At its most testing, a career in politics may be marked by glorious uncertainties. When societies are pregnant with the uncomfortable birthing of change, when there are pervasive crises, anger, injustice, confusion and general discontent with the status quo, this pursuit has brought untimely deaths to many leaders on a worldwide scale – from Julius Caesar to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. the Kennedys, and Maurice Bishop. In Saint Lucia life for politicians is not quite as dramatic as in other parts of the world because peaceful living is a constant and governance stable, but, at the very least, it can be appreciated that the demands of public life can be exhausting and, by their very nature, come at great cost to one’s personal and family life.
Notwithstanding the inherent challenges, there have been strident calls by the electorate for new blood, so to speak; a call for new faces to come forward to participate in politics and public service. The calls have been sounded for people who can bring that fresh vigour, good character, wisdom and vision needed to effect change for the better. Complaints seem to be set against the backdrop of general disenchantment and discontent with the level of representation delivered to the people by both the current and past administrations.
Additionally calls for new blood were stemming from an apparent wave of frustration with the amount of toxicity that now exists in the local political climate. The insistence on a more dignified or noble approach to this profession, as Aristotle described it, has not been met. Although there is widespread support for another paradigm; the stubbornness of some individuals who seem bent on maintaining the status quo has perpetuated an uninviting environment that will not attract a new breed of young political aspirants.
Over the years a very sinister activity called gutter politics, which sees opposing party members smear and tear at each other to no end, has cemented itself as a pattern of behaviour which has taken a brazen nose-dive and now stands at an all-time low. This trend has prompted harsh criticisms by the electorate but apparently to no avail, because so engrained are some key, influential persons in this behaviour, it is perhaps impossible for them to change.
It cannot be over-emphasized that politics without dignity and respect cannot and will not serve this island well. The effort to attract the best brains, best talents, educated, young professionals, innovators and visionaries into this dysfunctional current cycle of maypwi and cut-throat politics isn’t going to get very far. Such desirable individuals, for the sake of self-preservation, would not plunge into the existing “mange chocon”. Instead they will continue to hang back in the wings, looking on from the sidelines but never coming forward to contribute meaningfully.
It is time for tribalism, personal attacks, derision, in–fighting, disunity, ridicule, character assassination and outright deception to cease. Some offer the placating excuse that such is the creature (or monster) that is politics, and what happens here, happens everywhere else. However, two main political camps seem not to accord in equal measure regard or passion for respect and restraint towards each other, nor do they promote these graces among their supporters. Unfortunately as a result of this air of divisiveness the citizenry also perpetuate that attitude towards each other, to the extent that when the need arises to engage in consensus-building discussions, advocacy and compromise on national issues, individuals – whether elected or otherwise – appear to have great difficulty in employing a temperate demeanour and often display blatant intolerance to views that differ from theirs, as demonstrated even in the House of Assembly.
The electorate has demanded an elevation in politics on all levels; the report from the Constitution Review Commission illustrates that. A new era is beckoning and the minds of the people are fixated on making major leaps and bounds towards unprecedented change in the models installed since Independence. Now, more than ever, it is timely to boot the existing brand of ole, dirty politics out of the way, to allow for the return of honour and dignity to this noble profession. A political career is spiked with its unique triumphs, providing politicians with countless joys and other gains, particularly when such outcomes come by dint of sacrifice, dedication and hard work. Nevertheless overshadowing this noble call is the degeneration of politics at both the partisan and state levels.