PLOTTING IN THE DARK, PART I
A well carved out plot produces satisfaction for the audience and establishes the character of the author. A successfully crafted plot leaves the audience not just marvelling at the unfolding of a beautiful work but inquiring of the genius mind behind the work. For this reason, authors have come to be identified with the nature and characteristics of the plot they produced. These authors tend to even outlive their plot(s). Howbeit, some are outlived by their plot to the extent that the audience soon forgets who the author was.
The possibility of the author establishing him/herself beyond the work can be attributed to several factors. The mood, tone, and motives with which the work is done determine the fate of the author’s popularity. These factors speak to the ingenuity and brilliance implore. A plot outliving the author does not necessarily mean it was a bad one neither the author outliving a plot makes it a good one or vice versa. One of the two could happen because of a couple of reasons. Either the defining characteristics of the plot is far detached from the nature of the author, or the audience soon make up their own morals of the plot rather than what the author had intended. Also, it could be because the plot is so awful to the extent that no one cares to mention it but rather the name of the author who made a spectacular mess or the grandeur of the plot is unimaginable to the extent that the author quickly dissipates and is replaced by the plot or characters within the plot.
All said, it is important that every author makes these calculations within the most reasonable assumptions with their preferred goals and objectives in mind before piecing a plot together. Anything short of such approach (scientific method) would mean plotting in the dark; thus leaving the possibility of the author meeting one of the above fates. In such an instance, the original intentions of the author soon elope his/her thoughts and he or she embraces the new outcome and maximizes it as though it was the original thoughts. That is however only possible if the effect of the blindsiding (the unintended outcome) has not had its damaging effect already or established its fame above the author’s reducing him/her to mere failure. Sometimes luck falls in.
The importance of a plot is not unique to literature but every practical space we find ourselves in: governance, education, development, politics, et al. The same standards by which a plot or its author is adjudged in literature is the same standards and scrutiny that should be faced even in different disciplines or atmosphere. It is very important to recognize and understand the plot in order to appreciate the space within which you are found.
The Liberian political landscape is not void of plots. The politics is a determining factor as to which direction we go along the development vector. In order to understand how the politics is scattering the points on the graph to ultimately define our quadrant, we need to unravel the plot, identify the author and examine both.
The expected plot of the Liberian politics should be hinged on nation building. The author is trying to write out his plot with this expectation in mind (sincerely or insincerely). Nevertheless, he could miss the point so much so that the plot could have an adverse impact on the intended outcome.
President Weah and his administration (author) were given the go ahead to carve out a plot that would define the success of the story (Liberia). It is worth noting that the task was handed in the midst of a wanting audience that was longing for brilliance and perfection from a theatre that is short of the two. Howbeit, the President embraced the challenge and kicked off the task by structuring his cast. A cast that would determine the roles to be assigned. Upon the assembly of the cast, the President began piecing together the narratives that would form the plot.
From all indications, the author did not implore the use of the scientific method as mentioned earlier. The outcomes were not calculated; the possible unintended consequences were not predicted. The author failed to juxtapose where he would love to be situated vis-à-vis the plot. All that was important to the author was to have an objective or moral (a very important factor that all authors must have). The objective of the author’s narrative is to transform the lives of the ordinary people and restore hope unto them. The author’s intention is to ensure that his narratives, in the context of respecting the human rights of everyone, lift the country to an enviable status.
Given this fact in mind and the reality of escaping the scientific stage, the author is plotting in the dark. The episodic display of the plot being put together by the author proves this assertion. A couple of the happenings as detailed below shares light on the author’s plot that is being done from the dark. First, it is important to point out the factors that have pushed the author in the dark (in no specific order).
The author could not resist the anxiety of establishing his popularity as one of the best authors of our politics and as such he is willing to do all it takes to ensure he achieves that feat. This is not uncommon to an ambitious author. What is uncommon for an ambitious and focused author is the inability to keep calm and skip all necessary preparatory works. The next factor is the failure of the President/author to have had his plan pictured. The President/author drew out the picture for his narratives based on the cast he assembled rather than assembling a cast based on his pictured narrative. In this manner, the author could easily lose focus of his plot and end up with an entirely different plot.
Additionally, the author is being confronted with a portion of the audience (oppositions) that is unsatisfied with the fact he is in charge of writing the narratives. The unsatisfied audience is of the arrogant opinion that the craft of political and development plot writing is unique to them and no one else (not even this author). The author is also faced with the fact that the time and occasion upon which he has been chosen to perform is somewhat strange to the audience. A situation that only occurred a quarter shy of a century ago. At the same time, the author is not actually focussing on the different kinds of conflicts and the means to direct how these conflicts unfold in the plot.
By writing a plot from the dark, you are not able to tell when you should adjust the character to face a conflict against nature or society or against another character. The decision at this point will still be guided by the initial thought of forming a better society. A good idea, but the prevailing conditions could ensure that the outcome is different. The author must be aware of every unfolding conditions and not be kept in the dark.
