Have you ever tried putting a number of words in a hat, pulling them out, and making a story with them? How about Politics, Pontius, Pretenders, Plausible, Personal Agenda and Pithy? Here goes …
I am not a political animal, and I have no time for politicians as politicians; it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it – even nice people. The trouble is that there is so much make-believe in politics; George Bush had to preserve the image of “the greatest, most democratic nation this world has even seen”; Tony Blair had to close his eyes and ears to what he must have been able to see and hear for the sake of plausible deniability to what was really happening, a political strategy that probably started even before Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the murder of the man they called the Messiah. Even St Lucian politicians feel obliged to perpetuate the myth of this great nation destined to lead the world.
In the past two decades I have had reason to work to lesser and greater degrees with a number of Caribbean leaders, and they have all seemed charming and sincere, though their knowledge of much that is outside their immediate sphere of reference has, at times, left much to be desired. I had, for example, a long conversation with that red-hot relic of socialist rhetoric from a neighbouring island who defended the common entrance exam on the grounds that we had to segregate pupils, a policy that most socialists would certainly not subscribe to.
At a dinner at Janice Compton’s table many years ago, her husband, the then prime minister, defended his refusal to accept Creole except at election time, and countered my apparently plausible arguments in regard to education in St Lucia, with the rather pithy response, “But will education make them better banana pickers?” End of conversation.
In my dealings with the king, I experienced a sincere and hopeless feeling of working with a good man who was not in charge of his destiny. His Chariot of Fire was being pulled in all directions ‘one time’ by steeds with wildly different personal agendas.
As I seem to be in an admirably catholic mode as far as metaphors are concerned, I’ll proceed in like manner, and mix a few more.
Imagine the pretender king standing alone on the political stage, singing his solo for all to hear. “Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender, pretending that I’m doing well.
My need is such I pretend too much. I’m lonely but no one can tell.”
Anyone with eyes could tell. He was never elected Leader. He was the Pretender. The country had turned to the pensioner, not the pretender king, for salvation; he said as much in his first Budget Speech.
“Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender, adrift in a world of my own. I’ve played the game but to my real shame, you’ve left me to rule all alone.” Alone indeed, like Daniel in the Den of Lions, except in the pretender king’s case the lions were supposed to be on his side, not circling him as though ready to pounce when the time
was ripe. I am, in a strange way, full of admiration for the pretender king for seeing his mandate period through. Like Daniel, he survived the Lions’ Den.
“Too real is this feeling of make-believe; too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal.” In my dealings with the pretender king I always felt that he was sincere, that he wore his feelings on his sleeve, that he was a man whose word could be trusted – even though, at times, he was unable to keep his promises through no fault of his own. His side let him down.
“Yes, I’m the great pretender, just laughing and gay like a clown.” The pretender king had to endure ridicule and hurtful innuendo, as all people who aspire to public office must do, but in his case, the nastiness was just a bit nastier, the innuendo and gutter politics just that bit grubbier, not only from the far-from-loyal opposition, but also from his own side.
“I seem to be what I’m not; you see, I’m wearing my heart like a crown, pretending that you’re still around.”
As the king finished his song, he was maybe addressing his mentor, the pensioner, in the hope that his memory would carry him through; it was not to be. But perhaps now is the time for the king to be elected on his own merits – and hopefully at the head of a United Working Posse of Deputies!