Politicians — everyone loves to hate them.
They are hated because they constantly engage in acts contrary to the will of the people; they are made butt of jokes because they do extremely daft things, and we rail against their acts of incompetence because they affect us directly. We love (and I include myself in this) to complain how politicians are alienated from the people and seem to be living on or have been dropped off from Omicron Persei 8, but I think we are actually railing against the wrong thing.
To rail against the politician (while fun) is like taking a painkiller to remedy a broken arm. Sure, the pain is minimised (the politician is removed after much berating) but the underlying issue of the broken arm remains. This is not mere idle talk.
For my entire life we have been complaining about the same things with the different administrations. We then vote them out, feel good for a while, and then get upset all over again because the newly elected administration acts in the same manner.
The broken arm here, the underlying problem, is the society from which these politicians are drawn and not necessarily the political parties and politicians (corrupt though they may be). Jamaican society really has no problem with what these politicians are doing, and when scaled down to proportion, a good deal would do the same or turn a blind eye.
We rail against governments accepting kickbacks in order for shoddy work to be done, but how many of us can honestly say we haven’t paid a smalls to get beneficial treatment? How many persons are more than willing to rack up rents and utilities and runoff on the bill (Sutton Street court is jam-packed with them); how is that any different from the State not paying its utilities bills and allowing them to rack up only to be paid lump sum after finding the funds in a trust?
These are just the small things. How many of us are using our secure positions to run drugs, just for a little extra cash? Why, isn’t that exactly what the corrupt politician does? How many people do we hear daily saying they have ‘bad squaddie inna dem pocket’? How does that differ from the politician who uses the lawman as his personal enforcer?
Some people may say that the scenarios are completely different, like chalk and cheese, but I don’t see it like that and quite frankly the facts on the ground seem to bear me out. It is childish and akin to looking for Jesus to come back to expect decent politicians when we have a society which is swayed by corruption and reluctant to stand up in the face of corruption.
I will be the first to state and agree with the sentiment that the current political system makes corruption easy, but when the pool from which politicians are drawn is already lax when it comes to corruption, is it any shock when the system doesn’t change?
Trite, corny, sounding like a hippie, that is what many may think after reading this, but even if it is, it remains true. Until the society changes how it operates and views certain things, until we collectively accept that we will not endorse certain actions then nothing will change as it relates to our politicians. We could get the most incorruptible PM and still have the most corrupt administration simply because the ministers are corrupt. We could have the most scrupulous person at the port and still have guns and drugs moving freely in and out simply because the remainder of the staff is littered with corruption.
A sense of justice and community needs to be at the core of any Jamaican politician and therefore those need to be at the core of the Jamaican society. The cult of the individual which has long hung over Jamaica has infected our society and political class and it is time to remedy it.
A sense of community would mean an end to preferential treatment in society (eg cronyism) and would result in less work and contracts given to party loyalists. A sense of justice would mean turning in your fellow policeman who is a criminal and in the political world would mean informing on the politician who accepts bribes or circumvents the law.
The mindset of the society which has been crafted through the centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism needs to be drastically changed — changed from simply surviving the struggle to ending the system which forces us to struggle.
We, not me, is the mentality the country must have if we want to get decent politicians. Salvation always starts with one’s self and in this case salvation from corrupt and inept politicians lies in the hands of the people and the mentalities and norms which society is willing to accept.
Keep cussing the inept politicians, it at least lets them know we are on to their game, but we must couple it with a radical shift in how we as a society approach things. If we don’t, then we may as well stop the hypocritical finger-pointing and pearl-clutching and embrace it.