Sunday, April 21, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Money and politics

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THE COMMENTS ATTRIBUTED to Kenny Anthony of St Lucia, in which he expressed amazement about the number of Barbadians on the ground as consultants during the 2016 general election, provide a useful ouvre through which to engage in an examination of the now common practice of the role of paid political consultants in the politics of the various Caribbean countries. 

When taken along with the now notoriously pervasive practices of vote-buying, what emerges is the deepening ofthe impact of short-term personal monetary consideration as a critical driver of electoral decision-making, as distinct from deeper philosophical concerns and genuine questions about policy, leadership and who or which party is best for a given country.

It has been previously observed that one of the implications of the pervasive nature of neo-liberal ideology has been the manner in which it has allowed for earlier deeper ideological questions to be replaced by purely individualist considerations of personal material advantage. Retired University of the West Indies Cave Hill Dean Dr George Belle put it best in his reflections in the NATION’s 50th Independence publication, The Barbados Legacy, when he noted that “the children of the Reagan/Thatcher ‘neo-liberal revolution’ are in the saddle now . . . . They manifest crass and vulgar values of self-centredness; their definition of ‘success’ is linked to ‘careerism’, greed as good, selfish opportunism, and a vulgar classism aimed at persons of their own deprived origins . . .”.

Thus, just as the conscientious voter has been replaced by the vote seller, then so has the committed political activist been replaced by the paid election strategist and the mercenary image consultant, hungry for a quick buck. We are in the era of style over substance.

Interestingly, some have been attempting to call themselves “political entrepreneurs” as a more dignifying title. In response to this, I was happy to receive the following Internet description of the term “political entrepreneur” from one of my comrades: “a business entrepreneur who seeks to gain profit through subsidies, protectionism, government contracts, or other such favourable arrangements with government(s) through political influence (also known as corporate welfare)”.  

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