Successive governments have failed to come to grips with changing realities. The previous government tried to power its way out of numerous political bushfires and governance shortfalls through stridency, confrontation, intimidation, and bringing to bear its own artillery. The current government is content with ignoring, distancing, evading, and similar kinds of nuanced strategies and tactics that have served it just as poorly as its predecessors.
The common denominator is the failure to recognise and adapt to the information and communication revolutions. Some defining features of these revolutions impacting corporate, social, and political worlds are identified. Almost all are tuned in, or electronically alerted by friends, family, and likeminded. This forms the nuclei of objections, resistances. Right at the fingertips, on the cheapest phone: latest unpleasantness, outrage, proof of the irredeemably warped nature of governments, politicians, and peoples under their wings.
Very few are left out: Discourse and dissent are no longer the domain of elites and the educated, nor the privileged and powerful only, which in most societies form a distinct minority. Everybody has an opinion, an axe to grind; or some passion and venom to be spat. All the animosities and prejudices, motivations and disputations, find outlets like streams becoming rivers. Unfailingly hostile narratives are generated.
People who shied away from crowds, or physical confrontation, or intellectual engagement now have the channels to mix matters up with all and sundry, without being anywhere near the tempest and vortex. There is a simple and easily accessible word that describes this new universe of protest and pressure: networking. A parallel and altogether appropriate synonym is connectivity. Connectivity signifies numbers as in multitudes swarming to the scene of the crime. In most instances, it is any governance mishap; a perceived policy shortcoming; a personal stumbling; a leadership inconsistency or breach. The word is out and the social media storms rage and batter.
Sometimes, there is neither merit nor meaning. It does not matter, as every voice is heard, and demands being heard, and on most occasions in the most scorching and aggressive manner. The power of the people; the chorus of voices; the irrepressible crescendos of the crackling electronic lightning. Governance can no longer be of the centralised and vertical variety. That business of talking down, handing down, and passing down (through various intermediaries) decisions and directives to the wider, waiting constituencies is ancient and over.
Through the compliments of unending technology advances, the flow of information and the feedback loop, since the 1980s and with mind-blurring rapidity, is now decentralised and horizontal. Nobody is left behind; and everyone wants to have a say, and will have it. Official censorship, through information blackouts, political coercion, and the wielding of the state’s power has limited reach, or will be effective for a limited time only. The baying beast has to be fed, and it will not be silent.
Thus, it is imperative that government leaders be of a mindset that is empty of the repressive (inclusive of the subtle) and be more receptive to the new realities that now are an intrinsic aspect of governance expectations as to standards and practices. Of necessity, those standards and practices have to be characterised by attentiveness, sensitiveness, and responsiveness. It cannot be one, or even two of those elements, for those will only go so far, and leave matters unchanged or suspended. There has to be all three ingredients.
With those as foundation, governance approaches and mechanisms could exhibit on a consistent basis: openness, willingness to listen, readiness to engage and consult, seriousness to collaborate and compromise so as to arrive at consensus. Guyanese administrations insist on sticking to the muscle bound and top down. It did not work yesterday and imprisoning today. Lessons had better be learned.
The technology revolutions underscore this irrefutable point: the old models of governance are now history; have lost relevance; are now found unacceptable. Thus, governance paradigms must shift to absorb and adjust to the unfolding challenges.
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