Author: Alexander Scott

Why the shock with Kanye-Trump summit?

Recently, the record producer/fashion designer/rapper Kanye West met with the president of the US Donald Trump. The meeting which came after Kanye infamously threw support behind him (after the election) has stirred up much controversy, confusion and even hurt amongst both his fans and persons who are close to or involved in the continued civil rights struggle in that country. The usual cries from these people range from the question ‘how can the man who called Bush a racist endorse this man?’ to petty insults along the lines of ‘the man is obviously crazy, see his many breakdowns for proof’.

Such stances, both the question and the statement, reveal to me a level of naivety in the world at large for the answer to the question ‘why is Kanye acting this way’ is hilarious in its obviousness.  Mr West gravitates towards Mr Trump and his ilk simply because they share the same basic core beliefs, they are if I may paraphrase Mr West ‘Kindred spirits’.

What could I mean by that? Simply put, these are two men of the same class, living in the same bubble, interacting with the same people and dealing with the same problems at the end of the day. Problems such as the state (particularly at the federal level) taking away money through taxes. Problems such as poor infrastructure (which rich person wants to travel in a dilapidated airport, and it is the rich, as they are the primary travellers). Problems such as copyright and patent lifespans, so that the holder can live like a rentier.

People are not shocked by Ted Nugent supporting Trump, they are disgusted but not surprised when Rosanne Barr vocally supports Trump, but they draw the line at Kanye. In this instance I have to agree with him, I agree when he says his detractors are ignorant and racist. Racist because they have for the most part bought into the fact that all minorities should vote Democratic and ignorant because they fail to realise that economics and class trumps race any day.

Herman Cain ran in 2012 on the Republican ticket on the far-right fringes, Ben Carson ran in 2016 as a mixture of Christian right and the Chicago school of economics, Nicki Minaj openly supported Mitt Romney in 2012. How many more instances does the public need to understand that just because a person is an ethnic minority does not mean that they are all of a sudden, some bleeding-heart liberal or pre-disposed to progressive revolutionary thinking? Class almost always wins out and shows itself in the end and it has done so here only with the brashness and pomposity of Kanye West.

These uncle-toms (or roast-breadfruit) know full well what they are doing, and they know why they are doing it. They know full well who they are aligning with and they have no problem as it secures their wealth and their place in the class. This can again be seen in the likes of a Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, both of whom have roots in the sub-continent, both of whom are at the top of the social, political and financial hierarchy and both of whom represented the reactionary wing of the Republican party. The same can be said for the ethnic minorities who are the elected members of the Democratic party, those at the top both socially, financially and politically and who also happen to be on the reactionary end of that party.

This incident to me proves once again that while race is important, the most important thing the most pressing issue is the class issue. Race is sexy, one can easily get agitated and behind the cause or individual because it/they are visible but as seen by the examples laid  out above, if left isolated from the issue of class then one ends up with an Obama in office, Abu-Jammal still in jail and a Bernie Sanders type candidate not getting the support of the minority congressmen and senators whose racial ilk would benefit the most from his policies.

Stop looking solely at an individuals race and start taking into consideration the class aspect as well, once that is done one finds that most actions then make sense and are less surprising. Clinging blindly to race alone, thinking that because you and your potential representative or cultural idol share the same skin tone does not automatically mean that they are on your side. Think of the famous line from Aquemini by Outkast, ‘is every nigger with dreads for the cause?’ and think of its response ‘no’ and use that as one’s mantra. Ask whose interests does this person represent, try delving deeper than the colour of the person’s skin and if I may be crass check out their bank books, that more often than not will give you the true response as it relates to that question.

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Nike not woke, McCain no angel

Over the past few weeks, two events have happened which seem to have set the global media into a tailspin. On one hand we have the death of the long-serving and much travelled US Sen. John McCain and on the other hand, we have had the blacklisted NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick unveiled as the new face of Nike. The two events have been met with what can only be called an exaggerated emotional reaction, a willful blindness to facts and in a strange way, act as symptoms of the disease which affects humanity.

Let us start with the case of Nike as that incident seems to have garnered the most controversy. Contrary to what social media and media pundits tell you, Nike is not ‘woke’ (if I may be permitted to use the youthful jargon) and the move to secure Mr Kaepernick was not borne out of some sort of moral stance, rather it was made for simple economic reasons. In the years since Colin took the knee and even following his blacklisting, his jersey remains in the top five as it relates to most popular and sales. Nike made a marketing decision, a bold one, but nothing more than mere marketing and trying to get more money, this time from the SJW group.

