Newmann: Banana split
One of the most endearing (and enduring) legacies of the old Banana Republic leaders was abiding concern for family. When power transferred (often in a variety of curious ways) from one head of state to another, the new leader’s family could always be assured of some top government jobs. Whether they were actually qualified for those jobs became a moot point. They’d somehow figure it all out — or maybe not. Either way, no big deal.
What really mattered was … they were family, with total and utter loyalty. Throw some other questionably qualified (but loyal) cronies of the Top Banana into the mix and, eureka, you had a government. And that very loyal government often had a very handsome payroll for those lucky enough to be a part of it. With a few kickbacks thrown in for good measure.
Maintaining loyalty became of utmost importance. If anyone in government was seen to be a maverick … well, that could be a problem. Any disagreements with the Top Banana’s line of thought could lead to losing one’s job. So best for all concerned to toe the line — even if the line consistently changed.
If you were one of the lesser minions, forget it. You were either with him or against him. No middle ground. And, certainly, no dissent. Dissent, no matter how logical or legitimate, could easily be construed for sedition. Bad. Very bad.
And the populace. Well, you just had to make sure to tell those folks what you thought they wanted to hear. If you said it long enough and loud enough some of it would start to stick. And then become truth. Or a facsimile thereof. No need to follow up on any promises. Just make some new ones. Keep your folks happy. And on your side.
Any channels of outside expression, such as an independent press, posed a threat. The lies that could be spread through such nasty media might cast doubts on the Top Banana’s overall mastery of all things. So best to make sure that these “fakers” were exposed … and that the Top Banana’s own favorite sources of information became the mainstays. Enter state media. Or something very similar.
The military … well, very important to have the military on your side. Very important. You never knew with all those very ambitious generals and colonels. One of them might want your job. Soon. So best to pay lip service to the service … and try keep them under control. Maybe put a few generals in the inner circle. But also make sure that if anyone got overly ambitious — or contentious or disloyal — that person was labeled as a loser and shown the door.
Any transfer of power in the Banana Republics was always a messy affair. The leaders became accustomed to being the leaders and did not cede their roles easily. The scene was usually a bit contentious if they did have to leave office. Departing was generally a hurried and chaotic affair, usually done without even so much as a brief briefing for the incoming leader. Out the door. Gone.
So it went in the old Banana Republics. The repetitive cycles. The comings; the goings. Stability constantly destabilized.
They were curious places, those old republics. Very curious indeed.
Tom Newmann splits his time between Beaver Creek and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at email@example.com.