Forcing out democracy
I suppose that if racist America can elect a black president, capitalist America can elect a socialist one. Eight years ago, I was flabbergasted that after 9/11, the United States, with all its racism, could elect a black president with a Muslim middle name. And then they did it a second time four years later!
I am finding it even stranger that the current leaders in the US presidential race are an avowed socialist on the one hand, and a nativist protectionist warmonger on the other.
Clearly the majority of the US electorate are unhappy with their two political parties, and are sending a signal for change. What a big signal!
If Donald Trump has his way, the USA will build a high wall along its southern border with Mexico to rival the Great Wall of China! And he is so concerned about the trade deficit, he may introduce a new wave of protectionism that may threaten the very existence of the WTO.
I wonder how a US government under socialist Sanders would have responded to our Michael Manley government of the 1970s?
Ahh! How the world turns!
On nomination day, I had some business in Montego Bay and Mandeville, and to get from one to the other, I chose the road from Duncans through Albert Town and Christiana. Bad decision! But I wonder if Reading through Anchovy, Newmarket and Santa Cruz would have been any better?
Three times we were delayed in traffic jams caused by marauding mobs in motorcades, sometimes wearing green shirts and sometimes orange. The worst was in Albert Town, where a green-shirted horde in vehicles and on foot comprehensively occupied and clogged the streets. There we were delayed for the better part of an hour by the partying throng. Their candidate had already been nominated, and I wondered how the other side could possibly approach the returning officer in time, as 2 o'clock was fast approaching!
Up the road in Lowe River, we were again delayed for some time by the orange-shirted massive with their candidate, who were preparing to advance on Albert Town in a long, noisy cavalcade. I thought to myself, "What is going to happen when the two tribes meet?" I was sure I would see them again on the evening news!
But no radio or television station reported on nomination day happenings in Trelawny South, so I suppose it ended peacefully. If I wasn't already late for my Mandeville meeting, I might have been tempted to watch the drama unfold in Albert Town.
In Christiana, the green horde was already at rest, eating their boxed lunches by the roadside. It is the season where they pay you to party, and feed you in the process!
And further up the road in Kendal, we were again delayed by the orange masses coming from Mandeville, lining up for a charge somewhere. "It done!" I said to myself. "Why don't they just go home!" But the parading and festivities were definitely not over. Now I know what a 'political party' really means.
Seeing the multitudes of the otherwise unemployed, hanging out of bus and car windows, and sitting on the sides of car trunks, I could not but reflect on what our democracy has descended to. The police were everywhere - helmeted with bullet-proof vests, in khaki and with red seams down their pants and skirts - watching the flagrant lawbreaking and traffic obstruction, impotent to enforce the law in this campaign to elect lawmakers.
Jamaican politics is 99 per cent psychology and one per cent substance. In Trinidad, they call it 'Gran' Charge'. All this parading around with rented crowds is Jamaican 'Gran' Charge', trying to psych out the other side, trying to give the impression that the size of their crowd is proof that they are going to win. Each amasses a multitude in a show of noisy force, in an effort to intimidate the other side. "Look at our massive crowd: We win already! So stay home election day; no badda vote."
The polls show that Jamaicans are not fools. Half of the electorate are not impressed by the marauding mobs, and will not turn out to vote. This expensive carnival which passes for 'campaigning' in Jamaica really makes no difference in the final analysis.
This type of politics is forcing out democracy in Jamaica. We are becoming an oligopoly - a rule by the few - rather than the rule of the many. Our system provides no opportunity for mavericks like Trump or Sanders to emerge to shake up the system.
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and rural development scientist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.