Archive for September, 2012

A question I have often asked myself is: what is wrong with Jamaican Politics? The follow up question would probably be why is it that I could never truly see myself as an active participant in Jamaican politics, or at least not under the banner of the two political juggernauts that have a strangle hold on political life in Jamaica. Several possible answers spring to mind and each holds sway with me at different times. The simplest answer is political tribalism. If one understands that term then no explanation is necessary why it could fully turn me off the two major parties. But often times the simple answer is not the most poignant.

Upon close examination and by the simple act of listening to our politicians speak via the new s everyday I think (for now at least) that the single, most disturbing reality of our political life and discourse as represented by the two major political parties is THE ABSENCE OF ANY CLEAR ENTITY WITH MORAL AUTHORITY.

Moral authority can be defined in several ways but the following view of it has found favour with me :Moral authority is having the personal credibility with your target group that makes your words persuasive to them. A person has moral authority if their personal character is not at variance with the message they are trying to convey to others, in layman’s terms one who practices what he/she preaches.

As the title of this post suggests I am firmly of the opinion that moral authority is virtually absent from the discussions between the these political parties. There are a litany of examples that show that really and truly the person that comes out with self righteous statements to score cheap political points is often the owner of equal skeletons that are not even hidden in a closet.

Its okay for one party to lambaste the other for its connection to the mother of all garrisons,  but how serious do we take that message when the other party has been empirically proven to be linked with more garrison constituencies than the party they sought to lambaste.

Its okay for the political opposition to come out and chastise the government of the day for taking a questionable gift form a large multinational corporation, but can we take that message seriously when one of your MPs at the same time, in fact a junior minister at the time is found to have been receiving similar gifts.

When I am in opposition, I clamour for all the details of IMF discussions to be out in the public domain because we are all for transparency. But when I am in government I really cant discuss private matters in public like that. In the same role reversal the initial secretive party is now clamouring for transparency.

Also it is OK for me to proclaim bitter medicine on the horizon as government but lament in opposition how times hard. But at the same time can I be sorry for a government who labelled that bitter medicine government at that time as uncaring? Does it mean they themselves are now uncaring?

Confusing isn’t it? One big cycle of confusion and hypocrisy blights our political process. As I have said in other settings at the end of the day “Jamaican politics is a well rehearsed play where the roles of antagonist and protagonist simply shift with every change of government.”

But if that is the case, who do we trust? who do we turn to when we want real substantive and credible information and discourse on how we move forward in Jamaica Land we Love. That is the question and I suggest it is impossible for us as a nation to move forward with this state of affairs. So what do we do? do we see a crop of young politicians emerging that will revolutionise “showa” and “powa” in a positive direction? Recent happenings suggest both yes and no could be answers to this question but I am not feeling so hopeful especially listening to the leaders of both major parties in recent days.

Often times politicians make very valid statements but even still more persons reach for the remote control or dial to change or mute them.Why? Chances are it is the messenger and not the message due to this chronic lack of moral authority. This cannot be the environment in which development can be nurtured. Next blog post may need to be entitled THE CASE FOR THIRD PARTIES IN JAMAICA.

Food for thought!!!!!!

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After another night/morning of mild insomnia, today’s agenda was very simple: 1) Wake up late 2)eat breakfast 3)go to uwi @ 1pm 4) pick mommy up at 2.30pm 5) go home. Nice easy day eh? Oh well here’s what actually happened.

(8) this is the land of my birth (8) blares as my cell phone rings. I look up at the clock and lo and behold its just 7.00am. I miss the call, I go back to sleep. *RING RING RING* its the land line now. I drag myself to it to hear a frantic Mommy saying on the other end “Shane you need to come now, your father car smoking. we at the gas station at the foot of Jack’s Hill.” Spring to life drag on some clothes, jump in the car and I’m off. What greets me not too long after…TRAFFIC.

Anyway, I eventually get to the gas station. by this time mommy has taken a taxi. I see a forlorn Mr cunningham. New agenda: take him to UTECH, pick up the mechanic, check out the car, hopefully go back home and revert to the old agenda.

We get to UTECH. Drive to King st. to pick up the mechanic. On the way back to the gas station i realise  Daddy did not give me the keys for the locked up car at the gas station. SIGH. Back to UTECH I go. Get the keys and zip right back to the foot of Jack’s Hill.

Mechanic checks oil, all is well. Opens radiator cap, lacking water. Nothing big right? Pours one bottle of water – fine, pours some more… all i heard was woosh. ALL the water and cooolant from the radiator is now running from under the car towards Barbican Rd. Diagnosis: Busted water hose.

New agenda: Pick up daddy from UTECH, get hose, go back to the gas station with mechanic to fix the car, revert to original agenda. Zoom, back to UTECH AGAIN!!!. Now where do we get this part. Store 1 – No, Store 2 – No, Store 3 (Which is the official dealer for Suzuki by the way) – NO, and bout an hour later Store 4 – FINALLY!!!. So the day is finally going right. Something good is finally happening. HA.

Now we go back to the garage at King St for some tools with the mechanic, make a stop somewhere off Spanish Town Road and again began the long journey back to the foot of Jacks Hill. Drive the full length of Maxfield Ave, Through HWT, Up Hope Rd, Turn left onto West King’s House Road, STOP LIGHT AT LOSHUSAN. Nothing special bout a red light right? Anyway, the other side gets amber then red and its our green, AS we enter the intersection all i heard was a long POOOOOOOFFFFF!!! with a side order of smoke. SMH. Down goes car # 2. Silver lining: being in walking distance from the foot of Jacks Hill. SO shane and the mechanic make the trek back to the gas station leaving my father to guard smoking car # 2.

