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GET REAL: Monkeys and politics


GET REAL: Monkeys and politics

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A FRIEND; let’s call him Curious George, is a young professional, university educated, hard-working and progressing in his career. Curious George, like many Bajans, has paid little attention to politics and has had little direct involvement, until recently.

Curious George sent me an enthusiastic voice note. He was pun full hype! 

There are a lot of Barbadians who are coming of age in a time of political and economic uncertainty. They are coming to the realisation that it may not be in their interest to be blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to politics. A blind, deaf and dumb monkey can get a juk in he tail dat wuh mek he see, hear and holla. 

The saying: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, is symbolised by a statue of three monkeys sitting side by side. One is covering its eyes, another covering its ears, and the last, its mouth. The idea is believed to have originated from Asian religion, probably with Chinese Buddhism by way of Japanese Shinto. 

In the original Asian context, the three monkeys were considered wise. They chose to avoid sinning in thought by turning away from anything that was not appropriate. In the West, the monkeys have come to symbolise another idea. The three monkeys symbolise, not turning away from evil, but turning a blind eye to it. 

When it comes to local politics, which group of monkeys symbolises you? Are you like the Eastern monkeys who choose to not even pay any attention to evil or the Western monkeys who are blindly hitched up and along for the ride? Either way, yuh well juk.

What pricked Curious George’s curiosity was a recent appearance by Dr Ronnie Yearwood on Down to Brass Tacks. George messaged me, genuinely excited about what Yearwood had to say about the deficiencies in our system and culture of governance. He said here was someone who could see and hear the “evils” of our politics and had the will, and skill to expertly speak about them, not in a defeatist way, but as though there is hope. 

His enthusiasm waned a bit when he learned that Yearwood was affiliated with the Opposition party. Curious George, like many Barbadians, feels that politics is dirty and political affiliation, in some way, soils you.

But this was not enough to turn him off. Curious George did not detect the usual political bias in Yearwood’s tone and language. To him, Yearwood sounded different to his impression of a Barbadian politian. He was impressed with Yearwood’s message and style of delivery. 

But there was something about that episode that did bother Curious George. He was annoyed at the response of some of the callers. Curious George informed me that many of the callers criticised Yearwood, who is based overseas, as being out of touch with the reality of politics in Barbados. 

I tuned in just in time to hear Yearwood’s closing remarks. He seemed genuinely surprised by the apathy, resignation and lack of fighting spirit that he perceived in the callers. The lack of faith in our ability to heal our ailing political system and culture seemed to shock him. 

Maybe the callers had a point. How could he not know that Barbadians are increasingly losing faith and becoming political atheists? 

Maybe it is good that Yearwood was not fully aware of this dynamic. When you recognise pessimism about the cancer that infests our political system, you can tend to feel like it is inoperable, that this is the way it is, has always been, and will always be. The faith in the possibility of change that Yearwood exuded, which was able to make Curious George pull his hands from his ears, can be hard to maintain.

Yearwood is young enough in spirit to still have faith in the creation of a system and culture of politics that is yet to be seen. On the call-in-programme he butted up on older heads who believe they’ve seen it all. Their hands cover every orifice except their mouths. But he also sparked the curiosity of a young man who, previously disconnected, is looking for something to connect with.

Many are curiously looking and listening for a new voice. They would prefer it if that new voice came in fresh packaging but they are willing to accept the box the voice comes in if the content and delivery are significantly refreshing. There are voices like that out there. The new political parties are speaking up. 

Yearwood’s call is for a new politics. He says: “We can overcome the conditions facing Barbados but only if we are courageous enough to change the way our country is governed. We have to decide what our new governance model will look like.”

I concur. I am unconvinced, though, that new politics can pour from the old political parties. But, I am open to the possibility. Can new wine be safely placed in old wine skins? Yearwood seems to think so. 

The challenge that any politician wishing to evolve our system will face, whether they are new politicians or old politicians thinking differently, is that there are gorillas in our midst who like the sound of the same old babbling. They choose to be blind, deaf and dumb to the sweeping reform in governance needed.

Adrian Green is a creative communications specialist. Email [email protected]