Less than a month before he lost his job as the director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 2017, James Comey published an autobiography titled “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership”.
Comey is primarily interested in foundational institutions, the underlying structures that make a country work.
The United States is not perfect. Far from it. Around 40 million Americans are on food stamps, more or less what we would call food aid. African-Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but an African-American is six times as likely as a white person to be arrested for it.
Outside the US, small nations live on fear of American military aggression, exploitative trade practices and the threat and reality of economic sanctions for posing “an unusual and continuing threat” to Uncle Sam’s foreign policy.
But at the same time, the US is the world’s largest economy. Yes, China is catching up, but even if it were to become number two, the US would still be a massive, massive economy.
On the balance of things, at least for Americans, the US is a country that works.
Which is why any insight into how those in the corridors of power in the United States view their foundational institutions is of importance.
And that is where Comey comes in for Zimbabwe. We strongly recommend anyone interested in statecraft and the structure of power to read “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership”.
But for today, with Zimbabwe hours away from a landmark election, we will focus on one passage from Comey’s book that does not directly speak to matters of nation-building, but rather one that demands being borne in mind as we vote for a President, legislators and local government councilors. In Chapter 7 of his book, the former head of the FBI writes about a trait of human nature that becomes more and more evident as elections approach. He calls it confirmation bias.
“Our brains have evolved to crave information consistent with what we already believe. We seek out and focus on facts and arguments that support our beliefs.
“More worrisome, when we are trapped in confirmation bias, we may not consciously perceive facts that challenge us, that are inconsistent with what we have already concluded. In a complicated, changing and integrated world, our confirmation bias makes us difficult people. We simply can’t change our minds.”
On July 29, 2018, on the eve of the Second Republic in this great land of ours, we have a section of our society afflicted by a virulent strain of confirmation bias.
So strong is the affliction that we should really stand ready to deal with potential violence and civil disorder when the will of the majority post-balloting shows that some of the very noisy politicians around us are not as popular as they dream they are. There is a belief in these quarters that a particularly strident candidate in the Presidential poll is hugely popular across the country. That candidate and his supporters — including a supposedly rationale lawyer who indeed should know better — have declared that the only “result” that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should announce is that this chap has won the Presidential race.
It matters not what the majority thinks, it matters not what the ballots, which will be audited by all interested parties, will say. This candidate says only he should be announced the winner and any other announcement will amount to electoral fraud and his supporters will unleash mayhem and make the country ungovernable. What we have here is a poisonous meeting of confirmation bias and an appetite for violence that cannot and should not be allowed to grow roots in the Second Republic. We have before us a horde that does not hesitate to use vile ad abusive language against anyone who thinks and feels differently to them; a rabble that has tried to burn a fellow Presidential candidate alive at a funeral; a horde that labels as “hure” any woman who they dislike; a mob that is itching to unleash violence when its confirmation bias comes crashing around its ears after July 30, 2018.
Where others are promoting about peace and stability before, during and after elections, this pack of rabid wolves is baying for blood. Where others are promoting re-engagement with the international community, this pack is insulting anyone outside Zimbabwe who is not similarly afflicted with its confirmation bias.
Where others are building a middle-income economy by 2030, these hooligans want to shut down the country.
Where others are restoring the dignity of ordinary, hard-working Zimbabweans, this gang wants more and more economic sanctions on the very same people it wants to vote for them. The possibility of post-electoral violence instigated by these people is real.
We urge the State to remain strong in the face of any violence, and to protect ordinary Zimbabweans who simply want to play a part in making the Second Republic work for them.
Of course we do not expect the heavy-handedness of the last years of the previous regime, but we certainly expect the State to be firm in ensuring our environment remains conducive to building the Zimbabwe we want.
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