Friday, April 12, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Parpissitatory horizontality


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Historian John Hammond taught us that the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. Peter Laurie was around at that time and should know this. But verily it is written you can cast pearls before a horse but you can’t make him drink. Unless, of course, Laurie didn’t do history. In which case I apologise.

Our so-called Westminster system is nothing less than a dictatorship of the prime minister who can do as he jolly well pleases and we can democratically do nothing to stop him until election time. And it has worked well for us. Since Independence, little Barbados progressed beyond our wildest imaginings.

The problems arise when “bods” get power and stick around too long. (“Bods” are prime ministers who get the post “because of death” of someone else. Bree was a bod but was soon booted out of office.)

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew was a benevolent dictator who is credited with doing wonders with his country. Letter-writer Peter Webster thinks much of Lee’s success was due to his very efficient civil service. That may be so but it is wishful thinking to ever expect that our entrenched “army of occupation” can be motivated to perform similarly. There are too many expert blockers bent on hampering progress at every turn. Ask Bizzy.

Universal disdain

The recent declaration that PM Froon intends to go republic has been met with almost universal disdain. How can a government which has made a mess of virtually every facet of Barbadian life expect to be entrusted with such a task? No republic without referendum. Let the people decide.

Speaker Michael “Emhacee” (MHAC – my hands are clean) Carrington figures they should just ram the republic down our throats. Many think the less the Speaker speaks nowadays, the better for him.

But suddenly the floodgates are open with every Tom, Dick and Laurie coming with suggestions to change the model of government.

Laurie would diss the Senate, usually the only source of independent (and informed) comment on proposed legislation, and have a big 50-strong “unicameral” legislature.

Can you imagine 50 of them gabbing at budget time? Lord have mercy! And one camera to capture all the action with Jonesy’s hands flying like a windmill? You’re joking, Laurie, right?

Despite the undoubted success of long-serving leaders (Barrow, Lee Kuan Yew, Eric Williams, Castro, Owen), despite the dearth of quality candidates willing to enter politics, he would limit prime ministers to two terms. Isn’t the present parliament poor-rakey enough?

Moreover, he wants “parpissitatory democracy” (I think that’s the term) where citizens can propose legislation. That means that lobbyists for everything from casinos to buggery will be out there and the rest of us will have to counter. For God’s sake, if I get a fellow to wash my pick-up, I don’t want to have to supervise him. If he doesn’t do a good job, I get somebody else. The same with politicians in my opinion.

If Laurie and other eminents want to be participatory, why not join or form a party and get involved?

Win-win situation

It gets better. Say the going bribe rate for a vote is $300, Peter Wickham would pay $600 for a voter to testify against a briber. If the fellows play this right, they could end up getting $900 for their vote, $300 from one candidate and $600 to testify against the other. Since the cases will no doubt be thrown out, it’s win-win all around.

Another constant caller wants “millions of immigrants” welcomed to Barbados to boost the economy. This, mind you, after the undoubted tensions when Owen went overboard in Caricoming. Do these people ever talk to the English about how mass inflows have wrecked their society? Or see the moves from Europe to Australia to avoid, limit, or even reverse, immigration?

Thank Heavens in this sea of turbulence we have our unflappable, sargassic Prime Minister saying it all. As he told President Obama, we need to “talk through our challenges not in a way that puts the US in any position of verticality in relation to the people of the Caribbean, but in a relationship based on horizontality”.

Amen and amen! Horizontality has worked well for the wife and me over the years and can be extended to other spheres. Although, it is kinda nice to achieve verticality while in horizontality mode.

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email


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