Festive hampers for the DSS
Reflecting on the mind-boggling anxiety of our security agencies over the activities of would-be revolutionaries in our midst is fast becoming an instinctive habit in Nigeria. Of course, the degree of indulgence and consequent proceedings vary from one person to the other. Happily, my own reflections have yielded some valuable dividends. (Dividends? our security operatives would relate to the choice of word in the course of reading the last paragraph of this piece). Were I a psychologist, I should readily prescribe George Orwell’s classic novel, Nineteen eighty-four, as a standard text to Nigeria’s security top operatives. My reason is buried in the following extensive excerpts:
“Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world; the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitudes towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium however far it is pushed one way or the other…”
“The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconciliable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are (retain power). The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim – for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives – is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its outlines recurs over and over again.”
“For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but soon or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern effectively, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Off the three groups, only the Low are never ever temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.”
“By the late nineteenth century the recurrence of this pattern had become obvious to many observers. There then arose Schools of thinkers who interpreted history as a cyclical process and claimed to show that inequality was the unalterable law of human life. This doctrine, of course, had always had its adherents, but in the manner in which it was now put forward there was a significant change. In the past, the need for hierarchical form of society had been the doctrine specifically of the High. It had been preached by kings and aristocrats and by the priests, lawyers, and the like who were parasitical upon them (the Low) and it had generally been softened by promises of compensation in an imaginary world beyond the grave. The Middle, so long as it was struggling for power, had always made use of such terms of freedom, justice, and fraternity. Now, however, the concept of human brotherhood began to be assailed by people who were to not yet in positions of command, but merely hoped to be so before long.”
“In the past the Middle had made revolutions under the banner of equality, and then had established a tyranny as soon as the old one was overthrown. The new Middle groups in effect proclaimed their tyranny beforehand. Socialism, a theory which appeared in the early nineteenth century and was the last link in a chain of thoughts stretching back to the slave rebellions of antiquity, was still deeply infected by the Utopianism of past ages. But in each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards, the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned. The new movements which appeared in the middle years of the century, Ingsoc (English Socialism), in Oceania (England), Neo-Bolshevism in Eurasia (America), Death-Worship, as it is commonly called in Eastasia (Russia), had the conscious aim of perpetuating UNfreedom and UNequality. Those new movements, of course, grew out of the old ones and tended to keep their names and pay lip-service to their ideology.”
“But the purpose of all of them was to assert progress and freeze history at a chosen moment. The familiar pendulum swing was to happen once more, and then stop. As usual, the High were to be turned out by the Middle, who would then become the High, but this time by conscious strategy, the High would be able to maintain their position permanently…”
Indeed, all of human history is subsumed in a single magical word: dialectics – an endless cycle of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. In the typical Orwellian depiction of human evolution, Nineteen eighty-four identifies the Middle classes as the sole dynamic of that evolution. The High classes are unrepentantly conservative; while the Low classes are incurably inert. The Middle classes are said to be different from the other two classes because the former are comprised of persons endowed with superlative attributes; chief of which are ascetic selflessness, painstaking mental application, visionary, larger-life-audacity, etc. Through rigorous deployments of these attributes, the Middle classes have been able to persuade (enlist – Orwellian phrase) the Low classes to effectively revolt against the High classes.
Now returning our attention to recent developments in Project Nigeria, it is imperative to ask this question: “Does the Department of State Security (DSS) see that members of the Nigerian middle class are endowed with the necessary attributes to so enlist their ordinary fellow citizens to a revolution – in the true sense of the term? This question is my own sense of a 2019 festive hampers for the DSS.
Nkemdiche, an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.
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