THE HARDER THEY FALL

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

He must be 65 or so, which means that when he came to power on the back of a land­slide vic­tory in 1996, Kenny must have been around 45 years old. Be­fore then, he had en­joyed a brief stint in gov­ern­ment of six months as Spe­cial Ad­vi­sor to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­ture from Au­gust 1979 to De­cem­ber 1980, and an even shorter spell of four months as Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion from De­cem­ber 1980 to March 1981, af­ter which he dis­ap­peared from Saint Lu­cia's po­lit­i­cal scene into self-im­posed ex­ile if my mem­ory serves me right.

Then, in 1996, with a mas­sive ma­jor­ity of 16 – 1, he be­came prime min­is­ter with­out much ex­pe­ri­ence of po­lit­i­cal life. I re­call Jan­ice telling her hus­band John be­fore the elec­tion that Anthony would be­come the next leader of the coun­try. He was, af­ter all, tall, hand­some, and a good talker – all at­tributes at­trac­tive to the fe­male voter. John was not amused; the thought of ‘a Barnard' tak­ing over ‘his' coun­try was in­tol­er­a­ble, but by then the UWP was a pretty en­fee­bled party and was no match for New Labour.

His first term was good. How­ever, it was only af­ter they de­parted that I re­al­ized how im­por­tant the roles of two in­de­pen­dent ac­tors, Mario Michel and Di­da­cus Jules, had been for the health of the gov­ern­ment as a whole. They spoke their minds and re­fused to kow­tow be­fore the Chief, as Kenny en­joyed be­ing re­ferred to. They didn't last for long, and even­tu­ally went on to greener pas­tures.

‘Kow­tow', for those who do not know, means ‘to act in an ob­se­quious man­ner; to show servile def­er­ence'. The word re­ferred to the prac­tice of ‘touch­ing the fore­head to the ground while kneel­ing, as an act of wor­ship, rev­er­ence, apol­ogy be­fore a Su­pe­rior in for­mer Chi­nese cus­tom' which might ex­plain Kenny's ob­ses­sion with Main­land China and its sys­tem of di­vine, al­most feu­dal lead­er­ship.

His sec­ond term, which started in 2001, was in some ways sim­i­lar to his third. He con­tin­ued to reign thanks to a much smaller ma­jor­ity (16 – 1 was ob­vi­ously un­sus­tain­able) but his per­for­mance was so dis­ap­point­ing that his party lost power in 2006. This wasn't so much due to a re­vi­tal­ized UWP, even with Sir John at the helm (the strug­gle had be­come per­sonal), as the elec­torate's dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Kenny's gov­ern­ment's in­abil­ity to keep its elec­tion prom­ises and im­prove the lives of its ci­ti­zens.

Ac­tu­ally, to say it was a fail­ure of gov­ern­ment is in­ac­cu­rate. Once a leader takes on the man­tle of mi­cro-man­ager he also be­comes, by de­fault, the owner of ev­ery de­ci­sion taken, and ev­ery mis­take made dur­ing the ten­ure of the gov­ern­ment he leads. Mem­bers of gov­ern­ment have re­ported on more than one oc­ca­sion dur­ing the past five years that what­ever they wanted to do, no mat­ter how much they be­lieved in pro­jects I pre­sented to them, noth­ing would or could hap­pen un­til the ‘Chief' had had his say – and, of course, that ‘say' was never forth­com­ing. This elec­tion's fail­ure of the SLP to main­tain its grip on the reins of power was not the party's fail­ure; the fault lies at the feet of a hubris­tic leader who led his coun­try into dis­il­lu­sion­ment, frustration, dis­trust, dis­be­lief and de­spair.

‘Hubris' usu­ally refers to an in­di­vid­ual rather than a group, though the group the of­fender be­longs to may suf­fer its con­se­quences. Hubris is as­so­ci­ated with a loss of con­tact with real­ity and an over­es­ti­ma­tion of one's own competence, ac­com­plish­ments or ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but it may also re­flect fluc­tu­at­ing self-es­teem that has to be hid­den at all costs. Hubris is a lack of hu­mil­ity. The Book of Proverbs in 16:18 tells us, “pride goeth be­fore de­struc­tion, a haughty spirit be­fore a fall." Hubris is the pride that blinds, the pride that leads to fool­ish acts that be­lie com­mon sense. Hubris is the pride that goes be­fore the fall.

A leader who sur­rounds him­self with Yes-men does not want to hear dis­sent – let alone lis­ten to it – and will prob­a­bly not heed ad­vice that does not cor­re­spond to his own ver­sion of real­ity, and will sel­dom hear any truth but his own. This may be why, when the Chief's for­mer mouth­piece re­as­sured him, so I am told, that his neme­sis and my buddy, Rick Wayne, was a ‘nonen­tity' whose in­flu­ence on the vot­ing pub­lic was neg­li­gi­ble, he ac­cepted this as­sess­ment as true; it was what he wanted to be­lieve.

We will prob­a­bly never know whether the elec­torate voted as it did be­cause of the ap­peal of a new UWP gov­ern­ment, or the mud that stuck to the for­mer Chief's sev­eral high­handed, sin­gle-handed scan­dals, the woe­ful state of our economy, or the sorry, in­se­cure and dan­ger­ous, state of ev­ery­day life; the point is: he's gone, gone to the Pur­ga­tory of Op­po­si­tion, to para­phrase his own words. I ex­pect he will be of­fered some lu­cra­tive, roam­ing po­si­tion be­fit­ting his rest­less na­ture – a bit like Tony Blair – from which he can harm­lessly, im­po­tently, pon­tif­i­cate to his heart's con­tent.

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