Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Big Man Problem

The Big Man Problem
‘Grandpa,’ asked Thoko, ‘What’s the Big Man Problem? My Civics teacher says that we have the Big Man Problem.’
‘My mother,’ said Lindiwe, ‘says that all men are a problem. So I suppose the bigger the man the bigger the problem.’
As we were talking the waiter came to take the order. ‘We girls will have two fanta and two large slices of chocolate gateau,’ said Thoko, ‘and Grandpa will have a double brandy with ice.’
Then turning to me she said ‘Lindiwe and I will go and have a swim for half an hour, and that will give you time to think about the Big Man Problem, and to give the waiter time get the drinks.’
‘He won’t need half an hour,’ I protested.
‘Oh yes he will,’ laughed Thoko. ‘This is the Cresta Hotel and you are an old Grandpa. You’ll both need half an hour.’
Sure enough, when they came back from their swim the drinks and cake had just arrived. ‘OK Grandpa,’ said Thoko sternly, ‘you’ve had plenty of time to think about it, so what’s the answer?’
‘Once upon a time, a long time ago in the Land of Zed,’ I began, ‘the people chose a man called Munshumfwa to be their president.’
‘So what was his job as president?’ asked Lindiwe.
‘Have you forgotten your Civics,’ spluttered Thoko, as some fanta went up her nose. ‘A president has to look after his people, according to their demands, as expressed in the Councils and especially in Parliament.’
‘That’s where the problem began,’ I explained. ‘Before long Munshumfwa started to tell the Councils and Parliament what was best for the people.’
‘He got too big for his boots,’ said Lindiwe.
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘He began to think he was more important than everybody else. If he found them standing, he would say Only the President stands up, you all sit down and listen. But if he found them all sitting down, he would say How can you sit down, stand up for your President!
‘In the end he was in charge of everything,’ suggested Thoko.
‘Exactly,’ I agreed. ‘Instead of him looking after the people, it was the people’s job to look after him. He became known as the Big Man, because he was the boss of everything. He appointed people to all the top positions, and if they didn’t obey his every word then he sacked them. Instead of parliament making the law, his word was law. He was supposed to serve the people, but they had to kneel before him. He was the Big Man.’
‘So they voted him out?’ suggested Thoko.
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘They picked a tiny little bus conductor called Kafupi, who they thought was harmless and could never grow into a Big Man. But soon he began to wear very high heels, and after ten years he had become more dictatorial than Munshumfwa.’
‘So who did they choose next?’
‘To avoid a Big Man, they chose a Big Elephant called Muwelewele. This turned out worse, because an elephant has a terrible temper. When he got into a rage even his lackeys couldn’t understand what he was spluttering about, and sometimes he accidentally trod on them.’
‘So what next?’
‘To avoid a Big Man they chose a little pig.’
‘And did that work?’
‘Worse. He stole the people’s food and became very big indeed, and despite his huge belly he learnt to walk on two legs.’
‘He became a Big Man!’
‘And giving orders to everybody! With this one, even his lackeys couldn’t follow his orders because what came out of his mouth were fine words, but what came out of his rear end was foul gas. If the mouth said I shall abolish corruption, his rear said by banning the word. When the mouth said Freedom of speech, the rear end said provided you don’t criticize me. If the mouth said Freedom of assembly the rear end said with my permission. When the mouth said Free and fair elections the rear end said I shall count the votes myself.
‘Where are you going with all this?’ said Thoko irritably. ‘You’re supposed to be explaining the problem, but it seems to be getting more complicated.’
‘But what do you think?’ I asked. ‘Is there some simple underlying cause?’
‘The problem,’ said Thoko, ‘is that presidents keep turning into Big Men.’
‘No,’ said Lindiwe. ‘The problem is that the lackeys do as they are told instead of refusing. Instead of advising the Big Man that his instructions are illegal, they say The Big Man has spoken. So they turn him into a Big Man who thinks he can do anything, and becomes a monster.’
‘So it’s us, the people, who have created these terrible monsters,’ said Thoko.
‘So there’s your Civics lesson for today.’ I said, as I leaned forward towards her gateau. ‘Do you mind if I finish this bit?’
‘Keep your greedy fingers out of my cake!’ she squealed. ‘As a Grandpa, your job is to provide us with cake, not to take it for yourself. We don’t want you turning into a Big Man.

1 comment:

  1. ha ha very interesting story there Mr clarke i have learnt my history and civics