R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
February 1, 2019
Politics of folly -2

The division within CARICOM on Venezuela not only demonstrates that body’s inherent weakness in the face of external pressures, but also exposes its ideological and political submission to those forces.

That is nothing new for even in the pre-independent Caribbean, there were always elements in the national politics of each territory all too willing to toe the line and “curry favour” as we say it, placing the interests of others before those of our region and its peoples.

That tendency has now become ingrained into our national politics with principle sidelined in the urge to please powerful external forces. It is of course backed up by the media, most of which depend almost wholeheartedly on western media sources for their “information” and make little attempt to source alternative views. It is amazing that in this age of access to information, persons who should know better simply echo their “Master’s Voice” on issues of international concern.

Our politics falls prey to international rivalry to the extent that narrow interests are placed above national ones. What is especially galling is that often the issues are not narrow partisan ones, but ones which go against the interests of the country as a whole. Opposition parties, of whatever shade and outlook, are particularly vulnerable, and often, in their scramble for power, find it expedient to blame whatever government is in power, rightly or wrongly, for any externally-caused problems.

Thus when the developed countries, united in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) hypocritically began to accuse developing countries, including those in the Caribbean, for hosting tax-evaders and money-launderers, even when they are the biggest culprits, many opposition parties were quick to blame their own governments, If sanctions are threatened or activated, it seems not to matter whether they are justified or not, we all panic and fall in line. Where do we draw the line? When will we put a halt to this self-damaging politics of folly?

If it is legitimate for the USA to recognize a person who did not even contest the elections in Venezuela as the “legitimate” President, then in the context of election irregularities in the last presidential elections in that country, could we now recognise Nancy Pelosi as US President? Would the USA have been right to recognize Arnhim Eustace as SVG’s Prime Minister following the election challenges of 2015? Must these privileges only be for some and not others?

Worse, there are the attempted justifications of such high-handed, one-sided policies. In Trinidad and Tobago the Oppostion, via its leader Kamla Persaud-Bissessar, has blasted the Government for its refusal to sanction a clear and crude US plan to invade Venezuela, and seize its precious resources. She is quoted as justifying her position by claiming that 200,000 of their citizens hold US visas and the government’s position on Venezuela can jeopardize this. We are not to question whether the USA is right or wrong, if massa vex, then we must comply. Have we heard this before?

We cannot afford their experiments in democracy, we cannot be a carbon copy of those for whom democracy never included the poor, the oppressed and, above all, the people who are “darker than blue”. Could any of us in the Caribbean afford a government shutdown as has occurred in the USA not just on this last occasion, but previously as well? Or, how would we handle the uncertainty facing the economies of Britain and the European Union countries over the protracted Brexit crisis?

Clearly, the politics of the past, the politics of folly, are leading us nowhere. We can, and must have policy differences, but these must not lead us to a land of futility. It is not just opposition parties alone which must bear criticism. Governments must demonstrate that they are “big” enough not just to dictate conditions but to be able to engage with those even when they disagree.

How long are we to see this repetition of public service workers and unions opposed to government policies, whether rightly or wrongly, and ending in removing that government only for the process to be repeated a decade later? Is it a sign of weakness for a government, faced with disgruntled public servants, no matter what the antics of their leaders, to say, “come and let us talk”? Whatever the positions of the leadership, it is the perceptions of their members which matter most. Stubborn righteousness will lead us only to the road to futility. Others have experienced that.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.