As a student of Hegelian philosophy, Karl Marx, the German political theorist and revolutionary socialist once said of compatriot and philosopher Georg Hegel: “Hegel remarked somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce!”
Many will suggest that already Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has risen to the level of historical personage – he did suggest he created history – by allowing Parliament to automatically dissolve seven weeks ago and, to this day, failing to call an election.
There are those who might even wish to suggest that the entire scenario has descended into a farce, as political scientist Peter Wickham did recently when he described the ongoing electoral process as a circus, with Mr Stuart as the ringleader.
However, it is with sincere apologies to Mr Marx, that we wish to raise an aspect of this election season which is as tragically distasteful the second time round, as it was the first time it was uttered.
Speaking last month at a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) event at Mile And A Quarter in St Peter, the Prime Minister all but advised party supporters to “get some” of the money he claimed would likely be given, presumably by parties other than his own, to Barbadians in exchange for their votes.
“I have made it very clear to the people [in my constituency] of St Michael South and I am making it very clear to the people of Barbados – I say this unapologetically – if money starts sharing around try and get some. Do not get it by illegal means, but if money is sharing around, get some. Because this kind of political cynicism that is manifested in Barbados has to be confronted, but that is not another way of saying that if they want to be cynical you cannot show that you are more cynical than they are. So if they sharing out money, take some,” he said.
It would not have been as sad, or disturbing, or as tragic, had it not come from the mouth of the very Prime Minister, who had vowed following his re-election five years ago, to tackle vote-buying.
Attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong roundly condemned Mr Stuart, and rightly so, even though the language used was somewhat acerbic.
Although not rising to the historical level, but what is a clear indication that we are living in the age of irony, the vote-buying matter became a farce last week when Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for St Michael Central Arthur Holder repeated the Prime Minister’s advice – this time to BLP supporters – while stating it was the DLP that would engage in the illegal act.
“All you have to do is to take the money. But you aren’t going to only take their money, you need to take their money and vote against them. Remember that your vote is secret. The people don’t know who you vote for,” Mr Holder said. We await Mr Comissiong’s criticism of him.
Both Mr Stuart and Mr Holder are lawyers and they ought to know that vote-buying is illegal. For such incontinence to come from them is rather disturbing.
Maybe we are naïve to expect more from our political leaders. Maybe we really are at the stage where we have to stop listening because nothing they say can be believed or taken seriously.
There is no need for us to list the mountain of issues that we face as Barbadians. So much has been written about them, so much has been said.
Should the politicians who seek our votes not be engaging us in meaningful dialogue about plotting the way forward instead of spewing vaporous and incontinent words at us?
Already there is a swirl of disinformation, particularly on social media, with no effort made to differentiate between truth and utterly manufactured ‘facts’ about political opponents
There are also great attempts at deflection aimed at shifting the discussion from the important to the farcical.
There are questions to be answered by both the BLP and the DLP, about how the truly intend to rescue the economy; about whether they will turn to the International Monetary Fund; about whether or not public servants will be sent home.
The BLP must say where it will get the revenue to replace what will be lost when it abandons the National Social Responsibility Levy; how it intends to pay for students attending the University of the West Indies and if public servants will get a pay rise.
The DLP must explain where it suddenly got the money from to put into the Barbados Revenue Authority for income tax refunds; whether it will tax us some more if it were to be returned to office, and if it would devalue the Barbados dollar. These are only the economy related questions. There are so many more to be tackled by a Government much too paralyzed to act and an Opposition tied up in positions it will not articulate.
Frankly, we are tired of the insults, the lies, and the distractions. What we need is a plan of action for our country, our people, our future; something to prove to us that the people seeking our votes have put some thought into the things that really matters to us.
It would be a tragedy, if not a farce, if the election were called and none of the parties could demonstrate that they take us seriously.