September 19, 2014

SVG is politically sick

Our country is sick where politics is concerned. In fact, it perhaps started with politics, but has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. I am not sure a psychiatrist’s couch would help, because we have gone too far. We are likely instead to infect the psychiatrist with our serious malady. In 1951, the masses that were kept out for so long from the political wilderness were led to believe that the political kingdom had arrived.{{more}} In 1979, we had gotten rid of colonialism, so from then on it was all to be a bed of roses. After all, we were free to join the United Nations and other international agencies, one politician said. Moreover he spoke with glee when he reminded the gathering at the UWI auditorium that the Prime Minister to be, had fought in the Canadian Army and Canada was bound to repay his services. No concern about our responsibilities and the rough part that was to lie ahead, as we, a small state, was about to sail on the rough international waters.

It has gotten worse because politics is a game which the politicians and a number of our people play and have become adept at. Politics is no longer meant to facilitate the development of our country and our peoples. The State and Government have become organs on which parasites attach themselves and hold on, come high or low. It is not about living good and productive lives, being part of a community where we act in partnership to move forward seeking the development of the community and the peoples that form that community. Instead it is about self, about trying to get to the top of the mountain where we can look down on those struggling below and pat ourselves on our backs, that we have made it. But, as Gabriel Marquez warns us, “true happiness is obtained in the journey taken and the form used to reach the top of the hill.”

We get to the top of the mountain and realise that it isn’t the bed of roses we conceived it to be. Moreover, the leech-like path to the top creates problems for us to enjoy what there might be at the top. We would, however, have lost our souls in that process. We profess to be Christians, but are in fact merely fake ones, living a life that is totally artificial and false. We are unable to enjoy what we have acquired, perhaps even seized, in our desperate bid to get to the mountain top. Fortunately for some of us, we have lost our consciences and therefore there is nothing that can prick our consciences, since we have lost them because of the nature of the journey we took.

So, what are we about? Times are hard, most of us admit, but there are those who see becoming participants in the political game as the only way out. It is therefore clear how some of us see politics. Our only interest is in how best to play the game. Our foreparents fought to achieve Adult Suffrage, but today we treat the right to vote with utter contempt, as though it is an instrument of the game. As we know, all our adults were only able to vote from 1951. Before that, only a small number met the income and property qualifications. What is of interest is the involvement of our working people in the elections of 1937, 1940 and 1946, even though they were not qualified to vote. This extra parliamentary support and involvement provided the opportunity and resources for McIntosh’s Workingmen’s Association to take control of the Legislative Council, following the riots of 1935.

In 1946, the Times newspaper cautioned those of our people who met the requirements to vote to be judicious in casting their votes “lest history judge them by their actions on that day.” It hoped that posterity “would endorse their verdict.” In the run-up to one of the earlier elections one of the newspapers asked the question “Whom do we wish on that Council?” It continued: “Is it the popular man, the man who can entertain the electorate by raising their spirits…Are we to be satisfied with Mr. This or Mr. That because it would not be just the correct thing not to have the other man? Or are we to have Mr. So and So who is only desirous of obtaining a seat on the Council to be termed honourable?”

These are some of the questions asked; but that was 1946. There are even more important questions to be asked, given the nature of today’s political, social and economic environment to which we have contributed and the even rougher waters on which we have to sail. Not many of us are prepared to function rationally and to ask the serious questions, the answers to which will impact on our lives. Rather, we want to know how to play the political game and are encouraged in this approach by some of our politicians who worship power and cannot anticipate life without it.

We do not expect mentally ill persons to operate rationally. Our society, by the same token, does not operate and look at issues rationally. Is ours really a case for the psychiatrist’s couch? We have put ourselves in this position for such a long time that perhaps we really think we are acting like truly rational people, making a contribution to our society and owning the society, as we were urged to. So, no problem! Let us then exercise our right to ownership.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.