Boss Stuart and the ‘classless’
CLASS IS not always class.
With our politicians, some people believe the culprit is the Westminster system. For me, it is at least partly that we’ve been set upon by too many bad characters.
Yuh know what we Bajans say about people who overreach in certain situations: “Duh behaving like duh get what duh din expect.”
And in truth, one feature of the Westminster system succours (maybe suckers, too) that kind of overextension: generally speaking, citizens cannot be ministers unless they are elected as Members of Parliament.
That virtually ensures that we are led mostly by functional amateurs. It can work, but . . .
It too often means, for instance, that on being appointed a minister, a man who up to yesterday had never even run a sou sou (meeting turn) feels that he is suddenly a finance/economics wizard whose mind is not to be sullied by what are now seen as incursions by others who did not come by the route of election. And then yuh get the (faux) perlixing, if not the pompassetting.
And since we in these parts have not crafted any other critical ways of holding politicians’ feet to the fire, it means that being voted in becomes cemented as the only real measure of political accountability and legitimacy.
So, not infrequently, the elected official brims with arrogance and a sense of superiority over the people since in his mind he has passed the only necessary test, has the sole valid stamp of approval.
And anybody, the thinking apparently goes, who did not walk that road, must know his place outside the pale of divergent participation until the next set of people looking for votes are ready to come and shake his hand as they then beg him for a vote.
Hence last year’s statement by a minister – in Prime Minister Stuart’s Cabinet – to the effect that he did not care anything about petitions – publicly uncontested by Stuart himself. Note, however, that the White House has set up a serious process whereby US citizens can petition the government.
But in keeping, apparently, with this sense of specialness here, the Prime Minister last week talked about a “political class” (the context suggested he meant those who faced the electorate) and launched into those who, to his mind, want to run the country but don’t want to “knock on anybody’s door” or “dirty their hands by even having to shake the hands of ordinary people”.
Yuh mean if a non-elected person sees certain negatives in the political culture and blames them on the Westminster system, you could just so accuse that person of wanting to preside without doing the “dirty”, “messy” (Stuart’s terms) work of being formally involved in politics?
Also troubling is that at a time when we need, perhaps more than ever, to pull together, the Prime Minister forges a separation between some people called the political class and the rest of us.
Now, class is a “funny” word. Calling yourself lower class – long acceptable; middle class – becoming acceptable. Upper class? Nope. And we abhor hearing of a lawyer class, a doctor class, a university graduate class, a journalist class. But up comes the Prime Minister with a “political class”.
Not only that. Why wouldn’t someone who claims to be on the people’s side not at least express some of the grave reservations that many, many of those people have about this so-called class, rather than unreservedly endorse that set and roundly and venomously demonise someone who criticises them or at least shortcomings of the framework in which they operate?
Here we had an example of the increasingly frequent umbrage-taking as if we have the misfortune to be led by a bunch of political wimps, whose clearest mark is a sense of aggrievement or some kind of paranoia, always coming out swinging at people rather than swinging at the problems that beset us.
(I got to tell you this one. Since such things never occur in our style of democracy – we have all saints, don’t you know? – we have to savour them if we are to have any hope: it’s about the parliamentary expenses scandal in Britain a few years ago.
Democracy at work
As a result of the democratic zeal of Heather Brooke and others not of the “political class”, four malfeasant MPs and two lords were sent to rub shoulders with Bubba (hardly – unfortunately) in prison; six MPs and the Speaker resigned; and 120 sitting members declined to run in the ensuing election, in which, not surprisingly, transparency and accountability were key issues.
Score one for the non-political class – against whom the political class mounted an unbelievably powerful, diabolical fight to let the malfeasance go.)
So, tell me: Should knocking on doors, bottling night dew, mudslinging, cursing, telling people about their muddas and faddahs elevate you to such heights that it covers a multitude of sins, not necessarily exclusive of receiving brown paper bags, propositioning every woman that passes, hiding behind parliamentary privilege to scurrilously attack people who have no such cowardly and odious out, and executing bad governance?
And consign those who are not in that class to only casting an understanding eye – and a vote?
Heather Brooke and the others did not join this so-called political class. They simply operated within the best ideals of democracy and tried to hold those who would be overlords to those ideals. Talking about some special class is to go in the opposite direction.
Oh, how I wish that class would teach us better lessons. My mother, your father, Jimmy’s uncle, Patricia’s aunt and others not in the political class often provide better teaching. Maybe it’s in their character and not in their class.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]