By Denys Springer
In the last century, we have seen many who came into the political arena with good intentions but as the adage goes, ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Then, inflated egos lose sight of humility, in exchange for a dictatorship in our pristine land. This is not only a Saint Lucian phenomenon, but we also see it in Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis.
What these egoists fail to appreciate is that an objective understanding of reality can only emerge out of situations that permit open and free discourse. Therefore, if the management of your country as the leader is above board, what have you to fear by actions that leave the population bewildered and/or queries what the government of the day has to hide. Again, what we are witnessing are ways and means of suppressing those with a differing point of view to the government. What these previous advocates of democracy before coming into power fail to understand is that a lively and democratic education and tradition, capable of growth and development is essential in a small island developing state.
I am of the view and supported by sociologist Webber “that democracy depends upon an educated public and that democratic freedoms can only operate in a society in which there is freedom of enquiry, communication, and expression”.
We saw evidence of this when a former prime minister of Barbados took a decision that he thought would be of benefit to the country as a whole and not just the political economy or his party. He knew if he took that direction that he would lose the election, nevertheless, he did and lost the election. But years later, Barbados benefited tremendously for this honesty—country came first.
Over the last four years, I have pondered on the statements made by then prime minister Kenny Anthony, before the general elections of 2016. He espoused that the coming election is between the labour party and the Chastanet’s. Back then, I was furious and chastised him for that statement. But now, thinking about our democracy and how things are unfolding my objectivity and thoughts have crystallised.
Recently, I heard the word “Massa” espoused by the present prime minister irrespective of his descendants. It was laughable, to say the least of someone born into privilege and knowns not — what poverty is — and unable to identify as a Saint Lucian. Throughout the Caribbean, during slavery, we had the white overseers who looked after the plantations while the owners lived lavishly in England, France, and other parts of Europe from the benefits of slave labour originated from Africa.
I am now more convinced that Saint Lucia’s prime minister, would love to take us back to our colonial past, and even to modern-day slavery to serve his purpose. The strong-arm tactics of enforcing the state of emergency— a totalitarian move, illustrates a dictatorial tendency. He has also indicated that general elections is near, amid COVID-19 lockdown. His attitude and mindset are akin to a buckle down, fall in line aristocratic philosophy.
Why do I think in those terms? Regardless of what this prime minister may think, his attitude, words, and political activities are obvious indicators of an inferiority complex theory. For example, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, horses at the Vieux-fort stables affiliated with the DSH project are fed better than the 43 percenters (Saint Lucians) he describes as “illiterate” including many supports of his political party.
While many thought we were free and took the advice of Bob Marley to “release ourselves from mental slavery”, many Saint Lucians are shell shocked by the prime ministers’ attitude, his theories or lack thereof (economics and colonization) to reveal himself — a ‘colonialist’ of modern history.
I mentioned previously that I am lost for words that writings of the 15th,16th, and towards the 20th century have left us with literature that is relevant in modern civilization. I am intrigued by Hannah Arendt’s book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and Jean Jacque Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” — “Society based on social bonds would leave me free as if I was in a state of nature”.
Students of philosophy understand Thomas Hobbes in the Leviathan first wrote about the State of Nature. He also alluded to man in the state of nature.
Suffice to know that Rousseau’s state of Nature was not the same as Thomas Hobbes state of Nature’ who was of the view that “man in a state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Rousseau set out to describe his state of nature as a war waged by several ferocious egoists, each acting against his fellow men in pursuance of his appetite for possession and power.
Persons familiar with the politics of Saint Lucia and who are level-headed thinkers and able to make clear objective judgments would be able to understand what Rousseau is alluding to. The Hobbesian inferno, he said, bore no sort of resemblance to the behavior to be expected of primitive men in the absence of organized society.
At present, we have a disorganized government and a society that seems lost. Most times our government speaks with fork tongues most recently June 2, 2020, in the House of Assembly. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was of the view that “it is an essential part of all legitimate social existence that the right to control the destiny of the society shall belong in the last resort to the whole people”. Those who govern this small island of ours should be in-tune with this way of thinking. Rousseau’s sense acts under a code of laws made directly by the sovereign people. He makes no pretence that the more voices of a majority are infallible.
Rousseau is also of the view that “the government under which a people wanes and diminishes is the worst”. I do agree with him when I reflect on the demolition of the old prison that took place after an agreement was signed by all of the parties involved. Rousseau in my view was a man of vision who envisage 2020 and beyond; especially in this pristine land of ours.
It shocked me when I came across what he wrote then: “Government undergoes contraction when it passes from the many to the few, that is, from democracy to aristocracy”. However, some in the Cabinet do think that they are [now] part and parcel of that aristocracy. Rousseau goes on further to write that “governments never change their form except when their energy is exhausted and leaves them too weak to keep what they have”. He further elucidated that “the moment the government usurps the Sovereignty, the social compact is broken, and all private citizens recover by right their natural liberty and are forced but not bound to obey”. Increasingly, we are seeing some roots of that occurring within the Saint Lucian environment.
I conclude this article by not hesitating to quote from Rousseau’s Social Contract where he writes that “we are therefore led, by nature, by habit, and by reason, to treat other men approximately as we do our fellow-citizens. From this disposition, transformed into acts are born rules of reasoned natural law, which is different from natural law properly so-called.”
Therefore, it is plausible to determine whether the prime minister is right in his behaviour — a false infatuation of himself and therefore fails to treat men/women with respect, including his Cabinet of ministers; because his warped mind sees them as cannon fodder.
It would be so beautiful and a sublime idea if all I have written could be inculcated in the prime ministers’ mindset and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I finally succumb to Rousseau that “the fundamental and universal law of the greatest good of all, and not in the private relationships of man to man, that one must seek the true principles of the just and the unjust”.
Have faith Saint Lucian’s. God is good.