Politics in small countries like ours can have some very negative effects on both politicians and their political supporters alike, not to mention how it affects the rest of the population. Fundamentally, the roots of this phenomenon are anchored in the winner-take-all system that has been handed down to us from the Westminster parliamentary system. It tends to breed an “if you not with us, you’re against us” attitude in which we wish the worse for political opponents to the extent that they are regarded as enemies.
The flames of enmity have traditionally been fanned from political platforms especially in the cauldron that is generated by mass meetings. Those of us who had been hoping that with restrictions on mass gatherings necessitated by precautions against COVID-19 such an atmosphere would be dampened, had not reckoned for the abuse of social media.
It is in that arena, and to a lesser extent talk radio, that all the hate, bile and venom against political opponents are vented. It is as though we wish them, all the worst, not just in political fortunes, but on a very personal level, a level which extends even to their families. What is the purpose of all this? To what end do the perpetrators aim? And, in the process, are they not being consumed by their own viciousness towards opponents?
Prime Minister Gonsalves is at the apex of our political system and himself the prime target of such attacks. He has, in his long and distinguished political career, never been too far away from controversy, being one of those “in-your-face” politicians. He tends to evoke, wittingly or unwittingly, what can amount to fanaticism, either in his favour or opposed to him. In political terms while one can understand if not agree with such expressions, when it is taken to a personal level, that is another matter.
Take the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of serious illness affecting both his wife and his son. That misfortune is very difficult for any husband and father to have to face; worse, much worse, when one has the burdens of an entire nation to bear as well. So how does such a person reckon with not just unjustified scepticism, for political reasons, but public expressions seeming to wish the worst for the affected family? Can we not disagree politically, oppose each other’s political ideas and practices, without descending to such levels? Where is our humanity?
We unreservedly and unapologetically condemn this degeneration in our politics to the extent where we even seem to rejoice in the personal misfortunes of our political opponents. This does neither our politics, our country nor ourselves any good. It is a road leading to damnation and contradicts all that we profess to be as “goodly Christians”, a road that we should avoid at all costs.