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ALL AH WE IS ONE – Leadership crisis

Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE – Leadership crisis

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THIS COLUMN has sporadically reflected on the crisis of neo-liberalism and its impact on aspects of Caribbean reality. Given the perception throughout the region of a “crisis of leadership”, it is useful to highlight how this may be yet another manifestation of the dying neo-liberal order.
One of the consequences of the collapse of socialism and the rise of neo-liberal ideology has been the “hollowing out” of the state, which has reduced the political sphere to mere administration. Thus, in contrast to an earlier period when critical questions were being politically contested, today the assumption is that all major political questions have been resolved and the only role left for politics is to decide upon who administers the externally determined priorities.
The neo-liberal claim of the “end of politics” has opened the way for a new political type. Whilst earlier, people who engaged in politics were ideologically committed individuals with well seasoned political consciousnesses forged through the hard experience of grassroots political engagement, defeat, humiliation, reversal, failure and success, the young politician of the early 20th century has walked a different path.
The new politician is at best a trained technocrat.
A “marketed” creature from the outset, he is surrounded by paid speech writers, image consultants, and a coterie of advisors. He believes deeply in the idea that “anyone can be a parliamentarian” simply because his own path to success has borne out this truth.
It is his early insight into the rise of this social type in the early 1990s, that led Rex Nettleford to warn against the rise of the manager and the rejection of the leader: “So many of us wish to do things right as the manager does, rather than do the right things as good leaders always do.”
Today the Caribbean is in the deep throes of the political decline that Nettleford had warned against.
Much of the problem has been due to the fact that the natural second tier of ideologically trained seasoned leaders, who would today have been occupying leadership positions, were victims of the collapse of socialism, and left the stage open to shallow managerial types.
Their weaknesses are now being shown up by the global crisis, when the demand for creative leadership, quick thinking, and original ideas is uppermost.
Managers do not lead, nor are they trained to change reality. They merely accept it, and work within it. Whilst managerial types can succeed in “normal” periods, in moments of deep crisis their weaknesses are glaringly exposed. 
If it is true that one should never waste a crisis, it is expected that a new cadre of leaders will emerge to recreate Caribbean society anew upon the ashes of the old neo-liberal order. Until then, the region will continue to lament the poor quality of its leadership. Forward Ever!
Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specializing in analysis of regional affairs. Email [email protected]