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THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE – Napoleon and Fabius

Carl Moore

THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE – Napoleon and Fabius

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I FIND BARBADIAN politics boring nowadays.
That’s why I have dedicated so little time to it in these fortnightly scribblings – so much about personalities, so little about issues. Interesting situations are as rare as second-hand coffins.
I found one in the just ended St John by-election. It concerned the two honourable gentlemen at the head of our political parties making for instructive comparisons and parallels.
One reminds me of Napoleon, the other of Fabius Maximus Quintus.
Those who ignore history’s lessons deprive themselves of valuable insights into the human condition and miss out on opportunities not to repeat mistakes.
When he escaped from Elba, after a brief restless period in exile, Napoleon ran out Louis XVIII and reclaimed Paris, only to come to grief at Waterloo a short while later. After that debacle, he went into exile again – this time to St Helena – where he spent the rest of his days, never to be heard from again.
Opposition Leader Owen Arthur seems to be on a similar historical trajectory, taking down with him a noteworthy political contribution.
That’s why the recent debate on legacy was so facile. It’s unsafe to try to assess a person’s legacy while he is still on the job: he could drag it down on top of his head before he is finished.
In the just completed St John by-election campaign he seriously undermined all the rhetoric about CSME he espoused for the past decade and a half. The advertising sometimes went over the top and got unnecessarily hysterical.
In his turn, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart sailed perilously close to the law courts with the clever but unfortunate allusion to the Opposition Leader as a member of genus rattus ensnared in a trap designed for a mouse. I’ve heard of legal proceedings on matters of less import.
Fabius was a Roman military leader known for his strategy of wearing down the enemy by avoiding direct conflict. He was a hero of the Second Punic War between ancient Rome and Carthage. He frustrated Hannibal with his cautionary tactics, which earned him the nickname The Cunctator or The Delayer.
Attorney David Commissiong was accurate in saying: “Since coming to office, Mr Stuart has wasted time with too many speeches about who shines like a lighthouse, who hates themselves, who is the loneliest man; and the list goes on, when what is required is nothing less than the establishment, by deeds and words, of a new, widely shared, sense of mission for our nation.”
While I would not be so insulting to the people of St John to suggest – as did one wag – that any DLP candidate could have won that seat, including Mickey Mouse, there seemed to be complete overkill on both sides.
If this campaign was a foregone conclusion, why was so much artillery needed in the battle?
Clearly, many residents of St John – and not a few among the party itself – wish to keep alive the memory of the late Prime Minister for as long as possible and rushed his widow into the fray.
The aura will wear off. David Thompson had time to plant only a seed.
Mrs Thompson will have to adjust to the cut and thrust of party politics. If she can raise the level of parliamentary debate she will have made a contribution. I hope she can, and I wish her well.
The first decade of the 21st century has already slipped by and here we are with a deficit of over 100 per cent of GDP going merrily along as if the world owes Barbados a living. Now, the two per cent growth predicted by the Governor of the Central Bank – with the usual caveats – will likely continue our complacency. The storm hasn’t passed.
We must find creative ways to earn our way in the world without borrowing so much. If we don’t get cracking, the eastern countries will eat our lunch.
They’ve already finished the entrée.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator.