Monday, January 19, 2009

Zimbabwe, Mugabe, and the $100 Trillion Note

After I made the post Friday about Zimbabwe issuing a $100 trillion note, a longtime e-mailer (who I highly respect for his intelligence and clarity of thought) chided me for my lack of compassion in terms of the suffering the inflation is causing.

That was certainly not my intent, but economic oddities fascinate me, and I think it's certainly true that I compartmentalized the oddity without acknowledging the suffering.

Here's what he wrote (he wishes to remain anonymous because of his standing in the academic community):
While a 100 trillion note IS funny. Remember what it represents. It's not a joke. It's not a Monty Python sketch.

It is a mark of a place where wives have to go in with their husband to work every day to pick up their paycheck first thing in the morning...because if they wait until the end of the day when he comes home, it will already be worthless.

It is a mark of a place ruled by a very tragic man. An idealist who grew up fighting injustice. Fighting racism, bigotry, and unfairness foisted upon his society by selfish men...and a man who turned into a far darker figure than George Lucas could ever imagine.

I don't mean to be utterly humorless here. It's just that as a student of the developing world, there is perhaps no story that honestly breaks my heart as badly as Zimbabwe and the tragic story of Robert Mugabe.

Like I said--clarity of thought.

I was intrigued by what he touched on in terms of Robert Mugabe, who I thought was just another dimestore dickhead, so I asked him to explain more fully. Here's how he replied:
In my line of work, I study no shortage of freaking sociopaths...Saddam Hussein, Mobutu, Charles Taylor...just monsters. As human beings, just very little to redeem them.

But then you run into a story like Robert Mugabe.

I like to think of myself as a good and principled person. Intelligent. Caring of my fellow man. Maybe a bit rough around the edges sometimes, but my heart is always in the right place. I read the stories of Iraq, Liberia, etc. and think "man, if only I had been there instead of them, how much better the world could have been!"

Perhaps that is why Mugabe's story has stuck with me so emotionally. In many ways, as I first read his story, I thought "that's me."

...and then you see what happens. And to be honest? It scares the living shit out of me.

That delivered quite a jolt.

He recommended a book on Mugabe, so if you're interested, here's the link:
Dinner with Mugabe: The Untold Story of a Freedom Fighter who Became a Tyrant.

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