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Make objective choices

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Thirty-one years ago, I had my first and only try at election for public office. If ever there was a reluctant bride, the Renwick Rose of 1979 fitted the bill perfectly. I was not convinced then, nor am I up until today that the, “Vote for me and I”ll set you free” approach, which seems to characterize much of our politics, is either the most relevant nor does it suit my personality.{{more}} It was difficult going about blowing your own trumpet, though I must confess that there are people who are perfectly happy with such a situation. Not that we should knock them for it; everybody’s different, and if someone can fit into matching the prevailing demands, all power to them.

During that election, indeed before it, as I found in my foray into political activism since 1972, what struck me most is how people make personality and personal factors the sole focus of their political choices. Persons whom I had known and interacted with in a positive manner all my life, suddenly had a different approach, presumably because I was “Black Power” or “Communist” or whatever label they put on me. Principles, deeds and beliefs had nothing to do with it, as long as they did not fit in with the choices of others. Vilification became the norm. Fortunately, the values instilled in me by my upbringing included tolerance and I have never been put off or unduly concerned about personal attacks or vitriol. Why, in my old age, people should still be pursuing this line of attack, even when I am no threat to them nor in any way involved with any party political campaign, is beyond me. Would it not be more productive if those who so waste their time on radio, would concentrate on those matters of national importance?

I write all of this to say, that little has changed over all these years. The December 13 poll will be our 16th since the introduction of Adult Suffrage and our third in the 21st century. In 1951 when we were first allowed to vote, the emphasis was on individual candidates even though a loose anti-colonial grouping existed. In the half-century plus since then, emphasis has shifted to the political party as the vehicle for providing leadership in governance. One would therefore think that the voters’ choices would be swayed by the character of such parties, their track records, performance in and out of office, philosophies and programmes.

Regrettably, no such logic exists. The guns of most political campaigners seem to be loaded solely with personal ammunition and even those who should know better and who should be helping us to make decisions wisely, persist along this path. No one can deny that personal factors must have a role in our decision-making, but that factor must be placed in its proper perspective. For instance, the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have two very different personalities. But is it fair to [Arnhim] Eustace, without judging the content of what he says, or the significance of his actions, to dismiss him because of some view that “his face always screw-up” or something of the sort? Should [Ralph] Gonsalves be loved solely on the grounds of a ready smile and propensity to hug?

As we contemplate the choices before us, much more than the seasoning or salad dressing must be put on the plate. We need to look at the real food on the menu, the preparation, the cooking and how the end product will suit our nutritional needs. The context in which we are to exercise our franchise is vital-economically, politically, socially and morally. It is so easy to fall prey to the current-day meal ticket from all who seek public support. “Love for the poor”, is the masthead today, not only of politicians but even entertainers. How many husbands and wives have loudly proclaimed undying love for their spouses while wallowing in infidelity? It is not “love for the poor”, but a commitment to end poverty, which should be the yardstick by which parties and politicians are judged. Who has done the most in this regard, whose programmes have significantly bettered the lot of the vast majority of our people?

Which party and leader best has a realistic grasp of the issues before us and a vision on which policies can be developed to further the national development thrust? Who best can demonstrate capability to rise to the challenges before this nation as we move deeper into the 21st century? Whether Ralph or Arnhim is a “good man” is not the crucial question. “Good men” can have bad policies and programmes or be weak in the face of formidable challenges. We need to be far more objective as we move towards that Day Of Decision.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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