Play­ing the fool

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - I Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. Send feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and bri­an­

WHILE THE na­tion con­tin­ued its march into obliv­ion with wan­ton mur­ders, gen­eral dis­or­der and a strug­gling econ­omy, mem­bers of the rul­ing elite could be seen mer­rily gal­li­vant­ing along the north coast in a pro­tracted race to se­cure the throne for one of their prized sons with am­bi­tions of join­ing the ranks of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. Watch­ing this mas­quer­ade for the priv­i­leged as it un­folded out­side its reg­u­lar silly sea­son re­vealed the depths to which those of high stand­ing will stoop to find favour with gullible peas­ants.

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the cul­tural habits of the slave­mas­ter’s chil­dren, while drunk on power and in the heights of ec­stasy, many have been known to dis­robe and per­form acts of public vul­gar­ity typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with the sub­or­di­nates they love to scorn. Or­di­nar­ily, we can ob­serve such rich frolic maybe once a year, on Car­ni­val Sun­day, when many gather to watch the awe­some dis­play of ‘sto­cious’ so­cialites jump­ing and split­ting, win­ing and din­ing in scanty ap­parel as they cel­e­brate an­other sea­son of bless­ings. Sim­i­larly, in the weeks lead­ing up to the by-elec­tion in South East St Mary, as those in con­trol and those so minded be­came in­creas­ingly ine­bri­ated from the nox­ious fumes of power, a few lost con­trol of their sturdy gait and stiff up­per lip, get­ting caught up in the mo­ment and dis­play­ing be­hav­iour typ­i­cally un­be­com­ing of those above the fray.


As is now cus­tom­ary in this twi­light zone of is­land pol­i­tics, the few with any rea­son to cel­e­brate in this in­creas­ingly de­pressed state made fools of them­selves as they pa­raded ‘round the is­land beck­on­ing to the com­mon­ers to ac­cept a charm­ing alien im­plant as their new leader. This se­ries of im­mod­est per­for­mances and com­mon tricks tem­po­rar­ily dis­rupted life for res­i­dents in ru­ral and for­got­ten Ja­maica and shone a light on the con­di­tions those in the shad­ows are forced to ac­cept, the things the for­eign vis­i­tors vow to mirac­u­lously im­prove should they be ac­cepted.

Ed­die Seaga, former chef il­lu­sion­ist, hit the road to add sup­port to prince charm­ing and his pros­per­ity gospel. De­spite loom­ing mor­tal­ity, Seaga’s sac­ri­fice of his re­main­ing zeal breathed life into a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion show­ing that the ghost of pork-bar­rel pol­i­tics truly has no ex­piry date. This set the stage for the ap­pear­ance of the new mes­siah and it came to pass that the prince of pros­per­ity looked down from the clouds, ex­posed his sole, and waded gin­gerly through murky wa­ters, meet­ing the vil­lage folk on their turf. Of course, this mirac­u­lous mo­ment was cap­tured and quickly spread as the stuff of leg­end with none brave enough to men­tion that the em­peror has no shoes.


That the prime min­is­ter of Ja­maica in 2017 had to walk bare­foot through rivers and over dirt roads to find any com­mon ground with those he promised a bet­ter life ought right­fully be per­ceived as a mat­ter of shame, but for this new gen­er­a­tion of spin doc­tors, it pre­sented the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to fab­ri­cate a pic­ture of his down-toearth ac­ces­si­bil­ity de­spite it truly be­ing an ex­posé of how decades of po­lit­i­cal tom­fool­ery has ben­e­fited the for­tu­nate while leav­ing the poor just as un­for­tu­nate as their slave an­ces­tors. Rather than achiev­ing its de­sired ef­fect of dis­play­ing light­hearted com­rade­ship with our coun­try­men, in­stead, the last few weeks of cam­paign­ing ex­posed the con­tempt of the rul­ing class for those they seek to ex­ploit.

Just when many thought things couldn’t get any lower, in an ef­fort not to be out­done, the PNP can­vassed the crowd at a last-minute rally and found the ap­par­ently di­shev­elled and ev­i­dently dis­con­tented brother of the op­pos­ing can­di­date, giv­ing him a mi­cro­phone to un­leash his un­fil­tered anal­y­sis of his sib­ling’s char­ac­ter. Cheek­ily de­fam­ing the not-so-poor politi­cian in a man­ner best de­scribed as in­de­fen­si­ble, the crowd lapped up in­sult af­ter in­sult ex­alt­ing the win­ning per­for­mance, declar­ing in lo­cal par­lance that he ‘Dunn’ him!

The day af­ter the elec­tion, when the belly laugh­ter sub­sides, and stom­achs be­gin to growl again, will mem­o­ries of the pre­vi­ous week’s fun flood the minds of the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble like the rivers in South East St Mary when it rains? Prob­a­bly not, which means the play­mak­ers will con­tinue to re­vise and im­prove their in­ge­nious strate­gies to trick the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion into do­ing their bid­ding. Hope­fully one day soon, we will all re­alise the folly in this game of thrones, and see who wins and who loses when or­di­nary folk are played for fools by those sup­pos­edly in con­trol.

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