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An Advertisement or political comedy?

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“The Deepening Crisis of Political Confidence and Trust”

I was quite intrigued by a piece that appeared last week in at least two of the weekend papers under the rubric, ‘Advertisement’. The length of this purported advertisement and the caption that it carried had me baffled and led me to do further exploration to find out what it was really all about and what was being advertised. There was a clue in the last sentence that read, “You can trust me – Jonathan Peters – with your confidence because I am different.”{{more}} Earlier it suggested that the answer to all the country’s problems rested in the hands of one man Jonathan Peters, the only ‘known’ person with the ‘best comprehensive’ experience, to pull the country from the brink of bankruptcy.

After reading and rereading the advertisement in an effort to make sense of it, I had to conclude that it could not have been written by Mr. Peters. He should clear up the confusion and seriously rebuke or fire his PRO or whoever did it. An advertisement is about selling a product and I assume that the product being sold is Jonathan Peters. One of the objectives of advertisements is to try to make the product as attractive and appealing as possible and so sing praises to the quality of the product. What we are told about this product is that it (he) is different and so can be trusted and that it (he) has ‘comprehensive experience’, whatever that means. Really what we have here is an anti-advertisement because instead of making the product attractive to entice the buyer, it was doing the very opposite. First, the piece was an assault on the English language in a manner I have not seen for a long time. It was, in fact, an assassination attempt made on the English Language that we know and the writer should be charged for harbouring terrorist tendencies. There is absolutely no regard for punctuation or the niceties of grammar and words are used more for their sound than for meaning. Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s “The Rivals”, faces serious competition here. Interestingly, the writer appears to realise that he/she has taken liberties with the language and so occasionally inserts a word in brackets to allow for easier comprehension.

Now let us look at the first sentence, which is a gem if there was ever one: “The unassuming political intangible components that were once the trade mark of political parties rivalry and success; that once held electorates steadfast to political parties have fallen off the radar screen and lies smoldering in the troughs of discussion.” Now, what on earth does all of this mean? What are ‘unassuming political intangible components’ that were once ‘the trademark of political parties rivalry and success?’ I guess that these components are so intangible that not even the author knows what they are. ‘Intangible’ means ‘imprecise or unclear to the mind. And what is worse for these components is that they ‘have fallen off the radar screen.’ But even more the ‘components…lies’ (sic) smoldering (Americanese, I guess) in the ‘troughs of discussion.’ Well, a trough is a low point so maybe…well I really don’t know- you can guess!

The author, whoever it might be, really had a field day with the language. Let’s give another example. “The continuous declining political persuasion has certainly dampened and deepened the crisis of confidence and trust in the political parties….’ Strange indeed, for to dampen is to stifle and it is difficult to see how you could within the context of the sentence dampen and at the same time deepen something.

Really, logic and meaning are abandoned and contradictory statements juxtaposed as though this is the most natural thing in the world. “A drop in confidence and trust as a direct result of elected government failure to offer the individual a better life has become apparent in every sector of our society other than politics, finance and religion, the three pillars of human society.” Why are these pillars the exception? Why has the drop in confidence and trust not manifested itself in these areas? A strange argument indeed for how will the man with the answer get around this since elections are part of politics and finance relates to the economy which is supposed to be ‘shattered.’

I could go on and on, trying to show, for instance, the hostility between noun and verb that frequently appears. Remember, however, the advertisement’s caution- “we many still be a Third World country…just don’t insult the electorate intelligence.”

What, however, is the real message of the advertisement? The country is in trouble. What is needed is someone to restore the ‘shattered economy to some sort of respectable decency’. I am not sure to what sort of respectable decency the author is hoping that the economy can be restored. But even more confusing is that this is taking place in an atmosphere and a country where never before has there been such a ‘stalk (bleak) period of electoral indecisiveness.’ Amidst all this gloom there is an answer and the answer is Jonathan Peters who people can trust. And why can they trust him, ‘because, I am different!’ And remember too, that he has the ‘comprehensive experience.’ Some people have experience but certainly not the ‘comprehensive’ kind. Even stranger still, we are told later that the answer to the country’s problems is not only in the hands of Jonathan Peters for the advertisement tells us that “The NDP will not regain its 51 % or better popularity until Eustace surrenders the leadership to James ‘Son’ Mitchell or Jonathan Peters. But who should they chose? The last sentence again gives us a clue, the man you can trust because he is different!

Fortunately ‘the electorate is not confused, they are now more matured and intelligent and will vote more wisely next election.’ I imagine that this more mature and intelligent electorate will recognise political comedy for what it is.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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