The key idea of “democracy”, of course, is that it involves the demos— the people. Literally, the word, derived from Greek demos+kratos, means “rule by the people”. With the spread of the democratic ideal, few modern rulers can afford to ignore “the people”. Elections are supposed to allow “the people” to elect representatives that will rule for the next five years on their behalf.
With this in mind, one would have thought it was self-evident that those vying for leadership on the campaign trail would utilise the opportunity presented, to inform the voters about the policies and programmes they would implement if they were elected. Traditionally, the parties would release their plans (labelled manifestos, betraying our historical leftist tilt) and compare and contrast them with their opponents. This practice appears to have fallen by the wayside.
The new mode of campaigns launched by the PNC seems geared towards the lowest common denominator of the psyches of “the people” – their urge to bacchanalia; their fears, and their prejudices. Our history informs us that after grinding their slaves for months – literally into the ground 24/7 – during the “crop season”, the planters would give some their cast-off clothes, liquor and food to the slaves for them to have a “jump up”.
Surely, with our 50th Republic anniversary upon us, can we move off this bread and circus to our people for them to forget their trials and tribulations? But it would not seem so if we are to view the wall-to-wall array of speakers booming out their dancehall and chutney wine-down music from the campaign stages of the PNC – starting with the foreign Farmer Nappy. The announcements of the meetings are punctuated with the same ear-splitting tunes so that the average resident can be forgiven if he is confused as to whether he is being invited to attend a bubble session or a political meeting.
When “the people” end up at the political meeting (or rally) they will eventually be greeted by the mind-boggling sight of their erstwhile leaders gyrating and “getting down” (literally) to the music. Perhaps because of their ages, Granger and Nagamootoo have thankfully confined themselves to swaying with upraised hands. It would seem they have decided that the prime criterion “the people” want to use in making up their minds as who will run the Guyanese ship of state is their comparative ability to “wine and guh down”.
In the intervals between the cacophony of the music, when the politicians decide to speak, invariably it has very little to do with any plans or manifestos. In fact, the Caretaker APNU/AFC have not even produced a manifesto mere weeks before the elections. The rhetoric is all about “cussin” out their opponent in the most vulgar manner imaginable and using racist dog whistles. Physical disabilities of opponents are fair game, sexual proclivities and peccadilloes are salaciously detailed and expletives are now routine.
All of this is grievously disappointing. We are, after all, still a poor country with over one-third of “the people” still living in dire poverty, with the Indigenous peoples still at the bottom of the barrel. Why cannot the PNC focus on their plans for developing our country? Their nod to “bread” is to merely distribute handouts that will be soon dissipated. The circus cannot go on forever.
The new political mobilisation manuals emanating from the US assure us that “negative” politics are the most effective. Maybe for America, but most certainly not for us. We are a different society and the negativities that are blared from the campaign platforms will linger on as we know to our cost, from our history.
We call for some good sense to prevail in these last two months. We ask all parties, but especially the PNC, to jettison the negative politicking and show respect for “the people” by exposing them to their programmes and policies so that the latter can make an informed choice when they enter the voting booths on March 2.