Who You For?

| 28/02/2010

I post quite often. Sorry. But sometimes you can’t help it. You feel compelled to say something and express an opinion. Since the advent of CNS, I have noticed that many others have the same attitude. For us, sometimes it’s a release. But more than that, and more profound, is that we as citizens have found a forum in which we can express opinions and read what others have to say.

It should be obvious most of these opinions surround the activities of government. That brings one thing of particular importance to mind. And one we should examine. Why, if we feel we are being properly represented, are so many opinions in contradiction with government policy and decision?

The argument could be said that, as always, we revert to a complaint mode. In other words what we have been told during an election did not fully represent what was in store, or at the worst it was mildly deceitful and at least devoid of some relevant details. This happens in almost every jurisdiction you can name post-election and I think we should question whether it is by accident.

One of the basic problems, I believe, is the disconnect that continues between ourselves and our government. Often it is seen, and wrongly so, as something separate and apart, another entity removed from our reality which often confounds us and often makes us angry. It follows, how did we get to that place of constant surprises?

The basis of democracy and its attendant elections is that people run for political office with a clear idea of what is needed by their constituents. Most often constituents approach an election on that basis.

The falling down of democracy begins when the reverse happens. Rather than an election being constituent-driven, with needs clearly expressed and I may say listened to, the election takes on a different aspect. And this is the wrong turn. For, instead of making an attempt at listening to consensus, we are told the consensus has already been reached by a particular party. That would be fair if that consensus was based on public opinion, but contained in such aren’t any details. How was this consensus reached? On what basis were the policy and conclusions decided?

What we have allowed to take place, or been convinced of, is that during an election is not the appropriate time to divulge details of policy or direction. Strange but true. What we hear are broad strokes and vagueness. This is often accompanied by promises to make government more accountable and accessible. The question then is, what better time to begin that process than during an election?

Instead that is left for later. Sometime after the election.

Because of that an election deteriorates into a contest of personalities and “trust me’s.” When we allow that to take place we should never be surprised that later on we begin to question the policies which were not clearly stated.

Four years is a long time.

Because it is only once every four years we have the opportunity to ask, I would say demand, some clear answers. When that opportunity slips by and without receiving the information we need to make an intelligent decision about the direction we’re taking then we have failed to uphold our democracy. We can complain, or make suggestions. But it’s too late. The accountability mentioned is soon forgotten. And to all intents, the government that we elected is now removed from us. Gone to some place different, and far removed from our reality.

Is this done on purpose? That’s a question many on these forums are asking. That is, are the people we elect just guessing? How do they make these decisions? How can they get it so wrong, so often?

We either didn’t tell them what we wanted, what direction we wanted to go in, or they didn’t listen. Both of those are relevant when time comes for an election. Both are important.

To allow this to slide each time takes us further and further away, and does in fact create a situation where government is separate from us. It should not be a curiosity then that afterwards we resort to the forums. Bless CNS for making that available.

But we also have to acknowledge that that is a reaction to a missed opportunity. We have since regretted. When we look upon government as a force, with magical powers known only to them it lays open the possibility that we are inevitably going to be disappointed. As we are now.

Many people here have posted comments saying that it is in fact our fault. That is based on the fact a political party, with a leader, was elected. And if we did not or do not like now the direction we’re taking then that is entirely our fault. It follows then that it was none of theirs. That argument would hold water and seem less like the Stockholm Syndrome if the direction we are now disagreeing with was clearly stated. But was it? Think back.

Here a little reflection would help. It’s a common trick or tactic during an election that what was talked about more than anything else were the financial failings of the previous government. Some, or many, were all too aware of that thus the results. But not mentioned, or asked, was where and what the correction was going to be.

Was that an oversight? Or was it planned?

We’re arguing that now. The problem is you can’t call someone back on a promise or a policy if it was never stated. Governments slither in and out of that loophole because it’s an oversight on our part. We need to close that loophole.

Continuously, and every four years, we accept vague statements, and a vast amount of rhetoric in exchange for a somewhat clearer idea of what the policy is. What solutions are proposed. Instead, we are told they are going to “balance the budget.” That, along with “accountability”, seems to be a key phrase for any election platform.

Here’s the catch. Balancing the budget works of course until they open up the books. Then we hear the bad news. Accountability appears to mean they’re going ahead with something. And will be held accountable four years later. After any damage is done.

Good enough for a democracy by the people and for the people.

No. Although there are many relevant and intelligent suggestions contained in these forums, sometimes surprisingly so we’ve missed the opportunity. Again. It is time to make it clear Government is not separate from us it is us. And the time to hold someone’s feet to the fire ask the questions and make the comments is during an election.

The good news. Let’s continue our discussions. By next election, with the help of CNS, the people who propose to run government will be faced with an informed and intelligent electorate. The old days are gone.

I’m sure there are many who are concerned about that. But we shouldn’t be.

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. The foreigner says:

    Political parties are pretty new to Cayman and it doesn’t appear people are used to the idea, never having paid any attention to whether the Tories or Labor were in power back in England, and only having dealt with the twits in the FCO. The two parties are not very developed yet but show signs of dividing on liberal and conservative lines rather than just neighborhood and family.

    • Joe Average says:

      Thanks for your reply.  The political system on Cayman is changing.  But also what I am trying to point out is the curious manner in which political parties come to power.  During an election, we are told they all have some idea, or some plan which is conveniently devoid of details.  In other words "take it or leave it."  What they are saying is "If you don’t vote for us vote for the others who haven’t given you any details either".  "But we are more trustworthy so trust us."   It’s typical politics as we know it.  What it doesn’t allow for are the vast array of good ideas stemming from the public.  And they are many and in fact the ones who will take the full brunt of any decisions made.  Politics should be and was designed to be from the bottom up.  We and they have forgotten that. Unless we… turn that around we will always be surprised, and/or disappointed.

      The bottom line is CNS is a more accurate depiction of democracy as we would like it to be.

      I don’t believe political parties, any of them, will adopt this method as it’s too convenient as it now is.  But they could.

      • Curiouser and curiouser says:

        At first I read your comment as referring to "political pirates" rather than "political parties".  Somehow the misreading made sense to me . . . .

    • frank rizzo says:

      But political parties are not new to the caribbean. If you kept abreast of the comission of inquiry in TCI, the mindset of our caribbean, yes we are, neighbours was displayed very evidently. The "what have you done for me to get my vote?", and the "government has to help us"  mentality is deeply ingrained. Any division along ideological lines are accidental.

    • Dick Shaugneary says:

      I don’t want to labour the point, but there is not a "Labor Party" in the UK.