Jamaica's political dilemma

Jamaica's political dilemma


Friday, September 18, 2020

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Let us pause to reflect. In the eyes of some citizens the 2020 political campaign was reduced to an ongoing sports day for adults when the 'green and orange houses' became mobilised on asphalt, television, and the airwaves to showcase 'talent'. The difficulty to perceive substance extended itself into how some people identified the political parties; not by their names, but merely by their colours— an indication of individuals' struggle to satisfactorily see what they hoped was the character of each party.

Sadly, for several years many of us have been left in the clutches of disappointment with the performances of succeeding government officials from both sides, and some watched the debates while yearning for a trigger of hope. However, we were left unconvinced that either of the two parties was in a sincere position to govern the country fundamentally as a group of Jamaicans who had the citizens' best interests at heart.

Amidst failed efforts to gain our trust in proposed plans we heard arguments riddled with fallacies such as ad hominem, sharing of erroneous information, and inflated promises. In addition, we observed deflection, lack of emotional intelligence, hubris, and sheer immaturity. I choose to not categorise the aforementioned for the parties – who the cap fits, let them wear it.

If a simple debate had not been handled by some with a high level of professionalism, maturity, and sensitivity, I suppose you can appreciate the insecurity we have in their expressed capability to adequately govern the country.

All that was left to culminate the sports day was the singing of a primary school cheer that says, “Dem fava iron donkey, Dem fava iron donkey, Dem fava iron donkey inna sharts…”

Jamaican politics has certainly found itself in a pathetic state. For some Jamaicans it did not matter to them who won the election. One of the dominant reasons for this was that people lost faith in manifestos consequent to repeated experiences of unfulfilled promises. Some people were inattentive to the campaign because they were engrossed in figuring out how to escape the country through migration. This is quite sad.

I also feel crestfallen to highlight that some individuals did not judge the quality of the political groups on the basis of their prior performances nor how clear, relevant or persuasive the plans were, but judged them based on who they believed was less corrupt — therein lies the dilemma. My noting this in no way suggests that the winner of the election is nor isn't the lesser corrupt of the two —that is for you to determine, because whichever the case, Jamaicans simply need a reformation of governance.

The evidence of low and declining voter turnout may be an instructive indication that people are simply fed up with both teams. The parties' continuous maladministration is reminiscent of the Government presented in Chinua Achebe's novel A Man of the People. We have witnessed, too often, politicians from both groups who are of the people, but not for the people—they are the character Chief Nanga in the literature text. A quote from the story aptly captures the pitiable nature of Jamaican politics, “As long as men are swayed by their hearts and stomachs, and not their heads, the Chief Nangas of this world will continue to get away with anything.”

I therefore ask the Jamaican people: How much longer will you brag about being “die-hearted”, be satisfied with a cap and shirt that may have money folded in it, a plastic bag with few grocery items, empty promises, predictable patching of roads, and insult to your intellects? If the sky were paper I could fill it with myriad dissatisfactions.

Since Jamaica decided, through voting, who should govern the country, I implore you to raise the standards of your expectations and demands. Do not let politicians feel as if they can remain self-serving, abandon promises, and steal from the country's coffers without consequences.

We have for a long time experienced the proverb Odili —Chief Nanga's contrast in the text who does not support corruption and could not be bought through nepotism or bribery —shares about “the man taking things away until the owner at last notices”. We pay taxes; thus we are the owners. Jamaica needs a team of Odilis.

A part of the solution is to eradicate the 'nine-day wonder' syndrome by holding politicians accountable for embezzlement and any other ill they inflict upon the country. Politicians need to realise that we noticed, and we will not forget. Importantly, all must prove commitment to passing the integrity test which Achebe says is a “blunt refusal to be compromised”. If not, we will indeed progress down a slippery slope.

I do hope we are able to recover from the years of abuse the country has suffered at the hands of orange and green politics. I charge the re-elected Government, and any other government hereafter, to show us that you are indeed for the people.

Ardene Reid-Virtue is an educator. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or ardenevirtue@hotmail.com.

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