Beyond the Warmingtons

Beyond the Warmingtons

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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Dear Editor,

Member of Parliament for South West St Catherine, Mr Everald Warmington — the Jamaica Labour Party’s version of Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm — has charged that all Jamaicans are equal, but voters, particularly JLP voters, are more equal than others.

Those who "don’t vote", he squealed, "don’t count". But aren’t compulsory voting and disenfranchisement threads from the same cloth? This seems apparent.

What local suffragists fought for, and won in 1944, was less about the right to vote, and more about the right to choose. In an address to parliament in 1969, Michael Manley stated that "…democracy is the means of organising within a society the right of dissent…" Low voter turnout does not necessarily translate to political apathy, as some commentators have claimed.

Many citizens abstain from voting because Jamaican politicians are, largely, chips off Mr Warmington’s block.

Dissenters who refuse to vote, in my view, are more ‘patriotic’ than party loyalists who persist in resigning their franchise, conscience, and critical faculties to acquisitive legislators. Those who vote on account of party loyalty are more politically apathetic than those who don’t vote on account of principle. Indeed, in such matters, we should be men first, and subjects afterward.

But even more urgent than twiddling with Mr Warmington’s blinkered view are discussions on matters of appropriation; the messiah complex; civic humanism, and the nature of true democracy. There are basal flaws in a political culture which gives audience to leaders who are so glaringly undemocratic and unpatriotic.

Mr Warmington is first and foremost a JLP man who oftentimes disparagingly and childishly refers to the PNP as ‘the other party’. The exuberant cheers from Mr Warmington’s caged audience exposed far more exigent crises than those italicised in his speech and subsequent calls for compulsory voting. How do we wrestle from the iron grip of politicians?

How do we inspire our people to denounce the messiah complex — the illusion that we can save ourselves by simply changing the man on top? How do we upend our unholy grail of ‘garrisocratic’ governance and create a functional democracy in Jamaica?

Functional democracies afford their people opportunities to succeed, protection under the constitution, safety and security, fair and efficient treatment before the courts, human rights, and well-structured public institutions guided by ‘best practices’.

The Jamaican system of governance is our own unique ‘garrisocracy’, which facilitates the dumbing-down, dependency, landlessness, joblessness, and extrajudicial killings of its proletarian class. To MPs like Mr Warmington and Mr Roger Clarke, the masses who constitute this ‘garrisocratic order’, are gullible, exploitable, and disposable.

After 50 years of political independence, our elections are still not truly ‘free’, nor are they ‘fair’. The virtues of civic humanism call for an end to systems that centralise power into the hands of these MPs, and similar grasping commercial and social interests.

These virtues command acts of civil disobedience from those esteemed as productive and patriotic citizens. We must confront the Warmingtons until their ‘brand’ of politics is rendered obsolete.

In the democracy I envision, charges like Mr Warmington’s would be few to nonexistent, for there would be strict consequences for politicians who are foolish enough to so insult a confident, well-informed and empowered citizenry. Jamaica is not that country yet, but you and I must take every conceivable step to secure our promised equitable, just and civil future.

Juleus Ghunta

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