Having looked at some of the factors that have pushed the author into the dark, let us review a couple of the episodes from the plot that is being written from the dark. Note that the author is using an episodic plot style. The author, based on the cast he assembled, decided to compose an episode of the narrative on roads connectivity and infrastructure development. Given the anxiety of the author and the anticipation of the audience, the reroofing of houses in one of the many slum communities and the paving of new roads began. The President/author soon began the ground breaking of new projects and renaming of old projects to establish his authority. The cast he assembled is cheering him on and the somewhat angry audience who displease of him are spinning it around. This action of the President/author, his lieutenants, and the opposition is doing the citizenry and the country no good. The truth is eroding, the good and the bad are becoming elusive, tensions are building and the country is in need of a solution. The audience waits and the author writes on.
The author is also producing an episode that will establish him as a corruption fighter. The news of missing billions quickly spread like wild fire and the President/author ordered investigations. The oppositions hoped that the investigations would rendered their arrogant opinion valid while the President hoped that the investigation would establish his authority as a corruption fighter. When the investigations were concluded, both the President/author and the oppositions jumped at their spinning game selecting the portion of the investigative reports favourable to their hoped positions. Being the author of the moment, the President selectively initiated prosecution while the opposition also selectively condemned. Had the President/author been authoring from the light, he would have meticulously thought out his approach and sought holistic prosecution regardless of who is involved. Given that he is operating from the dark and one reason behind that is that his narratives are based on his cast, he cannot control the unfolding (arguably), the cast is doing so. This episode and the reaction of the oppositions to it is fuelling a great deal of divide among the people. To the oppositions, the government is synonymous to evil, wrongdoing, and failure while to the President, the government is a heaven on earth and its actors are saints. Based on this, death is no longer one of the factors that bound people together but rather a means to score a political point (as seen in recent past). Also, we are no more thinking as a team and a people who share one country that must be developed but rather a competition that must be won no matter the consequences.
Plotting from the dark is gradually ensuring that the President/author establishes an imperial presidency (more or like his predecessor) rather than an imperial and prosperous nation. The latest episode that has seen the nomination of Judge Yusif Kaba is a case in point. In a democracy, like ours, independence and coordination of the branches of government should be the hallmark. Sadly, plotting from the dark only ensures that the establishment of an imperial presidency is possible. The President’s immediate nomination of Judge Kaba the day after (working day) Justice Ja’neh was impeached raises more questions of the imperial presidency than the balance of power. It must be noted that the legal team of Justice Ja’neh announced an appeal which means mathematically Ja’neh could be reinstated (a highly impossible political outcome). Ja’neh and his team as per the appeal procedure have ten days to perfect the appeal with the supreme court or forfeit the opportunity. It is only then that the impeachment verdict is binding and the case is closed. Considering this legal fact, one is left to wonder what happens to the president’s nomination if the Justice perfects his appeal and wins the argument on a re-trial. Though this outcome is rarely possible, it only justifies the creation of an imperial presidency theory.
In the knowledge that this episode is the most recent of the plot, let us take a look at a fact within it. The Justice was impeached on one of four counts. The justice alone, however, did not execute the impeachable offense of the count. The full bench of the Supreme Court endorsed the action of the Justice. On this note, are we to ask if the entire bench (those still present from the time of the decision) will be impeached as well? Or perhaps ask an analogical question: will the President be impeached for a decision that he would take and later get signed off by the legislature? These questions are only intended to help us examine the plot as it is being written by the author. I am refraining from going to constitutional provisions of immunity for officials when acting in their capacity in terms of the decision.
As the President writes this episode, his alibi is that the oppositions who have more senators performed their duty and he had nothing to do with it. Rightly, the oppositions failed to convince their senators to accept their argument. In addition, the senators in their individual capacity failed to properly analyse the matter but ‘respectfully’ played along for their personal benefits. A portion of the public tribalized the matter as well. With the argument of the latter and the heralding of the nominee’s (Judge Kaba) ethnicity by faithfuls of the President, I will fail to go further on this matter as it borders on ethnic alignment; a dangerous path for the country. It should also be noted that the impeached Justice is an accused warlord who in the minds of others should not have been on the bench in the first place. There are several characters within the plot but the author will not be deprived of the glory if the plot is successful neither will he be let off the hook for a failure.
The plot continues to be written and the author remains in the dark. Being in the dark does not mean that the play will not be successful (thou there is a possibility), but the thwarting of the initial intentions. The assessment of a plot ties to the character of the author so much so that he or she becomes double faced. A case is Niccolo Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’. The plot of that narrative came to define the nature and character of Machiavelli, though wrongly (arguably). Machiavelli did not live or operate in his time of political power like the character he wrote about in the narratives of ‘The Prince’. He wrote the piece as advice for another ruler after he had left power. Comparing to how he performed when he was on the stage and the pieces of advice in ‘The Prince’, there are two separate characters. Those who knew him would then question if you had these ideas why didn’t you apply them when you had the chance, while those who did not know him would ascribe the character of the ideas to his personal character.
The President has the opportunity to still go back to the drawing board and reshape his plot as well as establish a different approach. He needs to come from the dark to have a better view and appreciation of the surrounding circumstances in order to properly carve out his plot. He writes on; the plot continues; the audience follows.
Johnny Baryougar White, a Human Rights Practitioner and student of International Relations