New agenda: fix hose, get daddy some water for that radiator, go home and forget about the original agenda. Note it is now after 12 going to one. Spare a moment to recall what the initial departure time was. PS no tea, no breakfast but alas these are minor details. Back to the story.

Hose is fixed, back to the open lot where my bewildered and fatigued father was. We open the radiator cap to see some goo on the radiator cap and again not enough water. Water added and when all seemed back to normal, closer inspection from the mechanic revealed the days next horror…RADIATOR IS NOW CRACKED!!!. Car #2 which was rescuing car # 1 is now a much bigger issue. Again SMH. It is now a couple minutes after 1 pm. (see original agenda to see where I should have been at that time).

New agenda: steer Car #2 as it is towed by car #1 to a constant spring rd radiator place, go home, then go for mommy, then go back home and just lay the hell down. So we attach the tow rope and we move off all the while the mechanic beside me giving me countless instructions as to what to do whilst being towed. We get around barbican rd, all the way around to the intersection of Grants Pen and  Shortwood Rd and wouldnt you guess it this traffic light chose today not to be working. We slowly approach the intersection, and as Car #1 slowly drags Car #2  around the corner where the JPS truck was already holding up traffic…POW!!! Yes you guessed it, ROPE BUSS.

Thank God the mechanic must have been a boy scout cau two twos the rope fix up and we on the road again. We eventually get to the radiator shop. Long and short of that is when the radiator was taken out the previously mentioned goo was not some negligible debris but it was lining the entire tank of the radiator. Lets just say this paste lining resembled strawberry ice cream. This story ends last but not least with a bill consisting of 5 figures.

I guess alls well that ends well. Now near 2.00pm I glimpse Usain bolt and then Yohan Blake ripping up the track as I cross constant spring rd to a Pharmacy to buy a biscuit and a pespi bubbla in an attempt  to address the stomach grumbling.

Mommy was then picked up and we drove home. Arrival time approximately 3.30pm, a full 8 hours after the initial departure time. I dont know how fun your day was today but I assure you Mine was SUPER SUPER FUN.

Many Jamaicans see all things that emanate form the great uncle sam up north as good or better stated, better than any such local  thing. One such thing that people have touted as the panacea for our political shortcomings is switching to the US Presidential system of government. I see some of the purported benefits of such a switch but many supporters of such a move ignore the shortcomings. The most notable shortcoming is that of the possibility of gridlock i.e. not being able to move anything forward if the different branches of government were held by opposing parties. Remember this point I will come back to it later.

I have never been one of these “lets copy the US and we we will be fine” people by any measure but there WAS one element of US politics that I used to be so jealous of. What is this one element? IDEOLOGY. Ideology? that cant make sense as the purveyors of POW and SHOW seek to tell us that they are ideologically different that one is LEFT and one is RIGHT. I will yield  to someone who highlights that in the 1970s and 1980s that Sirs Manley and Seaga respectively held and promoted vastly divergent world-views. Back then (based on what I’ve heard clearly) the labels “capitalist” and “socialist” were truly applicable.

For me the politics of Jamaica in my lifetime has not been driven by ideology or ideas really. But rather governed by the powerful laws of political pragmatism, populism and tribalism. Where the common “ideology” is to create relations of patronage and clientelism coupled with making (often empty) promises and finally adding the dimension of the use of or association with shady characters all in the name of winning elections. Ideas and principles and a coherent world-view have taken a back seat to the philosophy of win at all cost.

Consequently, as a student of the social sciences I have often pined for a day where our politicians approach politics and governance would  be rooted heavily in an ideological discourse. HOWEVER, as a I sat and watched the Republican National Convention 2012 and listened to the commentary of both Republicans and Democrats, I came to the harsh but age old realisation that the grass is not always greener on the other side. To put it lightly US politics is heavily grounded in ideology and ideological difference, but I no longer see this as necessarily an idyllic state of affairs.

On one hand we return to gridlock mentioned above. Republicans and Democrats have diametrically opposed views about how the world, politics and economics work.  If we accept the latter statement as fact how can we truly expect for persons that view the world fundamentally differently to work together on issues that are rooted in said views of the world. Imagine a Democratic president seeking to reinvigorate social welfare whilst the Congress was republican held and anti big government. Forget the hypothetical look at the barrage of issues that have been uncomfortably dealt with due to antagonistic tendencies between the Obama Administration and the Republican led congress. Ideological dogmatism makes it next to impossible for any true cooperation to flourish and as such I am no longer sure how much I would want to transpose such a modus operandi on Jamaica.

The second issue I have with this ideological strife ( as played out in the US) is the hatred it engenders. Hatred may seem like a strong word but the diatribe that left throws at right and right throws at left is literally stomach churning at times. And at the root of this again is what some social scientists call “othering” – the demonisation of that which is different. In this way ideologies take one a sort of religious connotation where persons start viewing their political views in a “I am the only bearer of the truth” way. This has the same end point – difficulty in engendering any true cooperation but it has a side order of distasteful rhetoric and a dessert or Hate to the main course.

All in all, I initially thought a highly ideological discourse in Jamaica could improve upon/replace an often mindless tribalism, but I am slowly coming to think that making such a transformation could really just be changing the type of tribalism. A tribalism which is based on persons deep seated views on right and wrong views held so dear to people’s heart. I put it to you that such a tribalism has the potential to be infinitely more dangerous and divisive.