Hamanism: The Shaky Power of Policy Wonks
In the bible, the book of Esther is a record of intrigue, sinister plots, dirty politics, skewed policy, legal implications and people power. It presents queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai as the protagonists who strategically advocated for their fellow Jews in a foreign land. Meanwhile, Haman was the antagonist who hated the Jews-also known as God’s people. He happened to be what I call the “policy wonk” who desired to annihilate the Jews through tricky maneuvers and king’s decrees. If he could convince the king that the Jews were the most dangerous people on earth, and therefore they did not deserve to see the light of day, then he would fulfill his selfish mission. Does Haman remind anybody of any individual in modern day politics who is bent on shaping policy which results in the injustice towards a certain group of people or community? The Hamans of this world are ruthlessly incorrigible in this department.
It really takes a Haman for a whole generation to suffer. It takes an Esther to stop this from happening. Hamans enjoy to plot for the complete destruction of certain groups of people. They even factor in the generational impact of their actions. They connive, and plant “legal” snares which they then sneak into policy, usually dubbed as king’s decrees or presidential directives. In the meantime though, the plot is faulty because the Hamans of this world are bent on doing evil to God’s chosen-and that’s the problem. In Esther’s time, it was the Jews who almost became the victims of Haman’s unsuccessful plot. I must make a preemptive submission right away here by saying that this is a very dangerous preposition by the Hamans of this world. This is because at the end of the whole saga, God will always protect His own at Haman’s fateful expense. He, will command His angels to protect (us) wherever we go: Psalms 91:11. However, even in torture, fire or death, it never really ends well for the Hamans of this world who cause such pain on God’s innocents. For my secular friends, those four sentences translate into this: “Good will always override Evil.”
Whenever the scriptures mention protection and angels in the same sentence, we must appreciate the God of battle who is also the commander in chief of the heavenly army. This puts the devil and his agents like Haman at a definitive disadvantage. But initially, they do not realize it because they happen to wield so much secular power. Sometimes they exert this power over so many years but eventually, it is all absolved by the power of the people. This power will translate into God’s power after He (God), sees the incessant injustice caused by a few over His earthly innocents. We observe this during the time when Moses freed the children of Israel from Pharaoh’s iron grip.
From a secular standpoint, people’s power translates into votes. Of course, that is if the institutions of that particular society function very well. The policy wonk who pulls their king or president like a puppet by inducing them to sign that smelly policy will eventually fall down like a house of cards. That’s a given. Think of it as a mathematical equation and just plug in the numbers. In this context however, the variables should include the construct of good or bad policy-over time: And then see what it mounts to.
For example, today the Hamans of this world continue to make a fatal decision which is to play Russian roulette with the life of regular citizens. Unfortunately they target the color of skin, tribe, class and other powerless backgrounds. They identify scapegoats many of whom are already vulnerable. They turn them into the beneficiaries of their draconian policy concoctions. I have always wondered how anyone continues to enjoy a five-course dinner with a fine glass of wine-every single day, while his or her policy implementation plan resulted in say, the separation of a mother and her child who are just seeking for asylum. I ask, how do oligarchs continue to rule for years at the expense of any suppressed group of people who sometimes rot in prisons? But the good news in the long run is that the same power which corrupts those who inflict pain on others has a way to eventually bring the inflictors down. This is because it has never been sustainable for those who have absolute power over the weak to live in gated communities while the weak and vulnerable just endure abject poverty and shame in ghetto communities. The policy wonk has something to do with such appalling results. However, there is always an Esther and a Mordecai in the wings of hope and redemption.
In the meantime even up to today, the existing political formula in many countries is sustained at the expense of many who are being tortured, imprisoned, and discriminated upon. The policy wonk is determined to suppress those he or she targets through legislation. His or her decisions on paper support institutional brutality, modern day slavery, child labor, suppression of the press, freedom of expression, discrimination due to tribe or race and persecution due to the choice of belonging to an opposition party, etc.
Thank God for advocates like Esther and Mordecai. We need more of those in our camp today. The hypothesis is that if a community, society or any nation bleeds more benevolent leaders, unbiased judges, scrupulous lawyers, advocates and vigilant activists, justice is more likely to surface-at least, eventually. Because of their empathy for humanity, alertness, and active engagement, the death of such victims like George Floyd is vindicated by an unbiased jury. Nations like Uganda my mother country, which periodically go through political and social turmoil may begin to feel the pressure of sanctions. This is after the work of activists and journalists some of whom never survive. Their bold martyrdom highlights the brutal events which usually leave many families bereaved of their sons and daughters. In Uganda, many of such events happened between July of 2020 and January of 2021. One of the major reasons why many suffered was due to their political choices such as the support of an opposition party. This article focuses on that policy wonk, the advisor or implementer who is behind the curtains coordinating such horrendous outcomes-similar to what transpired in my mother country.
For the Jews, the apparent reason was that they were a peculiar people. They seemed to pause a threat simply because of their historic heritage in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They came from the stock of King David who killed giants and King Solomon who was the wisest of them all in the middle east. The fact that the Jews simply flourished wherever they went, made many people like Haman very mad and jealous. This was the same rationale that Hitler’s policy wonks used. In the late 1930s and early 1940’s, the Jews in German had that same “bad habit” of expansion through business and other professions such as being successful lawyers, inventors and mom and pop restaurant owners. Those who know how to decipher the Christian Judeo principles would observe that such is just the blessing of their fathers, Abraham Isaac and Jacob which keeps following them wherever they go and in whatever they do. “But what audacity is that,” The Hamans would ask? This and for other anti-Semitic reasons culminated in the killing of six million of them shortly before the end of the second world war in 1945.
