Years ago, as a youngster, I had a dream! It was crystal clear. Michael Manley was prime minister of Jamaica, and Edward Seaga was the minister of finance – in the same administration! I cannot tell how it happened but, as I grew up, I met some folks who apparently had the same dream too.
Well, I woke up a long time ago; and, since Manley is dead and Seaga is no longer in active politics, so much for my dream!
Growing up on the outskirts of Trench Town in the late ‘70s, my youthful experiences were intermingled with supporters of the People’s National Party (PNP) which formed the government at the time. I was impressed with Manley’s oratorical skills and – children live what they learn – so, for all intents and purposes I was ‘PNP’.
However, in the latter years of my high school days the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had by then taken over the reins of the administration. As a young student leader, I had occasion to interact with members of the JLP’s administration and I was also impressed with the managerial skills of Seaga. I found it odd though, since I still lived at my original residence, that I could not openly express my support for some of the initiatives of the JLP’s administration; while still espousing the larger views of the PNP.
On hindsight, this angered me! And somewhere along the way I made a conscious decision that – if I could not support what I thought was good in both parties and speak out against what I thought was wrong in both parties; then I would not get involved with either party.
This dilemma was perhaps the genesis of my dream!
I suspect that I was not alone in that political quagmire; and perhaps people like me are the ones that are now classified as the ‘undecided’ in the political scenario.
However, the truth is – Jamaica cannot benefit from people like me just sitting on the fence and refusing to participate. For one thing, as the turn out of the electorate for general elections fluctuates (and – anecdotally – more often decreases), it is the die-hearted supporters who end up voting and who ultimately determine which party forms the administration. In truth – that amounts to us abdicating our responsibility and discarding a right which was bought and won by the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers.
Beyond that, the other truth is – if we fail to participate – and give up our right to choose – then we really have no moral grounds on which to speak of the mayhem caused by our leaders; because we had no part in electing them.
The challenge, however, is – on what basis shall we choose?
In the old days, Manley spoke of Socialism and Seaga espoused Capitalism. Yes, I know – there was talk of Communism too; but that is for another discussion. There was a divide – people had an ideological choice. Today, there is little – if anything – that differentiates the parties; excepting for personalities.
It is in this vain that we have deepened the divide. Some people like Portia; others like Andrew. Some do not like Portia, but they like some members of the PNP. And there are some who like the JLP, but do not like some of the members of the party.
The PNP was in government for 18 years, and there are those who think it is time for a change. Some of those think that 4 years is not enough to properly judge what the JLP can do. Others think that the JLP has done so badly in 4 years that we need to go back to what we know. Their problem, however, is that the PNP does not appear to have a real alternative to what the JLP is offering now.
The embattled former prime minister, Bruce Golding, stepped down – using the analogy of a football game – saying; sometimes to win the game, you have to provide your teammate with the opportunity to score. Any way you look at it, that is party politics and political parties are formed to win elections. In principle – no one can fault him on that! However, there are unanswered questions (such as Manatt) which still plague the credibility of the JLP. Will or can the newness of Andrew supersede the issues?
Portia has her challenges too! The JLP has introduced the notion of youth (young people time now) and some (even PNP supporters) are concerned about her tendency to ‘lash-out’. There is also the Trafigura issue; and Kern’s ‘light-bulb’ case (still in the Courts) may yet affect the party.
Both parties are also introducing a slate of new candidates, with the promise of new blood and fresh ideas. Yet, from where I sit – on both sides – it appears to be new faces, but largely old politics.
That is the dilemma of the choice; but one thing is clear – if one would make a ‘reasoned’ choice – we must be knowledgeable of the candidates and the facts (as far as they are credibly presented).
Unfortunately, it is difficult some times to discuss politics – even with friends; because often times the debate is not about ideas and policies and accomplishments – but about personalities. And the debates often descend into the gutter. Too many pages on the internet also reflect a blatant disrespect for our leaders and the descriptions and references to Portia and Andrew are (sometimes) appalling – depending on the side on which the writer sits.
Some allegiances come from historic family preferences, or the areas in which they grew up, or under which party’s government they bought their first house or car. Some just like one leader and – seemingly – hate the other.
For my part; I have ‘Liked’ both political parties’ Facebook pages. I am also following them on Twitter. I am a ‘friend’ of several of the candidates on both sides on Facebook and I plan to ‘befriend’ more (if they will accept my requests). I listen to the interviews and the speeches and I follow the ‘cas-cas’ as they unfold.
Come election day (whenever Andrew calls it) I will also vote – it is my right and my privilege. And when the dust settles and whoever wins – I will be watching as well to applaud what is good and criticize what is wrong – that is my right and my privilege too! It is our democratic duty in the only system we have.
Rant and rave, cuss and quarrel – but, be sure to cast your vote for your choice. Make that selection based on your own conscience; look at policies, issues, credibility, integrity and performance. Remember, our system does not allow you to vote for a prime minister – so vote for your member of parliament based on his/her performance. Let them know that YOU/WE are their bosses and we can assess them and keep them or fire them.
The politicians have the power to clean up the mess; but unless we, the people, give them the incentive (perform or go) – then nothing will change.
Yes, cross the divide! Participate and vote! Otherwise, maybe you should just shut up and accept whatever they (the politicians) wish to serve up for the next course.
Walk good, ‘til next time …