Have we forgotten how and where Nike shoes are made? In Hattian, Thai, or Chinese sweatshops by underpaid over-exploited persons who more often than not are children. This is not a morally upright company (an oxymoron probably) and to state that it is one simply because it has the great Serena or the stoic Kaepernick as the faces of the company product does not change that.

The mourning of the late John McCain is equally baffling as the Nike case. Mr McCain, a person who never left the American media spotlight, gained even more popularity in the last few years of his life as an ardent and vocal opponent of the current president. Before and more so after his passing we have been inundated with stories of how the late war-hero and Sen. strived for bi-partisanship, human rights and even if a maverick always had his heart in the right place and did the right thing. This is the mantra coming from both parties in the US and even critics of Mr Trump abroad, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lest it is forgotten in all this mourning allow me to remind us all of what John McCain stood for. The much-venerated veteran served in the Vietnam war and was shot down while en-route to bomb a lightbulb factory (a war crime by all standards), the so-called champion of human rights aggressively and openly funded/courted hard right despots in Latin America. The man who so recently has been held up as a champion of human rights embraced in his final few years the open neo-Nazis in Ukraine and the militias which have been running slave markets in Libya and Iraq. John McCain was many things, a paragon of human virtue, however, he was not.

But what is it that these two cases have in common and how does it reflect on our modern society? The common thread running between these two cases is people projecting their values on others because it fits the narrative.

It is fun and heart-warming to believe that Nike, the heartless amoral company would stand up to white supremacy, it gives us hope in mankind to think that a man who operates as McCain did opposes the insanity president Trump does. There are more people of colour in the world when compared to white people, basic business states therefore that you don’t alienate them. More persons of colour are playing sports when compared to white people (for the reason see the previous point), basic business says you do everything to retain that market before securing others. Note that the company still has no problem operating in countries with legalised racism.

John McCain despite vocal criticism to Trump voted in his favour in the majority of votes taken in the house before his demise (most notably the tax bill which most persons agree is unsustainable). Despite vocal criticism aligned himself with Trump on foreign policy or, and this is because he was a maverick, was even more hawkish than the current president. Note that the man who stated that the president is a Manchurian candidate voted to give him unfettered war powers.

What these recent events have shown me in no uncertain terms is that this urge we have as a species to run with the premise that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is still with us. It shows that we are still gullible and refuse to look at the picture as a whole rather than in fragmented pieces and therefore fall prey to propaganda and (what can only be called slick) marketing campaigns. It shows that some people are still more than willing to drink the Kool-Aid even after seeing the rat-poison being poured into it.

That, however, is no reason to throw in the towel and stop calling out inconsistencies, propaganda and flat out lies. On the contrary, it should be the fire which drives one on. So, I say again, John McCain was no fan of the oppressed and downtrodden and Nike is nowhere near being the ACLU (or JFJ for us Jamaicans). Do they on the rare occasion stand on the right side of history, yes, but so did the British and Free French in WW2 and they are still held up to ridicule for what they did pre and post-war. Never believe that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, things are always more complicated and murkier the longer one looks and shouldn’t be forgotten. So, kudos Nike for a slick campaign, but you really need to step up workplace practices while speaking out against racial injustices if you are to be taken seriously as a voice of virtue. And thank you, John, for calling out Trump, it’s a shame you never got a chance to show if you had truly changed your political stances or were merely grandstanding to a man who levelled insults towards you.

Hypersexualisation and rape, two different issues which must be tackled separately

The recent rape and murder of a fourteen (14) year-old girl in Kingston has again sparked heated discussion in Jamaica and the diaspora about what can only be called our epidemic of sexual violence. The actions against the minor have elicited the same outcries as others before, we have everyone condemning the perpetrator(s), demanding better protection for our children and reinstatement of the death penalty. Unfortunately, what has also been brought to the discussion table is the supposed issue of how the child may have been dressed and the provocative outfits worn by the current generation and how they (unwittingly) invite this kind of assault.

Unfortunately, as disgusting as it is, that talking point is a very prevalent one when discussing sexual assault/abuse, especially when involving children. It is a common touchstone, oftentimes reaching the heights of victim blaming, but it has no bearing in any sexual assault case and most especially one involving a child as the two are totally separate issues and should be talked about as such.

Rape and sexual abuse/assault are illegal actions, punishable offences which carry prison sentences, a child dressing in a belly-skin and batty-rider is a parenting matter, a woman wearing a see-through crop top is a dress matter. The last two have nothing to do with the first, one is a crime and the other is a societal matter regarding hypersexualisation; The two, though they may intersect, are totally separate matters.

