By Oliver Mills
Politics is about managing the institutions of a country to produce the goods and services which would enable that country to sustain its economy and meet the needs of its people. It is also about inspiring people to transcend their limitations, to see themselves as working towards the same national goals, and it is further about bringing hope, and creating a sense of self and personal wellbeing in the country’s citizens.
Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada and an MA from the University of London. He is a past Permanent Secretary in Education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
But this is not how the Caribbean political directorate sees politics. Instead, they see politics as a contest for power, as competition, using less than refined tactics and strategies to win the government. This concept of politics leads to social and family division, to the perception of politics as a struggle for scares resources, and this often leads to one side doing immense harm to the other.
When a political party becomes the government, this view of politics leads to the abandonment of many programmes instituted by the previous government, even though they benefitted the country, the removal of people from jobs, because they are seen as supporting the previous order, and the reinstitution of tribal politics, which benefits no one and leaves the country a casualty.
Growth and development become a series of starts and stops. The media takes the side of one political entity against the other, some religious affiliations also take positions seen as support for one or the other party, and even investment takes the form of waiting until a particular political party wins, before making a move. This is not what politics is supposed to be about, and these current practices are becoming further and further institutionalized.
Here, also, politics trumps economics, in that what is economically good for the country, is seen as not politically palatable, because certain personalities and groups would be cut from the process of who gets what, when and how. The country therefore does not benefit in the way that it should if its interests were put above partisan preferences.
The idea has also surfaced that politics is warfare. We see damaging profiles being collected on candidates to destroy their images, much as images are constructed about countries which others want to invade and overthrow their governments. We see checks on the financial condition of individuals, the same way a country’s financial institutions are audited in a clandestine way, to determine possible infractions, so that sanctions or other forms of punishment could be enforced.
Again, just as we hear about certain weapons being collected by certain party supporters leading up to elections and beyond to be used for purposes that are not noble, interests are aroused by some countries in others when it is suspected that these ‘other countries’ are purchasing certain weapons which could be used for purposes not regarded as desirable, for instance to be used against another country. This often leads to tensions between the countries concerned. The concept of war, applied to politics, is therefore real.
But politics has a far more noble goal and purpose. It is about determining what is best for a country, and devising the strategies to make it possible. It is further about creating involved citizens who participate in the affairs of governance to make their country a better place. Politics also fosters patriotism, a commitment to high ideals, it engenders a high level of moral choice and behavior, and it aims at what is good, right and just for everyone.
Politics is also noble in the sense that it creates the disposition in us to recognize that what we want for ourselves, we should also want for others. It is about building togetherness, fostering peaceful sentiments, aims at helpfulness, and at fostering the kind of citizen who is without prejudice, non-judgmental, and who sees the interest of one as those of everyone. Politics builds compassionate institutions, creates kind values, and fosters a spirit of community and service to all.