Mon | Mar 27, 2017

Don't politicise everything

Published:Monday | August 18, 2014 | 8:00 AM

By Garth A. Rattray

In my article published Monday, August, 4, 2014 ('Jamaican health care not good enough for Roger Clarke?'), I questioned the reason that Minister Clarke went to the USA for treatment of a back ailment. The press release was so terse, so devoid of any explanation, that I felt compelled to ask how his treatment would be funded, why he went abroad when we have capable people here, and why he sought help overseas when we are trying to promote 'health tourism' as a source of foreign-exchange income.

The press release on the matter gave the impression that the powers that be thought it infra dig to share important information with the public. No one was seeking to delve into Mr Clarke's private affairs, but he is a public figure and a civil servant. There must be transparency to avoid negative speculation regarding how public funds are spent and about his trust in our health-care system.

The article yielded the information that everyone deserves to know. Mr Clarke is not utilising public funds for his treatment. And, although he has complete faith in our health-care delivery system, he had compelling personal reasons for getting his treatment abroad.

Of course, I received several direct emails on the article, but my most interesting feedback began: "I am distressed having to write to your article in this morning's Gleaner, when I know that unlike most columnists, you are a fair man." I replied to the reader expressing my gratitude for his email and that he, unlike quite a few others who disagree with me, did not spew the vilest hatred imaginable and rain down expletive-laced insults.

The writer was respectful and employed gentle persuasion in his wish/concern that I (even retrospectively) include criticisms of the other side of our political spectrum lest I become labelled/branded as a biased commentator.

I explained that it was not about politics, but that it was about politicians. I conceded that perhaps I needed to bear in mind that our little island is extremely politically charged. However, after mulling it over for a few days, I decided to keep doing what I've always done: comment on whatever moves me without having to remember to counterbalance any criticism that I make of one side with criticisms of the other.

Long ago, I was approached by one political party to become part of its organisation, and, more recently, I was approached by the other. I declined both because I do not see politics as the way that I can or want to contribute to my country. It is not in my nature to commit to any single ideology or organisation. I wish to remain neutral and, therefore, free to criticise any side.

THE POWER OF FEAR

Fear of being labelled and victimised for criticising an administration has cost this country dearly. People with fantastic ideas who could contribute significantly to our development cower in silence because 'politics' reaches its tentacles far and wide across this island. It stretches itself up to the very top of large and influential organisations and wends its way deep into the bowels of society.

Politics is the common currency for upward mobility for many and the essential milk of sustenance for the 'masses'. It has become a social class unto itself. We have a lower class, middle class, upper class, and a political class. The latter incorporates people from the other three and, being the most powerful, it also transcends them all.

Jamaica will never achieve its full potential, and her citizens will always endure severe hardship and sacrifice while struggling to barely keep afloat economically, until and unless we stop the divisiveness by politicising everything. Sadly, after 52 years of so-called independence, because of politics, we are still far apart from each other while being part of the same country.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com. or garthrattray@gmail.com