Columns

No connection between bad luck and obeah

CHRIS BURNS

Monday, July 23, 2012    

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It is often said that bad luck is worse than obeah, but this is untrue. Obeah and bad luck are unrelated because bad luck cannot produce obeah and obeah cannot make bad luck. In fact, as Murphy's 56th law asserts, "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong." This means there is always a possibility of things happening contrary to our expectations, particularly with things over which we have no control.

Therefore, no one should use this aphorism to explain certain outcomes or behaviour, especially when it is crystal clear that neither bad luck nor obeah had anything to do with the negative consequences that emanate from certain deeds. In a sense, application of this adage is a cop-out and a slick way of ducking personal and collective responsibility.

We see manifestations of the "easy way out" approach in politics, management of the political economy, stewardship of parochial bodies, and to some extent, in the conduct of business. There are way too many instances of this disgusting practice in our Parliament; parish councils, public agencies, schools, communities and even churches - mentioning obeah and church in the same sentence is a cool coincidence.

Earlier this year, we saw elements of the "easy-way-out" tactic being used to justify the circumstances surrounding the desecration of our national flag in Montego Bay, during the swearing-in ceremony for Mayor Glendon Harris. Now that the St James Parish Council is back in the news, no one should harbour the thought of proclaiming, "Bad luck is worse than obeah", in an effort to divert attention from the seriousness of the current developments.

This time around, deputy mayor and councillor for the Granville division, Michael Troupe, along with councillor for the Salt Spring division, Sylvan Reid, were among five people taken into custody by the police on Wednesday for alleged connections to the lottery scam. This is a major development, but it is even more significant on the business side of the equation because of the negative consequences the scam has been having on business development and investment flow in the information technology sector.

And while we must observe "due process of law" and abide by a fundamental principle of law that establishes that one is innocent until proved guilty in a court of law, we cannot ignore the enormous damage that the lottery scam has been doing to Brand Jamaica. Neither can we overlook the difficulties it has created for investors who would love to relocate their call centre businesses to Jamaica and hire Jamaicans to staff these operations.

Up to this point, although the deputy mayor and his son were both charged with illegal possession of firearm and ammunition; being charged for a crime is substantially dissimilar from being convicted of a crime. Therefore, we must not be too hasty to rush to judgement as we try them in the court of public opinion. Even so, Mr Troupe should have already vacated his position as deputy mayor; it ought not to require the intervention of either the prime minister or the minister of local government for him to act responsibly by resigning from that position.

As with the "floppy flag fiasco" a few months back, holders of public office must recognise that they are being held to higher standards and as such, their behaviour, conduct and responsiveness to certain issues must appear reasonable, comprehensive, timely and decent. Resigning out of principle or to aid transparency is always noble. It cannot be that politicians cloak themselves in arrogance or turn a blind eye to the expectations of the very people who elected them to serve, by resisting calls to resign.

After all, public service is not private practice, where one does as one pleases. Public service is not the space for the misappropriation of power or the misapplication of authority - it's quite the opposite. Those who are called to serve must never lose sight of the core principles that define public service. Some of these core principles include traits such as valour, honesty, probity, integrity, responsibility, reliability, spirituality, empathy, respect and responsiveness.

And although some may be quick to declare: "But we cannot eat or drink core principles; we cannot sleep on mattresses of probity and we cannot drink a bowl of honesty, when food is needed." The truth is that these principles are quintessential for the proper and orderly conduct and practice of public service and servants. These principles are as crucial to the development of a modern society as they are critical to providing the basis on which to cultivate the products for our own subsistence.

If more of our leaders, public and private, begin to subscribe to these principles, then we would be well on our way, as a society, to solving the perennial problems associated with corruption, cronyism, crime and violence, political and social apathy and the gnawing feeling of haplessness that seems to be omnipresent. No longer would our prime minister, for instance, speak to us when he or she pleases.

Prime ministerial communication would be more predictable, organised, frequent and purposeful. It would address rumours surrounding the health and general well-being of the holder of that office and provide the platform on, and from which, citizens could build confidence and a sound belief in management and stewardship of the country's affairs. At the very least, adopting and subscribing to these principles could enhance the opportunity for our leaders to make decisions on our behalf - decisions could redound to the greater good of the country because the decision-making processes would have been adequately informed and properly ventilated.

Bad luck is certainly not worse than obeah; not so when political leaders hide the true nature of the economic, social, environmental, or even personal problems that betide them; only to lose political power or have things blow up in their faces at the most inopportune time. When all is said and done, though, it is entirely up to us to expand the circumference of our expectations of leaders, but also expand the diameter of our capacity to exercise good judgement and to demand more of ourselves in pursuit of our individual and collective endeavours.

Burnscg@aol.com

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