By Phillip Edward Alexander
Anyone who has been following the political squabble that has been taking place in Trinidad and Tobago since the election bell was rung in 2010 would have gotten to know a shiny political figure/corporate lawyer by the name of Faris al Rawi, and if you happened to be paying the remotest of attention to him by now you would have heard the term 'ad hominem' four hundred and fifty seven million times.
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
Possibly the only Latin phrase he knows, my friend Faris sprinkles it like salt on anything he says and I have been reliably informed that it made its way into his wedding vows but as I was not there I can neither confirm nor deny.
Translated straight from its Roman Empire roots and according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “ad hominem” means – “appealing to feelings and prejudices other than intellect.” Taken literally and on face value then, one can easily understand why this particular phrase would be so popular with Faris.
Ensconced within the belly of the People's National Movement, he has chosen to be the face of a political organization that practices personal attacks and prejudicial profiling, open scandalizing and bacchanal as politics, leaving little room for plans, policies, idea and goals, replacing the former PNM leadership with its attack dog contingent of Hinds, Rowley and Robinson-Regis, leaving poor Faris scrambling at the best of times to try to make something resembling a silk purse out of that rotting sow's ear, with the only strategy available to him when trying to hide that much snarling behind his powdered and coiffed demeanour is to misdirect.
To blame others for the actions of his own people, to pretend that somehow this sort of behaviour is not only normal and expected, that everyone is doing it as well.
The Urban Dictionary describes it thusly – “An attack upon an opponent in order to discredit their argument or opinion. Ad hominems are used by immature and/or unintelligent people because they are unable to counter their opponent using logic and intelligence.”
But surely this cannot apply to our friend Faris because he went to school and he has clearly demonstrated the ability to speak Latin, if limited only to one phrase. The discrediting arguments by open attack better describe Faris's boss Keith Rowley, but if the amount of votes cast in the PNM internal elections are anything to go on, that may not be the situation for much longer.
According to the highly respected Oxford Dictionary, “ad hominem” is defined – “(Of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.”
This more than anything describes Faris al Rawi and his role in the PNM and politics. He too is an attack dog but of a different pedigree. His role is to drape silk over the gobar being offered and by twirling and swirling about distract from the reality enough to make people believe that it was gobar they ordered from the start.
Focusing all of their considerable might on distracting from the mountain of good work that the current government is doing, Faris & Co. are doing their darndest to deflect the national conversation from the facts using nothing but, ironically, ad hominem attacks.
The conspiracy that brought down Chandresh Sharma made more news than the fact that crime is at an all time low in this country's history, and despite the record breaking violence taking place in the PNM at-risk, hotspot communities, even murder is at an all time low. Now the conversation should be paused here to say that even one murder is bad and I would agree, but that is not where the conversation is being allowed to go.
The fact that over 700,000 people now receive water 24 hours a day seven days a week as opposed to the barely 150,000 in 2010 is not as sexy as a minister grabbing a breast, so the people are kept in the dark by open ad hominem politics.
Who needs to know that the Heritage & Stabilization Fund is at the highest in our history, or that 88 children's lives have been saved by the Children's Life Fund, or that maternity deaths are at the lowest in our history, or that just fewer than 70,000 people have already been certified through the MIC trade schools? How can 78 outstanding wage negotiations being settled in record time compete for mind share in the ad hominem environment that makes 'nipple-gate' the top news story without even the smallest of investigations as to veracity?
Ad hominem politics as practiced by the PNM and now by their front line 'Republican Guard' Faris al Rawi & Co. seems destined to be here with us for some time to come, but one can only hope that the low voter turnout in that party's internal elections and the lower numbers still in their march of evil is indicative of a much more informed population than even the proponents of ad hominem politics give us all credit for.