Every government, past and present, has displayed their opportunism in one form of the other. However, the most common performance of this opportunism is apparent in the government’s relationship with the colloquial “grassroot class”. At first, such a term may seem offensive, discriminatory even and although it may seem monstrously stereotypical on the surface, any denial of the fact that our society is “classed” is severely troubling. The majority of the population belong to the middle to lower income classes. These people are sometimes less educated, perform unskilled work and as a result are more prone to poverty due to the low income attached to their jobs. Any talk of a low-income class can conjure up far-reaching images of material conditions and their influence on a person’s social awareness, most of which I cannot totally delineate for word-sake. But within the lower income class lies what each political hopeful yearns, which is an uninformed vote and blind loyalty.
Those political hopefuls in the campaign, and those seeking re-election, have sought nothing more strategic than to assuage the growing unrest of the poor through propaganda shrouded in the euphemistic “layman’s terms” aimed to simplify policy and the economics surrounding it. The occasional Bahamian dialect to assert the psychology, “I am one of you”, “I identify with your pain” or the more popular acts of service which are to eat souse with a long-time party supporter, play dominoes on the block with the boys, or attend the assembly on the first day of the new school term in the constituency.
Even a series of press releases to the public from all ends of the campaign on matters of the smallest consequence can easily manufacture the consent of the lower class. The most useful of all, however, is the use of Christianity as a political tool. Considering our society’s over-reliance on religion, it is no doubt that political hopefuls will refer to God, engage in public prayer, or even make appearances at churches. It is a formula, which has for decades done the trick, spanning back to the Pindling era where to this day survives the die-hard elderly whose loyalty to the PLP is resolute.
Our democracy is a minority bourgeoisie of professionals across the color-bar who are informed, educated and more likely to be critical of the government. The Bahamian intelligentsia knew better when the FNM campaigned to not raise VAT (considering that all sensible economies have a coherent tax system to sustain its institutions).These are the people who are aware of the cons of each political move and can engage in a healthy dialogue of social criticism that can see beyond the spell, and can make a sitting politician cringe. The problem, however, is that it can even result in victimization, something democracies in post-colonial territories grapple with. On the other hand, the lower class merely saw the tax increase as an added expense to an already burdened cost of living.
I bring the question forward to each reader, is it by coincidence that the politicians who hold high-profile offices are more often than not the member of Parliament for areas such as Bain Town, Fox Hill and Centreville to name a few? These are the areas where crowd-pleasing trumps reason, where buffoonery at rallies takes away from the actual policy proposal and where frivolous promises result in a misinformed vote.
Consider this: is it by coincidence that talk of a VAT hike around last election time, said to be an “easy way out”, still resulted in a 60 percent increase? Now there’s government lump sum, talk of legalization of hemp and a random surfacing of Nygard’s alleged extracurricular activities with the previous government all immediately preceding the period of the new election?
And finally, is it by coincidence that the speaker of the House somehow recently saw it fit to censor parliamentary proceedings – an exercise of totalitarianism that is the very antithesis of democratic freedom? The sitting government recognizes that public opinion hinges on the way information is disseminated and is especially now, during the election period, careful about what is received by the public.
In light of this, Bahamians are urged to think critically, able to distinguish between malicious party-politics, propaganda and faulty manipulation, and place pressure on potential candidates. The single beauty of a democracy, I would say, is that the only one walking on eggshells is not the social critic, but rather those seeking to be elected and re-elected.
– Glenn King