In the lead up to the 1992 presidential election in the United States, James Carville, the lead campaign strategist for the challenger Bill Clinton, hung a note in Clinton’s campaign headquarters that would etch itself into the global political culture.
As a reminder to Clinton to keep his campaign on message, Carville wrote three points, one of which was, “The economy, stupid”.
With the sitting president George H W Bush enjoying a 90 per cent approval rating shortly after the start of the Gulf War in 1991, the Clinton team was determined to ride the recession in the United States at the time all the way to the White House.
Carville’s message morphed into, It’s the economy, stupid, and Clinton went on to serve two terms as president.
A quarter of a century later, it is still about the economy as Barbados prepares for a general election, with a number of fringe parties confident they can disrupt the norm by surprising the two mainstream parties, in very much the same way that Emmanuel Macron did in France in the first round of the presidential election, and seems set to complete in Sunday’s second round.
Virtually every discussion here today focuses on the economy – be it downgrades, debts or daily living – with Government struggling to figure out its way and virtually every economist recommending cuts and privatization.
But amid all the talk of the economy, is the fact that many of our young people – and not so young – appear to be losing hope.
For many of them the economy simply is not working, and they can be forgiven for believing that our democracy has turned into a plutocracy.
Therefore, they create their own economies through illicit drugs and violent crime, while the older generation which was supposed to be the architects of a better future for our children point accusing fingers at them.
We often boast of the good old days, but should we not be focused instead on a better tomorrow for generations to come?
And if so, how do we do it?
John Adams, who would become the first vice president of the US and its second president, wrote a letter to his wife in May 1780, while on his way to France to solicit support for the American revolution.
“I must study politicks and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain,” he wrote.
In there, we see progress and the development of generations to come. We also see diversity in the development of skills and the subjects studied.
Herein lies the problem with us. It is a shibboleth here to push our sons – and daughters – to study law, and possibly medicine, with the lawyers ending up in Parliament practising the politics of nihilism and envy and creating the precariat class, the vast majority of which are the youth.
We offer scholarships to the academics in order to prepare them to become managerialists, but we ignore those who wish to study the arts.
We hold our heads in shame if our children dare attempt to study painting, poetry, musick, statuary, tapestry or porcelain, even though that is where their interests lie.
Our leaders and virtue-signallers display artificial anger at the behaviour of our youth – many of whom are making violence part and parcel of school life, according to the teachers unions – while we maintain an education system that prepares them to be – – what, exactly?
It is time the older generation take a look at ourselves to determine whether or not we have engaged in a craven abdication of our moral duty to the youth.
Many of the young people are tumescent with anger and rage, and we must find out why.
Are we preparing a better future for them, or are we simply legitimizing the dread they feel, and their fear of the future?
Are we being creative enough to put to bed the ever threatening social and political battles, so they will not have to fight even bigger wars, or are we simply blaming them for our mistakes?
Are we creating a small group of plutocrats and a wide precariat class, or are we committed to a Barbados where there is hope for everyone, and where the next generation will be better off than their parents?
It is not enough to say that the young people have lost their way, if we do little to help them along the way. It is not enough to insist that they have become selfish, nasty and uncaring if we do not prepare them to be caring and selfless. It is not good enough to complain that they are no good and they are lazy if we do not provide a broad environment in which they can thrive in the areas that interest them, and if we fail to ensure the economy works for them.
For whatever we might think, it is still the economy, stupid!