Our politicians need to get with it
Mark Golding (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Older Jamaicans should be forgiven if they are scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss is about in relation to recent verbal jousting in the political arena.

Of course, those people grew up and came to maturity at a time when such 'verbals' were minor compared to the grim, awful reality of communities at war and people dying because of party politics.

We speak with caution, but the evidence suggests those days of blood being shed purely because somebody wore the green of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or the orange of the People's National Party (PNP) are behind us.

In elections over the last two decades Jamaicans have increasingly taken heart from seeing Comrades and Labourites openly embracing and sharing.

Yet, the violence of decades ago has left deep scars. The refusal of an increasing number of Jamaicans to even cast their vote at election time is largely a legacy of those days, we think.

Truthfully, that fading possibility of political violence is never far from our thoughts.

Hence, perhaps, the nervousness with which many people respond to aggressive, thoughtless, irresponsible political comments.

To older Jamaicans who remember the colourful 'cass cass' on political platforms decades ago, Opposition Leader Mr Mark Golding's reference to Labourites as "damn fool" may well sound like a silly joke.

Nigel Clarke.

Also, while 'Massa' has historic negative connotations in the context of the enslavement of black people, we seriously doubt whether decades ago, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke's offensive reference to Mr Golding would have triggered anywhere near the current outrage.

The truth, though, is that today's Jamaica is very different from decades ago. And our politicians, like everyone else, had better realise that.

To begin with, that group identified in opinion polls as being indifferent to our adversarial democratic process and, by extension, to the rival political parties is growing, and may well be now in the majority. It wasn't only because of the novel coronavirus pandemic that only 38 per cent of Jamaicans eligible to vote, did so in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

While party faithfuls laugh and cheer, 'neutrals' are increasingly turned off from the process by what they perceive as negative or demeaning foolishness, of the sort Mr Golding spouted.

Also, not just in Jamaica, but globally, sensitivities to behaviour and language in relation to race, gender, sexual orientation, et al, are at a level unheard of just 20 years ago. In that respect, Dr Clarke's reference to 'Massa Mark', no doubt meant as a joke, is a no-go, especially in the Parliament. Had he given the matter proper thought, he never would have said it.

Exacerbating the issue is the awesome, technology-driven evolution of information flow. Not so long ago much of the nonsense spouted by politicians would have been missed by 'John Public' as news desks edited with regard to space, time, and common decency. Today, almost everything said in the political space, whether it makes sense or not, is captured and instantly transmitted to the world by somebody equipped with a smartphone.

Against all that backdrop, we note that some ruling JLP politicians sung their party's anthem following Prime Minister Andrew Holness's recent budget presentation. No doubt they were thinking of elections up ahead. Had they been thinking straight they would have sung the National Anthem.

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