I do not doubt it, Sir, but over my past twenty five plus years in the public service, I happened to come across very few of them, the intellectually refined. More common was a public sector peopled with little emperors reigning supreme, unchallenged and unaccountable, over their submissive fiefs. And in their fiefdom, the boss is always right and others are idiots – simple, plain morons. Moreover, our emperors believe they have been given the difficult task of presiding over a shambolic and talentless administration.


Most of them were in such positions of authority, not necessarily because of their competence but out of their proximity to the levers of power. They were more of cheerers, yes-man with the political flair of the “how and when” to hitch themselves onto the wagon of the powers to be. They spent years doing the same boring routine work and lost the ability to lead and try the new ideas and ways of doing things and driven by their megalomania, their resonant titles and accompanying privileges they succeeded, however, in ensuring compliance and enforcing total submission. For most of these emperors, “c’est l’habit qui fait le moine”; shorn of their paraphernalia and how hard they may try, they fail to stand tall and they look so plain and even their dreary statements, usually couched in the latest clichés and verbiage, which habitually make the headlines of the local media, because of the institutions they head, appear so ordinary and lusterless.

The few “intellectually refined” ones whom I came across left before they were swallowed by the system and dragged down to the more accepted levels of mediocrity predominating in the service. And the ones who decided to stay had to assume multiple personalities and managed to survive and get their ideas through just by their mere talents and competence; while the more recalcitrants, though they had the good sense not to subserviently toe the line, they were too rigid in sticking to their principles and in driving their stand and views; inevitably, they suffered a whole saga of harassment and persecution, were marginalized and finally unceremoniously  chopped off the service.

I hope you understand, Sir, why I am being sceptic about your assertion of being “intellectually refined”, given your past history of cases where you “just obeyed” and given that such people are such a scarce commodity (more of an artefact these days) in our public service. Should we be surprised that we have a decaying public sector?

Maybe this cautionary advice from the Zen master, Thieh Nhat Hanh, nobel prize nominee and peace maker, all carved-out for our local emperors, –“If  you think that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, you tend to become fanatical and ….if you want to obtain a higher form of knowledge, you have to bend” – could cushion the withering of the public service and the inevitable fall of its emperors.

P.S: It is very rare to find an “intellectually refined” person who just toes the line and enjoys wallowing in mediocrity; in such cases he will rather be called “un suiveur” or « un roderbout ».