As an expectant populace prepares for the inevitable general election, and some personalities position themselves for political manna, we are reminded of the writings of late authors Malcolm Bradbury and Harold Lasswell.
Lasswell was a leading American political scientist, law professor and communications theorist who once simply described politics as “who gets what, when and how”. Indeed, this was the title of his popular text which underscored the fact that a society’s elite were the principal holders of political power. Of course, in such a dispensation there are always minions – whether located in the media, universities, businesses or elsewhere – that carry out the bidding of the political elite for varying portions of scraps from their tables.
Bradbury, a British satirist of excellent quality, created an imaginary country called Slaka in two of his books. In the 1983 Rates of Exchange he noted that in Slaka, sex was just politics with one’s clothes off. Over the years within the Barbadian context, this has often proven to be quite true in more ways than one.
The lead-up to Barbados’ general election has been one of predictability. Nothing major within our political scheme of things has changed since Independence. Politicians still make the same promises, the marginalized still naively expect all their problems to be solved by promises, business investors still put their monies both sides of the political fence expecting later dividends, civil servants provide internal files to Opposition parties to be used as ammunition against the Government of the day, unflattering Government documents are often leaked to the media, workers unions either pressure governments or ease them depending on the political leanings of the leadership, social issues that have existed across administrations are suddenly magnified as current and some media managers slant their news according to their political persuasion and personal expectations, while complaining when their attempts at political discourse are shunned by parties they do not favour.
We have had prominent supporters of both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party switch allegiances, not because of any philosophical or intellectual variance, but in several cases, they adhere to the concept of carpe diem and go where the pastures seem greener. Or, in other cases, their visible megalomania has not been pandered to by the political leadership with which they were traditionally associated.
It is within this atmosphere that Mr Charles Lewis’ short-lived Political Prostitutes Party (PPP) was one of the more interesting developments this political season. We honestly believe no one took the PPP seriously. We will not go as far, though, to say that perhaps Mr Lewis himself did not take the PPP seriously. Nevertheless, the advent of the PPP should not be dismissed as mere circus but could be viewed within the context of a Gulliver’s visit to Brobdingnag or Lilliput.
It was rather brilliant of Mr Lewis to announce a political party without personnel. Then, to create a firestorm of righteous indignation in sections of society, gain his moment of fame and then announce the end of something that in the strictest sense never existed as a political entity. This is what he had to say recently: “We are going to miss this election simply because the recruitment process is not complete as yet. I am still searching for candidates to represent us throughout most of the constituencies, so it won’t be happening this election for sure.”
It would have added to the satire had Mr Lewis stated where he was “searching for candidates”. Was he searching for candidates in red light districts or adult clubs? Did he seek out candidates in the heights and terraces or less privileged communities? With the amalgamation of some of the new parties, did he try to recruit from them? Or, with personnel switching from Barbados Labour Party to Democratic Labour Party and vice versa over the years, did he attempt to lure any of them to his PPP?
Whether real or imaginary, Mr Lewis did note he had “about 30 applications” with four of them expressing an interest in seeking political office to push Barbados forward. Again, whether tongue-in-cheek or not, Mr Lewis did not say if the other 26 had also applied to take Barbados forward, but he did admit that those outside the mentioned four “have not met the criteria”. Neither Jonathan Swift nor Bradbury could have scripted this better.
In a country where a convicted man has sat in Barbados’ Parliament, where some politicians have had to flee the country because of misdeeds, where some sitting members have been accused of criminal dishonesty, where the mental stability of a few has been held up to public scrutiny, where some have spouted explicit profanities across the floor of Parliament, and where at least one has been accused of being a gun-toting cowboy, Mr Lewis’ confession that there were candidates unsuitable to be political prostitutes was the stuff of which humorists can only dream. Perhaps we should be guided by history, not only in Barbados but across the globe. Whether so designated or not, political prostitutes have been with us before the days of Plato and will still be with us after the next Parliament is convened.