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Mother of All Elections

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I sat for a while contemplating what I should write about this week; then I came across an interesting and thought-provoking article by Oscar Allen in the Midweek edition of the Searchlight. The caption of my article for this week, ‘Mother of All Elections’ came naturally to mind after reading it. Oscar is suggesting that this is an election beyond any, not only in deciding who is put into office, but which party best provides the space for the renewal of Vincentian democracy.{{more}} It is an article that anyone who is concerned about the future of this country should read, even if not agreeing with all of it. But it will, at least, challenge you. Oscar feels that we have to focus beyond December 9. This, to him, is a ‘Political Election’ that does not end on December 9, but should provide us with the path for a renewal of our politics over the next three to five years. “The choice is… between an old, depraved, beat down one another victimising, corrupting politics on one hand, and an enterprising risk taking, goal setting, people lifting, innovating politics on the other.” Oscar wants us to become active ‘citizen-entrepreneurs,’ taking risks, examining and setting our goals carefully and not focussing on short-term shallow goals.

The country really needs to grow and our people have to be more involved than they ever were before. The ringing of the bell last Saturday has caused an awakening in the country, among both young and old. Vincentians seem not to be waiting on any direction from the party bosses, but have been taking things in hand. This is, however, only one side of it. Tensions are rising and a lot of nonsense is being talked, lacking rhyme or reason. There is a lot of rumour-mongering and verbal garbage being spit out. I am told I received some ‘cussing’ on Star Radio after my last article appeared. I am not sure what spawned such animosity. But, who cares? I was also the topic of conversation in Canada by a small group of friends, who after very deep, profound deliberation, came to the grand conclusion that while I was at UWI I spent my time sabotaging the Prime Minister. There are so many important, perhaps even exciting, things that we should be talking about at this time rather than the trite that dribbles out of the mouths of some. This one, however, beats it all. I worked for the University of the West Indies, which although part funded by the Caribbean governments, operates as an independent body. I carried out the work of the University, not of government. In fact, the policy of the University is to try to satisfy any requests of government as far as that was possible, but at the same time maintaining its independence. It is a pity that one is sometimes forced to respond to such rubbish. Maybe, as Mark Twain said, they must first get their facts straight and then distort them as much as they please. But this is what some of us are about, small people with small minds!

The energy we see being displayed here, which I have never seen before, is a good signal, but it has to be channelled in the right direction. There is always the possibility of nastiness being played out when the temperature rises like it has done since Saturday night’s grand announcement. How do we cool things down without limiting peoples’ right to express themselves? To talk about the renewal of our democracy is to admit that at some point our democracy has become disabled. What has accounted for it? A democracy, to me, represents an active citizenry demanding participation in the affairs of the country and not sitting back awaiting Big Father. We have to begin to take responsibility and to look carefully at the governance of our state. What, if anything, have we learnt over the last five years that will force us to become more than just voters? Are we going to slip back into the degenerate ‘old party politics’, as Oscar described it, a politics with a master lauding it over us, while we await his blessings? We have to stop worshipping our leaders, making them into demigods. The relationship between leader and people has to be one of respect. If we are to move, on we cannot all sing from the same song sheet and our leaders have to recognize this, if they are interested in building a thriving people-filled democracy. But maybe they are not!

It is one thing to talk about projects, but our greatest challenge has to do with how we, the people, function. How the country moves forward depends not only on what economic policies are introduced, but on how they carry us along with them. Any plans by any government can only bear fruit if we buy into them. Vincentians are a reasonable people who do not expect miracles overnight, but hopefully want to know that you involve them; that none is benefitting at the expense of others; that there is order; that corruption is rooted out and opportunities are provided for all. Once opportunities are provided, then we will not have to sit back and depend on government to babysit us. This puts us on the road to freeing up ourselves. How we respond to this ‘mother of all elections’ will say something about us and each of us will know what that is, even if not openly expressing it. But it will also say something about our country and what we are about. There has got to be total renewal and we have to start somewhere so our ‘political election’ does not end on December 9, but prepares us for phase 2.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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