Mon | Oct 22, 2018

JaRistotle’s Jottings | The demise of trust

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Election day activities in the NW St Andrew constituency on Monday, March 5.
Election day activities in the NW St Andrew constituency on Monday, March 5.
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The news these days is awash with grand announcements by the various ministers of Government, the standard counterarguments by the Opposition, the crosstalk by commentators and babble from the political diehards. It has become painful to digest. We just can't seem to achieve consensus on matters of national importance, regardless of the value to be gained from the issue at hand.

Regardless of which party is in or out of power, the Opposition opposes because it dares not allow the Government to look good, and when they attempt to introduce anything useful, the Government shoots it down. To hell with the people and the country, it is all about me. If it is not my idea, it must not be allowed to see the light of day. Add to this the routine practice of abandoning programmes and projects that are carry-overs from previous administrations, regardless of cost and value to the populace. How do we expect the country to realise progress when such primitive attitudes prevail throughout our system of government?

 

CONSPIRACIES REAL AND IMAGINED

 

The pervasive culture of selfishness on the part of our political leaders has had far-reaching implications for the society as a whole, with political diehards on the one hand believing everything their party of choice does or says. Then there are the rest of us, apathetic and distrustful of anything political, finding it difficult to have faith in our Government, to believe their programmes are really meant to benefit us as against being means to line their pockets at our expense and to garner votes through subterfuge.

Things have become so untenable that we imagine conspiracies lurking behind every initiative undertaken by the Government. Mark you, quite often there is very good reason for suspicion and concern, especially when symptoms of 'foot-in-mouth-disease' prevail; the saga of the acting chief justice is a clear example.

The Opposition's attitude is a major contributor to this ongoing debacle. Where is the interest in the national well-being? Are they not supposed to be part of the solution to issues rather than 'beat-down and tear-down' specialists? How do they expect us to trust them any more than the incumbents?

This breakdown of trust is also evident in the relationship between the citizens and various state agencies. The police are at the top of the list in this regard, albeit that their line of business positions them as prime candidates for such distrust. However, when agencies that are supposed to address the socio-economic needs of the citizens are perceived as extensions of self-serving political strategies, we know we are hovering close to rock bottom.

This is an extremely non-progressive and vicious cycle, as scepticism fuelled by uninformed and misleading rhetoric casts negativity on well-intended programmes, the implementing agencies and the leadership of these agencies. For many of our dedicated civil servants, this is a dilemma, as they are damned if they do and damned if they don't; doing their job leads to branding, while resistance is a sure-fire means of joining the unemployment line.

Many of our citizens process complex political issues in simple ways. 'What are they [the politicians] getting out of it?' That is usually the first question that comes to mind whenever initiatives are launched. Even when they are the beneficiaries, they are ever on the lookout for some 'catch' or the other. Such scepticism undermines the success of many well-intentioned programmes simply because support and buy-in is less than optimum. Trust is lacking.

 

OBJECTIVITY

 

Why can't our political leaders see the value of being objective, and to posit views and ideas based on national interests, rather than resorting to beat-down and tear-down for purely political mileage?

Just imagine the stunning effect if the Opposition were to give credit where credit was due on a Government initiative, or vice versa. That is how you foster trust, by acting credibly and responsibly as against the constant dim-witted and warlike approach we have come to expect.

Trust in our political system and the politicians is sadly lacking, evidenced by low voter turnouts restricted to the diehards. Not very encouraging in a democracy where the government of the day should be a true reflection of the masses, not the blinkered minority.

Question is, what are our politicos doing about it? Are they even interested?