ALL AH WE IS ONE: Analyzing Jones
ONE OF THE CONTRADICTIONS of Caribbean society is the simultaneous existence of a “laid back” society in the midst of an undemocratic and authoritarian polity.
Indeed, perhaps these two tendencies complement each other, since the price which the society has paid for its “relaxed” and happy-go-lucky social existence is the blindness and numbness to the rule of petty tyrants and potential tin-pot dictators who respect the formal letter of democracy while violating its unwritten spirit.
The one is fed and reinforced by the other. So we laugh and brush off as “clowns” and “half-idiots” the democratic lapses of our rulers, since laughter and ridicule have thus far been the only tools of political resistance that we have been allowed to perfect. No wonder the calypso is indeed the people’s newspaper.
In contrast, such a society presents a challenge of existence to the deep and serious thinker committed to real change, since his interventions are perceived as too “serious” and the personalities who are the subject of his criticisms are viewed too much in the vein of “simplistic poor fellows” to evoke any sympathy for the intellectual from a public conditioned to take serious things lightly, and frivolous things seriously.
It is only when such “cuddear poor fellows” occupy the highest offices and begin to go too far with their simplistic ideas and practices – à la Eric Gairy of Grenada and his UFOs – that the wider public begins to take seriously the warnings of those who understand, like Plato, that politics is no place for court jesters or amateurs.
Last week in Barbados, all of these tendencies – the “poor fellow” court jester, the out of depth and out of place politician, and the insecure authoritarian ruler – came together in the country’s law-making chamber, when the Minister of Education, seeing imaginary revolts, reminded his phantom rioters that his police force was on standby to shoot and crack their blurry formless heads, were they to ever embark on the kind of actions that only he felt were imminent.
Had the minister uttered these words in response to a clandestine meeting of the Movement For The Revolutionary Destruction Of Barbados, he would be commended for being on top of the security situation in his country.
Sadly, the minister was merely expressing his nervousness prompted by a series of encounters between the formal Opposition wing of the Parliament and various economic sectors of society. That is the funny side.
The serious side question, however, is what is the current state of the society over which Minster Jones is presiding as part of Cabinet, that would have motivated him to utter words which are only appropriate for the most extreme cases of civil disobedience? Is his insider position preparing him for a crisis to which the rest of society remains oblivious?
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.