Poleznidu­rak: A use­ful fool

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION - By Hope Eghagha

IN an opin­ion es­say for Reuters af­ter the Helsinki July 16 meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin with the rather fright­en­ing ti­tle ‘ Trumphas at­tacke­dus­in­te­la­gen­cies:ex­pect­themto strike­back,’ Tim Weiner ref­er­ences former CIA and NSA chief Mike Hay­den’s acer­bic com­ments on the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent. Hay­den poignantly used a Rus­sian term ‘ polezni du­rak’ to de­scribe Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. ‘ Poleznidu­rak,’ he says means a ‘use­ful fool;’ mark you, not a ‘use­ful tool.’ A use­ful fool! Hay­den says POTUS is a use­ful fool be­cause he is “ma­nip­u­lated by Moscow, se­cretly held in con­tempt, but (his) blind sup­port is hap­pily ac­cepted and ex­ploited.’ These are rather harsh words for the oc­cu­pier of the White House, the sup­posed leader of the free world and the most pow­er­ful na­tion on earth!

Use­ful fool! It oc­curred to me while writ­ing this es­say that lead­ers could be ‘poleznidu­rak’ to dif­fer­ent in­ter­est groups, lo­cal or in­ter­na­tional, eth­nic or na­tional, cul­tural or po­lit­i­cal. The ex­pres­sion ‘ use­ful­fool’ is at­trac­tive be­cause of its oxy­moronic beauty. How can a fool be use­ful? Who is a fool? One of the many def­i­ni­tions of a fool is ‘a per­son lack­ing in judg­ment or pru­dence.’ A ‘harm­lessly de­ranged per­son or one lack­ing in com­mon pow­ers of un­der­stand­ing’ can be de­scribed as a fool too. In Shake­speare’s drama, a fool was usu­ally kept in the court as a jester to pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment’. He may be­have fool­ishly; but he is not a fool in the sense of lack­ing a proper sense of judg­ment. We may clas­sify him as a use­ful fool, be­cause he alone can tell the king what the lat­ter does not want to hear and save the king­dom.

But in in­tel­li­gence cir­cles, the ex­pres­sion is in­fin­itely de­grad­ing. A man who lacks a proper sense of pro­por­tion or his­tory could be­tray his coun­try or his race. Note the use of such words and ex­pres­sions as ‘ma­nip­u­la­tion,’ ‘con­tempt’, ‘blind sup­port’ ‘hap­pily ac­cepted’ and ‘ex­ploited’ in the def­i­ni­tion of a ‘ poleznidu­rak.’ Now it is un­be­com­ing of an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to be so in­sulted in pub­lic. Jimmy Carter was ‘naïve’ to the Amer­i­can press. Ronald Rea­gan was a pres­i­dent who left de­tails to his sub­or­di­nates; yet he al­ways stuck to the script be­cause he un­der­stood the en­tire pic­ture. Ge­orge Bush was ridiculed for his ‘ Bushisms’. Bill Clin­ton could not get out of the Lewin­sky co­nun­drum in spite of his famed smart­ness. Obama al­most with­drew Amer­ica from the world; he was teased for his Mus­lim name, al­most ac­cused of be­ing soft on the Is­lamic world. But he also stuck to the gen­eral script writ­ten by what Amer­ica stands for. With Trump the mat­ter has taken a new turn. Trump is re-defin­ing Amer­ica in an un­com­pli­men­tary man­ner. Or is this the new face of Amer­ica, the Amer­ica that blocks im­mi­gra­tion, which preaches or en­dorses White supremacy?

Use­ful fool! A haunt­ing ex­pres­sion! A fool in charge of the nu­clear arse­nal? A fool in the White House, not as a vis­i­tor but as the main oc­cu­pant? Not in the real world. Sounds like a spy-movie con­cocted from the rich imag­i­na­tion of Jef­fery Archer or Syd­ney Shel­don. What Sin­clair Lewis had said can­not hap­pen in Amer­ica is now right be­fore our eyes. How did the great Su­per- man that is the United States of Amer­ica sleep­walk into this macabre re­al­ity show? Can a wise peo­ple elect a fool­ish leader?

The word fool­ish fea­tured greatly at Helsinki. POTUS de­scribed Amer­ica as ‘fool­ish’ be­cause of the strained re­la­tion­ship be­tween Rus­sia and Amer­ica. He be­lieved, took Vladimir Putin’s word and dis­missed in­tel­li­gence from 17 agen­cies mostly headed by his own ap­pointees. I had to pinch my­self to be­lieve my ears. Our elders say that it is ‘ abas­tard­who­pointsathis home­stead­with­hisleft­hand’. What did Trump stand to gain be­rat­ing his na­tive land while in­side the land of the great­est ri­val in su­per­power re­la­tions and po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy? When he re­turned home to en­counter a bar­rage of crit­i­cisms even from his own party mem­bers in­clud­ing House Speaker Ryan, he amended his speech a lit­tle like Co­ri­olanus in Shake­speare’s epony­mous drama. But when a re­porter raised the ques­tion again right in­side the White House, he moved back to his old po­si­tion. What ex­actly is go­ing on?

At the height of the Cold War, many pres­i­dents and heads of Gov­ern­ment across the world be­came ‘ poleznidu­rak’ in the hands of Amer­ica or the Soviet Union. In­deed lead­ers who re­fused to work with the su­per­pow­ers had to con­tend with the famed ‘economic hit men’. Na­tions which were strate­gic to the over­all in­ter­ests of the su­per­pow­ers had to be­come good boys. Well, it is true that the non-aligned move­ment ul­ti­mately pro­vided a mid­dle ground for ap­par­ently neu­tral na­tions. But Pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Pa­trice Lu­mumba of the Congo, late Pres­i­dent Manuel Nor­iega of Panama, late Pres­i­dent Fidel Cas­tro of Cuba, and a few oth­ers have a dif­fer­ent if sour story to tell.

If in­deed POTUS is ‘ poleznidu­rak’, it would be a great tragedy for the West­ern world and the way we used to un­der­stand the world. By at­tack­ing cred­i­ble, prop­erly elected lead­ers in the West­ern al­liance Trump seems to be in­ter­ested in him­self; not in Amer­ica. At last count he be­rated Justin Trudeau of Canada, An­gela Merkel of Ger­many, Emanuel Macron of France and made jest of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May. The slo­gan ‘make Amer­ica great again’ be­comes hot air if Trump is un­der the con­trol of en­emy forces, whether by de­sign or by de­fault. I sup­pose some lead­ers in Africa would find cold com­fort in the fact that fool­ish lead­ers are not the ex­clu­sive pre­serve of the African con­ti­nent or the de­vel­op­ing world.

What­ever it is lead­er­ship at any level is too im­por­tant to be left in the hands of a fool or fools. The risk is that we all, both the good and the bad could be­come vic­tims of fool­ish think­ing and fool­ish politics. And that would mean dis­as­ter. It is to be noted that Trump is push­ing back on Rus­sian interference in 2016 elec­tions as a way of es­tab­lish­ing his le­git­i­macy. This is nei­ther here nor there be­cause Trump did NOT win the pop­u­lar vote. For Amer­ica, when and how will the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity have its pound of flesh (read dollars) back? This I am sure will give Mueller added im­pe­tus to stop a pos­si­ble mole who is also ‘ poleznidu­rak’ from con­trol­ling the nu­clear but­ton of the free world. In­deed all na­tions of the world should pre­vent ‘ polezni du­rak’ from the reins of power for the sur­vival of the hu­man race!

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