WHAT MATTERS MOST: Perception
It is engrained in our psyche that politics is more about perception than reality. If this is really so and it is, then the issue is: what is politics? When there is a definitive answer to this question, one of the wonders of the world would have been resolved.
In recent times, we have witnessed the politics of inclusion, the politics of kingmaking, and now we are seeing the politics of inheritance. In each case, there is a need to determine the extent to which perception has outstripped reality. Since perception becomes reality, the window of opportunity to analyse the difference between the two concepts is short-lived.
Perhaps the analysis has to start with trying to understand the motivation behind the thinking. In the case of inclusion, was it to deplete the ranks of those who oppose or to strengthen the process of governance? In the case of kingmaking, was it the maker or the king who was being made?
And in the case of inheritance, is Barbados to become a partial monarchy in the midst of a parliamentary democracy?
It has always been argued that the key to political leadership in Barbados is to hold a safe party seat. In our post-Independence politics, four of the seven Prime Ministers have held safe party seats. Of these seats Saint John is responsible for two PMs, Saint Thomas one and Saint Peter one. If safe is defined as being held by one political party since Independence, then Saint Michael South although boasting two Prime Ministers is not perceived as safe and neither is Christ Church South.
Based on the perception that a political leader has to have a safe seat, it may soon be argued that the future leadership of the two parties must emerge from among the three seats defined above. This level of thinking seems to be what the political environment is made of; it is emotional and at times irrational.
However, since politics is more about perception than reality, irrational thoughts are not necessarily unrealistic. When perception becomes reality, it is not inconceivable for the politics of inheritance to churn out unexpected outcomes from unexpected events. After all politics is perception!
This country’s elevation to the number one position among developing nations for the better part of two decades, according to the United Nation’s Human Development Index, was a direct consequence of its social programmes. Yet the impression is now being conveyed to Barbadians that successive Governments neglected the social sectors and pushed the economic sectors. This false perception is without merit at both the academic and practical levels and if left unnoticed is capable of being perceived as reality.
Notwithstanding the absence of a truly accepted definition of politics, it is becoming increasing clear that politics is about marketing, in which case the proper promotion of a poor product is enough for success. Unfortunately the success of a collection of individuals is not sufficient to guarantee that the country is successfully managed.
Never let us take for granted the quality that was required to bring Barbados to be the number one developing country in the world. Furthermore, let us not forget that the country’s status is capable of plunging far more swiftly than the time it took to elevate the standard of living.
While an economy cannot die and a society is hardly extinguished, the perception that the two will continue purely on inertia is a recipe for abject failure. The change that is required at this stage must come from within and cannot be escaped on the grounds that external forces alone are responsible for our current condition.
• Clyde Mascoll is a professional economist and former Governmemnt minister in the last Barbados Labour Party administration.