By Peter Espeut
The 'Dudus' affair: foreigners convicting locals while our justice system - possessing the same evidence - hasn't got off the mark. Trafigura: our failure to cooperate with a foreign jurisdiction investigating the legality of local political contributions.
Both political parties receiving donations from Olint and Cash Plus: our failure to bring to book local Ponzi schemers, while foreign jurisdictions have done it. Tivoli Gardens, the 'mother of all garrisons'; other garrisons in Spanish Town, May Pen and the Kingston Metropolitan Area: our failure to expose the link - past and present - between politics, drugs and guns over the last 50 years, and to hold anyone legally accountable.
The political pork barrel: we have reduced electoral fraud, but we have failed to convict political activists as election-day workers, despite the indisputable evidence of overvoting inside the ballot boxes. Contracts and waivers to party supporters, and jobs for the boys; all in the game. Government land for politicians and their families. The list seems endless.
And still people in politics hold their heads up high, and speak of 'honour' and 'serving their country'. I say, they have no shame.
The 'sense of shame' is defined as the consciousness or awareness of any situation of embarrassment, dishonour, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin. Chagrin is defined as a keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event.
Who in the People's National Party or the Jamaica Labour Party feels any shame about their party's past, and has any misgivings about the garrisons which still exist and operate, and about the pork barrel still being resorted to? If there are any, what are they doing about it?
I cannot help but conclude that when I started writing this column some 20 years ago, I was more than a little na´ve. I believed then that, if only one exposed the truth about corruption in politics and in government, it would stop. The assumption I was (na´vely) making was that politicians were decent, honourable people - a little misguided perhaps, but basically decent - with a sense of shame.
I have been writing as if revealing contradictions using logic, digging deeper into effects and impacts using deduction and induction, and proposing viable alternatives would somehow lead to behaviour change, to social and human development. I (and so many others) have proceeded to act as if explaining the environmental degradation caused by certain public policies - and their negative consequences - would be enough to lead to sustainable behaviour - to those in authority 'doing the right thing'.
As I notice that things have more or less remained the same, I have to conclude that my assumptions were false. Politicians have no shame, and they are not interested in 'doing the right thing'; and it makes no sense appealing to their sense of decency and honour.
The environmental movement has stepped up its act a notch. If they won't listen to us (of course, they are not under any compulsion to), let them listen to a judge: take the Government to court and win, and then they will have to listen.
SIGN OF THINGS TO COME
Public opinion in Jamaica has shifted, and is continuing to shift. Civil society is demanding deeper accountability, and some in the private sector are declining to provide political funding. More and more, the courts will be used to force politicians to 'do the right thing'. The recent judgment (in a petition filed by a civil-society group) that the Jamaica Public Service monopoly contract is illegal, is a sign of things to come.
This is why it is of growing importance that our courts be free of political interference. I remain unconvinced that the Caribbean Court of Justice has enough distance from politicians without shame.
If one single-term government is replaced by another, the profound poverty of Jamaican politics will be exposed. Should that not be the cause of the greatest and deepest shame: that Jamaica's modern electorate cannot stomach either side for more than four or five years at a time? Or am I being na´ve again?
Young Damion Crawford is signalling a shift in the way the wind is blowing; Deacon Ronnie Thwaites, and possibly others, are supporting him - but not enough.
As we move into our second 50 years as an independent nation, we the people need to clearly define the mission of this and the next generation. We want politicians with a sense of shame. Then they will deserve to be called men and women of honour.
Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.