Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Presumption

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure. ”
                                                                                                   ― Mark Twain

As a definition of presumption this is probably as good as any. And it's one reliable feature of human nature to suppose that, since one has enjoyed a modicum of success or expertise in one narrow endeavor, such wisdom will translate across any number of other fields quite as well. So Reagan, the B-grade actor, becomes Mr. President and Leader of the Free World; Richard Dawkins, a superlative evolutionary biologist, becomes a strident, tiresome anti-theologian; the likes of Pat Robertson and James Dobson make foolish pronunciamentos on climate change; Dennis Rodman becomes the American envoy to North Korea.

"Yo! You freakin' better be Michael Jordan."

So it goes. Mostly people get away with this mix of confidence and ignorance. Sometimes it's comical, sometimes its tragical, sometimes it's downright toxic, like when Michelle Bachmann, a genius at fundraising, puts on her sex therapist hat. Sometimes it can be exploited to the success and profit of a third party.

It happened that the Belgian government was seeking to apprehend a notorious and remarkably wealthy Somali pirate for the 2009 maritime hijacking and a successful ransom request for the ship's crew of roughly $3 million, which he naturally banked, however one banks a wad of cash in Somalia. Maybe Switzerland. Anyway, a wad of money gone down the global piracy drain and no pirate in the slammer. The Belgians were unhappy, although it's never entirely clear whether a Belgian is unhappy or merely costive. Or just another Swiss banker on a business trip to Brussels.

The pirate, Mohamed Abdi Hassan — whose nickname, Afweyne, means "Big Mouth" — was charged with hijacking the Belgian dredger Pompei and kidnapping its nine-member crew in 2009.The Pompei's crew was released after 10 weeks in captivity, when the ship's owner paid that juicy ransom.

Mr. B. Mouth

The Belgians, who were never to my knowledge noted for their celerity of thought nor for a devious imagination, lured Afweyne to Brussels along with a piratical accomplice, on the flimsiest of pretexts - a consultancy. They cooked up a fake movie project, a documentary of the infamous pirate's works and days, and invited him to come to Brussels as a consultant and assistant in the making of his own biopic. Apparently giving the Belgians about as much credit as I just did for having any sense of irony, Afweyne took the bait and was arrested on the Brussels tarmac with his aide-de-camp.

It would be a pointless and unfair bit of piling on to draw any further moral from this tale.

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