agreement to share the cake.

The illusion that power is ever rightfully held lies at the root of humanity's ills, and was never more effectively ridiculed than by that great benefactor, an anonymous author whose masterpiece I adapted in The G-Myth. That G is not silent.

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