week, I am reproducing an e-mail debate between myself and three
Trinidadians (jump-started last week) because it reflects current waves of
thought in this election year2000.
call them Readers A, B and C. For the sake of clarity, I have condensed
several e-mail into single responses.
thesis is, if you want political power, you have to finance your
politicians and make sure they understand what is expected of them.
need a wide variety of groups to do it, to ensure balance. From the
grassroots (your need money for strikes, etc) to policy lobbying (you need
money for contributions). A population’s response is coloured by PR,
which requires money- campaign contributions, etc. A well -crafted
message, effectively delivered, will go a long way to election/re-election
and even ousting an effective leader.
Churchill’s defeat after winning WWII, Bush’s defeat after winning the
Gulf War and Thatcher’s landslide victory after the Falklands. Money
makes it work. Without it, intellectuals and analysts remain in the
library or university and out of mainstream influence.
work for the people and are empowered (elected) by the people (or those
who care to vote). Their first job is to get elected and the second is to
get re-elected. Their performance in office will contribute to their
re-election prospects, so there is incentive to govern well. Still,
elected office is not a carte blanche to do whatever you want to do.
only way controls exist today- within a democratic system - is via the
rules of government and debate; and money, which provides access for your
views to be heard and promoted. Good politicians are able to mobilise
their constituents to manage through this process without always losing to
the best-financed view.
the politician’s desire for funds, they are more likely to listen to
money providers. If they have no money, they will soon be out of work.
Hence, in a democratic society, money works so it is very near and dear to
the hearts of politicians.”
other words, buy the politicians and then make sure they stay bought? The fundamental question is not whether
democracy/politics/finances are the most important issues but what causes
mankind/womankind to strive for these things?
the core of it is the quest for power. This is a constant theme as
witnessed by Rousseau, Kant, Plato, Nietzche and indeed Machiavelli. As a
side benefit, one can indeed profit handsomely by wielding such power,
thus satisfying the financial imperative you speak of. Trinidad Indians
seek financial power to prevent being relegated to the indentured labourer
status, while Africans seek political power to be “big fish” in a
small pond and control the fate of the country.
to the rest of the country - Jews/Chinese/Syrians - well, they know when
to pull their heads down and milk the cow for all it’s worth. They wield
power behind the scenes and thus can afford to be arrogant.
best politician the country has seen has to be Williams. By promoting the
‘wave of democracy’ in T&T, he effectively castrated the
opposition into 18 political parties each of which was more intent on
attacking the others rather than the PNM. You have to admire him for this
achievement, even though it was to the detriment of the state as a whole.
By presenting any opposition as weak and ineffective... perpetually
mudslinging and squabbling... he was able to present himself as a strong
statesman and reaped the rewards.
forget that the US calls the shots in Trinidad. For a country that holds
itself up as a model of democracy, I think the US is sadly lacking in this
regard. One can buy an election in the US and only money (or blackmail)
can buy a senator or representative. The US needs urgent reform of its
political system or the unheeded underclass will surely revolt (and they
have the guns to do it).
quote, admittedly from a shameful source: Donner: SS commander of Aachen
in 1944-45) “In the time of the setting sun, dwarfs cast the shadows of
giants. The sun
going down and I do not wish to live in the time of the dwarfs.” Is the
sun setting on T&T? Maybe, because we are living in the time of the
needs a new generation of statesmen/politicians.... who can cut across the
deep racial/religious/class divide.”
Burnham’s reign in Guyana, elections were held regularly and - according
to the local vote count - he lost all those elections, but was declared
the winner after the overseas votes were counted. Now, was he a politician
working for the people and judged, by the people, on his performance?
know that, because of US propaganda, Castro is considered evil. However,
given the corruption that existed in Cuba before Castro, and the changes
after the 1959 revolution, would you say that Cuba is worse off today,
than if the revolution had failed? Castro has managed to raise education
standards and health care to levels the US can only dream of, while being
shut out from any external funding sources. However, he cannot see past a
one party state. I am sure that the levels of corruption in Cuba are no
different than those in other states. Yet who can replace Castro? Granted
it is time Castro goes, or changes, as it’s time to move on to the next
phase of the revolution. Yet Cuba did better in the 20 years after the
revolution than in the 10 years preceding it. But the US and its biased
press will never admit it.
point is democracy is not always the best way to govern and money is not
always needed to win elections. Politicians ought to be accountable to the
people in a democratic society. Is this so in Trinidad? No, and the
politicians recognise this. Our population should be demanding that their
leaders be accountable to them, rather than sit around feeling sorry for
themselves, waiting for the government to provide ‘opportunities’.
average Trinidadian is not interested in constitutional, fiscal or
political reform. The so-called leaders in this country know the
priorities of the average person, so what do they do? They keep the price
of rum and beer low, shut their eyes to the ‘mountain dew’ being
brewed in the country, the weed planted on hills and in forests, while
grabbing all they can get their hands on. You might say that the
politicians in T&T are the country’s best entrepreneurs.”
B gets the last word:
the early 19th century an English peer said in the House of Lords, “Are
we so denuded of talented men that we are reduced to men such as these?”
An apt cry for Trinidad these days.
is needed is a true giant who, by sheer force of his or her personality,
could sway the country into a new direction. Such leaders are now extinct.
Maybe a rallying cry to the diaspora could unearth someone who can come
into the country with clean hands and a fresh approach.
need to break the back of party politics by introducing proportional
representation - a more inclusive form of government - thus forcing the
politicians to work together for the common good rather than for the good
of the party.
is a dirty business but to turn around an oft-repeated maxim “politics
important to be left to the politicians.””