Is poetic justice at play in crises?


Is poetic justice at play in crises?

Rev Al Sharpton
The Rev Al Sharpton speaks during the funeral for George Floyd on June 9 at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. PHOTO | AFP 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.” -William Shakespeare

I love dabbling in Greek mythology and the events of the better part of this year which have been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic seem to suggest that the gods are at play.

Listening to the Rev Al Sharpton delivering his eulogy at the funeral of George Floyd this week, I was impressed by his incisive understanding of the forces of evil “in high places” which have allowed police brutality against black people to thrive unabated over the years. He said Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes probably imagined that this incident would go away and be forgotten like many other cases involving black victims. But the gods had other plans.

The people defied curfews, social distancing and public assembly to go out into the streets protesting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Protests by people of mixed races proclaiming “black lives matter” broke out in many parts of the world. In the British port city of Bristol, protestors toppled a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, and heaved it into a canal. Many regarded the danger posed by Covid-19 to be proof of their commitment to the anti-racist cause.

Rev Sharpton said it was intentional that Floyd was just an ordinary black citizen. If he had been a famous artist, a wealthy man or politician the protagonists would have accused us of celebrating his status.


Throughout history, the least expected people have been used to bring about change and so it is with George Floyd.

A number of local governments in the United States have promised to reform the police force including some who want to defund police programmes in favour of black education. The National Football League (NFL) have apologised and conceded that they were wrong about Colin Kaepernick. But these are all knee-jerk reactions and Rev Sharpton asked the NFL to go a step further and reinstate Kaepernick.

Rev Sharpton also said he was aware that the system will try to stymie the court cases against the police officers accused in the murder of Floyd.

He asked that we stay the course and support the family until the price is paid in full for the life of Floyd and there is equal justice for all. There is no shortage of laws against police brutality and racism, but what is needed is a change in attitudes on both sides.

In what I can only describe as a case of poetic justice, Pierre Nkurunziza the long running President of Burundi, died this week of what is reported officially as a “heart attack” following a short illness. He had just stepped down and his close ally, Evadite Ndayishimiye, was elected president last week to replace him.

Nkurunzinza leaves behind a legacy of ruthless repression in which he ruled through fear to erect a system synonymous with the worst human rights abuses: extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, and the systematic crushing of dissent.

A soccer-loving pastor married to an evangelical preacher Denise; the self-anointed Ayatollah of Burundi spent much of his time traversing the country with his own team. You were well advised not to score against his team because you were likely to be jailed for “conspiracy against the president”.

Nkurunziza had refused to impose restrictions on his small and poor country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming like another neighboring state, that Covid-19 was not real, allowing sporting events and mass political rallies to go ahead.

His wife, Denise, was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi 11 days ago suffering from Covid-19 and it is suspected that he also succumbed to the very disease he said did not exist.

The despotic leader has been felled by an enemy that did not require guerilla war tactics nor the muscle of his military. It only needed hand washing, wearing a mask and social distancing. If he died of the disease, then clearly, the coronavirus is a great leveller. A supreme being is in control. In other news, the coronavirus has provided the perfect cover for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Nobody asks after him anymore. I guess the Greeks would say the gods must be crazy!

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