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The march of time – Just Like It Is

Peter Simmons

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From time to time I say mockingly that I am in my immediately pre-geriatric years. When, however, one friend recently told another that we travelled together on the school bus to Lodge School in “the middle of the last century,” it brought home powerfully to me the antiquity of my generation.My friend is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon and getting out of bed at 5:30 one morning to take my walk and grounded by a pain in my leg which was not there when I went to bed, I thought that I might have to get his expert diagnosis of this new ache. Thankfully, by mid morning it disappeared and has not returned.I put it down to the wages of old age. One of the fascinations of looking back on the march of time is the changing face of economics, politics, society and culture. For example, as a boy growing up in Barbados, the church dominated our Sundays.You just did not play games on Sundays. Today, across the globe, Sunday is a major day for cricket, football, motor racing and many other sports, often driven by revenues from captive TV audiences.Growing up in Barbados there was no television, a fact which amuses my children. Radio was king and it was infra dig to play calypsos (called tuk) on the radio on Sundays. Today, calypsos proliferate across the broadcast spectrum. On Sunday afternoons, I enjoy listening to a popular Trinidad station with a magnificent repertoire of classic calypsos. Significantly, the presenter is a highly regarded priest.During Lent, the only day on which the two Trinidad radio stations then – Radio Trinidad and 610 radio – played calypsos was St Patrick’s Day. Today their 36 FM stations observe no such moratorium and from Ash Wednesday through Easter there is a daily diet of calypsos. As one young man told me, we seem to have been contemporaries of the dinosaurs.Fact is, we lived in an age dominated by theover-arching modalities of a colonial society wherenon-conformists were considered dangerous heretics. We transitioned to a new society challenging the pervasive residues of slavery and the plantation propelled by a new intellectual temper rooted in wider access to secondary and tertiary education and the felt need for political self-determination.So the times change and sustainable human growth and development is predicated on rationalising conflict and change in an evolving environment. Changing with the times is an ongoing personal and collective challenge. Those who resist invariably fall victim to the beckoning beacon of backwardness and founder on the rocks of unlamented stasis.The transformation in civil society was buttressed by radical transformation in the distribution of power from colonial polities to independent nation states. Across Africa and colonial Asia, the cry was give us first the political kingdom and everything else will fall into place. Politics took command and today we are eye witnesses to frenetic and dramatic political changes.Electoral changesIn the “mother country,” following the“hung parliament” and the emergence of a Liberal Democrat-Conservative Government, the demandsfor fundamental electoral changes with proportional representation replacing the ancient first-past-the-post system and fixed dates for elections were major bargaining chips in the new politics which put together the coalition.In Jamaica, protracted wrangling over the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke has dominated the headlines, saw calls for resignation of Prime Minister Golding, his seemingly contrite and humiliating admission of central involvement in contracting a lobbying firm which he previously denied and his offer to resign only to be persuaded by party colleagues to remain in office.Jamaica today is a virtual volcano waiting to erupt with devastating consequences which may reach across the region. Golding was right to offer his resignation. He was wrong to be persuaded to cling to office letting a junior minister take the rap. In our polities we genuflect to the maximum leader with whom the buck ultimately stops. When circumstances demand, he is expected to fall on his own sword.The democratic process and rule of law have been holed below the waterline in our sister Caricom state in a manner catapulting the entire region into international infamy. Frighteningly, my Jamaican contacts warn me that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I shudder contemplating the weeks ahead and July when Golding takes over as Caricom chairman and may have to interface with Washington. Meanwhile, tomorrow Trinidad and Tobago goes to the polls halfway through the normal five-year term with twin prospects of a change of government and the first female prime minister. I have followed the campaign closely and sense that pre-eminent Professor Selwyn Ryan, an Afro-Trinidadian who has voted PNM since 1976, captured majority opinion when he said it is time for change, not renewal.As desperation set in, beleaguered Prime Minister Patrick Manning reinforced the arrant arrogance which has characterised his national performances by misuse and abuse of state power for partisan political purposes by commandeering the electronic media at prime time two successive nights interfacing with hand-picked interviewers and audiences.Bearing in mind his refusal to a televised debate with leader of the opposition Peoples Partnership who has built a multi-racial coalition, accident-proneand vastly unpopular Manning may lose rather than gain votes in what is seen as his latest desperate dictatorial manifestation. In closing, like all Barbadians, I was devastatedto hear that Prime Minister Thompson is ailing.On behalf of my entire family I wish to assure himof our prayers and wish him a speedy return to good health. Peter Simmons, a social scientist,is a former diplomat.