The great CLR James wrote a book Any Cook Can Govern which posited that the activities taken up by the judiciary, executive and legislative branches of government could be carried out by the layman. It is a concept which was not novel to him as the ancient Athenians, USSR, PRC and even USA all practiced this form of rule in some varying way.
This idea that anyone is fit to rule and should partake in governing and decision-making is one which is, for the most part, still looked down upon, looked at as giving power to a lumpen who would at best simply mess up the place and at worst destroy the whole thing.
There is a constant fear on the part of our ‘natural leaders’ that if the common man is given power and allowed to govern then they would naturally bankrupt the nation as they would all feed at the trough. There is fear that the masses, if given power, would ruin the country by not looking after and investing in the long-term future of the nation and will instead engage in frivolous speculation, be sold on boondoggles and otherwise ruin the nation through graft and incompetence.
It is a line of thought which finds a home in Jamaica as well. We are known for wanting ministers who are ‘qualified’, wanting judges and MPs who are ‘learned’, while beating up the ‘idiot’ who dares throw his/her hat in the ring. But I maintain that the average Jamaican really could do no worse than our politicians past and present and would probably, in fact, do a lot better than any and all of our judges, MPs and ministers since Independence.
Would the St Elizabeth farmer sequestered to Parliament as an MP, for example, be as slow and hesitant as our politicians have been in securing some form of food independence? Would that individual have dithered to the point of harm on the issue of cold storage for produce and secondary industries to manufacture said produce? Would the helper who has been tapped as representative maintain our non-existent public transportation? Would the higgler who overnight becomes finance minister be okay with divesting State-owned properties for a pittance of their actual market value?
Would the residents of some crime-ridden inner city neighbourhood who are tasked with justice and its dispensation give criminals a slap on the wrist? Would they enable a useless police force that is often in open cahoots with the criminals they are supposed to catch? Would they devote hours and hours of court time to what amounts to the small fishes, or would they go after the large players and ensure that they are unable to act criminally again?
I doubt that they could have acted in those ways. I think these people who bear the brunt of any decision and have to live with the consequences of any action taken would rule in a better fashion and make decisions which are actually to the positive benefit of the masses. I highly doubt that the average citizen, the person who has no fancy master’s and who hustles to get by would be acting in such a brazen fashion as our current crop of leaders.
Every cook can govern; everyone has the ability to lead and take part in life-changing decisions and quite frankly it is time that we demand that we have a greater say in our own governance. It cannot be that we the masses are too ‘uneducated’. If that is the case, then why do we clamour for a referendum (which is just a hair’s breadth away from Athenian style democracy)?
It is the masses who have no say in how they are governed — only being allowed to decide once every 5 years — who will be our temporary overlord (see representative). Once voting is complete, we no longer have any say in how these overlords act, until they come begging for a vote when elections roll around. We cooks who are busy slaving over the stoves and ovens have nary a say in what is on the menu or how much is apportioned out. This must change.
It cannot be the potential corruption. Sixty years of independence have shown that our ‘betters’ are more than adept at those dark arts. It cannot be incompetence why power in this tiny country of less than 3 million on a bad day has to be so corralled in the control of a select group of people. No, the only reason that power, true power, is not given to the people is because it will invariably lead to the real power, the means of production, land etc… being put to work for the benefit of the majority at the expense of the minority who currently exploit those means of production and wealth creation.
Allowing every cook to govern would, in the end, mean the death of the system of economics and social organising which we currently assume will last forever. Allowing the cooks to govern would also lead to a wealthier Jamaica in every sense of the word. We would no longer be a nation willing to cede authority. We would have a truly educated populace, we would be a less violent nation, we would be a happier nation and we would also be a richer nation as our actual priorities, needs and wants would be addressed which would lead to an economic take off.
The people who work and create the wealth of this country must have a say in its runnings. The people who keep the lights on in this country must have a say on not just the issue of the day (NIDS, CCJ) but on all issues pertaining to the State and the people. If the people are not given a seat at the table of power then they will do one of two things; take it by force at the expense of those who currently rule, or destroy everything, leaving us in a state of anarchy.