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Shut the door on dunces

Published:Wednesday | February 6, 2013 | 12:00 AM

By George Davis

The word 'dunce', first used in the 1570s, originated as a term of reproach in describing the work of the Scottish theologian and philosopher, John Duns Scotus.

It's more than tragic that such a term was given birth by the exploits of a celebrated thinker, whose legacy was one of mock and ridicule after those works were examined by future generations.

The concept of politics is far older than the word 'dunce', or, for that matter, John Duns Scotus himself. But how well these two terms do go together!

World history serves up many examples of dunce actions being taken under the banner of politics and of dunce politicians being given duties and responsibilities far above their capacity to execute. But as with many things good and a few things bad, nowhere can these examples be seen more clearly than right here in Jamaica, land we love.

This country seems to have a fixation with 'bootsing' dunce people to run our politics. The camp followers pride themselves in encouraging Dunce John Brown to run for a seat on the parish council or in the House of Representatives, knowing very well he's incapable of improving the standard of the group he aspires to join.

We rail at anyone who questions Dunce John Brown's right to a seat in the hallowed halls of governance, because even while we quietly acknowledge that he is a dunce, no one should criticise him because he is our dunce.

How many times do we watch or listen to a session of a parish council or KSAC meeting and wonder who in God's name voted for such-and-such person to be there? How many times do we watch the sittings of Parliament and wonder if certain individuals rise to that level on the back of con-artistry, badmanism or obeah, given a painful lack of sense, common or otherwise?

Next time, watch very carefully what happens in Parliament. Note those persons who are in the thick of the debates and observe those others who are happy to slink on the back benches, never having a thing to say or add to a discussion. They rarely, or never, table written questions, and will go through a whole four- or five-year term without ever giving the speaker reason to recognise them on the floor.

These are the dunces, scared stiff by the sight of the media representatives sitting above and deathly afraid of saying anything which can be captured by the television cameras.

Next time, watch very carefully what happens at parish council sittings. Listen intently to the almost 'pickney standard' of the debates, the laboured form of rebuttals, and note how dunceness provokes a quickness to anger within those whose views are challenged strongly by their colleagues. Indeed, based on the alarming lack of quality thought and sensible ideas, it wouldn't be at all unkind to label many of these sittings a virtual dunce parade!

lacking abilities

The ability to think and reason is woefully lacking in so many of our political leaders that no one has to wonder why - despite the talent of our people and the resources of the land - Jamaica's progress has not kept pace with other nations who looked at her with envy many decades ago.

We have to make a change in this country and, as citizens, promote better-calibre persons to stand as leaders. Those with the capacity to understand and devise solutions to problems facing people should not be turned off by a political process made disreputable by generations of dunces. Please step forward and serve.

No longer should we be trumping for the man or woman that can talk up a storm and whip a crowd into frenzy, while believing that person will best represent our views and press home our claims at the political high table. Let's instead support those persons with a demonstrable knack of getting things done through careful planning and thinking.

We have wasted 50 years letting dunces corral our politics, and facilitated their elevation to levels outside their real ability and talent. Waste no more. Say no to dunce and yes to better politics for Jamaica.


George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to and