By Oliver Mills
In one of their publications, a University of the West Indies course team summarises politics as involving the process of making government policies, being conflict oriented, where different interest groups seek to influence major political actors, and concerned with institutions that enable the examination of power and authority. But this seems to offer a more formal reading of what politics is about, is too structured and prescriptive, and does not leave room for dynamism.
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, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and Training, University of Leicester. He is a past Permanent Secretary in Education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Certainly the political process is more elastic than what is given here, and it is precisely because of this apparently carefully formulated definition of politics, and its opposite that happens in real life, that many persons tend to think that political activity is staged for a particular effect, and needs to be unveiled.
When we read articles in Caribbean News Now, we see objectively what the real reality of politics is. In a letter to the editor of Caribbean News Now, one writer describes a minister of government as clueless and arrogant. This is not a castigation of a politician’s behaviour, but appears to be an honest evaluation of it. Politicians are indeed arrogant when they are clueless, and arrogance reflects a confidence deficit, and an absence of self-esteem.
It is when we become conscious of this, and clear the smoke away, that we unveil the true nature of politics. When we hear of the promises made by politicians, we should put our thinking caps on because it is a cover for doing nothing. Promises can also be false, because the resources are not there to deliver them. Unveiling the political gap between promises and performance, will therefore give a true picture of the real state of affairs.
On a radio talk show in another country, a panellist talks of the people being misled by the government. People see they are misled when they compare their previous position with what currently exists. And when they speak up about the discrepancy, this is when politics is unveiled. People realise they have been played, and that political talk for votes is empty, and has no substance.
Now more than ever, the electorate is realising that politics and policy are devoid of content, and the means to deliver. They are therefore becoming more critical, and are taking the veil off politics, and exposing it for what it is. This is why some describe it as politricks.
A journalist, in writing about politics in another Caribbean country, notes that a former political leader played on the fears of the masses, and delegitimised pluralism, while imposing a fascist dictatorship through his socialist ideas. This is clear example of politics unveiled, and its true colours shown. The idea is to play on manufactured fears, use it to attain political power, and then impose what was initially planned.
When politics is unveiled, the smoke clears, and real intentions are exposed. In reference to the same country, a letter writer states that governments there are getting away with not representing the people, and refuse to articulate the real issues. Here, political shenanigans replace real efforts to bring about the development of the people, and the country’s institutions.
Political vigilance is therefore needed as a detection mechanism, to uncover politics that is not genuine, but only geared towards personal betterment and enrichment. It is only when the electorate seeks to unveil politics for what it really is, that some accountability will be enforced.
In a self-governing territory, an opposition member mentions his vision for economic diversification, and fair and equal hiring practices, suggesting this does not presently exist. However, this seems to be happening in a territory which is one of the most developed and economically successful in the Caribbean. Why is there this contradiction in perspectives? Is the elected member right, or is this plain political shrewdness. Is some unveiling of the real situation required here?
An elected member in an independent territory, in a recent column says there is a high level of hypocrisy surrounding politics in his country, and wonders if whether it is not more of a case of the hypocrisy of politics, rather than the politics of hypocrisy. Here we have a practicing politician with a senior appointment writing publicly concerning how hypocritical politics is. In other words it says one thing, but does another. He very honestly unveils the gamesmanship that politics really is, and in doing so confirms the long held suspicion that politics is not a genuine enterprise.
One prominent columnist of a Caribbean newspaper talks of how his country’s image , its prime ministers, national reality, the public services, although even none works well, even data, are all given an airbrush, making situations look better than they really are. The writer notes generally that the airbrushed image of his country that is presented makes it appear it has no problems, and is devoid of poor leadership. Here we have an honest portrayal of politics unveiled, wholly transparent, and unusual. It seems therefore that the idea of having a clear conscience has not withered away, and this brings hope for the eventual transformation of Caribbean politics from being airbrushed to being fully unveiled before our citizens.
Traditionally politics has been seen as manipulation, divisive, where the political directorate played the role of the buccaneer. Politics unveiled is now presented as a positive alternative, rooted in an evidence based world. This means division and deception are done away with, ethics will pervade decision making, and the interest of all taken into account in the formulation of policy. The need for lobbying and different interest groups disappears, and the general will of all replaces sectional interests. Power will then reflect the wishes of the many, and be used for the greater good. And the best knowledge that has been thought and taught, will provide the new wisdom needed, and a new guide to construct and sustain a political system that is moral, just, and fair.