We need no crystal ball to see the future of chaos waiting for us around the corner to the next general election campaign. When too many people have too much to lose and too much to fear, winning by any means necessary becomes the battle-cry.
Thursday night’s orchestration at Himalaya Club was a telling indicator of the level of insecurity and fear already driving the campaign to excess. When an activist’s meeting could evoke a response of such disproportionate heavy-handedness we should all shudder at what is yet to come.
Stripped off illusion and dipped in cynicism, we approach election 2015 with our box of dreams displaced by a campaign war chest of cash, with money replacing political persuasion as the currency of electoral advantage. In politics, the greater the loss of legitimacy, the higher the dependence on money for paving shortcuts to power through the underground of bribery, blackmail, intimidation and violence.
In recent weeks, the political tone has gained a new stridency as contending forces begin to map the field for the coming round. With a whole year to go, it is too early to know what the final field will look like. New alignments are clearly in the making as rivals identify common enemies. Already, we can see the outlines of a new axis with Panday, Warner, Maharaj and Abdulah gravitating toward each other with pointed challenges to the Congress of the People (COP). The current alignment could pitch United National Congress (UNC) supporters against each in a battle between a platform of Persad-Bissessar, Moonilal, Rambachan and Ramlogan and another of the Pandays (senior and junior), Maharaj and Warner.
UNC supporters are exceptionally flexible, having been through numerous evolutions, divisions and re-incarnations, from the DLP of the 1960s, to the ULF of the 1970s and the NAR of the 1980s followed by the UNC, COP, People’s Partnership and Independent Liberal Party.
In 2010, they entered government split between the UNC and the COP, only to split further to create the ILP. In 2015, the natural target for a Panday/Warner axis would be the heartland core of the UNC which last year registered its alienation from the government with three successive rejections of it.
Uncertainty within its own base will deepen the administrative incoherence of a government that has been defined by leadership deficiencies from the start. Intensified distraction will leave too little time for democratic persuasion, pushing the politics toward every available shortcut to victory, including dangerous temptations well beyond the range of the standard electioneering budget and abuse of Government expenditure for advertising and campaign funding.
The release of private and sensitive information on individuals, including journalists, suggests an unprecedented level of organised intimidation designed to shut up dissenting voices, discredit opinion and lock down sources of information. As the ultimate target of such strategies, the voting public has the choice of facilitating the degeneration or standing up against it.
Neither our history nor our education has prepared us for this moment. Fifty-one years of independence have not done enough to endow us with ownership of this land and responsibility for this place.
Despite independence, we continue to live mostly on the sidelines of our own history, looking on at power from the fringe, willingly accepting our historic lot as alienated apathetics or cheer-leading fanatics with no special responsibility for this place.
It has been clear for many years now that the centre can no longer hold itself together. Today, it has completely collapsed, leaving a vacuum that can be filled by any force, including the force of our collective presence.
Before it slips completely away from us, we must stir ourselves to take control of the politics before its toxicity completely overwhelms us.
We could start by resisting the old habit of mindlessly falling in line by forcing the politics into a rational dialogue. It is the only antidote to the plague of manipulation. Let’s also set our personal standards and defend them against everyone, including those we support.
Even if they wanted to, the politicians cannot turn this thing around. In almost every case, they have been selected by the system for its own perpetuation. The dependence is mutual. Change will require a revolution that turns our world upside down and draws us from the periphery into the centre of our world, sovereign, in charge and fully responsible.
We will arrive at election 2015 much less innocently than ever before. We know for sure now there is no saviour charging in to rescue us from the detritus of our history. Those illusions have been abandoned. We know now that we must rescue ourselves.