There is no justification or excuse for rape and sexual assault/abuse regardless of the victim’s sobriety level, location during the act, or style of dress. There is no understanding, or another side when it comes to these matters, especially when a minor is involved and making such excuses and using such talking points is as I say is a form of victim blaming.

Let us not view the two as the same coin only different sides as they are not and if we tackle them as such then this madness will continue. The rape culture we have in this country (and don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have one) is based on many things. How our young men are raised, how they are raised to view women, how they are raised to deal with rejection and many more things. What it is not caused by is a teenager ‘acting sexily’ or a woman wearing a revealing outfit, the fault, blame and cause lie squarely at the feet of those who commit acts of sexual violence.

If we are to deal with this epidemic of rape and sexual abuse, then we must address how we raise our young men. We must teach them that no means no (even if it is during a passionate consensual embrace), we must teach them that just because a woman says no to you does not diminish you as a man. We must teach them that just because a woman dresses in revealing clothes or acts provocatively does not mean it’s a green light for sex. Until those issues and others like it are dealt with we will always be experiencing this trauma.

The issues surrounding the hyper-sexualisation of children and that of broader society, that is the dress norms of the day, fall strictly in the realm of the personal and the immediate family. How a person dresses, be they man, woman or child is not the business of society at large (baring the excesses such as public nudity), rather it is an issue to be dealt with within the confines of that person’s home. These personal choices have absolutely no bearing on if a person is sexually abused and should never be used as ways to reason away, make sense or justify what is a one-sided crime.

For heaven’s sake, if the moral police have an issue with the way people (and by people, I mean women) dress then they should start petition groups and try to get laws enacted (good luck on that front). But to even think of conflating how a person, let alone a child dresses and why they have been abused is a disgusting red herring and must be called out.

If how a person dresses ‘invites’ sexual abuse if that is really the line which we are taking, then why are we not warning our men who wear saggy pants and also those who wear close fitting pants that they are potential victims of our imagined homosexual predators? We don’t do that because it is a stupid argument of victim blaming, coupled with the fact that we dislike gays whom we perceive to be molesters and rapists in the waiting. That is more proof that we don’t respect our women and have a serious problem when one thinks of rape and sexual abuse (if its gay then kill the abuser but if it is hetero you make excuses). It must stop and we all must recognise and accept that sexual abuse and rape are crimes and only the criminal can be blamed regardless of the victim’s age, how they were dressing or their sexuality and until we get that simple basic premise then this sick culture will only continue and become even more warped.

NO ART FOR ART’S SAKE

Art has a purpose. It is to act as an expression and extension of humanity and the human experience. This much is obvious, listen to any song, read any novel or view a painting and one can oftentimes feel what the artist is striving for (more so if the piece is very good).

Because art in all its forms is the ultimate expression we can all understand it has naturally been used by many for differing reasons, from religious to the selling of cereal, and as a result, many artists have decided that some form of non-alignment or neutrality in their works is best as they don’t wish to be bogged down in fights over ideology or sales-figures.
Such a stance, art for art’s sake, is understandable, but it is a wrong stance which in the long run leads to the stupification of the arts while allowing the most awful entities, be they political or corporate, to control art or, more importantly, the message in the art. For the truth is that there is no such thing as art for art’s sake as all forms of art will inevitably be used to either confirm or deny pleasure, or piss off people.

Two cases immediately spring to mind why art for art’s sake will only lead to the rise of demagogues and the rule of the stupid – the song The Snake (often quoted by Trump) and the artist Jackson Pollock…

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EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF TOURISM PROFITS

Jamaica is a land with many riches and quite a few rich people. However, the country remains desperately poor. It is a land where the biggest net earner is probably the illegal drugs and black market trade followed by remittances, then tourism. We are a people who are, in short, dependent on the grace of others for our food.

This is made all the clearer when one gets to understand that the vast majority of the major hotels, which are the major money, see their profits going abroad as the majority stakeholders have no real ties to Jamaica (infrastructure excluded of course).

That is not a good place for any nation to find itself. It simply cannot continue as such without a massive breakdown, which would result in a state of living which we cannot even begin to fathom. Something has to give!…

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Cornwall Regional Hospital. It’s bigger than Chris

With the recent scandal at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), the nation is up in arms. Persons are foaming at the mouth, rightly so, wondering why individuals -doctors and patients- were forced to occupy a hospital which was in such a bad condition. Persons are incredulous and rightfully demand to know why the information (while made public) was not broadcasted better. There is amongst all of this the demand that the relevant minister (in this case Dr Tuffton) be reprimanded, fired even for what looks like a shocking dereliction of duty.

