Columns

Word or deed? What's the need?

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, September 21, 2012    

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"WORD IS WIND but blow is unkind". Ancestral wisdom seems to suggest it is wiser to talk than fight, especially in the political arena. Unfortunately, both word and action can be equally damaging. Words travel faster than ever these days. What a candidate or leader says can find its mark with lightning speed and the response comes back just as quickly. These days, leaders across the world find themselves being judged as much by what they do as what they say or don't say. Words have a way of their own here too.

Leading up to last week's PNP Conference, the media wove a web around the prime minister for her posture of silence on matters of the moment and her seeming reluctance to speak to the nation. "She doesn't talk enough. We need to hear from her more," the opinion makers said. What does she have to say on the IMF, the road map to the future, the economy? She refused to rise to the bait. Instead, she saved what she had to say for Conference. On Sunday, she spoke to her base, her people, who responded with enthusiasm. The media's immediate take: "Lacks substance...More needed".

It is not often that we hear people wanting to hear more from a politician. The usual dismissal is "chat too much". This time it is "talk more". It has been interesting how she has been handling this challenge. Having earned the reputation of being too strident on the political platform, she seems determined to avoid the "draw mi tongue" jokes which made the rounds until they wore themselves out. These days she has been choosing her words carefully, modulating her tones, but that is not enough for some people. She is being pressed to "say something".

There has been public debate about whether she should address the nation at regular intervals - once a month, once a quarter or...? Should she speak on everything, something, which thing? Some of the demands are genuine, coming from people who feel they need to know where things stand. On the other hand, her intellectual ability is still being sneered at. That could be why the days leading up to last Sunday's conference was a media frenzy with a flood of opinion pieces, speculating on why she isn't making herself heard. She did not answer.

So she goes to the Conference on Sunday and makes her speech. Predictably, before the last echoed died in the National Arena, the criticism had been cranked up several notches. There was no shortage of advice on what should have been said. The chief criticism was that the speech was too short on substance. By mid-week, not even the accusation that she is leading "a failed state" has drawn a response. The prime minister is back to holding her peace. She is "working, working" not "talking, talking".

THE PM SHOULD TAKE CARE, however, not to fall for the bait. She should be careful not to get trapped into a silence which can only reinforce the negative view her detractors have created. As to her declaration that she wants her ministers to be the ones to speak on how things are going with their portfolios, people agree. There shouldn't be a one-person government. She still has to ensure, however, that her role is clearly defined and the people know where she's at, how she sees things as leader. Without that, her credibility will always be under attack.

IN A RECENT QUESTION AND RESPONSE interaction, respondents said they wanted to hear from the country's leader on a regular basis, especially at times when the nation seemed to be adrift. Is the prime minister's communications team satisfied that they're placing her in the best possible light for that response? Who listens to what the public says? Some people claim - not always kindly - that the PM is not at ease with the heavy topics. They go so far as to use the word "afraid". I don't believe that is in her vocabulary. She didn't come this far without knowledge of the wisdom of the elders. She certainly knows what it means by "fraid fe eye, cyaan eat egg".

The Rt Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey reminds us:

"You know politics supersedes everything else in the world. It is the science of government while you are on earth. You cannot talk politics in Heaven."

As usual, whatever Mr Garvey said is worthy of reflection.

PUSH-BACK: The US presidential campaign is heating up and some real tracing is going on. You'd think it is our kind of election. Loose lips may well sink a ship or two before November rolls around. Contender Romney might well live to regret the day that he wrote off nearly half of the American population (47 per cent) whose vote he should be seeking. Never mind that his remarks about their being government-dependent were made in the privacy of a home where he was wooing supporters. Shows how naïve he is not to realise that nothing is secret any more in this age of high-powered camera lenses and media which cannot resist anything which has scandal even faintly written on it. Some celebrities are prepared to push back.

The world is watching the current case of Britain's Prince William taking the fight to European media who spied on his wife and photographed her from half a mile away while she was getting a tan. This may start a whole new ball game. In a French court, he sued and won damages from photographer to publisher, not only for taking the photos but publishing them - up to 26 one time. The court agreed that public people have a right to privacy. The battle is not over yet, though. Paparazzi spells money. Look for more exploitation.

FLASHBACK: It is two weeks since the Mugabe comments came up and we haven't really figured it out. Isn't it strange that up to now, we still have not heard what prompted the tirade against Jamaican men? Why aren't they offended and why so little feedback? Who cares?

One noted entertainer responded to my question the other evening, "I don't drink alcohol and I don't smoke anything, including ganja, so it's not me he was talking about." He did agree that it was strange that there still is no loud reaction to the insult. Someone else said, "What we would be complaining about? Nuh so nuff man round here live? We have more serious things to worry bout".

Faith in the African connection is not easily shaken, hence statements like: "I don't believe Mr Mugabe sey anything like that. Is the white media who don't like him and want to stir up feelings between him and him African bredrin like we." As to the suggestion for the government to take back the Order of Jamaica - "Dat ah nuh nutten. England tek back di knighthood an' Missa Mugabe still deh bout."

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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