The key idea of “democracy”, of course, is that it involves the demos, the people. Literally the word, derived from Greek demos+kratos, means “rule by the people”. With the spread of the democratic ideal, few modern rulers can afford to ignore “the people”. Elections are supposed to allow “the people” to select representatives that will rule for the next five years on their behalf.
With this in mind, one would have thought it was self-evident that those vying for leadership (in our case the political parties on the campaign trail) would utilise the opportunity presented, to inform the voters about the policies and programmes they would implement if they were elected. Traditionally, the parties would release their plans (labelled ‘manifestos’, betraying our historical leftist tilt) and compare and contrast them with their opponents. This practice appears to have fallen by the wayside.
The new mode of campaigning seems geared towards the lowest common denominator of the psyches of “the people” – their urge to bacchanalia (“sporting” in the local parlance); their fears, and their prejudices. Our history informs us that after grinding their slaves for months – literally into the ground 24/7 – during the “crop season”, the plantation managers would give some of their cast-off clothes, liquour and food to the slaves for them to have a “jump up”.
Surely we have reached a point where we can move off this offer of bread and circus to our people so as to get them to forget their trials and tribulations? But it would not seem so, if we are to view the wall-to-wall array of speakers booming out their dancehall and chutney wine-down music from the campaign stages of the politicians. The announcements of the meetings are punctuated with the same ear-splitting tunes, so that the average resident can be forgiven if he is confused as to whether he is being invited to attend a bubble session or a political meeting.
When “the people” (if they are so inclined) end up at the political meeting (or rally) they will eventually be greeted by the mind-boggling sight of their erstwhile leaders gyrating and “getting down” (literally) to the music. Some have even been captured on tape for posterity “backballing”. It would seem that the politicians have decided that the prime criterion “the people” want to use in making up their minds as to who will run the Guyanese ship of state is their comparative ability to “wine and guh down”.
In the intervals between the cacophony of the music, when the politicians decide to speak, invariably it has very little to do with any plans or manifestos. In fact, one of the major parties has not even produced a manifesto just two weeks before the elections. The rhetoric is all about “cussin out” the opponent in the most vulgar manner imaginable. Physical disabilities of opponents (“big belly”, “cock-eye”) are fair game, sexual proclivities and peccadilloes (”anti-man”) are salaciously detailed and expletives (“screw”) are now routine.
All of this is grievously disappointing. We are, after all, still a poor country with over one-thirds of “the people” – according to World Bank reports – surviving on less than $250 per day. Why can’t the political parties focus on their plans for developing our country? Their nod to “bread” is to merely distribute handouts that will be soon dissipated. The circus cannot go on forever.
The new political mobilisational manuals emanating from the US assure us that “negative” politics are the most effective. Maybe for America, but most certainly no for us. We are a different society, and the negativities that are blared from the campaign platforms will linger on as we know to our cost, from our history.
We call for some good sense to prevail in these last two weeks. We ask all political parties to jettison the negative politicking and show respect for “the people” by exposing them to their programmes and policies, so that the latter can make an informed choice when they enter the voting booths on November 28.
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