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New political realities and the campaigns for PNP presidency

LOUIS MOYSTON

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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Popularity polls are important to check the political temperature. In the case of internal party competition, while popularity polls are useful, the sounder approach will be to employ the old party method of canvassing party supporters and delegates.

In these times we sorely miss opinion pollster Dr Carl Stone. Politics is an activity; people are the central characters in this setting. This activity is conducted in two spheres of influence — the global and national societies. There are some political qualities that are missing from the current campaigns for president of the People's National Party (PNP).

Do the leaders and their 'pit bulls'/youth have any idea at all of the nature of global politics? We have a major challenge presently, 21st century leaders and activists, especially younger politicians campaigning in the bickering and quarrelling styles of the 1940s to the 1960s. Are we on a path of change? What we hear from the youth in the campaign spells a frightening future.

What is the leading political thinking of the opposing camps about the nature of global politics of the 21st century, and how will the PNP ride those waves? How much are they aware of the impact of the post-1980 New World Order on the Jamaican society?

Time has come for a strong statement on how to deal with party members that are involved, even slightly, in corruption. That way, when the party speaks, no one can point and say, what about you?

Manley legacy and the campaign

There are lots of articles going around that expressed sentimental loyalties to candidates of preference. While sentiments and loyalties have their place in politics, there are certainly not good standards for political judgement. It is also not about who is in the party longer, and who is loyal implicating the other as disloyal.

There is even a school of thought that one side is defending the democratic socialist legacy of Michael Manley and that the other is outright capitalist. Both men were introduced into the PNP during the 1980s by Manley, who shed his democratic socialist principles to conform to the New World Order of that era. Time has come to start a new political thinking guided by cognitive participation to end this herd-mentality politics. The people on the ground have been in the wilderness for the past decades and are clamouring for change. No one can stop the train of change.

The two competitors are members of the 1980s PNP. There is, indeed, confusion about Manley's legacy in these two campaigns. I must state that I have deep respect for his brave new and transformational thinking in both the global and national society from 1969 to 1979. That was the Manley I knew.

Campaigning in a vacuum

The context of the campaigns is missing. There has never been any real effort to try to define and describe a new political thinking in Jamaica, and also in the PNP, since the New World Order of the 1980s. This is why the present campaigns are being conducted in a vacuum. It is important to explore, briefly, some of the realities of the post-1981 politics in Jamaica. This effort provides a basis for some new ideas from the impact of those new values and attitudes on the Jamaican society in general, and on the youth population in particular.

In 1989 a newspaper article 'Young Jamaicans and politics', informed that the youth had been a casualty of the politics of the 1980s. It read, “With everyone else caught up with the economic adjustments/restructuring, our young people went without a moral direction and the opportunity to be politically involved.” Truly, that feeling of involvement that characterised the youth of “the 1970s gave way in the 1980s to a feeling of hopelessness, political apathy (and alienation), and a strong craving after material and American values.”

It continues, this new setting in Jamaica was distinguished “by increase in the abuse of hard drugs, sexual perversion among the teen section of the population, and teenagers dropping out of social and political mainstream”.

One cannot ignore the high levels of crime, especially the illegal drug trade, the illegal importation of guns, and very high levels of homicide in that era, and later the hedonistic embrace. A new world of politics ought to emerge out of our experience. I make the charge, also, for attention to be paid to the rebuilding of the party and political education; and also the right of the party to have in its treasury monies collected on its behalf.

The 1989 article cited above on the gross negative impact of the New World Order in Jamaica during the 1980s is supported by an array of articles and studies in the decadent decades of the 1990s. What are some of the consequences of market democracy on the global society in general and developing countries such as Jamaica? And what are some of the lessons that party leaders and activists need to know and understand? To the youth, where are the issues? It is important for political parties to develop academies to prepare the youth for leadership.

The signs of the time

Since the late 1980s and early- to mid-1990s many scholars and writers have been looking at the consequences of the 1980 New World Order. They begin with the dangers of the new thrust of individualism and market democracy, led by the individualistic cultures of the United States and some European countries. One opinion argues that the cardinal American virtues of individualism are at odds with those of most non-Western cultures (less that 20 per cent of world population). Those individualistic societies have among the highest rates of crimes homicide, suicide, juvenile delinquency, divorce, child abuse, and alcoholism in the world.

One leading critics of globalisation and market fundamentalism, a major capitalist himself, describes the situation this way, “Global financial markets are beyond the control of the national or international authorities. They are inherently unstable and there are social needs that cannot be met by giving market forces free rein.” He continues to say that the incursion of market ideology into fields far outside business and economics are having destructive and demoralising social effects, leading to the failure of politics.

Another point of view argues that market economy and democracy tend to favour the ephemeral the precarious. Adherents are encouraged “to follow a path of short-term selfishness, not long-term, but short-term interest”.

The new thrust of democracy and the market requires “a herd mentality that can be deeply destabilising. There are also other concerns such as the frantic search for money (by politicians) to fund elections, the spread of corruption, and the scale of criminal economy are all signs of the ascendency of the market economy over the democratic ethos”.

The new economic order has failed Jamaica. The campaigns for leadership in the PNP must begin to develop character and exit the bickering and quarrelling styles of the 1940s to the 1960s. I have explored, briefly, the world today and its impact on our society, and encountered the following themes for recommendation. Careful attention must be paid to the deepening of inequality; to the negative impact of the New World Order on the family, socialisation, culture; to the lack of appropriate infrastructure dealing with consumer protection and public services (water, housing for the poor, health and education with emphasis on technical vocational education and training).

Of note is also the continued giving away of the natural resources of the country to foreigners and land to the rich — Are we developing a new plantation system? There must be strong opposition to the building of housing on agricultural land. What will be the responses from the aspirants?

After 57 years of Independence, there is a failure to provide a better way of life for the ordinary Jamaicans. To the activists and leadership aspirants, shut up or step up. You are all playing 'ketchy-shuby', the game is beyond Test cricket. It is a world of T20 and T50 cricket. The time has come to build on the legacy, not to defend it. The spectacular now requires new thinking to guide new actions.

Louis E A Moyston, PhD, is a university lecturer. Send comments to the Observer or thearchives01@yahoo.com.


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