Now it is true that as the minister of health this debacle is his remit, it is also true that as MOH he would have had first-hand information as to just how bad things were at CRH; however I feel that persons who are calling for his head are failing to see a big picture and how this crisis could benefit us (the people) if used right.

The bigger picture in all of this is that of collective responsibility, one of the few good things which we have in our governance structure. Collective responsibility, or Cabinet collective responsibility, in simple terms means that while the individual minister may personally disagree with a cabinet proposal, once it is taken they must all show collective unity on the issue. Collective responsibility is supposed to be one of the safeguards of this Westminister system and yet we see it constantly ignored as seen in this issue (and countless others).

Collective responsibility means that instead of the PM going AWOL and leaving it to the object of the peoples hate, he would speak on the issue as he is not only a part of, but heads the cabinet. It would mean that the MOF would speak on the matter, not only because everything passes through that ministry, but also because he is a part of the cabinet. The fact is that something of this nature would have been brought to the entire cabinets notice (the papers show the MOH allocating funds from last year) and nothing was done. One is left to assume that they all agreed to just sit on the matter as none of them would be going there for treatment anytime soon.

This is a matter which is much bigger than Mr Tuffton in my opinion as it strikes at the heart of one of the things so wrong in Jamaica. This is a matter quite frankly bigger than simply the JLP, as too often we have had ‘youthful exuberance’ and millions of dollars wasted on non-existent bridges from both green and orange. Each time these things happen the leaders and remainder of the cabinet vanish and the minister is left as the scapegoat, that is a scenario begging for corruption. Either the entire cabinet was privy to what was going on -in which case they all need to answer starting with the PM- or Tuffton was withholding critical news from his team members and we should be told of this gross infraction (unlikely as the AG was in the loop).

Going after the health minister alone in this scenario would lead us down a path we recently trod with the Jubilee scandal. The minister apologises, takes his licks and is moved to a dead end ministry. We saw this played out during the Patterson administration and we saw it during the Golding/Holness administration, nothing has changed for the better in those two decades. This is so, in my opinion, because the cabinet (but mainly the PM) is safe in the knowledge that regardless of whatever happens, the relevant minister will fall on their sword to save the administration from the wrath and glare of the public (akin to throwing a dog off the scent).

There is no reason why they can not or should not uphold something as crucial yet simple as this. It is, after all, not a concept alien to anyone in either of our two dominating parties both of whom practice some variant of democratic centralism. Is it a case where party rules and norms trump that of governmental/cabinet regulations?

That, in my opinion, is what we are facing in the big picture and what must be fought against. We must not let our raw emotions rule us and go solely after Dr Tuffton (though he does deserve special treatment), we must ask the administration the tough questions. Who knew what, and when did they know it? We must demand not only the health minister fall on his sword but other high flying cabinet members who must have or should have known.

To call for the fall of the administration is a bit too harsh, even for me, everyone should be given some scope to grow (or hang themselves). To insist that more than the MOH be pilloried is not, however, and much precedent has been set it all of our Commonwealth and Westminister brethren. It is high time that our governing elites realize that they have responsibilities, and one of them is that they all must be on the same page as it relates to policy and actions taken. They must also realize that failure to live up to those responsibilities have real and serious consequences, for all of them. If we fail to hold them all to account now for this then we can expect the next administration to continue along the same path, a path that is clearly leading nowhere.

The NATO disease spreads with its Syria bombing

‘Once more unto the Breach!’ The fact that we are here again witnessing the US, UK and France getting involved in the Middle East is both sad, disgusting, enraging and disheartening. That these nations leaders could decide to return with violence to that region, this time Syria, after all of their costly (in every concept of the word) blunders though in reality is not all that shocking. These persons are, after all, imperialists and they have and will continue to act as imperialists have always done, that is, kill, pillage and enslave/exploit any nation that is weak enough and which has enough of what they want.

That these leaders should want to do these barbaric acts, while disgusting, is not shocking nor is it all that disappointing, what is both shocking and disappointing however is how the majority of persons in those countries are seemingly ok with the actions of their leaders.

Take for example the war in Lybia; Majority of the population of these countries supported that war as some kind of humanitarian intervention, they believed the media hype about battalions raping people and other stories which were propagated by their respective media houses. They were touched when they saw images of the carnage which was taking place as Gaddafi’s planes opened up on the rebels and their strongholds and as such, went to war.

