Garth Rattray | Action, not a bag of words …
The uptick in political activities reminds me that politics has some of the hallmarks of a religion. Some people ‘worship’ politicians, expect them to provide their ‘daily bread’, and perform miracles in their lives. Some politicians appear invincible as they follow their own set of [convenient] rules. They can smile upon you and enrich you, but if you ‘blaspheme’ against them their followers might (metaphorically or literally) smite you.
There is limited space in political ‘heaven’, so partisan ‘denominations’ compete for votes, scarce resources, and spoils. Consequently, things can easily become violent. And, like religion, politics aims to spread the word and increase the number of followers. However, just like religion, the best way to gain followers is to remember Matthew 7:16, wherein it says, “By their deeds you will know them…”
The moment that a politician says, “Vote for me”, or “Vote for my party” … it brings into question his/her motive. It immediately makes people wonder if what he/she does is about the citizens that he/she represents or wants to represent, about his/her political affiliation, or about his/her self-actualisation. There are genuine politicians who want to serve their country; but there is also an indeterminate number of politicians who are in it for the power, money, glory, fame, or to go down in history.
Hyperbole trumps substance
Much of politicking revolves around entertainment. A lot of words are spoken. People are often told what the politicians think they want to hear. Hyperbole trumps substance. Unrealistic promises are made in the heat of campaigning. Sadly, I note the tearing down and mudslinging from both major political parties. Although both occupy glass houses, they throw stones at one another. People are becoming tired of the bag of words, they want action, they want to see progress for the common man.
The apathy, disappointment in our leaders, anger, frustration, lack of fundamental differences between the political parties, and/or a feeling of abandonment (poor representation) were responsible for the very low voter turnout in 2016, when only 47.7 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls. And during the pandemic in 2020, only 37 per cent bothered to vote. The message is clear.
A good example of why there is waning interest in politics occurred during the rehabilitation of the Hagley Park Road corridor. The project was badly needed and long overdue, but it was poorly managed and incurred time and cost overruns. Hundreds of thousands of affected citizens suffered immensely for over two years, but our political leaders remained mute and hands off.
The conditions and circumstances under which businesses and residents existed were nothing short of deplorable, dangerous, and nightmarish. People were left at the mercy of work crews. Sickness, injuries, damaged personal property, prolonged interrupted water supply and electricity, destroyed telephone and Internet services, access to homes and businesses were denied … this all occurred without anyone interceding on behalf of the citizenry.
If any politician from any political affiliation had stepped up and lobbied on behalf of those suffering citizens, he/she, and his/her political party would have won the hearts and votes of those suffering Jamaicans without uttering a single word of politics. But no one did and it caused many to shun the polls, or vote out of spite, out of ulterior motives or simply perfunctorily.
All too often we see disgruntled and frustrated citizens demonstrating while vociferously complaining about poor representation and threatening to withhold their votes come election time. If a politician takes on the bad roads, lacking amenities, and deficient utilities within his/her constituency and raises Caine until they are addressed, people will vote for him/her. Without saying one single political word, his/her actions will gain the admiration and gratitude of the citizenry and pay dividends at the polls.
If a politician were to avoid politicking, and simply stand up for the masses and speak out against the paltry interest rates on savings that commercial banks offer, the people would hail him/her as their champion. If a politician were to step outside of politics and campaign against the wanton and monstrous invasion of hitherto quiet and orderly residential communities by rich, powerful, and well-connected entrepreneurs that can do whatever they please and commercialise and/or commandeer helpless, unprotected and unrepresented neighbourhoods, he/she would gain admiration, gratitude, and votes.
Any politician who passionately rails against crime and violence, and lobbies for intensive social reform will automatically earn votes at the polls. If a politician moves among the people and, without espousing ‘politics’, facilitates improvements in their quality of life, he/she will be rewarded with their votes.
Corruption is the bane of our existence; it is also ensconced deep within every single stratum of our society. The diversion of tax dollars into the pockets of corrupt individuals is incalculable. A lot more development could be financed, and suffering could be avoided if those funds were in the government coffers, where they belong. Any politician who rises above the farrago, and goes to war against corruption inside and outside of the government system, will be hailed as a hero.
Any politician whose deeds promote honesty, transparency, order, and discipline throughout society will gain the respect of well-thinking Jamaicans and, without uttering a political word, he/she will get the much sought-after votes. Voters are beginning to see things more in terms of representation, and less in terms of hype and political affiliation.