Most people look forward to vacations as a way to rejuvenate before heading back to work. For me, summer vacation is an opportunity to spread my wings and refill my creative well. As August creeps up on me, I began to wonder where I’ll spend my vacation. A revisit to a nation ruled by psychopaths of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants would make for interesting vacation.
Long occupied by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants especially in the last decade and six plus years, they were recently driven out by Mutant superheroes. A famously challenging nation, the country ruled for almost two decades by psychopaths is one of the most if not the most corrupt and politically troubled places on the planet. I was picked up at the airport by my boyhood friend. He gave me a warm handshake and a squeezed hug. The airport was besieged by people milling around like swarm of bees. From the time I was picked up, I was amazed by the way people blended into the scenery. Open fields, abandoned buildings, houses, shops, and offices greeted me with open arms.
I saw people in every corner, peeking out from dilapidated shops, houses, buildings. I saw people – young and old, men and women – sauntering down the street hawking baskets of grain, fruits, snacks, drinks, popcorn, boiled and roasted corn on their heads. I saw kids perched atop junked cars that have become makeshift play house, while steady flow of human traffic ambled through a bedlam of jumbled streets.
Now at my friend’s house. It’s a modest bungalow located on a traffic free street. A bird sings softly from its perched atop a giant Baobab tree. It’s a beautiful and peaceful late afternoon on the African sunset strip. Met his wife and two kids. Dinner was served and we chatted endlessly throughout the delicious African meal.
The next day, I began in earnest a tour of the cities, towns, and villages. The last time I visited the country was 2012. Not much has changed except the government of Brotherhood of Evil Mutants had been dislodged. The horrific undertones of the socioeconomic and political maladies of the country weren’t lost on me. I’ve read and heard of the atrocities committed by the past government of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The country has been ruled in the past by tiny tyrants. It has been ruled by despots of all shapes and stripes blessed with many slavish minions and soldiers. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad place to live. It’s a country animated by nature – so naturally it’s charming and quaint, with beautiful rolling hillsides, the bluest skies imaginable, and surprisingly modern buildings. A once prosperous country now ruined by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Wild and fantastic things happen on a daily basis. Here, elected reps a.k.a. looters are daring, dashing, and in control of the country’s resources. However, the treacherous King of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is gone and a kinder, upright, honest, and disciplined ruler is now in charge.
What a warm, generous, and happy suffering people! An invitation to a local’s home features sharing food and drink. It’s a big part of the culture here. The country is blessed with such top-notch ingredients from the land and sea. Simple home-style cooking is a feature of family-run restaurants. What a place to revisit – breathtaking natural beauty, great rivers, basking sun, oodles of history, delicious food. The people are the friendliest and the most hospitable people you could hope to meet.
The country has been ruled by psychopaths for most part of its history. But in the last decade and six plus years, the country was nearly brought to its knees. These psychopath rulers of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants have no conscience, no empathy, no feelings, no love, no loyalty, no decency, no remorse. They betray on a whim. Totally self-serving. They’re false leaders, pathological liars, and clever con artists.
Look at the House of Delegates – the lawmaking body of the country – the place is full of psychopaths who are contrary and self-serving. Their focus on power and greed take precedence over the well-being of the people. They’re secretive, deceitful, and stinkingly corrupt. They criminalizes everything good and legalizes everything bad. They’re impaired neurologically and are not fit for positions of leadership. A nation ruled by psychopaths brings misery to the citizens. Truth is a prisoner in their empire of lies.
The clergy in the country of Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are co-conspirators in perpetrating poverty and injustice in the country. They are at the darkest end of the spectrum. They openly advocate leniency and forgiveness for the Evil Mutants. These pastors and priests brag about their Christian beliefs. Indeed, they look less like the “Son of God” and more like the religious leaders Jesus rebuked for walking around in flowing robes for appearance sake. They never expressed concern for the poor or the sick.
During my 30-day visit to the country, I tried to put the daily lives of the people into a context I could understand sometimes by asking questions from the natives. Other times by reflecting at night on what I had seen and people I had met. My eyes consume so much that my retinas refused to cool down. Corruption and poverty are the two sides of the same furnace-blasted coin. People have become scavenger-punks. It is a thirsty, lawless, wasteland. My mind argues back and forth what makes people and nations so vastly different in socioeconomic and political development.
The citizens are no strangers to the trappings of life on the edge. The history of the nation has been marred by tragedy and injustice. Too often deprivation and suffering has been met with sentiment that shocks the conscience. Everywhere I went, there is wanton neglect and violence. Health system is non-existent. School and college buildings are ancient, dirty, dusty, windowless, door less, crumbling, and dangerous. I witnessed abject poverty, precarious public works infrastructure, extremely limited job opportunities, and a dearth of adequate sanitation. Streams of sewage trickle through these shanty towns, exposing its inhabitants to a litany of diseases.
It was revolting to see so many citizens living in abject poverty next to a small number of wealthy corrupt elites. The national response to the problem of poverty remains woefully inadequate. The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on $1.25 or less a day. In reality, most people in the country live below $1 per day threshold. There is no poverty line set and no welfare provision. Shanty towns are filled with lodgings that use plastic bags and rags for windows and doors and conceal dirty floors where several people sleep. The people are sandwiched between rocks and hard places.
Unemployment levels are high and infrastructure is deteriorating and services such as water and waste disposal are absent. Malnourished kids hawking merchandise and food products roam the streets hoping to make some sale for the family upkeep. Yet, despite the dire socioeconomic environment, the people are endearing and friendly. They’re peaceful, relaxed, happy, and accepting of their station in life. The depth of their hospitality, graciousness, selflessness, humility, and cheerfulness is remarkable just as it is endearing.
Corruption in the country still remains the biggest hindrance to socioeconomic transformation. The country suffers from a pyramid of illicit activities at all levels. The continual failings of the highest office date back to the first democratically elected government. The trend of leaders of questionable background continued under the institutionalized corruption throughout the history of this tragic nation. Equally disconcerting is the limited transparency of legislative activities.
The legislators with brazen sense of impunity don’t give a damn about budget, accountability, transparency, delivery of services, reforms, and all other reasons for the existence of a government. Indeed, for the life of the country, ostensible democracy is replete with improprieties ranging from minute to the obscene. The political environment is a kleptocracy ruled by the few who steal resources from the general population.
As I wrap up my visit, one statement from unemployed graduate burned into my memory. “The rulers have ruled the country to keep the poor poorer, and the rich richer. We’ve grown accustomed to poverty. Once they’re in power, they forget about us. They say that since we were born poor, we are poor now, we remain poor, and we’ll die poor!”
Those dispiriting words are plastered in bold-type headlines across the people’s forehead all over the country. With sick smiles I bid the inhabitants good-bye. I assured them a new nation is underway.