Euphoria, mirage and youth in politics

Louis E A Moyston, PhD

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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The Jamaica Observer editorial, 'The fickle nature of politics' (September 17, 2018) was instructive about the history of Damion Crawford in his short political career from his loss to Peter Blake in St Andrew East Rural. It speaks to those constituents who were disrespected by Crawford, but, more importantly, it reveals Damion Crawford's prophetic revelation of himself as next in line for People's National Party (PNP) leader.

There is adulation and concern regarding the massive victory by Damion Crawford in the 2018 vice-presidential election at the PNP's 80th annual conference. There is talk of the youth vote and how Crawford is charismatic, but I must make a distinction between charisma and popularity. Charisma has to do with having an idea that others aligned their thinking to, not just being popular as a 'dancehall-type' politician.

Yes, there was “Crawford euphoria” prior to and during the 2018 VP elections in the PNP, but it was a campaign characterised by extensive and massive expenditure. How can democracy survive in a setting in which the vast majority of delegates live on the edge and below poverty line? It is without malice that I write, after examining Crawford as a potential member of parliament and a so-called bright young political mind that I describe Damion Crawford's victory as a political mirage and a costly error by his puppeteers and those delegates that sold their souls.

There is no general law that argues that change comes with youth. There are periods in history when the youth have been on the forefront of change. Today, it is questionable whether this young generation can lead change. This article argues that more than often the youth are no different for those who are there political sponsors and puppeteers that have parachuted them into leadership without work, experience, purpose or cause, much less having ideas about change. It is important that we examine the nature of these young people and their role in society of the 21st century. Truth is, Crawford seems intoxicated by his own hype and this may make him dangerous and useless very soon.

Global politics in the 1960s was characterised and influenced by the anti-war movement in the USA compounded by the rise of the black power movement. In Europe there was the rise of the progressive student movement, especially the university youth movement in France in 1968. October 1968 there was a turning point in youth Jamaica, especially the black youth and the university students and their role in politics. The youth in Jamaica became a conscious political class during the late 1960s, even though not among the voting population. Jamaica had a very young prime minister who was neither race-conscious nor progressive, but extremely conservative and of the house slave type.

The youth of the 1970s inherited a legacy of the 1960 — the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement; the African liberation movement, and resistance and the Cuban Revolution. The decade of the 1970s represented the revolt against the West in terms of the strident struggles against colonialism and imperialism. The 1970s was the age of idealism when the political leaders were concerned with change; a transition from the oppression and inequality of Western civilisation and its colonial and imperial domination, especially of black people in African and the new world.

Politics was about transformation as opposed to self-aggrandisement. It was this age of new morality in politics seeking a new domestic and world order based on equal rights and justice. This resistance against the West was met with massive onslaught by the leaders of the West led by the United States of America.

I direct you to read the mid-1980s report on the Summit in Aspen, Colorado, led by George Bush II and Margaret Thatcher on the basis for globalisation and a new world order. It was most critical of the 1970s, nationalisation, the new International Economic Order and the Non-Aligned Movement. It offers a new mandate tantamount to recolonisation of the former colonised countries.

How is this related to the present young generation? It is important to have the kind of sociological imagination to see the relationship between changes in value, thinking and the new creations of the applications of science influence society and people, especially the youth. The 1980s was a resurgence of rabid individualism, greed, selfish and the “what is in it for me” mentality. It saw the age of an extremely high level of consumerism, fashion, sex, and music all grounded in the hedonistic mould. This new social psychological thrust of “self-esteem” — feeling good about oneself — was just the right for the high consumer fashion and technological consumer society. The international regimes associated with liberalisation, deregulation and globalisation imposed strange and foreign values upon 'traditional' societies — these values coming from places with high levels of crime, homicide, drug abuse, among a litany of unsavoury customs and social behaviour.

The youth of the 1980s and after became a self-conscious class clamouring for youth rights. I have no problems with youth insurgency, but it cannot be grounded in 'youth for the sake of youth'. What is the political thinking of the youth of today and what is their cause? It is important for us to evaluate the Jamaican youth of the 1980s and after. Have they been on the front line for political change? Look at the tertiary student and their leaders. They conduct only self-serving resistance when there are difficulties to pay school and/or exam fees. Where is their evidence of leading change in all the crises of this present age? There have been young political leaders, but where is the change?

For example, there is a thinking that the Jamaica Labour Party has responded to the youth politics, but where is the change from young Andrew Holness, young Andrew Wheatley, and others? These young leaders are the same as the old; nothing new. If you think the old was corrupt, the young politicians give corruption and political victimisation new meaning. There is a tradition in Jamaica to promote failure, incompetence and irresponsible individuals in political leadership. This election of Damion Crawford will go down in history as the epitome of this backward political behaviour — a grave enemy to advancement and promotion by meritocracy.

I observed Crawford during the by-elections in St Mary South Eastern. His speeches were most tribal and personal. Where is this new youthful political thinking? In the PNP VP elections he has not expressed any kind of political thinking, except that he is not cutting his locks (which no one asked him to do); that Peter Philips was the right leader for the PNP at this time; and how 'him' can dance and 'shell dung di place'. Politics is not the dancehall and, as far as I am concerned, he would do better in the dancehall had he good training in dancing.

Politics is about capturing power, serving people, and keeping the power to serve. The PNP lost the last general election by one seat. Crawford is a prime cause for this loss. He turned his back on the people, called the constituents, including the youth, “zinc, ply board and curry goat” people. Damion, you preached about education and change, but can you disclose publicly how you used your constituency development funds to achieve those ends? What about your attendance to the party's national executive meetings? What was your attendance like for the parliamentary committee that you were a member of? Have you really been a responsible young leader? You should have been put back into 'short pants' for rehabilitation and leadership training. Those behind your campaign have been motivated by vengeance and divisiveness. Your puppeteers have done the PNP injustice and will perpetuate the kind of atmosphere in the party that led to the defeats in 2007 and 2016.

The money spent in this internal election could have assisted the PNP to victory in 2016. It is important not to neglect the role of money in elections in terms of buying and suppressing votes. It was observed that money was a major factor in the 2016 election. More than 60 per cent of voters are living on the edge or below poverty line and this is why money speaks. There is serious implication here in terms of a clear and present danger to the democratic process. In its planning the PNP must be reminded that the age cluster 25-54 constitutes the majority of voters on the voters' roll. Among these are party faithful that dropped along the way. The time to reclaim those who have gone astray is now.

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