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Raise the level of our politics

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The campaign for the next general elections, constitutionally due by mid year 2006, went up one notch last weekend when the governing ULP fired its first salvo in the constituency of North Windward.

This meeting, ostensibly the report of constituency representative Montgomery Daniel, was in all reality the unofficial launch of the ULP’s campaign. The opposition NDP has already been on the campaign trial launching several of its candidates, including the one for West Kingstown, Mr. Daniel Cummings, the very night before the ULP’s launch.{{more}}

So, what some people sarcastically describe as the “silly season” has begun. “Silly” because elections often bring out some of the more irrational and foolish actions of many people – silly words, silly actions being part and parcel of the picture. It is a time when perceptions and misconceptions take over, when normally rational and reasonable men and women become implacable political beasts, blind to all but the party they support. The time when staid, conservative, “decent” citizens shed that image and come on stage to hug, wine and dine, trying to prove how “rootsy” (or “rootical as P.M Gonsalves would say) they are.

Elections are all about winning at all costs some would say. Hence the need to influence, to turn heads. Crowd-pulling is an important element hence at any meeting the size of the crowd is used as a measure of support and success. The seasoned politicians know that there is far more to it than that, but let’s keep the charade and have a big parade. So music, gimmickry high tech stuff, anything that can attract, become essential parts of the armory, as essential as the bus-ins which help to ensure large crowds. We into it and “de real ting ain’t start yet”

If I were to state one major disappointment with politics in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, it is our failure to build on the healthy foundation of the seventies and early eighties in terms of raising the collective level of our consciousness. In particular, the ULP after breaking the 17-year monopoly of the NDP had a golden opportunity to do something positive about our state of politics. True, it had at times demonstrated its capacity in opposition to engage in traditional-style politics. But it must know that we need to step up from that level.

In office, it has as its centerpiece of achievement what it fondly describes as its “Education Revolution”. Fine and commendable. Unfortunately neither the education nor the revolution has been passed on to the wider society where politics is concerned. There has not been enough emphasis on consciousness-raising, in the party and in the society at large. As a result room has been left for backwardness to raise its ugly head and feed on the low level of consciousness of the populace. A more conscious people would not have time for some of the arrant nonsense and downright reactionary comments perpetrated in the media.

True, the ULP did give a glimpse of hope early on of tackling this problem. But as it got bogged down in the implementation of its projects its political work has suffered, organizationally and intellectually. By leaving too much room for reaction to flourish it has made its own work harder. And, the NDP on the other hand, desperate for one uppers on the ULP has found it too easy to slip into the role of the right-wing opposition. Both sides, led by men who experienced the politics of the sixties and seventies, are capable of much better. By failing to educate their own supporters more about the realities of today’s world they contribute to perpetuating the politics of the past. And that kind of politics can only lead to tribalism, with disastrous consequences.

One does not have to be a dreamer to wish for elections where the wit humour and pricing are there, but underpinned by solid debate. Is it in the best interests of our people to be encouraging them with talk of our country being saved from hurricanes because we are God-fearing? Does it give our people any accurate understanding of hurricanes, how fickle they can be and the need for constant vigilance? Does it help when we talk foolishness like “the PM crying wolf” by asking us to prepare for hurricanes? Are we not doing a dis-service to the people we want to lead?

How can lies, calumny and personal invective give our people a better appreciation of our circumstances as a small, poor, underdeveloped nation in a world hostile to all that we are? The struggle for development calls for much hard work, much sacrifice and a strong sense of nationhood, but these can only be inculcated by building the consciousness of the nation. If what we are witnessing is the kind of politics that we are going to persist with, then that struggle will become 10,000 times harder. Trust me!

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