Ridding the country of political mannequins

Chris Burns

Monday, September 10, 2012    

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Some politicians like to claim effectiveness even when no evidence of such exists. Moreover, when challenged to provide proof, they create the context, and in some instances the circumstances, to justify their self-assessed effectiveness with a view to persuading their constituents about how hard they have been toiling on their behalf.

In addition, even when some politicians are drowning in their own manufactured hogwash, they become so immune to it that they are no longer bothered by the stubbornness of the pungent odour others around them would find unbearable. In these situations, those politicians take on "mannequin-ish" behaviour, as they stand idle, completely motionless, but dressed to boot, looking unperplexingly pleased and satisfied about everything around them.

Yet they give not a damn about the environment in which they display their insensitivity and insensibility, because they are completely removed from the reality that exists beyond the glass casing that protects them from the public they serve or entertain. The inconvenient truth is that mannequins are inanimate objects designed to attract buyers. Political mannequins are twice as inanimate, but even on their best days their pretence is so obnoxious that instead of attracting buyers, they drive them away in droves.

Michael Manley once said, "Political puppets are like marionettes..." Mr Manley was right in his observation of their predictable and reactive behaviour. Because, like political mannequins, political marionettes move only when directed by a conductor, however foolish. They have no brainpower, obviously no ambulatory sensors or motivation, no sense of duty or sense of urgency to act without being directed to do so by someone else. For inasmuch as modern historians have questioned the accuracy of the account of the "Great Fire of Rome" and Emperor Nero's "choir focus", the saying, "Nero fiddles while Rome burns", continues to hold sway here in Jamaica, given current circumstances and the behaviour of some of our politicians, as if they are at a Grand Opera.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, "Chicken merry, hawk deh near." The clock is ticking, the steam is building and many people are about to explode under the pressure. It may appear to the untrained eyes that things are hunky-dory, but nothing could be further from the truth - times are hard. The Portia Simpson Miller-led administration has had enough time to demonstrate to the Jamaican people that it is a worthy steward of their trust, hope, and expectations. The government has had enough time to formulate and communicate to the Jamaican people where it intends to take this country.

Yes, for those who read my column last week and who now find a familiar theme in this piece, it is deliberate. "Repetition is the greatest form of pedagogy", so it does not hurt one bit to tell the government again that it is time for action and robust communication, and it can no longer be singing "Sack of Ilium", as Jamaica burns. For those readers who continue to harbour doubts about which political party I support, one thing remains clear: I am beholden to no party. I do not sing for my supper, and I shall always be guided by truth and honesty. And while I do not admire or aspire to become the Brutus of old, I remain grounded in my conviction and steadfast in my love for country, sufficient to declare that any criticisms of the prime minister is "not that I love her less, but that I love Jamaica more".

Enough foolishness is happening in government to fill the Mona Reservoir. We must talk about them without fear of recrimination because this is one way for us to achieve good governance. Take the issue of communication, for instance. Where has the prime minister been in communication with the Jamaican people about the true state of the economy, reassuring them about her administration's plans and appealing to them about shared sacrifice as the country prepares itself for tough times? After all, it took nearly a week for our prime minister to comment on the dastardly shooting of a pregnant woman in St Thomas. Where has the comforter-in-chief been all this while?

Crime and violence are on the upswing, unemployment is rising, real wages are in retreat, frustration and misery are peaking, and yet the government seems clueless as to the seriousness and extensiveness of the plight Jamaicans face. Still, some of her Cabinet colleagues appear so comfortable carrying out their duties as "political mannequins" that one wonders which country they live in.

There are small things that the government could do to restore confidence and bring some measure of relief to the people. The government could cut the size of the Cabinet and number of ministries and use the savings to make investments in rebuilding local markets across the country (starting with the piece of disgrace that continues to be an eyesore in Highgate). There are enough idle community centres that government could easily retrofit and convert to agro-processing centres and then lease them to community farmers.

While the government fiddles and fumbles, many of us yearn for the day when we can find authentic Jamaican ground garlic, ginger and other spices on supermarket shelves in Manhattan. No one expects the government to solve all the problems; it is impossible, but government could facilitate economic growth and development and help to restore hope and confidence in the capacity of the people who elected it to serve. The sooner the government realises this, the better things will be for Jamaica.





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