Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Dr Orville Taylor: Grow up and let’s debate

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Father of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Alexander Bustamante, was a founding member of the People's National Party (PNP).

JLP stalwart Olivia 'Babsy' Grange is a cousin of Delano Franklyn, the campaign strategist for the PNP.

Franklyn is also uncle to former general secretary of the JLP, Aundre Franklyn.

Indeed, two of the most no-nonsense members on both sides of the political divide are first cousins. James Robertson, former JLP member of parliament (MP) for West St Thomas, is first cousins with the indomitable Paul Burke, general secretary of the PNP. For good measure, I believe that Burke's wife, Angela, is from the same constituency presided over by her 'cuznan law'.

Petulant maverick Everald Warmington is believed to be a cousin of Comrade leader Portia Simpson Miller. After all, we do know that the Manleys and JLP icon Hugh Shearer were cousins as well. Therefore, it wouldn't be surprising Mama P's husband has lots of green in his orange orchard.

Having seen the political vitriol of the 1970s to 1990s first-hand, along with the death toll of people who had only one vote, just like the prime minister and leader of opposition, I am scared when our political leaders behave churlishly, childishly, irresponsibly, and pettily on the political trail in the run-up to the general election on February 25.

NO SHEET

I won't give a sheet to any candidate who is wearing party colours, except it is paper for them to sign the Political Code of Conduct. In the same way, I am still waiting for the veteran politicians to acknowledge their culpability by association for the gun-related crimes and the entire generation of 'shottas' they raised from the 1970s to 2000s. These are serious times, and we need leaders who will not make irresponsible statements or fan flames.

True, both party presidents have signed the Code of Conduct; and both sets of leaders have said on the platform that they are asking their members not to engage in violence and intimidation. However, apparently, it has not taken full traction on the ground because criminal elements have attacked political gatherings. Inasmuch as the shootings and murders at the JLP's Sam Sharpe Square rally last Sunday were not 'politically motivated', it is clear that the shottas are not 'under any orders' and have, therefore, deference to no one.

For me, even when the politicians embraced criminals to the extent that they would even share the same bedbugs, crime had no colour. Therefore, harming someone because his political complexion was orange or green was simply criminal and, therefore, such behaviour should be treated with the full force of the law.

In their wisdom, the police leadership in St James have banned marches in the Flanker community. Earlier, the violence reared its head in North East Clarendon. However, thankfully, by and large, the party followers have desisted from partisan criminality.

Yet, it is not only criminal behaviour that has likely legal consequences. There are words in the dictionary which, in my opinion, accurately describe persons. However, while I am entitled to my opinion, there must be some basis for it if I am going to express it publicly. And if my opinion is likely to cause harm to another person's reputation, I must be prepared to substantiate it.

In Jamaica, we have a maxim, 'Not everything good fi eat good fi talk.' Therefore, for example, if I have an impression about a person's sexual activity, I had better keep my mouth shut unless I have hard evidence to back it up.

Legal proof is not the same as scientific or academic truth. So, if we collect a sample of water without the permission from the owner of the property, or we look at a person's academic record, the 'water still dutty' and the person is still a dunce. And that is empirical evidence. However, lawyers are notorious for suppressing evidence which is truthful if it was obtained 'unlawfully'.

STRANGE, STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS

Still, politicians are another set of individuals who have strange and strained relationships with truth. With good reason and lots of evidence, I wrote a book titled Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets: A Century of Betrayal of the Jamaican Working Class. From a list of around 17 explicit and implicit promises to the workers in this country, since universal adult suffrage, successive governments have barely delivered half, despite two labour-based parties in Parliament. In some cases, the politicians have blatantly lied to us.

Anyone with any sense would agree that politics is about impression management. Thus, it is about building images within which lies and truth are neatly interwoven. If you ask me for a definition of politician; I might be tempted to answer. "A person who cheats or tricks others by persuading them to believe something that is not true." The problem with that meaning is that it also is true for 'con artist'.

Interestingly, an individual who seeks to unseat the legitimate government might well be considered an 'opposition'. However, if he is "accused of certain crimes against the State, such as treason", he might be considered an 'enemy of the state'. More instructive is that persons in this latter category are usually so labelled under repressive dictatorships.

I pull these references because the nonsense must stop. Leading up to the election, I wanted to see mutual respect and civility and the avoidance of unnecessary 'hot wud'. Only if the party leaders show their supporters that they are committed to sane discussions and debates can we expect to vote according to issues.

My expertise is not law, but I understand human behaviour and how the independent voting populace views certain types of conduct. Inasmuch as I like my lawyer friend 'eating a food', I believe that the lawsuits and countersuits are reminiscent of schoolyard politics and are frivolous. Apart from the committed Comrades and Labourites, most of us want to see the mastery in debating before we back the V-sign or the fist.

In concluding, I will speak directly. Whoever is advising the big lady to sue her political opponent, who is more than a nose behind in the polls, should tell her that it has the equivalence of the bigger boy who gets kicked in the knee by the smaller kid in the schoolyard. If you are taller than him, the only way you can get your lips burst is if you bend over to fight. Such fights hardly ever make the bigger boy look good.

- Dr Orville Taylor is a senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com andtayloronblackline@hotmail.com.