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Sunday, March 15, 2009

When In Rome

BARBARIANS IN ROME


Dr. Lester CN Simon


With all the talk about the influence of non-nationals in the recent general elections, I am forced to let out that before the general elections I wanted to form a political party. This party was to be called the Antigua National Front. To qualify for membership you must have born in Antigua on or before the day Antigua became independent, on November 1, 1981. The illogic of forming such a party would mean that my dear wife and children and many of my cherished Caribbean friends would not be members. So be it. I would vote for them.

The precise numbers are not yet in but it is clear that non-nationals had a profound effect on the outcome of the general elections. Be that as it may, the inescapable fact is that native born Antiguans accepted money for their votes and formed the basis of a bribery cake on top of which some non-nationals were simply the more vulnerable icing.

To understand the philosophy of bribery amongst nationals and non-nationals, we have to accept that we have lost the concept, if some of us ever had it, of what it means to be a citizen of Antiguan. We learn from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, that citizenship involves rights and responsibilities by which we work to improve communities through economic participation, public service, volunteer work and other efforts, so as to improve life for all citizens.

It follows that in the absence of communities, citizenship has no meaning. There are many requirements for defining a group of people living together as a community. At its most basal level, the members of a community must share common interests. When these common interests are reduced to the singularity of money, we have a problem.

It is always instructive to hear someone justify what you regard as unjustifiable. They will tell you that it cannot be bribery. They do not, and will not ever, accept bribes. Rather, they are working, and working very hard too. They will ask you to look at Observer Radio. The owners went all the way to the Privy Council to win the inalienable right to electronic free speech and operate a radio station. Thank God (and the Privy Council) for Observer Radio. Many listeners say they do not know what they would do without it. Then they tell you that Observer Radio is playing advertisement for UPP and ALP; and getting paid. So when they put on a blue shirt today and a red shirt tomorrow, or tonight, they are working. They are advertising for both parties and getting paid, just like Observer Radio, your favourite radio station.

Students of economics will tell you that Adam Smith was the father of capitalism. They will mention his classic text, The Wealth of Nations, and extol his ideas about the pursuit of self-interest in the marketplace. They will tell you about Smith’s claim that individuals naturally look for economic activities that bring the greatest financial benefits. And, while you are thinking about the human, political advertisers during the recent general elections and whichever unprintable names you want to call them, they will tell you this: The father of capitalism was convinced that this natural economic self-interest would naturally lead to the maximum economic benefit of the entire society.

Only when these neophyte students mature and read the prequel to The Wealth of Nations will they really understand capitalism. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith puts the entire concept of self-interest in proper perspective. Self-interest is “Only the first step towards the much higher goal of living a morally virtuous life”.

Stripped of a communal, morally virtuous life, naked capitalism, human political advertising, blind party surrogacy and political mercenary reduce us to the lowest common denominator of an inanimate set of vulgar factions.

Some argue that if some Antiguans are political mercenaries they are our mercenaries and general elections must be between us and our mercenaries exclusive of the more vulnerable non-national mercenaries. This is crooked thinking. The problem of political mercenaries, national or non-national, originates, resides and thrives in the well endowed, pecuniary bosoms of politicians, their advisers and financiers. It is the despicable politician that we must attack and exorcise.

Whilst some politicians will claim to be less guilty than others, they must all pay for the crime of being political pimps. The UPP has paid the price, and almost paid the ultimate price, of trying to woo non-nationals more than the ALP. My dear good leader, you cannot offer more juicy red apples than Lucifer. Beelzebub gave genesis to the insatiable appetite and tricked you into feeding the bottomless hunger. Ironically, the justice day UPP campaigned on, almost caused it to fall on its own petard. This is the sad, retributive justice the UPP is now facing.

There are more persons to be hoisted with their own petards, more expensive prices to be paid and more natural justice to be done and seen to be done. We must force public servants by hook to be accountable for their actions. All the members of the Electoral Commission, including the one with an overabundance of narcissistic arrogance, and all those in the office of the Supervisor of Elections, including the one with blind nostalgic allegiance, must resign immediately. Follow the bishop.

When the barbarian non-nationals do as the barbarian native Romans, so too must the erstwhile esteemed holders of high office who brought shame and disgrace on us walk behind the exiting good bishop. If they refuse to go voluntarily, we must march peacefully seven times a day, seven days a week, around the Jericho walls of their dishonored office. And, with seven crocus bags of bounteous offerings of pipe and crapo, we must demand that they demit to restore dignity to our high office.

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