By Gordon Robinson
"Cutting the Cabinet, that's optics, borders on being frivolous."
So it was that, with a dismissive wave of an imperious hand, the concerns of thousands of ordinary Jamaicans asked to sacrifice for the nation were rejected as childish. Teachers, nurses, policemen, everybody but Cabinet ministers are being asked to hold strain once more.
But, should one policeman ask of Cabinet ministers: "What are you intending to contribute to the sacrifice?" That's "optics, borders on being frivolous ...". How dare we suggest Cabinet ministers should sacrifice, too? Exactly who do we think we are?
I've been washed down the sink of your conscience.
In the theatre of your love, I lost my part.
And now you say you've got me out of your conscience.
I've been flushed from the bathroom of your heart.
'Optics'? My dictionary defines this as "the scientific study of sight and light". So, let's study the sight of Cabinet ministers importing largely tax-free luxury SUVs using our taxes, while asking us to sacrifice and pay more taxes. Light and sight study results tell us we must pay taxes while Cabinet spends taxes without accounting to anyone.
BENEFITS OF CUTS
If the Cabinet were cut to 12, at least eight luxury vehicles would become unnecessary. Those tax dollars could have been saved and maybe a few proper toilets put in some schools. But, no, if we have the impertinence to propose Cabinet share the sacrifice, we're enemies of the State.
In the garbage disposal of your dreams, I've been ground up, dear
On the river of your plans, I'm up the creek
Up the elevator of your future, I've been shafted
On the calendar of your events, I'm last week.
A Cabinet cut would produce the sight of fewer drivers waiting around in SUVs with engines and air-conditioning running while their masters bang on Gordon House desks or visit friends. The savings in petrol alone could buy dialysis machines for the nation's hospitals. How many expensive 'consultants' are assigned to each minister? The spin-off hangers-on industries created when one Cabinet minister is appointed rivals Saturday Night Live. But we daren't go there. According to our Lord and Master, we're frivolous. Sometimes, it's best to stay silent.
Why, why, why, why, Mother Pepper?
Haul up you mouth and give me pass, Mother Pepper ...
Just stand and look at your mouth,
It big as the Gulf of Mexico.
And if someone say red, see ya gal,
You deh right deh.
Like when dem say, "Fire under muss-muss tail
Lawd him t'ink a cool breeze.
Jack Clement, who wrote Flushed From The Bathroom of Your Heart for legendary artiste, Johnny Cash, and Desmond Dacres (aka 'Dekker'), who wrote Mother Pepper, sound prophetic.
WHO GOT HIT?
"When you throw a stone inna hog pen, the hog that bawl, is him you did lick." So we find ourselves studying the sight of a senior government minister, wide of mouth but light of thought, babbling like a brook, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Contrary to our Lord and Master's pronouncements, fiscal 'savings' isn't the issue, example is. But, 'optics', like example, can produce "savings":
Optics savings #1: The sight of a nation's leaders sacrificing first, BEFORE asking the nation for sacrifice, leads to respect and compliance. These raise more revenue than enforced tax increases or raiding of statutorily dedicated funds for the improvement of 'the most vulnerable's' housing.
Optics savings #2: The sight of ministers driving expensive SUVs past citizens forced by petrol/tax increases to abandon their Honda Fits for the bus breeds hostility. Hostility evolves into resistance and protest when Government needs cooperation. Thus loss from ignoring 'optics' is a double whammy - protest instead of cooperation.
All we ask is, show us why we should sacrifice. We won't sacrifice for the Holy Grail of an IMF agreement. Been there. Done that. We'll sacrifice if YOU convince US we'll NEVER come to this place again. Any such conviction begins with 'optics'. When my hero Michael Manley asked for sacrifice in 1974, his theme was 'self-reliance'. Jamaica bought into that. Had he remained on course (with less vocal hostility), we'd be fiscally comfortable today. Instead, his 1976 'We Are Not for Sale' campaign, which, again, Jamaica bought out of respect for him, was made to appear fraudulent when, within months, he invited the IMF in.
Will Government ever learn from our history? Or will we forever continue with guess-and-spell governance techniques defended, when questioned, by empty-headed bluster and puerile name-calling?
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.