Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Arrogance, swastikas and dictatorships

Published:Monday | December 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams
Online Columnist

Last weekend, I came across an interesting meme on Facebook that generated a great deal of discussion. It depicted someone dressed in Nazi official garb. The coat and hat were orange in colour, and the person's right hand was raised, not in a Nazi salute, but with the index finger pointing as if to make a point.


In the background, to the person's right, is the orange rising sun symbol used by the People's National Party, with the letters 'PNP' replaced by a swastika, and the original face on the figure replaced by that of Sandrea Falconer, the de facto minister of information. At the bottom of the pic, the caption read: "NO QUESTIONS NEIN!"
My first reaction when I saw the pic was that it illustrated my views on the attitude of the Simpson Miller administration. As a matter of fact, two days earlier, I remarked to someone that I thought this administration was behaving like a dictatorship. The use of the swastika, which offended many, was really used to represent a dictatorship regime, not violence, genocide or anti-Semitism.

The term 'Nazi' is often loosely used to describe persons who behave in a dictatorial manner. Jerry Seinfeld, a Jewish actor and comedian, actually had an obnoxious character called ‘The Soup Nazi’ on his sitcom.

On reflection, I think it would be more appropriate to say that the administration behaves in a dictatorial, or more appropriately, authoritarian manner, but not as a dictatorship. I say this because one of the features of a true dictatorship is the oppression of those who oppose the governing regime, and if that were the case with the ruling party, I would have to go into hiding after writing some of my articles critical of the Government. But I do not, and I am grateful for that.

Also, a true dictatorship would not be holding a press briefing and fielding questions from journalists. We do enjoy a great amount of press freedom in this country, and I must give the Government credit for that.

I have been made to understand that the meme was originally placed on a Facebook page with a strong Jamaica Labour Party affiliation, in response to last week's Jamaica House post-Cabinet press briefing, where the National Housing Trust (NHT)-Outameni saga was the main issue up for discussion. At that meeting, a microphone was taken from a journalist by Huntley Medley, the director of communications at the Office of the Prime Minister, and Ms Falconer, at one point, said, "I am not saying anymore here."

In all honesty, I do not think that it was fair to use Ms Falconer's face in the meme. She is not the one making the decisions in the NHT-Outameni saga that concern and disturb many of us, and her responses are limited by the information that she is given.

Also, Andre Jebbinson, the journalist who had the microphone taken out of his hands, admitted himself in a Facebook post that he was given much latitude, managing to get in at least nine questions. I have watched several White House press conferences and am unable to recall ever seeing a journalist ask a barrage of consecutive questions to a government official. In addition, Mr Medley later admitted that "his methods might not have been the best under the circumstances".

By making such an admission, Mr Medley demonstrated humility. The problem, however, is that his administration continues to act in an arrogant, non-consultative and dismissive manner, and this is what has enraged much of our populace. The attitude recently displayed by Robert Pickersgill exemplifies this.

The fact that our prime minister continues to dodge issues or plead ignorance adds fuel to the fire. The above-mentioned press briefing was a good example of this. Instead of being there to face the music, the prime minister was absent, and Ms Falconer was pushed out in front to effectively become collateral damage.

As long as the dismissive behaviour of our senior officials continues, the memes, the cartoons, the Facebook and Instagram posts and the tweets from the 'articulate minority' will continue. Once the people feel disrespected, they will hit back. The Government needs to understand that if they do not show us respect, it is unrealistic for them to expect respect from us.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.