The hate and vitriol against such people will never happen in a vacuum. Someone instigates it. Someone like Haman. Many may be familiar with such individuals today who thrive on planting a bad seed in the ears of the powers that be. You will observe the seed germinating as decrees, executive orders and legislations which translate into the law of the land. This law becomes the draconic thorn in the flesh of the weak and feeble and everybody else with whom the Hamans of this world have a personal vendetta.
In the book of Esther, Haman had actually succeeded in turning his intentions against the Jews into policy. But Mordecai unraveled the evil plot of Haman and shared this information with queen Esther. This is a warning to all policy wonks. You must have wasted that student loan at an ivy league college. Especially if your initial plan was to receive a degree, become the president’s senior policy adviser and then use your expertise to construct excruciating policies which dehumanize another human being. Usually, policies which turn into law are always difficult to reverse. But because of their relentlessness, Mordecai and queen Esther got to reverse Haman’s evil plans which instead ended up working in their favor and all the Jews they advocated for.
Haman’s conspiracy is unveiled in chapter 3 of the book of Esther. The sinister plot was constructed in the name of King Ahasuerus against the Jews. Folks have to appreciate that all this bundle of hate and vitriol was crystallized into one “big, fat, beautiful document,” which was to be issued as law in every province. It involved the annihilation of all Jews-both young and old, little children and women. Jews were to be killed, their possessions were to be plundered or destroyed. Haman had even designed and constructed the gallows upon which his nemesis Mordecai the cousin of queen Esther should die. But instead, it was Haman who died with the very weapon he designed against God’s people. Imagine that.
Corrupt policy wonks, through their bosses who are the oligarchs, dictators, brutal generals and other misguided leaders can attempt to mess up with the vulnerable in society. But it will never be sustainable. You go ask Derek M. Chauvin who used his knee to squeeze the last breath out of George Floyd’s life. Derek worked for the U.S. police institution which is respected by many-but at the same time conflicted by how it administers protection and justice to different demographics. Unfortunately, sometimes it is tainted because of its surgical brutality towards a specific group of people. Ask Idi Amin the former dictator of Uganda whose regime was responsible for the death of my Dad when I was just five years old. Ask Usama Bin Laden who together with his terrorist advisors decided to use planes to attack the United States of America during that infamous event of September 11, 2001. Ask Sadam Hussein or Gadhafi. Ask some of those Ugandan officials who are beginning to feel the burn from Foreign Nations’ sanctions against some of their policies. Or, just ask any American president who suffered the indignity of a resignation or a one term presidency simply because it was the mere rejection of their corrupt actions or impropriety.
All these examples once had a Haman on their payroll who usually got caught up in his or her ideological illusions but ended up nowhere when the kings and presidents they served fell. Worse still, it is always not good for the Hamans when some of their repentant bosses reverse these policy wonks’ evil plots. When Esther found great favor before King Ahasuerus, Haman ended up the one losing his life. He shamefully died by the very torture mechanism he had designed for Mordecai, which was dying by hanging in public.
Administering justice is an adaptive challenge. For all who exercise their faith in God while wrestling with their professional conscience, I say that there is nothing wrong with engaging in secular affairs while challenging the status quo. However, those who chose to, must count the cost which many times is between a persecuted hero or a martyr. Once they determine to move forward, they ought to do so with a singular purpose: to fight and advocate for vulnerable groups. These include minorities such as people of color, natives, a specific tribe, the disabled, and everybody else whether rich or poor who just happens to have a different political opinion. These are the very victims of a policy wonk’s impure agenda. They say, in the art of investigation, “follow the money,” and I add: “as well, review the intention of the policy wonk on duty. Right there in their policy document, you will find the very reasons why good or bad events happen.
But, for many centuries today, governments have eventually changed, empires fallen, Juntas and generals stripped off of their legacy-if at all they had any, and some U.S. presidents have ended
up as a one term act. I submit that their policy advisers had something to do with that. Yet on the other ledger, Nations have finally recovered and various groups of people and their democracies have been saved due to this singular purpose among the Esthers and Mordecais of this world. It is one which compels many noble professionals to demand for better social platforms and justice to flourish. They follow through to make sure that their advocacy work is not just a onetime gig. Esther was aware of the reality that her advocacy must not be based off of just the romantic emotion between her and king Ahasuerus. She and Mordecai were conscience of the possibility that an executive order (kings decree) may shift once there is change of political administration. She must then use her leverage as the beloved queen to make sure that the king’s decree translated into well written and binding law while that emotion was still hot between her and the king. This is what she exactly did and the king granted her wish.
When Haman’s plot was shuttered, Esther and Mordecai were able to save all their fellow Jews from the jaws of death and shame. However, along with that grant they received from king
Ahasuerus, they also used their new acquired soft-power to demand more. They asked the king to turn their petition into tangible policy. It was written on those ancient scrolls. It became the law of the land. No one should ever mess with the Jews. Haman eventually lost. Esther and Mordecai won on behalf of their people.
The Esthers and Mordecais of this world are not doing anything different from what the Hamans are doing. Both are trying to preserve their posterity. Except that the Esther’s and Mordecai’s intentions or motivations are pure. They tend to be sacrificial and beneficial to the larger public interest. Unfortunately, the motivations of the Hamans of this world have a personal vendetta on certain specific groups of people. They selfishly preserve their relevance at the expense of these vulnerable groups.
It is now obvious that there is a choice to make here. The question is, as a policy wonk, what are you going to do? On whose side are you going to be? Whatever your choice, don’t be a Haman.