EDITORIAL: Cricket and civics as one
The staging of international cricket this weekend at Kensington Oval and the participation by thousands of spectators is as good an example as any in participatory democracy.
The crowd is fully aware of the nuances of the game and can constructively participate as spectators because they are as informed of the rules of the sport and as up to date on the achievements and the failures of the players as are the selectors.
They can often be equally destructive in their views, thereby displaying an informed freedom of speech which is the core of any thriving democracy.
Little wonder then that in his seminal work Beyond A Boundary C.L.R. James was able to observe and critique the impact and influence of the game, and its implications for the social, political and cultural understanding of West Indian society.
Widespread appreciation for the finer points of the game is an important factor in its development, but it can induce frustration among the spectators when, drawing on their fund of critical information and knowledge, they feel the team can do better. Spectators can then speak volumes by refusing to pay good money to watch bad cricket, for they know that a fall in spectator attendance at games sends a most potent message to the players and to the selectors, and ultimately the board.
This high level of participatory democracy is laudable, but is not replicated in some other aspects of the society. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the system of governance itself in which power is temporarily handed to the Government of the day by the voters.
We do not think we would be far off the mark if we hazard the opinion that the people are better informed about the nuances of the national sport than they are about matters of civics, by which we mean the basic principles on which our representative system of Government is built.
The power of the Prime Minister and how he can be removed from office and the power and duties of the Governor General and of the Leader of the Opposition are among matters which should be within the ordinary knowledge of the average citizen; but this is not so. More so should be an understanding of the rights and freedoms protected under our Constitution, for proper respect of these rights guarantee our freedom under law.
It is a matter of high regret that such critical learning has not been offered either to those of us who were born before or after the birth of this nation at Independence. Yet we manage somehow to pass to succeeding generations our deeply ingrained knowledge of our national game.
We must do the same for civics.
An emerging democracy such as ours can ill afford a nation of people who are unaware of the workings of the system, for in such a case, public opinion will not be as informed as it can and should be. Then, the public interest is severely disadvantaged, while the power to govern, ceded to the politicians, albeit for limited time, continues to be exercised without the arresting or temporizing influence of a truly aware voter perspective.
We therefore call upon all political parties in our country to commit to a system of public education for all citizens on our system of Government. Some issues are patently above the hurly-burly of politics and this is one. Our democracy cannot be more participatory without this critical knowledge, and we must do for our political system what we have managed either by accident or design to do for cricket.
The issues facing this country and indeed this region are severely challenging and the views and oversight of the citizenry are required, but for this input to be constructively critical, public education and information on civics is a must!