Sycophancy is a threat to democracy
The level of unhealthy fanaticism in this nation is alarming. Especially now that we are headed to the next general elections, everyone needs to worry about the trend. Last week I did an opinion piece (Eurobond: Hitler’s Propaganda strategy at work!) about the current debate on Euro Bond, which in my opinion, has been turned into a political mileage cash cow.
To me, the said ‘saga’ resembles the very same script that Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader used in the 2nd world war. But people from a certain region of this nation felt personally offended. To them, by the mere fact that I come from a certain part of the nation, I’m supposed to surrender my individuality in place of a group mentality.
Instead of interrogating the content of my article, the said group turned it into a battle of personalities, never minding the fact that I drew parallels between the strategy that happened in Germany and what currently plays out in this nation as driven by the opposition. To them, by merely alluding that their demigod can adopt a strategy of the Nazi was enough for them to brand me as a man who has been paid to see the collapse of a kingdom they so dearly adore. They forgot that my criticism was not meant to allude that their demigods aren’t irredeemable, but simply that they should be held accountable for their erroneous proclamations before contemplating a possible second chance stab at the truth.
I was added in WhatsApp groups that I never belonged to before the article was published where personal attacks were then unleashed on me like the rains of terror a pig receives should it dare enter a mosque. In disregard to the content of my article, the said sycophants went all ham attacking my personal life. Some of them were not just former campus mates but we shared the same podium as we proclaimed Christ across the nation when I was the leader of Daystar Christian Fellowship. Ironically, some of them were naturally timid before me but now had found a new lease of life, hiding their fears and inadequacies behind a keyboard to spew venom.
It is 12:55 pm on Saturday, August 25th, 2012. The location is Castle Royal Hotel, Kilindini room, located on the fourth floor of the hotel. Here, the Mombasa launch of Miguna’s Peeling Back the Mask is taking place. Within few minutes after addressing the crowd in the hall, the meeting degenerates into heckling. Shortly after, Miguna had one shoe missing and his signature Taqiyya was gone.
Monday, August 20th, 2007, presidential hopeful Raila Odinga was in Nyeri for the funeral of an LDP official in the district. Raila was ejected from a Nyeri Hotel because the “owner wanted nothing to do with ODM.”
The year is 2007, September 22nd. The location is Nyamarambe in Kisii. William Ruto, who was a member of the ODM’s pentagon and Omingo Magara are attacked by rowdy youths with bows and arrows. They had to be evacuated using a helicopter. The two leaders sustained injuries from the incident.
A shoe was thrown at Uhuru Kenyatta in Migori, Raphael Tuju was attacked in Rarieda, Miguna’s mock burial was conducted in Nyando among many other incidences of intolerance.
One of the theories that has been advanced to explain the sycophancy syndrome is that some people have grown up to understand society as a collection of fiefdoms of big men to whom lesser persons depend for their survival and upkeep. The risk of ‘Big man’ sycophancy typically return considerable material gain to a few in the short term, but that comes in a package of perpetual dependency and uncertainty. A passionate defense fogs followers at the expense of their moral decency as leaders swim in a sea of an unhealthy dose of sycophantic fishbowls.
What feeds sycophancy? How can we identify Sycophants and hopefully develop ways to deal with what I personally consider being the greatest threat to democracy?
Feelings of Insecurity
At the root cause of Sycophancy lies the deepest sense of insecurities. These people battle feelings of inadequacy. They do not have any single accomplishments that they are proud of, not because there is none but more so because they are focused on what everyone else is doing thereby robbing themselves the opportunity to celebrate their own achievements.
Some sycophants are people who hope to one day be leaders. But because they lack an agenda for their people, they know that the only way to ascend to the seat of power is through bootlicking. They must sing the song of the demigod so that they are able to compensate their lack of agenda. Their sense of self-esteem is so fragile though it is not altogether missing, that they will give anything including their dignity just to be associated by the demigod
Sycophants fear any platform that would require them to expend their brain cells. They hate it with a passion because when they are called upon to reason out things that they don’t agree with, they simply have no capacity to do that. That’s why they will always hide behind a keyboard and attack people who do something with their lives. Their comments will always be void of any coherent reason. Their tweets will most likely be personal and their Facebook posts will most often than not be laced with obnoxious comments that are devoid of any reason.
These people struggle with personal inadequacies. They long for the day when they will compensate for their own shortcomings by bringing others down.
But we must realize that we are all called to achieve different purposes. There is something unique about each and every one of us. While I might write, there are many other gazillion things that I can’t do. But I will not feel bad or try to bring them down those who can do other things that I can’t. While there are people I have disagreed with in principle over many issues, I don’t have a personal vendetta against anyone. Sycophants abhor reason because they are deeply insecure.
Sycophants admire and follow one man to the letter. Leadership is an influence as noted by John Maxwell. But great leadership is about influencing people to rise up and live the potential that is within them. They trade the possibility of living their potential and surrender to blindly following a demigod. They put these people on pedestals that are not even sustainable. Their words are law. If the Idol says that this thing is wrong, without even verifying the contents of the claims, they will take it as the gospel truth.
Do you remember the referendum of 2005? How many of us read the Constitution before we voted? And in the 2013 general elections, how many of us verified the manifestos of our preferred candidates before we voted for them? But even now, how many of us have gone to the ministry of treasury’s website to understand the euro bond issue so that we aren’t tossed left right and centre by waves of opinions that have no shred of truth in them?
We must stop blind following anyone who claims to be a leader. Within us lies a capacity to dig out information and make informed decisions. If we can research business venture, travelling options, job vacancy, how much more should we verify issues that touch on the well-being of our nation?
Let us hold every leader accountable to every word they speak and every action they take. For Kenya to be on the path to prosperity, we must for ourselves into political maturity which is one of the pillars of the Vision 2030.
I end my article with the following quotes:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn – Alvin Toffler.
“I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets.”- Eugene V. Debs
Dannish Odongo works for Capital FM as a digital media strategist. He runs a blog on leadership and faith dannish.co.ke.