The truth is that while rape did take place -this sick act has always been used in war, no nations army which has fought a major conflict is immune from that charge- there were no battalions raping people (the UN found those reports to be false). The truth also is that while Gaddafi’s planes were effective, he had lost two-thirds of the nation and the army was defecting at a rapid pace. In other words, the need for intervention was not really necessary, but invade they did. As a result, Lybia will probably never be functional again, they have open-air slave markets (way to go Obama), more guns than most places on earth and is a hotbed for the West’s favourite enemies (radical Islamic terrorists).

That these persons, who after the illegal invasion of Iraq swore never again could go to war again on such spurious charges, who can’t state often enough how appaled they are of the goings on in the Mediterranean, can ok this is disgusting and surely a bridge too far. It must be clear now that the majority of persons in those nations really have no problem with the murderous, imperialist actions of their governments.

Sure, massive amounts of persons protested in 2003 against the then looming invasion of Iraq, but opinion polls consistently showed the majority of persons believing the blatant and obvious lies which were called intelligence. Sure, persons tweeted that the Obama administration should not destroy Lybia, but the polls showed that the majority again supported the bombing. It seemed that sanity was somewhat restored to those peoples in 2013 when in an overwhelming show of force stayed the hand of both the British and American war-machines, but it is clear now that this incident was a one-off, a flash in the pan. Here we are, witnessing massive support in those nations for a military foray abroad.

It is not inconceivable that Assad would gas his own people, leaders do crazy things all the time. However, does it not strike these people as odd that the bombs should start falling hours before OPCW personnel were to arrive to investigate? Does it not strike anyone as weird that this took place shortly after consulting the Noble House of Saud (mortal enemies of Assad)? That these people have fallen for the Iraq style lie (in shiny new clothes and a new tailor) after only fifteen years -and shortly after the anniversary to boot- can only point to the population of those countries either just not giving a damn or supporting the aggression.

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Some may say ‘Isn’t it a bit harsh to blanketly label all those citizens as disgusting?’; To that, I say no. Those persons who marched on the streets in ’03 voted for Obama in 2012 (after he had merrily expanded the US military theatres of operation) and are the same ones (for the most part) crying that a tried and tested warmonger lost to an un-tested warmonger. These people who marched in ’03 voted for Sarkozy, Hollande, Blair, Cameron and May, persons who do nothing but epitomise the concept of imperialism and global domination, in doing that they show their hand and whose side they are truly on.

The people of those nations, the powers of the world who are using the Middle East and the rest of the global south as some sort of chess board or wholesale where they can pick up resources on the cheap, are just as culpable for the devastation meted out to the third world as their governments. If they wish for those accusations to stop, if they truly wish that every time they go to those nations they aren’t met with bile and suspicion then they must change how their governments act. Those persons who yearn for the third world to rise up and shake off the imperialist yoke need to do their job in their imperialist nations to bring it down or admit that they are not only benefiting from these imperial ventures but actually endorse them.

The third world has long tired of your belated sympathy and 20/20 hindsight realizations that your actions were counterproductive, it does not take a genius to realize that to respond to a man ‘gassing his own people’ by bombing heavily populated areas makes no sense.

Again this is no apology for Assad who has done ill to certain segments of the population, but the masses are within his control (territory controlled by the SAA consists of over 70% of the Syrian population and grows as persons flee rebel-held territory) and voted for him and the US and her NATO allies have no mandate to be there. So for her citizens to bay for the blood of Assad or the new Public Enemy number one I say you support Imperialism and all it means, and to those who sit at their keyboards typing in angst thinking they are subverting their state you need to get a clue. You are part of the problem and will continue to be part of the problem until you wake up and see that your respective nations foreign policy hasn’t really changed that much from the nineteenth century for the Europeans and the Twentieth century for the US.

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Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Jamaica is falling apart, anyone who has eyes can see this. If one looks past the high-rises, BPO centres and car-marts (all shiny new things) you get to see roads in desperate need of repair, sewage mains no longer functioning and buildings in general disrepair. For example, when it rains roads flood and people have to swim in the business district of this nation, the state can’t afford to purchase cars for the police and as seen over the past few years the hospitals cant even get funding to ensure patients and medical staff aren’t exposed to dangerous conditions.

