By Vannessa Gordon
So many Jamaicans have become apathetic towards the goings-on within the Jamaican political sphere. There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction and we can all feel it – even if we don’t all personally share in it. With the last parliamentary election voter turnout being essentially the lowest since independence, it has become clear that people are starting to not care in greater numbers and with greater passion. Young people in particular, continue to feel a sense of disconnection and complete disengagement from the political process – both by choice and by design. And just for clarity, ‘young’ here actually means young and not simply younger than the age of the average politician – since that seems to have now become the benchmark of youth.
What has dissatisfied the people though? Firstly, it seems that for quite some time now our political parties have lost any distinctness of purpose they may have once had. They have lost their ideological and social identities and have simply become social clubs that people join either for opportunity or by default based on the affiliation of family members. No longer can one say their basis for joining or supporting a political party is its socialist leaning or emphasis on regionalism or anything of the sort.
Such ideologies have long been dead across both political parties. Either way, it seems the competition between parties has lost its basis since the parties purport to offer nothing different or distinct. They claim to be different but if the difference is simply between the JLP’s Zones of Special Operation and the PNP’s Operation Kingfish, the ‘difference’ is lost on me. So when a Jamaican votes in any general election, what exactly are they voting for other than the party with the longer list of promises? Afterall, nothing else is truly different.
That, in part, explains the indifference of the Jamaican electorate. However, Jamaicans are now passed the point of indifference and have started to find our politics annoying at best and appallingly repugnant at worst.
Jamaican politics has become ridiculous and pathetic. Politics has taken on the stigma of being 1) for people looking scarce benefits and 2) for people who chat too much and love tell lie. Empty promises partly account for the people’s disgruntlement but even more marked is politicians’ silly engagement in the many blame games and finger pointing exercises that by now the people have gotten tired of.
It is so annoying listening to the parliamentary opposition complain and gripe about… everything. For every comment, suggestion or action taken by a member of government there is always an equal and opposite force coming from a shadow minister or some other member of the opposition. The current opposition has, over the course of the past few years, demonstrated their unabashed enthusiasm for fault-finding. I dare say it seems the government can never feel justified in doing anything. If they try, they are wasting tax-payers’ money. If they don’t try, they are negligent and ineffective, and this seems to be the case right across all ministries and arms of government.
Matters are only worsened when the fault-finding is laced with personal attacks and contain hardly any substance. What can’t be ignored though, is the fact that it is the same annoying few that continue to engage in the distasteful and purposeless discourse. And no matter how many times they find their feet lodged in their mouths, they just can’t help themselves but continue the cycle of trash talk.
I listened keenly to a prominent member of the opposition as he struck at Member of Parliament, Alando Terrelonge, some time ago. I was stunned into confusion when I heard him essentially make fun of the MP’s passionate appeals to our men not to be driven by ‘toxic masculinity’. I marvelled at how, right on the heels of the national discussion on violent domestic abuse primarily carried out by men, a man, occupying such a high level of responsibility and influence could belittle such a serious issue. And then I was reminded of why the country is so crime-ridden.
What is unfortunate is that, most Jamaicans didn’t even seem surprised. We have lost faith in our own leaders. Not because they make mistakes, but because some of them never do see their comments or actions as mistakes and continue on the same sad trajectories.
Besides this, it just seems as though our politics has become a big puppet show. You can never quite tell if a politician really means what he/she is saying since they are likely to be representing whatever stance their party has taken and will likely not dare deviate from what has been agreed on.
I think observant Jamaicans would feel comfortable counting on one hand the number of politicians they believe would dare to defend the opinions of a colleague from an opposing party. This is, of course, notwithstanding the soundness or legitimacy of said opinion or argument. That’s politics. Intellectual dishonesty has blindsided the entire political arena such that it has become a joke listening to political discourse in Jamaica. No longer can we expect those that represent us to make decisions based on personal convictions and persuasions. It is party versus party. Yet, we can all be assured that approaching the impending general elections (whenever it comes), many will back out the old, recycled complaint that too many Jamaicans are not exercising their precious voting rights.
By the way, for the sake of not-so-objective readers, I could not complete this article without unreservedly stating that my sentiments are simply driven by impartial observation and reflect absolutely no political interest or affiliation. We would get much further as a country if our politicians would focus more on solving the country’s most dire issues than on defending one another and bashing their opponents. The puppet show has lost its intrigue.
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