Eyewitness: Fixing…

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…what ain’t broke

Looks like we’re in for another round of “fixing the constitution”. Never mind that the Government insists ELECTORAL REFORM is on the agenda. That’s what’s broke. The Americans introduced constitutions into politics 250 years ago, and they’ve become the nostrum folks the world over believe will fix whatever ails their political systems. But in that same 250 years, has the world become less fractious?

Let’s not forget that, before the constitutional ubiquity, no “world war” killed 20 million persons at a pop. And there weren’t the mass genocides within countries like has happened in the 20th century. But the yen for constitutions as the plaster for every politics’ “sore” continues unabated. How come? Well, it arose from a still dominant kind of thinking that came out of the EUROPEAN ENLIGHTENMENT, that insisted men were rational, and would act according to rules embodied in constitutions, once “it was for their own good”.

So, we had constitutions that said only the landed gentry could vote…then only the moneyed class…then the educated ones…then all men over 21…then all adults, now defined as 18-year-olds. Then we had different methods to conduct the votes: FPTP, then PR…then a mixture of the two. Then as to how we would select the judiciary and so on and so forth ad infinitum. But hope beats eternal! The point is, like all arguments, the problem lies in the premises justifying constitutions. In this case, that folks will act rationally.

But they don’t!! They act out of their self-interest — as defined by themselves. And rationality has very little to do with it. Do people really sit down and go over pros and cons in a systemic manner before they make decisions, including how they’ll vote? Do we even LISTEN to the arguments from the various “sides”!? No, we don’t – we go with our “gut feeling”. And the gut certainly isn’t connected with the brain, in case you forgot!

In Guyanese politics, folks vote along ethnic lines, and it’s not because “leaders” tell them to. They do…but the predisposition – the gut feeling – is already there. So, if we dig a bit deeper in Guyanese politics, we’ll see that a lot of African-Guyanese really don’t accept that any party dominated by Indian-Guyanese should govern them. And they can back that gut feeling up because state institutions are controlled by them! So, the heck with “democratic rules” in constitutions saying that a majority vote should select the Government – if the Government isn’t their “own”!! If it is, then okay…like with the PNC in 2015! But now? Nada!
So, dear readers, it doesn’t matter what constitution we jimmy up – once the PNC’s extra-constitutional bases remain intact.

…racial (political) stereotypes

Guyana’s being roiled by some utterances from a new PNC MP. She claimed that PPP supporters are “mentally lazy” when it comes to following their leaders, as opposed to PNC supporters. It would appear that she’s channelling Forbes Burnham’s thoughts on the matter. Back in 1963, having lost the 1961 elections, he noted, “It is a fact that at the last elections the Indians voted predominantly for the PPP and the Africans likewise for the PNC.” And that this didn’t mean there weren’t some crossover votes.

“…in spite of the new values now becoming part of the Indian repertoire, there is a lag between the forward group and the rest… The Indian, unsure of himself, will find emotional and psychological compensation in emphasising the cultural legacies…from Mother India. The African will find succour in the derogatory observation that the Indian, after all, is socially and culturally inferior, because he has not been, and may never be, fully westernised.”
But he concluded: “As in there is an intrinsic merit in being westernised.”

…East Bank traffic bottleneck

Your Eyewitness was pleased to hear that the Diamond-Eccles-Mandela Ave link will soon be completed. Has anyone calculated the number of lost man hours – and blood pressure damage! – this will relieve?