By: Keniel Huntley
For any democracy to enjoy longevity, it must be reinforced by an invariant supporting base of protagonists in whom lies the best interest for the society. The people themselves must, therefore, be considered as being in the vanguard of the democratic movement, rather than entrust away the entire apparatus to the political class and its self-concerned footmen. Bear in mind the democratic process is still under tutelage; thus, it is prone to the doctrines, personal and collective alike, espoused by those who are in the position to nurture. On the one hand, democracy promises an inclusive politics in which we can all participate, withstanding our multitude of differences, ranging from race to gender to social class. On the other hand, the process is still fragile and vulnerable to malevolence. That the people separate themselves from the political power without which it is impossible to necessitate the democratic process is what frightens me the most about Jamaican politics.
In delivering on its promise of social participation, the democratic activity has afforded every citizen the right of voting, a public course of action in which they have the political power to select, give feedback, or adjust the political landscape. At least, this is how it appears on paper as Jamaica is merely a simulacrum democratic society. This is precisely so, for as many Jamaicans as one can find, who have the right to vote, one can find just as many who do not have the power to vote in their best interest and that of the country. As a result of which, the minority with whom the political power resides can exploit the majority who merely have rights. This is because rights (in this case, the ability to vote) is ineffectual without power (in this case, the political knowledge to vote). The fault line in the Jamaican electorate is that, despite having a ravenous appetite for rights, it remains a poor consumer and user of power. Political power is crucial to the democratic process in Jamaica whose stride has been permanently handicapped by corruption.
The political class, who often sneaks in and purloin our rights through trojan horses like charity and partyism, does not feel beholden to the people. And the people, overwhelmed in delusion, do not recognise their sovereignty and indispensability to the process. Rather, they consider themselves helpless without the corrupt political class who, in forsaking all tenets of patriotism, avidly loot our country of its opportunities for stratospheric domestic success. This is a discussion regarding a largely impressionable electorate who, under the spell of ignorance, revel in a culture of vulgar, mediocre and vacant politics. This mob is opposed to any traits of reason which is likely to make entry into the Jamaican political landscape. It, therefore, represents an emerging intellectual vacuum that threatens our politics. This darkness, I am convinced, thrives off the quiescence of inactivity prominent among most critical-thinking Jamaicans.
For too long we have been tolerable to the impulses of this mob and now must repair the country along a trajectory of common sense before it is too late. Publicly upbraiding state officials and rogue institutions no longer suffice. Those actions alone, accompanied by little to no sense of personal responsibility, are mere signs of a movement whose intention is only cosmetic. To prove our authenticity, we must take it a bit more seriously, one step closer to home, by calling out and scolding our family members and friends and community people whose toes are dipped into the ocean of corruption. Any person who votes on behalf of self-interest, rather than the interest of the country, is a political traitor; and without any fear of severing social ties with such a one, we must learn to reimagine him/her as a footman for a corrupt infrastructure. Then we must ask ourselves the uncomfortable question: to what situation—whether necessity or self-indulgence—is such treachery owed? This question means for us to get to the sources of corruption within the current Jamaican electorate and fertilise an opposition electorate base simultaneously; that is, it tries to provide the reasonable electorate with a working lens to analyse the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections held by malicious voters toward the political process.
One perspective is ascertained, the rational electorate is then encouraged to the work of destroying the mob, the foundation of which is a composite of ignorance, necessity, and self-indulgence. The problem is multilevel, multicomponent, and multi-contextual. The solution must also then be heterogeneous, corresponding with the complexity of the problem. A panacea is not yet available to the contemplative mind; but up until such a policy or behavioural change occurs, whether, by way of the divinity or cognitive evolution, we must take the steps necessary to put the desired proceedings into motion. A functional solution may or may not include cutting the ground of ignorance from under the feet of uninformed voters, through exposing high school students—or the future electorate—to the science of politics; implementing more punitive punishments to deter wilful acts of unethical voting; and dissolving all the practices in our society which regularizes malicious voting as an inherent consequence of necessity. However, to ensure meaningful results, we will have to attend to the problems of the system and the people simultaneously.
I truly hope this discussion will be interpreted as an urgent appeal for intervention. The future of our democracy depends on how we arrange ourselves politically in the present moment. The power of the average Jamaican is becoming rarer and rarer. This is because the average voter participates in the electoral process for all the wrong reasons. He unknowingly votes his powers and opportunities away into the hands of the corrupt class, and this problem will continue as long as the people and government of a society do not consider each other as equal participants in the democratic process.
The views of this article do not express the views of the Hilltop Trumpet. They are solely the opinion of the writer.
Keneil Huntley is a poet and a 2020 graduate of the Northern Caribbean University.