‘Plato’s Analogy of the Ship’ in reaction to Zitto Kabwe’s (@zittokabwe ) entry ‘The Fear’….dedicated to Rita @Ritaupara

Last week Zitto Kabwe shared his reflections and posted a patriotic powerful note titled ‘The Fear’. In it, he explains his two fears: (1) fear of being led by a lesser; and (2) fear of ‘resource trap’ in which Tanzania might found itself into in the years to come. So in reaction to this, Rita, mentioned me in a twitter saying that the entry reminded her of Plato’s Ship Analogy. She then posed a question, where do we start? and answered it ‘ Education! Education! Education!  So I thought a tweet would be so limited to express my reaction to her twitter and so the reason for this entry.

Generally, Plato’s Republic emphasises that a ‘philosopher king’ should lead a state. In the conversations narrated in the book, the qualities of a philosopher king are being described and demonstrated. The Republic is very cautious of the ability of the person who should lead the state. Critics can say a whole lot against that, but the point is very clear that the person who is leading the state must be able and exceptional.  In his entry, Mr. Kabwe cited one of the Plato’s famous quotes that ‘but accepts the responsibility of ruling because he or she cares deeply about the Republic and the people in the Republic and only takes the job for fear of being ruled by a lesser’  

Well, let’s turn into Plato’s Ship of the State to further expound on ‘The Fear’ and to underscore Rita’s answer.

In the ship metaphor, a picture is demonstrated of ‘sailors’ who have no knowledge of sailing fighting to remove the captain so as they can steer the ship. It is stated that ‘The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering – everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary…

The statement above extracted from the metaphor expounds on The Fear…many want to lead the country but in reality they do not have ability to do so. They stand on the ground that ‘we have a right to do so’ and mobilize followers to gain support by promises of rewards as described in the analogy that ‘…him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment…’.  Thus, if we elect a lesser the problem gets more complicated because he will place other ‘lesser (s)’ into key positions.  This leads to a vicious cycle situation.

I personally relate the analogy of the ship with my own experience. This year I visited Kigoma and my hosts were very thoughtful. I was taken for a historical tour. I was curious to the century old MV Liemba. When we got there, the captain was very generous, he agreed to take me around the entire ship explaining every little detail. I asked many questions, which he patiently answered. The most fascinating part of this tour was the captain’s room. In it, there is a steering wheel among other navigation systems on the side and on the walls.  In front of the steering wheel, there is a tiny ‘gear’, which aids at direction.  The captain explains to me that he would spend the first 20 or so minutes in the wheel and set up everything, then after the ship would sail in the direction that he has set. Afterwards he would just be careful in reading the navigation signs showing water depths, rocks, etc. He has to have a clear mind and high concentration. It is fascinating how such a big ship is being led by one person in a small room with tiny but devices. In theage of technology one might argue that this should not be a surprise…but go see the reality and you’ll be amazed.  MV Liemba carries many people and cargo and it is transnational. It routes include Zambia and DRC. It is an amazing ship.  So I asked the captain about his training, of which he explained to me in details. I appreciated his knowledge on geography and physics.  He was a humble learned man. Interestingly, he had done a diploma in agriculture before he trained for ship captain. I confidently say that he is also very good in international trade and international relations. He explained a whole lot of relations between Tanzania, DRC, and Zambia based on his experience of sailing MV Liemba. I took a picture with him- see below.

 Linking that with the analogy of ship further highlights the need to be led by a person who really knows what they are doing. Imagine if MV Liemba is sailed by a person without knowledge of the necessary? The person who is there for the sake of selfishness and popularity at best? He would lead everyone into drowning apart from those who can swim. But even those who can swim will be so tired and most won’t make it to the land. This is exactly the situation of a state that is led by a lesser.  It might sound simple, but if we allow ourselves to think a little bit more, we will realise how critical we should be in choosing our leaders.

 Rita talked about Education! Education! Education!…this is the first step…education to the leaders and followers too. We need to educate our people more…both formally and informally…so they will be aware and not choose a lesser.

To add on Mr. Kabwe’s fears…fear #3 is quality of education. On Saturday, I was the guest of honour at a form four graduation in Moshi Technical School. I saw potential students performing different artwork and singing songs. I could see a lot in their innocent faces. Many of them followed me after with many questions and to ask for my contacts. They said they want more inspiration. I was humbled and moved. I thought of them and then the quality of education in Tanzania…uuugh my heart sighed! Can we loose this beautiful energetic generation in a peaceful resource-endowed country?  NO!!!!!!

 The ship is beautiful, full of people (45 millions), resources, issues, and lots of other complications…for this let’s choose a philosopher king who is competent in sailing…with only one vision- to take us across- remember the ship is heavy and almost overload…if the captain is a lesser, we will drown…

28 thoughts on “‘Plato’s Analogy of the Ship’ in reaction to Zitto Kabwe’s (@zittokabwe ) entry ‘The Fear’….dedicated to Rita @Ritaupara

  1. Shirumisha Kwayu

    Education! Education! Education! This is the way forward for Tanzania. Any leader who doesn’t have education as first priority in the list of preference I would consider #lesser! After education we can then consider health, security, economy(income) etc

  2. Rita Tvedt

    Shirumisha, unfortunately most of the politicians don’t see it that way. How can education be a priority to a person that does not possess the said education? We have a long long way to go, from educating voters to educating the so-called leaders.

    The current leadership we have is a reflection of who/what we are as a society. They were put in office by voters, voters that don’t know what’s best for them. Imagine what would happen if we changed the way we vote? Instead of elections focusing on a single person, they should focus on issues and the way forward. if only we could stop using our emotions while voting.

    Sad to see how much the idea of the New Constitution has been oversold by our politicians. We have an existing one that is violated on a daily basis, what will make us respect and adhere to a new one?

    At the end of the day, the ultimate weapon is in the people’s hands. They choose their leaders, so it all goes back to my argument! Let’s start by educating the voters.

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