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Aesthetics of Vulgarity of the Mean Boys: Mebe Ngo’o Is Just One of the Vile Hands Groping the Nation
Category :- Editorial Author :- By Awung Mbecha Editorial 
Posted on March 12, 2019, 1:21 pm
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In times of national crisis, it is customary for patriots to recall a glorious past to whip the people’s pride in their past and the need to keep the flame of glory alive so as to preserve it for the present generation and those to come. The Cameroon National Anthem captures this spirit in its refrain. Yet, when faced with bleak moments I look past the poetry of the anthem to try and find the moment in time that the writers of this patriotic hymn described as “Dear Fatherland that was no tongue can tell.” And I find none. All one sees is years of debauchery and obscene images of an obscene phallocratic gang raping the nation with stupor.

There is no spot to stand on and sing the wistful songs of loss because, if there could be any historical bases for our children to sing praise to, that foundation would have been constructed immediately after independence in 1960 (for French Cameroun) and 1961 (for British Southern Cameroons and the reunification that followed). There is none because, as Mongo Beti put it, the notion of independence was a sham; the aspirations of a great nation that would emerge from the ashes of colonialism were stifled by the vile hand of neocolonialism with the collusion of the Ahidjo regime and, now, the Biya regime. Even as the French left in 1960, they kept a mean, but very strong, handgrip on the nascent nation. That mean hand, as it pulled the puppet strings through neocolonial economic policies embedded in the infamous France-Afrique Treaty, gave room for the puppet to develop a sense of lack of accountability to the nation, to the populace who are supposed to be the true owners of the government.

Despite the lack of accountability on the part of the leadership or what Archilles Mbembe calls the Commandement, there is still need for the latter to derive or create a sense of legitimacy from the very populace to whom it feels no obligation to render accountability. The commandement has thus created a system in which crumbs from the national cake trickle down to the populace, giving them the false sense that they are also tasting of it. This system is characterized by what Mbembe calls the Aesthetics of Vulgarity. The vulgar made beautiful, fashionable, palatable? A Google search turned up the following results for vulgarity: “the state or quality of being vulgar. Synonyms: tastelessness, bad taste, grossness, crassness, lack of refinement, tawdriness, flamboyance, flamboyancy, ostentation, excess, gaudiness, garishness, showiness, flashiness, brassiness, tinsel, kitsch, loudness, harshness.” Indeed, reading through stories of the sheer wealth of former ministers Edgar Alain Mee Ngo’o leaves one wondering at the grotesque lack of restraint shown by those who are supposed to be guiding the nation towards its objective of 2035 Emergence. Syphoning billions of state funds into private bank accounts and private construction projects can only be done by a very vile hand, an unpatriotic mind completely oblivious of continuity.

Something that is vulgar lacks taste. It can be gross, unrefined, flamboyant, excessive, and flashy. The aesthetics of vulgarity would then be the false sense of beauty or propriety that the commandement infuses in its excesses as it pillages the common wealth through the ethnic oligarchic phallocracy in place. Every now and then news headlines become awash with references to the excesses of the top brass of the commandement of the state. The dust is still to settle since Cameroon lost the rights to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations due to insecurity and mismanagement of projects. The dust is still to settle on revelations by the World Bank that projects in Cameroon are often over-budgeted. Comparing the budget for the construction of stadia in Cameroon to the same projects elsewhere in Africa the World Bank discovered that some projects in Cameroon cost as much as three times more than what it takes to execute the same project elsewhere on the continent. Cameroonians have still not understood how a large chunk of former members of government all could be in jail. And then enters Mebe Ngo’o with his own tantalizing drama, with stories of his alleged misappropriations sounding like tales of a dying glutton bent on eating his own share of the food before death snatches him away.

According to Achilles Mbembe’s concept of the Aesthetics of Vulgarity there is a strong penchant for transgression by the leaders (or commandement) of the postcolony. The transgression is characterized by “a tendency to excess and lack of proportion” mostly perpetrated in the form of reckless spending, excessive eating, and unbridled sexual promiscuity. The postcolony, Mbembe argues, is given to anxious virility, incontinence. It lacks frugality and sobriety. The excess, Mbembe argues, provides the very means by which social borders are transgressed - that is the breaking of hierarchical barriers between the ruled and rulers. Corruption, it would seem has become the agency through which the poor take part in the sharing of the national cake. Deprived of the provision of basic infrastructure and an enabling situation to function independently, the scum of the earth can only look up to the visits of their lucky brethren within the corridors of power, who occasionally come home with bags of rice and cans of sardines to give them the feeling that they too are taking part in sharing the national cake. Hence, the barrier between the rulers and the ruled, between the rich and the poor is often transgressed during these exchanges.

However, the transgression of the barriers is not done for mutual benefit. It is done to exploit the ruled for the benefit of the commandement. Mbembe argues that “Colonialism was, to a large extent, a way of disciplining bodies with the aim of making better use of them, docility and productivity going hand in hand.” Indeed, the present regime in Cameroon is not different from a colonial regime. They have devised different methods to discipline human bodies and make them docile enough. In doing this they develop the carrot and rod approach, biting and blowing like a rat. The anti-terrorism law that was passed under the guise of fighting Boko Haram has become a universal tool to fight dissent. Otherwise, how can Maurice Kamto and some members of his party be arrested in a civil protest and arraigned before a military tribunal? The state has gradually replaced the police with the army as the tool for keeping law and order. That is the strong rod of the commandement. But then the carrot has always been there too. In the run up to the October Presidential election in Cameroon, the nation and the world watched in horror the flamboyant corruption of voters by offering them bread and sardines. A practice that gave birth to the term “Les Sardinards”, “Sardinia” and the consequent protest movement known as “Brigarde Anti-Sardinard” currently very active among the diaspora.

The postcolony of Cameroon has become so corrupt that there is a kind of grim beauty in corruption. The kind of beauty that makes continuation possible. Even as others reel in disgust, it is clear that corruption still has a long way to go. Indeed, Mbembe argues that “The unconditional subordination of women to the principle of male pleasure remains one pillar upholding the reproduction of the phallocratic system.” And if this is true, metaphorically and literally then one can conclude that Mebe Ngo’o is just one of the vile custodians of the nation unashamedly fondling the defenseless daughter handed to them to nurture and foster.

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Tagged Keywords:  Aesthetics of Vulgarity
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