A lesson for local politicians

In 1990 a song entitled Wind of Change became a big hit celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall which divided East and West Germany, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is a song with a haunting melody which captured the mood of a defiant people shedding the yolk of despotism and the enslavement of an entire nation behind a barbed-wire fence, by a privileged and autocratic clique. The song expressed the will of the people after decades, to finally break the chains of a repressive regime.
We are again witnessing the wind of change which is sweeping the world as expressed in the words of that famous song:  Soldiers passing by,  Listening to the wind of change. The wind of change blows straight, into the face of time–Like a storm wind that will ring–The freedom bell for peace of mind.
Freedom loving people like us in St Lucia privileged to enjoy the freedom to express ourselves without fear from government interference or intimidation, on the radio, in the newspapers, on the streets, to support the political party of our choice, to elect the government of our choice, must hold our breaths in awe, as we witness  the dramatic events unfolding in the Middle East. It seems improbable to many of us who breathe the invigorating air of freedom, that there are people in the world, apart from the well known oligarchies such as China and North Korea, who have been living under the yolk of oppression for decades, ruled by despots made insane by the opium of power and the control of the lives of the citizens of a country.
As an avid reader there were some revelations coming out of the coverage of events in the Middle East which astonished a skeptic like me, well aware of the capacity of man to inflict unspeakable acts of terror and carnage against fellow human beings.  As in the case of Egypt, I could not believe that Hosni Mubarak had been President of Egypt for a full thirty years, and had restricted the movement and freedom of association of his people for that entire period, under the imposition of a state of emergency. My first reaction was, what insanity could consume the mind of a man to believe that in a country with a population of 82 million people that he alone had the singular capability of running that country.
These tendencies which have come to the fore in the Middle East, provide sufficient evidence that for any democracy to thrive and survive, there should be fixed term limits for any politician to lead a country. Because any political leader who displays the tendency that he is indispensable as a leader of a country, is evidently delusional and should be locked up in a psychiatric hospital.
The domino principle which is being played out in the Middle East started with Tunisia and the ousting of longtime President Ben Ali, who had led the country for 23 years, and had to flee on the 14th January, 2011. One needs to ask whether it is worth ruling a country by force and intimidation, when one’s rule will inevitably come to an end someday, and one is reduced to a hunted animal, like Sadam, discovered in a rat role in the ground, when he ruled his people in imperial splendor for himself and family, with the golden faucets in the bathrooms, the ornate chandeliers, etc., while the people lived in fear. Like an infections viral disease, events in Tunisia have spread
to other countries in the region most notably Egypt with Mabarak handing over to the military on 11th February, 2011.
Contrary to the myth that has been propagated by the media, these revolutions were not precipitated and cannot be ascribed to Twitter and Facebook. This is a simplistic notion. The conditions for successful revolution must first exist on the ground in a country, and cannot be successful by simply manipulating crowds and demonstrators with new information technology.
Some of those conditions are wide disparities between the privileged class and the struggling masses of the population; gross injustices in the society; denial of freedom of expression and association; the subjugation of the people by arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and the silencing of dissenting voices. A total disconnect between the ruling elite and the reality faced by ordinary people is an essential ingredient that has marked all successful revolutions from the French Revolution of 1789, to the present.  While the monarchy lived in lavish splendor compared to the miserable and terrible conditions of the ordinary people, when the Queen of France was told that the people had no bread to eat and were starving, she turned up her powdered nose and uttered words that will live in infamy in history ‘then let them eat cake.’
When the tired and the poor had reached the end of their tether, and no longer feared death, for death from a soldier’s  bullet was preferable to the slow and agonizing death from starvation or the bitter cold, they attacked the famous Bastille prison and soldiers’ fortress. The violence precipitated by the French Revolution with the decapitation of the heads of the monarchy and the aristocracy were the extreme expression of a people treated like sub humans, while the privileged strutted in conspicuous grandeur. The Russian Revolution of 1917-18, epitomized the same conditions, ruled by a royal family led by Tsar Nicholas II, with his family and royal entourage living in splendid luxury, while the people died on the streets from starvation and the debilitating cold.                 They too felt the long repressed anger of the people with the execution of the entire royal family.
History has shown that man cannot be held in perpetual slavery and will eventually rebel and break the chains that keep him in subjugation. While Mubarak lived lavishly with a reputed US 30 billion stashed in foreign banks, his people called for simple concessions such as greater freedom, the lifting of the 30 year state of emergency, and an amelioration of the critical unemployment situation by devoting less financial resources to military hardware. His authoritarian rule was ended by a popular uprising where the demonstrators did not
even resort to force of
arm to change the government.
The other countries in the horn of Africa, namely Algeria, Morocco, Yemen and  Libya, are feeling the fever of a people who yearn to be free. Gadhafi has ruled his country for 42 years. He was much admired for ridding his country of the royal family who like the other royalties in the middle East use the resources of the countries they rule as their private domain. The Middle East royalties are out of touch with the changes in human thought and aspirations, where monarchical rule has become an anachronism, out of place in a world where the equality and freedom of man are the prevailing forces which drive the advancement of man in the world.  Gadhafi’s reckless reaction to the call for democratization after 42 years in office will make him a pariah in the world community. He should heed the wise words of Shakespeare who described the world as a stage, where we all have our entrances and exits, and should know when to leave the stage gracefully with dignity.  His massacre of his people by the military as well as the use of military aircraft to bomb demonstrators is unprecedented in the conduct of politics in the present era. By promising the trial and execution of demonstrators he has determined his own fate, for the people of the Middle East are determined to no longer live under his tyranny. The country has descended to civil war but the powerful pull of the force of freedom must prevail.
The impact of events in the Middle East will not be confined to that region, but will have repercussions for countries, even democratic ones throughout the world. For citizens will be emboldened into political activism and loudly protest against arbitrary government measures that deviate from solemn election promises.
Our politicians and historians in the region love to criticize our colonial past. But citizens should thank God we inherited a democratic system of government from the colonials which restricts the excessive exercise of arbitrary power by politicians and guarantees us compulsory elections every five years. Based on the conduct of our politicians they too would love to rule for decades like the Middle East tyrants.  Left to their own devices Caribbean politicians would have imposed a worst tyranny on  “we the people” if not for measures to protect our rights and freedoms inscribed in our independence constitutions by the British Colonials.
If not for the Colonial structures of Parliament, the separation for the executive and the judiciary, and the institution of the Civil Service which acts as a check on politicians with its rules, regulations and procedures, our politicians would ride roughshod over the people. For our politicians on the ascent to office lose all semblance of reality or normality, lose the common touch, and believe they have suddenly become imbued with superior knowledge and intelligence, and have plenipotentiary powers to do as they please  without consulting the people, on critical issues.  They would pass in cabinet the most draconian measures sans discussion, sans debate, like the recent decision to sell the Queen’s Chain, something held sacrosanct by the people of St Lucia.
Events in the Middle-East should demonstrate to our leaders that no political force can withstand the determined will of the people. Today’s and the emerging generation will not tolerate dishonesty and corruption in government. They want to see their leaders meaningfully address the problems that plague the country to bring about economic prosperity and opportunities for all. When people get gripped by the realization that a government is not concerned about the welfare of the country and its people, but personal enrichment for its members, then the people are blessed with a system that allows them to express their silent outrage with devastating consequences. Long may we have democratic elections every five years and thank our colonial past. But we must be forever vigilant that they are free and fair.

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