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Mark Wignall | Can a social contract be exhumed?

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2023 | 12:06 AM
Supporters of Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party during the 2020 general election at Mannings Hill Primary School, West Rural St Andrew.
Supporters of Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party during the 2020 general election at Mannings Hill Primary School, West Rural St Andrew.

Recently, I posted an item on TikTok which spoke about a Jamaican friend of mine who works and lives in Florida. He spoke about spending Thanksgiving holiday time with a close relative and her family who lives in a nearby state.

Sadly, he states, all the Jamaicans he met up with, all educated and trained professionals, told him they left Jamaica because of crime, corruption and lack of opportunities.

Some of the Jamaicans who commented on the post were more frank. One said, “I left Jamaica because I was underpaid.” But he went a bit further in his analysis. “The unemployed masses and political activists determine the future of Jamaica.”

In other words, the party which controls government will mostly cater to those who can give the party a direct benefit. A VOTE.

Let’s examine that. Political parties are in competition for various constituencies of people. At the top of the totem pole of power is the big business class. In general, this class is always being wooed by the JLP and PNP, not because of a vote. The political parties need the big business class for its cash value. And that same class needs the politicians to set the table for them so that the business class can reproduce its wealth ( and have more cash value to the politician).

The politician tries to woo those wealthy households and the middle class, not necessarily for their votes but so that they may convince the many who work for them to place a vote for the politician.

The largest constituency is the actual voter who tends mostly to be unemployed, undereducated and generationally locked into a cult-like and exclusionary relationship with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).

If all the JLP and PNP has to do with this class of voter is throw political blather at them and, at election time, a few envelopes stuffed with cash, there will always be willing takers for the powerful big business class to skilfully channel those funds to, hopefully where the vote resides.

If all of this sounds like a dirty reworking of the type of dutty politics of yesteryear, it is because it never really died. Campaign finance reform can bring about cleaning up the filled boxes of cash but it can also conceal the shenanigans.

NEW BREED OF POLITICIANS

I think it’s fair to say that, if we are looking for our older politicians to go out in a burst of statesman glory and leave a blueprint for new development of our people and charge our younger politicians to get it done, we should not hold our collective breaths.

A social contract between our political leaders and the people requires that it is the politicians that ought to lead in solidifying this contract. It is the politician who should prod us into meeting in the town halls across Jamaica and activate our minds into buying into a new Jamaica.

But, how can they do it when the contract has never been ratified? In other words, it has never been in place.

What that tragedy does is lock the people into only demanding bread and circuses because they see those items being paraded in front of them and those become their proximate objective.

But there exists another troubling reality. Both the JLP and the PNP have young politicians who are quite modern and are aware of the new direction needed. They are also pragmatic and they see that the politics is governed by the pressing electoral needs. Get in power and constantly feed that political beast that gives them the surest route to holding on to that power.

So, at this time, with the reality of social media, the politics reaches down to the slime in the dutty gully and all that is really left is to ask our brightest computer and AI specialists to bring an actual stinking smell to social media. Log in and the smell of rotten eggs will have you headed for the hills.

WHO IS HOBBLED BY INTEGRITY COMMISSION?

I do not want the typical Jamaican politician to be a Sunday School teacher because such people do not exist and are not likely to ever exist. The typical politician is likely to be a business-oriented type very involved in creating generational wealth for his family.

For the ‘good’ politician, the work as a lawmaker is the main job while the wealth building is the sideline. And then, for the not-so-clean politician, the political work is the hustle.

One person posted on TikTok, ‘Three workers at Petrojam are charged via the IC. What therefore are we to think of the PM and his needed submissions to the IC? Is there something that the prime minister wants to tell those Petrojam workers?’

Again, we are expecting that from our younger politicians there will arise a Diogenes holding a lamp while searching for an honest man. And that politician will know that a reasonably honest man is unlikely to exist with those dillying and dallying.

It is certainly no longer puzzling.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.