Can Jamaica do away with the JLP and PNP?Sunday, January 12, 2020
All around the world, people are witnessing the de-evolution of politics, which is particularly emphatic in the case of the United States. Many of us have asked ourselves how could the USA, the “beacon of hope for the world”, elect someone like Donald Trump as president? However, an even more intriguing question is: How is it possible that he continues to receive the full backing of the Republican Party and its supporters even after his university has “defrauded students”, his charity fined for misuse of funds, numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, and the tsunami of evidence surrounding his impeachment hearings?
The answer to that question, in my opinion, is that the current political paradigm demands that citizens pick one of two teams, then show unwavering support to that team leader. Truth and morality are forced to sit at the back of the bus and supporters must become comfortable with defending their party of choice, even in the face of the most repugnant transgressions.
Could this also be the Jamaican experience?
John Adams, a leader of the American Revolution who served as the second president of the United States, wrote: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil…”
Is it possible that this great political evil has hypnotised Jamaica? Additionally, would it be fair to say that the two-party political system has become the new kind of slavery?
In 2017 Kanye West made some provocative statements which caused a stir in the black community so much so that, in order to mend his image, he would turn to Jesus to wash him until he is as white as snow. Kanye had said that, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years...for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” While I will not argue such a ridiculous point of view, the debate made me wonder why so many reasonable people (and Kanye) came to that conclusion.
The rapper's sweeping judgement of the past also made me curious about what future man might say about us. Picture this, the year is 2419, and human beings have survived end-of-the-world crises like climate change and gay marriages. An entertainer peers through the prism of time and concludes that the people living today (2020) were a bunch of mentally enslaved idiots.
Do you believe such a statement would be considered controversial?
Given that humanity, right now, is consciously destroying planet Earth, the only home for our species, all while we have the capabilities to stop the madness — but have chosen money and temporary convenience over common sense and the survival of future generations — will our descendants call us pragmatic for choosing a system of governance that requires the recycling of two corrupt political parties as our model of choice?
Will future man exalt us as being righteous, brave, or even fair, considering that, according to Oxfam, the richest eight men — who can easily fit in a Jamaican taxi by the way — own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. Those statistics made me curious as to what point will humanity draw its line in the sand. Will it be when the amount of people who can comfortably fit on a Honda 50 motorbike controls 99 per cent of the world's wealth?
With all the absurdities that we've accepted and normalised, is it reasonable to assume that future generations will speak kindly of us?
I think not.
As it pertains to Jamaica's never-ending game of recycling corruption. We've traded the People's National Party's (JLP) Shell waiver and Trafigura scandals for the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Petrojam and Caribbean Maritime University scandals. In the process, we've created a zero-sum, divisive, and polarised politics, instead of one geared towards the country's development.
When I was a boy growing up in August Town, I saw at first hand how the two political parties affected the poor. People of the ghetto would one day forcefully berate a political party, then the next day drape themselves with flags, don the parties' colours, and, like demented sardines, squeeze into packed buses and vote corruption back into power.
“If a man teef we put him in prison, but when a political party teef we put them in power.” The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime.
The behaviour of the citizens seems puzzling, but lucky for us, the motives of political parties seem more coherent. When the aim of politics is to win elections, it is only logical that the political monster must exploit any and all mechanisms that can assist in making them victorious.
What this means is that if tomorrow it is discovered that pre-teens are a political force, then logic dictates that there must be a JLP and PNP primary school edition to control that group. As a matter of fact, if it turns out that unborn children are somehow political, then I guarantee you'll find a politician in a delivery room tapping the doctor on the shoulder saying, “Excuse mi doc, shift yuh head a little to the left, we're required to maintain eye contact with the foetus at all times.”
Recently, PNP Senator Dr Andre Haughton, a brilliant economist, walked back his lucid comments on statements made by his party's leader. It was economic matters. His views had been different from the Comrade leader's. This should serve as a quick reminder to him that party always comes before country.
In 2010, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, speaking on the extradition request for Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke and the lobbying of the US Government by the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, said: “I made it clear, however, that this was an initiative to be undertaken by the party, not by or on behalf of the Government.”
It seems as if Golding was pointing to the fact that sometimes, under our current system, one person might be forced to split himself in two separate parts in order to acquiesce to competing forces — the party and the country.
If we accept that exploitation is a built-in component of our political process, then it is an acknowledgement that, with all its flaws, the combative system that we've adopted from the ones who enslaved us is as good as it gets. Or do we try something new?
Last summer, during a discussion with a professor from Norman Manley Law School, I asked: If the citizens of Jamaica decided to dissolve both our political parties, would the constitution sanction such an act? The professor found the notion fascinating, but, as far as she knew, the question had never been asked.
I wasn't surprised that, even on a theoretical level, we had never considered the ultimate punishment for two political parties that have governed the country from being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world to one of the most indebted nations on the face of the Earth.
I wrote a novel, Revolution Jamrock, that explores the idea of Jamaica dissolving her two political parties. After all, countries have banned people, books and dangerous organisations, why should corrupt political parties be considered off limits?
I chose fiction to tackle the monster because in a society where most of us feel helpless to affect change, the arts have become our weapon of choice; in that it gives us the ability to escape the trappings of what is, and allows us to explore new worlds of what could be.
Ernst Fischer expressed it best in this quote: “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.”
Richard L Coore is author of the book Revolution Jamrock. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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