ALL AH WE IS ONE: The divide
By Tennyson Joseph | Tue, May 22, 2012 - 12:00 AM
THE HASTY and exaggerated berating of seasoned union leader Sir Roy Trotman by two green members of the ruling administration, Richard Sealy and Donville Inniss, over his robust comments against worker exploitation in Barbados, provide a clear indication of the new ideological priorities of the current crop of Caribbean leadership harbouring expectations for future leadership.
When contrasted against the cool, calm and nonchalant dismissal by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of the issue as a “storm in a teacup”, the political and ideological gulf which separates the older generation of leadership from the emerging one becomes clear.
We are witnessing one of the telling shifts of our age, in which a generation on the cusp of assuming power appears totally disconnected from the politico-ideological foundations upon which their own political houses have been created. A basic consciousness of the role of the trade union movement in the West Indian independence project and in social advancement, and indeed the slightest personal identification with that history, would have been enough to counsel silence.
But sadly, the neo-liberal generation now enjoying power is disdainful of its own social-democratic origins.
Moreover, the opportunistic instinct to latch on to a passing breeze of public indignation, allied with the ingrained anti-worker neo-liberal reflex of this era, proved too overwhelming to stay the hand of a young politician preoccupied with re-election.
What is worrying about the generational shift is the total absence of any awareness that ideas, commitment, and conviction matter. We see similar instances of historical amnesia and ideological confusion in West Indies cricket.
None of this would matter much, had we not witnessed recent attempts by elements of the new generation to express “concern” with the leadership of Freundel Stuart. Whilst there are some who wish to reduce leadership to popularity (another neo-liberal penchant for mathematical measurement without ideas), it would be foolhardy to remove ideological content from shifts in leadership.
To do this would be to assume that one leader’s personal history and political formation is similar to another’s, and would remove all political content from the practice of politics.
In an age when we are witnessing the increasing impatience of younger generations of leaders to “mechanically” hurry up the overthrow of older leadership, as distinct from allowing the natural “organic” transitions in leadership to facilitate their emergence, this lack of ideological depth causes further concern for the future.
No longer does the path to power of our future leaders begin with the genuine and selfless attachment to grass-roots social movements. Today, that journey begins as members of the “youth arms” of the established political parties. It is the party and not the movement, and office rather than activism, which matter.
Like the West Indies team, the new generation would do well, before it overthrows the old, to immerse itself in history.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.
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