Sun | Dec 17, 2017

JaRistotle’s Jottings | The dilemma of democracy

Published:Thursday | November 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Put another way, we want instant gratification - to go the shortcut route and get to heaven without working for it. In the same way, we want peace, prosperity and order in our society, but we are not willing to partake of the 'bitter medicine' that is fundamental to achieving our goals skip the unpleasant remedies: solutions must be instantaneous.

According to the Greek philosopher Plato, "In a democracy freedom is the supreme good but freedom is also slavery; democratic man is consumed with unnecessary desires and wants to do whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it." This is a true reflection of democracy here in Jamaica, and the NIDling cross-talk of the day is a perfect example of this. Democracy is indeed a dilemma.

 

National ID System (NIDS)

 

I am a full supporter of the NIDS, because I believe that we are finally on a path to capturing the relevant data on every individual in the country, especially the biometric data, to be able to analyse and determine the what, where, when and who of things a la Jamaica. We will be able to eliminate the scope for individuals with multiple identities who can evade paying taxes, evade the police and otherwise live anonymously at the country's expense.

It is simple: if you want to be a citizen of this country and to enjoy the rights and privileges that are intrinsic to citizenship, then you must be a part of the formal system. If you have nothing to hide then 'No Problem Mon'.

 

Overseas do-gooders

 

It is ironic how we Jamaicans are willing to suffer through the 'indignity' of joining long lines at the US Embassy to get a visa, and when we reach the US immigration desk, further subject ourselves to eye and fingerprint scans without a murmur. We go into the freezing winter, snow and all, line up for the bus, no fuss. Those are their rules: comply or stay home.

So why the hell do we not want to comply with rules in our own country, especially where these rules are intended for our own protection and to facilitate the 'goodness' we all clamour for daily? We are too free, and like Plato's democratic man 'we want to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it'.

 

Public sector costs

 

Here is another classic dilemma of our democracy. An overstaffed public service or an underpaid one: which is it? Put aside the less than efficient use of public resources, including our human capital. Put aside the ill-conceived creation of public-sector agencies, which merely strengthen bureaucracy and provide jobs for the party faithful. Put the core issues son the table.

Yes, we need a robust public sector with competent staff, but we can't afford the demands in wage increases being hurled at the government. Yes, public servants need to contribute to their pensions. Yes, police officers must be bonded after training; anyone opting to leave before fulfilling their service obligations must make appropriate payback. In other words, public servants can't have their cake and eat it, not in this economic climate. Which will it be rational increases and save jobs or short-sightededness and jobless? No instant gratification here, everything comes at a cost.

 

Choices

 

Freedom being the supreme good, it has put the country in a literal stalemate where people and representative organisations choose to exercise those freedoms regardless of the cost; this freedom has become like slavery.

We want to do whatever we want whenever we want to here in our own country, but readily lap our tails between our legs and walk like mice in foreign lands where the rule of law reigns. In Jamaica, we are slaves to our ambitions and perceptions.

Politicians want votes, and are willing to compromise, at the country's expense, while in power, but when in opposition they readily chastise the incumbents for using the same tactics. Individuals want to achieve success and prosperity now, if not, there will be hell to pay.

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. We need to ensure that the decisions we make today will sustain us ad infinitum. Overnight prosperity only lasts overnight. Choose well.

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