Jomo Thomas: We are going to ‘hell’ real fast

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

“For our nation to survive, the tribes must die.” Popular saying among African revolutionaries.

‘Majoritarian concerns are vital in a democracy, but a true democracy guards against the tyranny of the majority.’ James Baldwin

‘The test of a true democracy is reflected in how it treats its minority or those with unpopular views.’Rosa Luxemburg.

We are going through a dangerous time in SVG. There is a lot at stake. The two political parties are in a life and death political battle. This battle is made even more intense because the country is split down the middle.

Some people know wrong when they see or hear about it but will never say because as the novelist Upton Sinclair says we lack understand of the most basic thing when

Our salary depends on us not comprehending what others have to say. In fact, too often we don’t even listen to what others are saying. Our sole intent is to hear ourselves and to be congratulated by our supporters about how good we sounded.

When I was a young man politics then like now played a central role in many people’s lives. But even then politics was never the be all or end all in our village or country. There were many other strands (schools, churches, community groups, the power of the elders) that held our society together.

The situation today is radically different. With the emergence of the ULP and The NDP as to two most relied on institutions in our society is rapidly losing its cohesion. Too many of us have lost all sense of reason and rationality. We are all not expected to say in chorus ‘my party right or wrong. But this cannot be good for a small, resource challenged, and developing states like SVG. We need to demand best practices not only from the politicians but from ourselves.

The history of our country, the region and the world is replete with instances where political parties and state officials confuse and conflate the their views, opinions and policy options with the national interest only for implementation to reveal gaping holes, gaps, deficits, deficiencies and sometimes disastrous consequences. To be overly cocksure is a dangerous sneer. The time for buy-in and consensus, open mindedness and humility is required now more than ever.

Certainly we can love our party and work to ensure that it gets into power or continue to walk the hall of power. However, on no condition should we give currency to the notion that because we hold different views on a particularly issue that one or the other side represents the devilish side of evil. Our political leaders have a big and important role to play in ensuring that this attitude does not gain ground.

For if partisans on each side of the political divide is convinced that the other represent the face of evil, we are one incident away some political violence. We are too small and too vulnerable to lend support to this feeling. And this is why leaders of the political parties must tell their supporters that in all matters the people, all the people, not just supporters, must come before politics. The needs of the country must come before our individual interest. Too often so many of us, some not even in need, say that it boils down to what’s in it for me.

The test of the new leadership, especially at a time when we are galloping towards transition in both parties is whether we will send a clear signal that the tribal desires must always give way to the national interest.

Baldwin’s ideas regarding the tyranny of the majority has a timely ring in our Vincentian context. No one can argue with the notion that in a parliamentary democracy we must be guided and governed by the group that commands the popular vote or the parliamentary majority but we must also take heed of the ancient saying that might does not necessarily make right. The tyranny of the majority must concern us all.

It is far too easy for leaders in industry, religion and politics to buoy by the confidence that they had the majority on their side. In fact, many injustices and even crimes have been committed in the name of the majority.

The cardinal question of our times is must we do it Brazilian writer Paulo Freire said that unless we are awe struck by the sometimes overwhelming responsibility of leadership we are destined to abuse it. He is absolutely right and our safeguards to ourselves is a commitment to be always and forever deliberate and considered in all that we does.

In law we are instructed to temper justice with mercy. Too often we confuse the lust for revenge with justice. These times call for more reflection. In these times we should celebrate rather than banish contrarian ideas. In the market place of ideas all of us should be given a hearing.

I am struck by the number of good persons who says that minister Gonsalves made a mistake by inviting Anesia Baptiste to the select committee which is deliberating on the Cyber Crime Bill. Although her flaw is if you disagree with her you are not listening to reason, her voice should be welcomed. While Frank Da Silva thinks that a shade with anything he supports is a sign of your mental deficit, his contribution is good. Both offer views that are of worth and merit. However, none of us must reserve the last word for ourselves.

A democracy is no democracy at all unless it gives voice and respect to minority and unpopular views.

And so, we need to stop shouting. We need to talk less and think much more. We need to listen to what others have to say. We need to stop using our bully pulpits to short circuit the debate and condemn our opponents.We and our supporters need to give everyone a fair hearing. Our very future depends on it.


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