It is normal, almost reflexive in these situations to blame the government (or in our case the two incompetent parties). It is normal to cry for blood and demand that something is done about the injustice. It is normal and even correct to say that the decades of mismanagement by both parties (though one party did have a longer time at the wicket) have led to the nation being at the breaking point where even the bare basics now seem to be failing us. It is normal to feel this way and demand justice but we must understand that today, the persons who really have control over what is done is not the governing JLP, it is instead the IMF.

Let us be honest, politicians may be liars, they may be thieves and they may say asinine things, but they do enjoy being elected. So how is it that the party which was swept into office with the help of the scandal at Jubilee and all of the ills which face the nation, and still continue to do (or not do) the same things as the last administration which was embarrassed at the polls? This is so because, in spite of what the PM may want to have us believe, he does not run the country he simply takes directives from the IMF.

The facts are that since at least the last administration tax revenues have exceeded initial projections. The facts are that since the last administration we have had a budget surplus of at least 7% and sometimes higher. The fact also is that we cant spend that money, not because we don’t want to, not because we have nowhere to practically spend it, but because the IMF has stated that those monies be used to pay off our debt (a debt which almost all agree we cant hope to pay off).

This piece is not here to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the IMF or to say that Jamaica’s politicians have always been hindered by this institution. If one wishes to criticize IMF policies and where they lead one can look at the pieces written on the Philippines and Indonesia (both of which are still crippled by their IMF flirtations), and if one wishes to look at how local politicians have sold us out and raped us (financially) they can read the numerous volumes in UWI and Gleaner archives.

However, the situation today is that even if our politicians wanted to change their ways from that of rapacious highwaymen to nation builders and lay some social groundworks they couldn’t, because the IMF regulations are so stringent and limiting in their room for manoeuvre.

Social groups who are lambasting the government for underfunding institutions though well-intentioned are barking up the wrong tree. Persons and movements which demand money be put aside for housing and other areas are looking to wrong people. And the opposition which says they will do more for the people in these areas speak lies as they know that the boss won’t allow for it. The situation in which we find ourselves in today in this nation is that of two parties who do basically the same thing ( implementing austerity measures), and even if we were to get a party who wanted to invest heavily in the state couldn’t because of outside forces.

It is a Greek-like situation, where national politicians are simply enforcing rules passed on from their financial (and therefore political) masters. We simply must get rid of the IMF as a force in this nation if we truly want to advance the country. Only then will we begin to have a government truly accountable to the people and therefore (in theory anyway) able to properly invest in the nation. Then politicians will no longer have the excuse of saying ‘the surplus cant be touched’ as hospitals are evacuated for want of maintenance and upkeep. Then we will actually be able to discuss things such as what to do with the currency without the heavy hand of the IMF and its single-minded mission (that of neo-liberalism) barking in your ear.

For those who are paranoid that the state may once again go back to its old wasteful fiscal days, being rid of the IMF would actually be the test. It would show if we did, in fact, learn, because if we haven’t learned how to manage our economy do we really deserve independence (as being under IMF programs is basically signing up to be a protectorate).

Right now whenever we complain and moan about our politicians, whenever we demand that they actually use the cash they have on the nation it is akin to the burning of effigies. Nothing has ever come from burning effigies (or for my Christian friends sacrificing to idols), for a real change I say again we must start with the removal of the IMF. We must be debating on alternative forms of international finance, we must be debating on serious land reform, a housing program and the nationalising of key industries. All of those can only be successfully tackled and debated in a realistic manner, but only if we are rid of this behemoth which currently dictates just how much can be spent (thus greatly limiting the number of programs which can be implemented or institutions refurbished).

The world today is not the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, finance and means of getting funds are no longer solely bound by the Washington consensus of the IMF and World Bank. With the BRICS Bank now up and running and with the Chinese AIDB also underway one can see where, with creative policy, we could actually fix infrastructure and implement the long overdue social policies. There are ways in which we can get out of this mess without tightening our belts to the point of disfigurement, avenues we could force our politicians down, but we cant do that with the IMF calling the shots. If we really are to stand any chance of changing this country for the better then we must begin by calling for the exit of the IMF.

What type of democracy?

Democracy is a word which stirs up many feelings in everyone, it is a simple word with a complex yet surprisingly simple meaning. The crudest way to describe democracy is peoples power, that is the broad mass of the people have the ability to effect a change in their political, economic and social situation. In the Jamaican context democracy simply means going to the polls once or twice in a set period (Local government elections, general elections and the odd referendum) and then allowing our representatives to make our decisions for us.

