The Tweet storm that lead to the Masiyiwas deleting their accounts left some questions, many questions. At this point we have heard enough of the she said then he said but after reading through a few posts, Tweets, open letters etc. my understanding of the situation is this: Mrs Masiyiwa posted a tone-deaf Tweet that prompted many emotional responses some of which were impolite. Her husband came to her rescue alleging that his wife was a victim of cyber-bullying primarily by a “misogynist” that works for his family friends over at Human Rights Watch. Mr Masiyiwa publicly flexed his billionaire muscle and in a bunch of posts, possibly not intentionally, reminded Zimbabweans how much he has done for them. I won’t go into the details of the war however, in my opinion, Tsitsi Masiyiwa has posted a few tone-deaf Tweets, this was not the first one. Nonetheless, in my opinion, Zimbabweans on Twitter went overboard with their responses but then again this was not out of the ordinary on this Twitter platform. Furthermore, the said Human Rights Watch employee was respectful in his dissenting Tweet, it appears his only crime was to point out the tone-deafness of Mrs Masiyiwas Tweet. By tone-deaf I mean insensitive or lacking perception regarding public sentiment, opinion, or mood. This often leads to offensive communication even where this is not the intention. She sounded ignorant to the harsh realities of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
There are umpteen issues we can unpack about the couple’s actions and reactions to this incident. What I want to focus on is the elevated sense of superiority that is now rubbing many Zimbabweans the wrong way. Like the rest of us, the Masiyiwas have the freedom to use social media as they please. However, it seems they do not feel anyone in the Twitter-verse or Social Media-verse has the right to an opposing opinion. Worse, there is a sense that they have the power to shutdown anyone who does. To unpack this we need to look at power dynamics and how success leads to money and privileges that can make an individual feel like a superior being capable of ruling over the “lazy peasants” (in reference to one of Mrs Masiwiyas well intentioned, grossly misinterpreted tweets). It is this sense of superiority that plausibly leads to such tone-deaf communications. In order to understand this relationship we need to start by unpacking some assumptions we have about the upper 1% of society and the beliefs we have about the wealthy as a population. Are they really all better than us?
If you successfully sell a million tomatoes for a dollar each to one million customers without any costs, you will become a millionaire. There is nothing that shows that you are more intelligent than the next person simply because they did not get an opportunity to sell a million tomatoes at zero cost. Our problem lays in our assumption that this newly minted millionaire is a superior human being that needs to be praised and worshiped because of the success. There is an assumption that wealth comes with superior general intelligence – it often does not! Yes, there are many who have turned their brilliance into dollars in many fields, but we down play the privileges, social systems, opportunities and the luck that go into their success. We must be aware of the combination of factors that lead to this success. Many times its even privilege that gets you there, advantages earned or given like race, education, nationality, network propel you in many ways. In other words, you need to climb a ladder with privileges to get more privileges. Many equally intelligent hard working people do not live to see the same level of success for reasons that are beyond their control. I am in no way belittling anyones road to success or the efforts they put into making themselves successful. I am merely pointing out that effort is not the only factor and those that do not reach equal heights may have put in the same level of effort with different results. This in no way makes them inferior.
Success leads to money that leads to privileges. The combination of success, money and privilege gives rise to an elevated sense of self. Accordingly, those who are able to attain a certain level of wealth or success begin to believe that they are superior in many ways. Most of their beliefs are our fault, because we put them on a pedestal. We convey this every time we accuse a person brave enough to point out a wealthy persons flaws as “jealous”.
- Is it not possible to have an opinion about a person’s actions without considering their bank account?
- Also, doesn’t everyone wealthy or not who becomes a public figure open themselves up to public opinion?
- Should their wealth related privilege somehow cover them from criticism?
- Does their ability to earn money make them super human and above all social judgement?
- And should we reserve our opinions even more for those privileged enough to give their spare change to those in need?
Many social media commentators questioned Mrs Masiyiwa, by asking how a “woman of her stature” can make such utterances. Before we put Tsitsi on a pedestal of success we need to understand that success leads to money however the opposite is not true. This essentially means that a woman with a successful husband may have access to money but there is no guarantee that anything that she does with said money leads to success (this is assuming that Mrs Masiyiwa has not built any highly profitable businesses on her own). In fact, the availability of funding for all her endeavors will mask most incompetence and give a false sense of performance. Through her philanthropic work over the years, she has found praise and respect separate from her husband. She appears to have decided to be more vocal and visible on public platforms. This feels like a new found confidence as she cements her position as a philanthropic celebrity. To be fair most of us respect the work that she does, both Mr and Mrs Masiyiwa could use their money in many other ways as they wish.
