Dr. Fraser- Point of View
October 19, 2007

The world of Mr Walters- Fantasy or reality

Usually I do not have the opportunity to read the newspapers until the weekend, sometimes not until the following week. On Friday night I heard two gentlemen discussing an issue about Minister Walters. I thought they were fooling around and asked what they were talking about. They were surprised that I had not seen the story in the newspapers. Late Friday night before getting to bed I read the story. I was shocked.{{more}} I was dumbfounded. I thought about it and it made absolutely no sense to me. I even thought they might have misquoted him until I saw the story repeated in another paper. I imagine that on the weekend and during this week this would have been a popular subject for ‘ole’ talk, even if not for serious discussion. Really, Mr. Walters needs help. Some things are still not clear to me, since my reaction is based solely on the reports in two of the newspapers. I am assuming that these incidents happened some time ago. The diversion through Cane Garden could either have been because of an accident on the Murray’s Road or because of road work. I am not aware recently of any thing of this nature happening in that area. The incident at NCB could have taken place at any time.

Now something is seriously wrong. The Prime Minister, who apparently got him to apologise, said that he hoped his apologies would bring closure to the matter. But how could they? What kind of mentality was at play here? My understanding was that the Minister was speaking about good customer service and used the two incidents to show occasions when he was subjected to bad customer service. But on both occasions the Minister was demanding that the persons involved function contrary to what any sane person would regard as good customer service. Moreover, the Minister was clearly out of line in making those demands. What comes out of this, too, is the fact that there are workers out there who are prepared to follow accepted work procedure, despite the intimidating presence of those who wield power.

This matter really needs careful analysis by a psychologist or even psychiatrist. It was bad to have done what he had done, but to have used the incidents to make a point about bad customer service is to reveal a confused mind. Is it that once you become a Minister and hold ‘power’ the normal rules of behaviour and conduct in a civilised society no longer apply? Clearly, the Minister thinks so, which is why he is prepared to use these as examples. But one suspects that there might have been other instances or ways in which this mentality played itself out. There is present here a lack of understanding about the role of a Minister and an example of one who has lost touch with reality. Or has this behaviour now become reality? Let us forget the individual and just focus on the action or situation. Here is a person who has authority and power and has to make decisions that would affect the lives of the people of the country. I am sure that things like this have happened before and continue to happen. But what I find unusual and worrying is the fact that the individual in question is so assured about the correctness of what he had done that he is prepared to quote it proudly on the occasion of Public Service Week before public servants. This is why I maintain that Mr. Walters needs help. What was really his thinking? What frame of mind was he in? Was this meant to have been a lesson to public servants? Was it to show that politicians or rather Cabinet members had to have special concessions and that accepted rules do not apply to them? Mr. Walters, according to the news report, asked the NCB attendant if he knew who he was. This is a powerful question because what it was saying is that he is no ordinary citizen whom you could ask to stand in line. Here is a man who is supposed to be treated differently, certainly not like other ordinary human beings. I would assume that any human being who had an appointment for whatever purpose would schedule his time in such a manner that he could attend to his personal business without encountering any conflict. But that is only if you do not believe that you have special rights and privileges; that you are not the servant of the people but their master.

Clearly, if Mr. Walters had gone to another worker who was not attending to customers and asked for assistance because of the situation in which he found himself he might have had it. Not because he was Mr. Walters, Minister of Government, but because he was a customer who had a dilemma. But there was no need to do that for they should know who he was and to realise that he was to be subjected to special treatment. In fact, if the gentleman didn’t really know who he was, I suspect that Mr. Walters would have been even more annoyed about this than about being asked to join the line

The issue becomes more interesting, perhaps humorous, in that on October 11, apologies were issued, even though my assumption is that the incidents would have occurred some time ago. In trying to patch things up, the Prime Minister said that Walters is a good human being not stuffed with arrogance. It is only that he misspoke. Maybe he is a good person. I do not know. But how can you misspeak in a situation like this? How can you dismiss this simply as a case of misspeaking? When you ask a worker if he knows who you are, what is this supposed to reflect? When you tell the CEO of the National Commercial Bank that “I do not want to see him at the front desk when I come back here next week…” what does this mean? When you tell the policeman that “If you do not move from in front my vehicle I will knock you down with my jeep”, what does this mean? What does this reflect? Maybe there is indeed a distinction between being stuffed with arrogance and being full of arrogance?

The incidents that were the subject of the newspapers’ stories and have stimulated this article are serious in themselves, but it is necessary to go beyond this. It says something about the kind of world in which politicians live. It demonstrates that when politicians are put in positions where they acquire power they lose touch with who they are. Let us assume that all of this happened when Mr. Walters was still new to politics and power and got all intoxicated with the rewards of office, then he would by now have had the time to reflect on it. It was, however, certainly good that Mr. Walters misspoke, for it allows us to better understand the fantasy world in which politicians operate, or is it not a fantasy world but a real one? Remember, according to the News, that “He went on to proudly say in his address that when he went back the next week the young man was not there.” This is not fantasy but reality and shows a different and more dangerous dimension of reality. No wonder when politicians lose power or are removed from office they become so lost and confused for they then have to stare reality straight in its face.