Such a type of democracy, in my estimation, is not suitable for any country let alone Jamaica and it must come as no surprise that this type of democracy has led us to where we are now. Such a system allows persons who have vested interests, that is private as opposed to public interests, to come to the fore as national leaders and powerbrokers. More importantly, such a form of democracy is simply not democratic as the average citizen has no real input into how laws or policies are crafted and allows our leaders to act as an elected monarchy.

Does it come as any real surprise then that the voter turnout is slightly above or below fifty percent? Why would anyone wish to partake in a system constantly ignores their wishes and needs while shifting power firmly into the hands of those who can afford to fund a political party? This type of democracy does not work, and while a lot of people fear that the options are the liberal democracy or a dictatorship that is a false choice so far as I can see as one can go into variants of democratic rule (some better than others).

Direct democracy in my eyes is probably the best type of democracy that would both drag Jamaica from the brink of corruption, slack governance and the inevitable reactionary government which almost always follows corruption and poor governance. Direct democracy though it has its admitted flaws (legislation can get bogged down and reactionary laws passed as seen in Switzerland), it has many benefits which I feel far outweigh the negatives, namely the mass population would finally get some concrete political education.

Having some political knowledge is key in any form of rule (democracy, monarchy etc), it allows you to know the parameters of any given political discussion and also allows you to figure out what is achievable what, isn’t and what requires a completely new governance structure. In the context of a direct democracy, it becomes critical as it the population as a whole who will be making the final decisions at the end of the day, and the extent of their political knowledge will determine what type of policy is adopted.

People will be people, some will find ways do nasty things within the most rigid systems and utopian societies. The Swiss who no one can accuse of being ignorant of politics, culture etc voted via direct democracy to outlaw minarets and the call to prayer, this was later codified into law as the Swiss constitution demands. Now no system of government is perfect but again if one looks at the Swiss example that election opened up a huge debate in that nation which is still raging today, a debate regardless of which side you align with needed to be had.

Direct democracy in a Jamaican context need not copy and paste the Swiss model or any model for that matter, rather it can pick the aspects which best suit us and leave the rest alone. For example, the people as a whole in this nation need input in how the state spends our money (at both the local and parliamentary levels) and the only way we can do that is through direct democracy. This need not be a budget proposal going to referendum leaving the nation in the prospect of perpetual budgetary limbo, instead the persons who are on the voters roll will be called up at random to weigh in on the debate, giving voice to critical certain concerns of the average Jamaican which are generally lost in the wash, though the MP would have the final vote.

That hypothetical though entirely feasible option though messy carries immense social weight behind it and could be applied to other things such as education, health and even justice. Direct democracy also ensures that persons know that their voices do in fact matter politically and as such would reverse what has been an alarmingly rapid decline in voter turnout and political participation. Staying on the subject of the social aspect, direct democracy allows more social issues to be brought to the fore. Topics such as abortion, homosexuality, foreign land ownership and everything else under the sun could be properly debated upon. And following such a debate a decision one way or another can then be made rather than the current situation which sees social decisions left to men and women whose ideas don’t necessarily represent those of their constituents.

Direct democracy at the local level, however, may probably be the best place to start and it would also I believe have some immediate benefits. This at least would not see key areas of need (such as the budget and foreign relations) being bogged down in the necessary but costly lengthy debates needed for them. Rather it would have the citizen directly deal with their immediate circumstances. Issues such as rent, parochial roads, sewerage, garbage collection and education are all issues which could be debated upon by the public and then allowed to find and implement solutions to them.

Peoples involvement in politics is needed desperately in this nation, especially now as we have persons with real power and whose actions show they yearn to snatch away the little hard fought for power that the people currently have. Direct democracy I feel is the best way towards that, it is the best way to make the people see that they do have a voice in what goes on in the country and that they can make a change. Yes, it is messy, it does spew up some monstrous policies, but it is far better than shunting your future off to some random person for five years.

Low voter turnout – A real opening for third parties

Low voter turnout – A real opening for third parties

Jamaica is built on the Westminster system of governance with a first past the post model of elections, it is a system of governance which, in spite of its attractions has many flaws and drawbacks, the chief one being the fact that it seems to always end up with two parties monopolizing power while strangling third parties. This can be seen in our politics and its domination by the two ‘grand’ old parties, the PNP and JLP respectively which have made up our governments since ’44 while destroying anyone or thing that could even hint at subverting their party dominance. Both parties predate Jamaican independence (very important note), the PNP, in fact, is so old that it even predates universal adult suffrage in the island, these parties are so woven into the national fabric, synonymous with historic events in the country that it seems almost impossible to dislodge them, but I keep maintaining that the time is now more favourable to a third party than ever before.