Could this be evidence of a shift in Mrs Masiyiwas personality or just a case of bad misunderstanding, or better yet, this maybe how she has always been but for the purposes of this discussion lets assume this change is real and recent. I bumped into a term on psychologytoday.com that articulates this phenomenon, “Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN)”. In the article written by Professor Preston Ni, ASN is defined as “a person exhibiting narcissistic behaviour after becoming successful or popular”.
The Professor goes on to explain that:
“Typically, a situational narcissist is someone who at one time behaved reasonably and diplomatically, but developed an egocentric complex as the result of gaining a measure of accomplishment, fame, wealth, or other forms of external success… Situational narcissism can occur in just about any arena in life. It changes a person after the individual receives elevated status (real or perceived), which instills a sense of superiority, entitlement, and privilege.”
It’s not all gloom and doom as the article also points out that this may be temporary.
According to the professor,
“Some situational narcissists, after the initial excitement of their self-absorbing success, will eventually return to their old, more equitable selves.” However, he also points out that this may not be true for all, “Unfortunately for others, the intoxicating sense of power, status, recognition, and admiration may begin to define their core identity, as they strive to always maintain the veneer of outward superiority. For these situational narcissists who lose their way—and their real, humanistic selves—short-term glory is often replaced with long-term failure, as eventually the consequences of their egocentric ways exact a heavy price. Unless they come to their senses and re-join the human race, their lives may be filled with shallow emptiness”
What does this mean in our Tsitsi Masiyiwa case? Well she seems to fit the description. For the most part, most of our thoughts on the Masiyiwas before they started being more vocal on social media, were in fact positive. As soon as they started interacting with us more on social media we picked up a sense of arrogance and superiority as we learnt more about their personalities and views. Maybe they just need a better PR team, but from where I am standing the sense of power, status and recognition has intoxicated them. Maybe those who know them personally would argue that it is actually the force that motivated them to reach their current level of success. The bottom line is that we may never know, maybe at core Mrs. Masiyiwa is just a well intending member of society who has been lucky enough to have access to wealth that 99.9% of us will never have access to – no matter how hard we work or pray. And this is not because we are lazy, and it’s definitely not because our prayers are ignored when hers are answered. She then needs to learn and understand how to frame her messages from her privileged perspective because it will be almost impossible for 99.9% of us to adjust and accept the status core.
Okay, so far we have touched on the issue of how money and privilege can lead to superiority complexes and tone-deafness. Now to turn to the other issue that has been brought to light by the Masiyiwas tone during this incident, namely the underlying “urge to rule”. I have a big problem with people who are quick to remind you what they do or did for you, this is why one of my favorite anonymous internet quotes is:
“Don’t eat with people who brag about feeding you!”
These are the kinds of people who always want to be praised for doing things that humanity (or in this case Christianity) requires them to do. When you have much to give it is your moral duty to do so. No one owes you anything more than a thank you for any help that you provide out of the goodness of your heart. Reminding people what you did or do for them is manipulative at the very least. Doing so also insinuates that you feel they are indebted to you for all you do.
What do Zimbabweans owe the Masiyiwas? After all, it is our hard earned dollars that built their fortune. In my view – The only thing we owe them is the price of the over priced services their business provide. While Strive is the guiltier party in this instance, his wife seems to have the same belief. I remember one of her tweets that seemed to compare her husband to a biblical character as if she was trying to tell us he is here to save us.
Reminding us what you did for our cholera victims or that you protected an opposition leader in the middle of a debate about cyber bullying is disingenuous. First as discussed above, you are so privileged that a dissenting opinion in a public platform is perceived as bullying? Second of all you are insinuating that Zimbabweans have no right to point out your wife’s mistakes because you have done so much for them. Disrespecting all the Zimbabweans that respect you as a business leader and a philanthropist in the process . Somehow from where you are sitting – a place of privilege, this is definitely not how it looks.
The Masiyiwas ego has been raised by the praise they receive from across the world, from global leaders and religious leaders alike. In my opinion, over the years their money has translated into power and their urge to save humanity may just be masking their urge to rule.
H.L. Mencken once eloquently said,
“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve. This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel to foreign parts.”
In other words, 8/10 times your saviors really just want you to follow or worship them so they can rule over you. Even your pastor wants your loyalty and obedience in exchange for his blessings and prayers. Money becomes a tool used to buy power and control – its the flawed human things to do, and we are all flawed humans, our bank balances do not change that fact!
I am a social commentator with interests across the board including the social scene, culture, literature, music, business, politics and contemporary movements. A big fan of unpopular opinions and agreeing to disagree! At heart I am just a social scientist with many questions (looking for answers!). Views expressed here are personal and do not in any way , shape or form represent the views of organisations that I work for or associated with, including ZimShoppingMalls and it’s affiliates.