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The good, the bad, the ugly in politics

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By Oscar Allen

Most of us have heard and many of us have accepted the formulation that Gonsalve’s ULP, Eustace’s NDP and Mitchell’s NDP are respectively the good, the bad and the ugly in our politics. That is not all, the argument goes further. It says that to be critical of the ULP, or to give the ULP a good grade, is to help the NDP to move from Bad to Bad+, and even to put yourself in bed with the uglies and reaction. In their different degrees, Renwick Rose and Ralph Gonsalves and less so, Jomo Thomas are pushing this message. They say when you criticize the good or ULP you are likely to promote the bad, that is NDP. That is using mathematics to muzzle our political mentality and our critical insights. The equation goes something like this: ULP + criticism = NDP + promotion.{{more}}

Me, I want to put the political party equation aside. I don’t see my nation through party eyes. Rather, I see the parties through my nation viewfinder. In politics, I see the nation first, then the party after. Maybe I didn’t always look at things in this way, but it is a valid way to eye-up our situation, and to add to that, I don’t lock my sights onto good and bad and ugly as the three platforms for governance in SVG. When all that you have to compare your government with is the bad and the ugly, how good do you think good has to come?

You know, one student recently assured me that her performance at school was good.

“As long as it is not bad,” she explained, “it’s good”.

Good then, only has to climb couple inches, or feet above bad to get our applause. And bad only has to chip off couple inches from good so as to get back on top of our opinion ratings, and become good once again. We spin our nation’s top in mud when we let political party trumpeters set our standards for us in the nation.

In a very clear and self-positioning article which-boost the banana industry Renwick Rose wrote, among other things, that “…we must be careful in our criticism of broadly progressive governments and leaders, not to give succour to those who would use our principal disagreements to undermine progressive causes…”. Along the same line, Renwick wrote again: “…we have to be careful not to be standard bearers for the forces of reaction…”

Now Renwick Rose has given blood, sweat and grey matter to two generations of exemplary struggle for our nation. It is a prime quality investment that we must cherish and protect. He pioneered our scholarship agreement with Cuba. It is hard to imagine that the NDP would have made it possible for Renwick to access diagnoses at Cuba’s CEMEA medical facility. Renwick knows, better than any of us, the difference between NDP and ULP, but when he locks his eyes on the equation of the political parties – either the good, the bad, or the ugly, he is missing the mark, in company with so many of us who have a legacy of consuming political commitment. He is tending towards a pragmatic, static politics that deals with protecting the government / party.

When I ask myself question like: Is it sustainable, or in the interest of our people, to swipe away +50 per cent (my estimate) Leeward beach front in hotel projects – in 10 years? Is the Buccament deal a decent process? Is the cross country road as we see it broadly conceptualised, a good move? I have to answer, No, No, No.

The nation’s good makes me give distinct ‘Fail’ grades to these projects. If I think ‘party first’, and ‘must keep out the bad & the ugly parties’ I will have to hold my tongue, or twist it. When I ask myself questions like: Is the State Housing Programme a good one? Is the International Airport essential? Can the education revolution bring lasting benefits? My answers are Yes, Yes, Yes. When I ask again: from the point of view of what is best for the nation, how do I rate the ULP? The answer is simple, “Fair, can do better” When I ask further: What about the NDP and the Green Party, in the nation’s interest, how do I rate them? My assessment is this: welded together they can be a moderate opposition, or complementary party”. When the standard that we set for our politics is: “what is the best for our nation and people?” then the “good” has to climb higher, and instead of the choices Good-Bad-Ugly, we have Better-Good-Coming along-Stuck in the Mud.

I often remember and reflect on the very good work that Martha was doing, stirring in the kitchen, fixing and serving the bread and fish and juice and tea to refresh her guests. And Jesus said to her: “Mary is doing better work, she can’t leave it now,” (see Luke 10:38-42).

Good work must never be self satisfied and smug and if there is a Bad around, well it must seek transformation. If there is a name for this politics that I am recommending, it is named dialectical pragmatics – coaching us all to be more and to do better and to share more widely. The crude pragmatic politics of Good, the Bad, & the Ugly parties is not good for our nation.

What do you think?

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