GET REAL”: The power conflict
I’d like to add to the conversation started last week by fellow columnist Marsha Hinds-Layne.
She rightly states that a breath of fresh air is needed on the Barbadian political scene. Hinds-Layne argues the popularity of Donald Trump’s campaign as an example of how a new approach can energise, even if this new approach is with “the finesse and know-how of a three-year-old learning to read” like Trump’s.
I agree, though I feel Trump is more like America’s comforting smell of its own gas than a breath of fresh air.
Trump is brash, outspoken and not afraid to make controversial statements. He is shaking up the Republican Party. But Donald Trump don’t want nutten wid a Caribbean politician. In the land of “Like it or Lump it,” and “Bald Pooch Cats,” we could teach the Donald a thing or ten about controversial political statements.
In fact, I would suggest to the Donald that he go to Trinidad and consult with the Jack, to understand how to become an immovable object on the political scene. If you think Trump is brash then you should ask about Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner. But don’t ask him yourself. When ambushed by a British reporter asking questions about corruption in FIFA, Warner politely told the gentleman to, “Ask yuh mudda.”
The reporter calmly responded that his mother was deceased.
This is the region of carnival and masquerade. Politics here has long been a Spektakula. We politic the way we play cricket. Rather, the way we used to play cricket. Our politics is still a Kadooment whereas our cricket scene is more of a folk concert; nostalgia for glory days past.
Our politicians know the value of a spectacle. Every few years we hold Battle Royales to rival the WWE. Political meetings are calvacades and comedy shows. It is the one time politicians really acknowledge the value of the arts. Singers and songwriters pick up some good crumbs on the campaign trail. As calypsonian/politician Colin Spencer sang, it ain only he dat does support a party.
And what a party our politics is.
Like in any major festival in Barbados, a few big acts must be brought in from overseas. There is not currently a local performer big enough to pull the kind of crowd entrepreneurs and politicians would like to attract.
Except Rihanna. But you better have her money.
Many of us wonder if there are not more similarities between Caribbean politics and professional wrestling. Professional wrestling is not what it seems. The fights are for show. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were not enemies in real life. They just pretended to be enemies on TV. A professional wrestling match is called a work. The fighters work it out before hand, to work up the audience. Some fans still think it’s real. All the better for the promotion to work you over and keep you donating to the make Vince McMahon rich fund.
Vince Mcmahon, the chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is a businessman like Donald Trump. They are both in the show business. It is arguable that all business is show business. Marketing and advertising make up a big chunk of the budget of the biggest businesses. This is especially when there is nothing really special about the product to differentiate it from competitors. Then packaging and presentation trump substance and quality.
Unless divided by ethnicity, it can be hard to differentiate between competing political parties in some Caribbean islands.
Ethnicity is often a source of conflict. Trinidadian and Guyanese politicians have worked the ethnic divide in those countries. Any show business man or woman knows that conflict sells almost or just as well as sex. Fans are less likely to tune in if they feel that The Rock and Stone Cold barbecue and pitch marbles together. If however, the match is promoted as a conflict between opposing forces, good and evil, truth and rights vs chaos and destruction, we feel that is a little more interesting. If there is no real conflict show business must manufacture one.
Gaza vs Gully, Coke vs Pepsi, Biggie Smalls vs Tupac, Nicki Minaj vs Miley Cyrus: conflict pulls the public in. We choose who we feel is the representative of good and get behind her. Whether it is Republican vs Democrat, BLP vs DLP or Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, beef is good for business and even the eventual loser gets away with a good deal.
Donald Trump brings to the table a new type of hero or villain, depending on your perspective, and some show business swagger to the normally stuffy image of the Republican Party. He has an aggressive and combative style. The substance of his rhetoric has been accused of being racist, sexist and xenophobic. A lot of Americans would have to be too. He currently leads all other potential Republican candidates in the polls.
But Trump ain got nutten to teach our politicians about the game. His popularity is largely due to his get-tough stance on immigration. One might recall a local election where the number of Guyanese immigrants in Barbados was a hot topic. In the past Trump has questioned Barack Obama’s right to be president based on Obama’s ethnic background. There is a Member of Parliament here whose Bajanness or lack of it was made an issue. The Donald’s sexist comments about the bleeding of a female journalist made headlines just like the comments from the Minister of Finance about the leader of the opposition Mia Mottley running through Bridgetown naked.
Donald Trump’s style stands out in US politics. In the Caribbean it would fit right in. His aggressive and combative style is tame compared to what we are accustomed seeing on political platforms. In fact, a charismatic politician who refused to feed into the emotional rhetoric of partisan politics and play on peoples’ fears would really differentiate himself and stand out from the crowd.
Adrian Green is a communications specialist and an avid observer of the political pantomime. [email protected]