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STRONG SUIT: The silent majority

Dennis Strong

STRONG SUIT: The silent majority

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Barbados’ general election provided high drama, intrigue and a nail-biting finish. Predictably, there is now an outpouring of comments, interpretations and advice to the Government and the Opposition about what should be done next.
From an interpretive perspective, I am struck by the statistic that nearly 40 per cent of those eligible to vote did not exercise their franchise at the ballot box. I am aware that many would be inclined to decry this failure to vote as non-democratic and contrary to the good of this society. Indeed, I too have argued this line of thinking.
On reflection, I must now change my mouth and at least give voice to an alternative perspective.
Rather than thinking of this group as apathetic or in other pejorative terms, consider theirs a vote of no confidence.
• No confidence in the choices that were presented. One person told me that a vote for a candidate he favoured was also a vote for a leader he did not want elected.
• No confidence in a process that knowingly treats campaign promises as non-binding, thus rendering the public meetings a charade of entertainment rather than a legitimate effort to discern real needs and issues.
• No confidence that there is sufficient political will and leadership integrity to make transformational decisions. The failure to hold debates between leaders seemed collusion to avoid real scrutiny.
• No confidence that there will be change from tribal political affiliations, school ties and family connections as the pathway to influence, power and economic security. Many view this practice as evidence that the status quo will prevail.
• No confidence that entrenched privileged groups will put the country’s interest ahead of their own privileged status. Those who have witnessed direct and indirect inducements to vote find it difficult to trust and respect those entrusted with determining what’s best for the country.
• No confidence in the likelihood that they will be a respected voice with a legitimate conduit for being heard.
• No confidence that there is a willingness and ability to unleash Barbados’ true potential.
This group did vote. They voted with their feet. There may not have been an organized boycott of the election with an alternative manifesto, but this group’s size is greater than the number of votes garnered by either major party.
If an accurate demographic and psychographic profile was available on this group, we would discover a diverse spectrum of age, class, and economic circumstances. It would include ZR drivers, public servants, religious leaders, corporate executives, salaried employees, unemployed, entrepreneurs, expatriates, and people with significant financial investments in Barbados.
This group represents the largest segment of those eligible to speak out about the future of this country. There are many things that can be done to improve the economic vitality and quality of life in this society – however, timely and successful implementation of such efforts require the enrolment of this segment.
The contemplation of options for moving forward also rests with each of us, whatever our group. Much of the alienation being felt in this country stems from how we interact with each other. Each item of discontent on my list has you in it.
We need to examine our own attitudes and behaviour to see how they can be changed to enhance the engagement of all segments of our society. We are the people.
• Dennis Strong is founding president of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants.