Saturday, February 24, 2018

When it’s wrong to bash politicians

 THE narrative is true in many instances that politicians, especially those living in the wealthy sections of poverty-infested Jamaica (gee, all of them it seems), are driven mostly by ego and, in the main, they tend to use the vote and the campaign cash of their rich friends to eventually fuel their appetites for corruption, wealth and comfort.

The good ones tend either to learn (early) the art of shutting one’s mouth or die on the vine, or they toe the line for the overall good of the party they represent. In decent company that is called ‘collective responsibility’.

But, are there times when we should be gracious, give them some slack and, by way of an exercise of empathy, draw an early conclusion that they have a difficult job if they are serious about it and, were we there, we too would appreciate the ‘perks’ of corruption, on the basis that corruption may be more a natural human foible than it is an aberration in the psyche of homo sapiens?

Let us begin a brief exploration to see where we the people may be placed in the equation.

Of late I have been very impressed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s positive stance on matters affecting her country. In the eyes of many of us in Jamaica, even those who find disfavour with T&T and its gaping trade advantage with Jamaica, her tough talk and firmness of purpose are indicative that she fully understands her role as a leader who must not only be perceived to be ‘working and working’ behind closed doors or in the cabinet, but must visibly stand tall in front of her people and effectively represent them on most levels.

She knows that she must not only be there in name and position. The name and position must mean something beyond what can be seen, heard and felt in the lives of the people she leads.

Her tough talk and action are always supported by an intellect that can be palpably felt. And readers, please do not infer that when I use the word intellect I am mistaking it for academic qualification and fancy talk that few can comprehend.

To me, academic qualification is merely a first step. When a person or a leader melds academic qualification and training with plain old-fashioned know-how in fixing problems and in generating new directions, plus having a bit of experience, that is the second step. When that person uses the whole to navigate his/her way in trying to understand his/her people, his/her environment in all its phases and the complex processes of global matters with a focus on where those intersect with his country, then that person is an intellectual, especially where the person is able to effectively communicate those ideas to the people.

I admire the lady on two levels. The first is direct, where I can openly see her leadership abilities. The second is disappointment, that gnawing emptiness I feel when I cannot find the same in our own female prime minister right here at home, whether she is in our backyard telling us that she is working, working and still loves us or, on one of her many flights (25 in two years!) to foreign countries.

To get back to the subject, when is it not okay to bash a politician, especially when politicians globally (in the age of the Internet where their words and deeds can easily show a mismatch) have never been this lowly rated?

I would say it is at the very moment that we awake in the mornings, take a trip to the bathroom, brush our teeth and then stare in the mirror and quickly conclude that much of the rot that ails this nation is, if not directly caused by us, certainly facilitated by our inaction.

Simple example. Your parents sent you to school and when the problems began and your mother tried to intervene, you resisted her attempts and those of the school administration. Some days you skipped school and met up with some time-wasters in a lane lined with zinc fencing to smoke ganja. At age 15 your brainpower began its rapid retreat.

You are now 35 years old, illiterate, untrained even in a menial ‘skill’. In the last year, your longest straight period of employment was six weeks, and there is never enough food in the house.

At that very moment when just about everything in your life is a negative and a black hole of despair, it is not okay to bash the politician for your problems.

You are a 66-year-old businessman, and compared to where you were in the mid-1970s when you were ‘boxing food out a hog mout’, you are now in money heaven. You reached there because you ‘took a chance’ exporting ganja and you did well at it. Unlike others who spun their initial intake into legitimate businesses and are now well-respected members in good standing among the uptown crowd, you spirited away most of your holdings to Miami and sections of Western Europe and every chance you get, you blame the government for our underdevelopment.

From your perch in ‘Heavenly Heights’ in Kingston you keep your lavish parties with your own insensitive kind, where you mock your fellow Jamaicans, call them lazy and only fit to be used, and spin your deals. Those deals do more to add another property to your housing stock abroad and shut down local participation than they include you allowing more of those who were once like you through the gate.

You know what it is to pay gunmen to silence others, so when the murderous criminality creeps closer to the doorstep of your grown children and grandchildren who are still here, you do not get to bash politicians.

—Courtesy Jamaica Observer

Martin Daly’s column returns on March 16