Our country is angry. One manifestation of this is our behaviour towards each other as we move about the roads. There are regular daily outbursts of cursing and gesticulation between motorists and between motorists and pedestrians.
There are also flashpoint altercations between law enforcement individuals and citizens. Our mood is not helped by the way in which the security entourages push us off the roads.
These outbursts are the result of the lack of traffic management by the police, which has left the use of our roads in a state of free for all, and an expression of our lack of individual discipline.
However, I am convinced that there is more to it than that. There is an underlying anger and frustration eating away at a significant number of citizens because they are deeply dissatisfied with the condition of our nation.
There is just too much stress around. We are stressed out by violent crime or the threat of it, flooding, poor physical conditions in many of our schools and work places, aspects of our health care system, said traffic conditions and a pervasive sense that justice is not being done.
We know too that the politics is not working for us. The partisan, never ending fight for the power to grab and redistribute State controlled resources among party supporters as exclusively as possible does not in the end advance our overall happiness, no matter what short term material gain maycome our way through the patronage system.
It is a case of in today, out tomorrow as fortunes are tied to the support of a political party or a clique within a Government. Living like that is not a recipe for stability and destroys all possibility of self-respect and independence and therefore a capacity to defy oppressive politicians. Hail Jairam S.C. for turning away from brown nose boulevard and buy out alley.
The patronage system severely inhibits rational political choices based on competing policies or political philosophies. Every five years or so a large number simply back the kith or kin most likely to let them in on the patronage and hope that the floating vote in the marginal constituencies makes the same choice.
We desperately need therefore to re-examine the fundamentals of how we organise ourselves politically and the overbearing role that the State plays in the economy.
The COP promised "new politics". It made it as far as an electoral arrangement which propelled some of its individual members into the current Government. Sadly it has determined to stay in the current coalition at any cost and in some cases permits itself easily to be led to the patronage trough. Hail Joseph Toney for also turning away from buy out alley. He must now lead his troops further away.
Into the current anger vortex, the thin skin reactionsof the current Government are an unwelcome addition. It is routinelylosing its cool and seeking to browbeat every critic. It does not understand that criticism and push back are normal incidents of freedom and democracy and that the goodwill of the citizens must be earned.
We are used to overt hostility towards the media at election time but there are many reports of media management now being regularly assailed to restrain inquiry into the public business or to have reports squashed. There have also been smear campaigns against individual journalists and other critics and some Ministers see so-called agendas in any criticism.
There are occasions when headlines are used to draw attention to reported facts that do not support the extravagant terms of the headline. There has also been a growing tendency to accept information from Ministerial sources without adequate examination of the obvious partisan motive behind the release of material by politicians or their lackeys. Nevertheless these occupational hazards of public life provide no justification for official management of news and information, for example, to mislead us about violent crime.
Thomas Paine, part-time journalist, was a very influential figure in how the United States of America balanced the relationship between Government and the rest of society. He was wary of concentrations of power. He held that the greatest ally of dictatorship was the fear of resistance.
We are particularly vulnerable because of our smallness and post-colonial insecurities. Our media with all its imperfections is the main check against executive abuse and these are dangerous times. We should not therefore consent to any weakening of the media's resistance to political machinations of both sides. I emphasise that there is a problem on both sides of the political divide.
I liken the times to those described in one of Paine's inspirational pamphlets: "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman".