By Dr Isaac Newton
In the midst of an orgy of vanity and a cesspool of corruption, PM Baldwin Spencer makes a strident attempt to energize the nation of Antigua and Barbuda to fresh faith. Spencer confines his words to modest expectations. He tactfully ignores that crime is rising throughout the land with the edge of cold hearted desperation.
Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues
Posing as a poetic politician, the PM is signaling that hopefulness is possible again and that the coffin won’t show up in the morning! Implied is a doxology of grief underpinned by despair.
His projection of better days ahead is this: the United Progressive Party (UPP) is good for the country. Spencer’s declaration that Antigua and Barbuda is heading in the right direction, having overcome unprecedented challenges, numbs the imagination.
Deleted from the PM’s statement is his failure to recognize that his policies and programs lack the pathos of transformation needed to reshape our country’s destiny.
We know full well that there is nothing in Spencer’s statement that welcomes trust. His message is terrifyingly haunting. It is too scary for genuine newness. It comes from too happy a piety to penetrate our poverty stricken souls.
Are Spencer’s words intended to re-invent history? They portray an anxious leader who is hiding from an unfavourable track record of good governance and integrity in public office by avoiding our grimness.
If the PM wants us to dismiss the hardships of the way things are now, he is delegitimizing our social traumas. Perhaps endings are more intimidating to Spencer than beginnings, but his political idioms should not agitate our weariness.
Nor should Spencer’s hints at hope cause us to miss the extreme caution that our burdensome situation calls for. The PM speaks with the spark of a brighter tomorrow. Yet there is little conviction.
His predictable intonation that the opposition will blame the government for “challenges” the country experienced under his watch, dramatizes our sorrows. The country’s hemorrhaging lies more in how the PM mishandles the “challenges” than in any criticism that the opposition could offer.
The term “challenges” appears as a code word. It reduces our jobless burdens to psychological gimmicks. It enthrones our fatigue. And it pretends to soothe our woes, while freshly asserting them.
Baldwin Spencer comes across as a man of secrets: that if he were to openly share the sentiments of his heart, he would lose the next general elections. He holds that the UPP is good for the country. But his most serious accomplishment is the frequent putting down of homegrown talent. Antiguans and Barbudans, no matter how regaled with global competencies and stellar academic qualifications, are usually excluded from high paying jobs and million dollar contracts. The result is that the PM has practically wiped out our vibrant middle class.
My judgment is that Spencer has flooded the nation with frequent reminders that his government inherited a massive mess from previous administrations. Although there isn’t any bold evidence of strategic development, the PM wants us to remember forever the mistakes of the past, while erasing the vexing problems of the present. This mirrors the politics of blame verses solution-driven governance.
While Spencer is working hard to market his government as the answer to the nation’s future, it is impossible to imagine that the country is heading in the right direction in isolation of all the follies and fumbling ( reported and hidden) of Spencer’s regime.
It is more our dispositions, not our circumstances that determine whether we triumph or remain trapped in failures. The lesson we should learn from the PM’s promissory call to hope is twofold.
First, symbols of hope cannot be disconnected from the brutal reality of today’s tribulations. Rather they should serve as an activated force that fleshes out effective solutions from our anguish. Second, hope is not a cute pacifier of our national crisis.
Hope is a powerful educative tool. It rallies our collective imagination from tears and tearing.
To make a wise decision about the direction of the country before March 2014, a critical and conscientious hope must address all that we have cast aside as sources of embarrassment.
We must reject speeches about hope that are distant from our national troubles or that excuse double dealing.
Aided by an ambitious and splendid courage, collective hope is a careful embodiment of trusting words and concrete deliverables. It cannot be an epic tale of not taking responsibility for our moral ruin and material poverty.
Beyond his elegant prose, Spencer must speak of a hope that is an outcry against our spiritual, psychological and political barrenness.
The PM could choose to redefine our social ethos away from lingering lament. His words must awaken our national consciousness. They must evoke the conviction that a great people do not give up, especially when everything is predicting their death.
The singular aim of good government is the advancement of the people! That’s the hope that PM Spencer refuses to speak about.