It is true that in many ways, whether by deliberate design or by shortsightedness, the Westminster system is highly disadvantageous to third parties, evidence of this can be seen in almost every country which uses this model. However, it is my opinion that the door is wide open for any third-party which is strong, organised and coming with answers to the pressing questions facing the nation. The third party can become a viable option in the Westminster model, this is evidenced in Canada, Australia and even the UK. These nations are home to traditional parties who usually take the premiership, but they have third parties so strong that there have been times (in the very recent past in some cases) where these third-parties have formed the government either in coalition or in whole.

The UK, the home of this parliamentary model has a history saturated with third parties, the most famous of which is the Labour Party, which went from a minor irritant in the 1890s to the running of the government (albeit briefly) in the 1920s. In more recent times the UK has seen the resurgence of the Liberal party (ousted historically by Labour) which was in a coalition government with the Conservatives and the SNP (Scottish National Party) which has overthrown the Labour party in its traditional home of Scotland. These parties, though differing in policies and influence have one key thing in common, they all emerged as viable contenders by offering actual alternatives.

Canada is much the same, home to two traditional parties who ruled the roost (Conservative and Liberal) it has a thriving third party (as seen in the last general election) which was formed and continues to gain momentum (and lose momentum at times) and votes of the disillusioned elector who felt that the traditional two parties no longer represent them and their needs. The same pattern is seen in Australia and to some extent New Zealand, we see where third parties have come from seemingly nowhere to become real power brokers and have the ability to craft policy which the people require/request.

All of these cases though different in major cases all have one common point, the third parties which were successful and long in life (at the ballot box) managed to successfully exploit disillusioned voters. In the UK the Liberal party was re-born as the party of kind capitalism to successfully whittle away the voters who were disgusted with what was then seen to be a ‘radical’ Labour party and a Conservative party which was in constant turmoil. In Canada, the New Democratic Party has managed to retain a sizeable voter bloc by scooping up the left-leaning voters who have found no home in the two major parties.

These examples and points I feel should be looked at very closely not just by ones who create third parties but also the media houses which have long abandoned the idea that our two major parties are capable of salvation.

Ones who create third parties must realise that they are either in for the long haul or they shouldn’t play the game. Modern third parties which are of any merit all come from humble but deep roots. The Liberal party of the UK after being wiped out by Labour never lost itself as an entity. They simply moved from active politics (representative politics) to agitating and campaigning, keeping their name in the voters’ mind through active boots on the ground, pamphleting and visiting local councils. The New Democratic Party in Canada is even more interesting as it can trace its origins to both the Canadian labour movement (which has always been strong) and the provincial Labour-Farmer-Socialist parties (which actually held the provincial legislature at times).

With a voter turnout continually declining and with MPs getting majorities with a quarter of the eligible vote one sees where the door is wide open for any party which seeks to represent the people. These parties and persons who gravitate to them must understand and accept that they are playing a long game, and that benefits and electoral gains will not be immediate. They must understand that the elevation to political office may take decades but they must slog on regardless.

The openings are there and are many as the state has failed its people in so many ways. Communities are for example left to rot and forge their own paths as most local councillors seek to simply draw a cheque and reap the perks which come with local governance. Aspiring political parties could, for instance, provide the voice which the communities have been lacking. They could visit communities and provide them with a political education (grounding sessions), they could lend the communities assistance in creating functioning organisations which can interact with their local councillors and MPs and they can engage in school feeding programs. These groups can even engage in community building the Muslim Brotherhood model, which was most successful in cementing them as the most popular individual party, of school feeding, education, job sourcing and community beautification.

All of these avenues are open in this nation, a nation I repeat, where voter turnout is in the low 50s, where the major parties no longer have anything resembling a good reputation and where the state has literally abandoned certain citizens. All of this is fertile ground for any third party, but they must put in the work and play the long game.

With a people who are literally disgusted with politicians and anything remotely attached to politics, third parties must expect rebuffs and rebukes. They must expect to be greeted with scepticism and questions of how they will use them (the voters) and they must press on anyway. People will be cautious and sceptical of something new, only when the aspiring party has proved itself to the persons that matter, the people, that they are serious about their concerns. But when the acceptance comes electoral victory is in sight because you will have what the major parties seriously lack, and that is the trust and belief of the people. The possibility of third-party success is there, it is just for the patient and dedicated to grasp for it now.