It has always been my view that the closeness of the outcome of the 2013 general elections in Barbados spoke more to a popular perception that there is very little to choose from between the two major parties with regard to policy and general conservatism, and to a shared wonderment whether the solution to our current social and economic malaise is the traditionally political than to any overwhelming or underwhelming preference for one group over the other.
A similarly, though not identically, close electoral outcome in last week’s elections in Jamaica serves only to confirm this assessment in my mind, as does the farce being played out currently in the US where, among the Republican party candidates, the frontrunner in the primaries and likely nominee is one who eschews the traditional political solution, refuses to give an intelligible answer to any policy issue and, either wittingly or unwittingly, manages literally to insult the intelligence of his audience to their wild acclamation and applause.
“We won with the poorly educated. I love the poorly educated”, he proclaims to raucous approving cheers. And as to how he will bring back the American dream that many of the electorate wishes for, he is in earnest- “Look. We can bring the American dream back. That I will tell you. We’re bringing it back. Okay? And I understand what you’re saying… “Is the American dream dead? And the American dream is in trouble…but we’re going to get it back and do some real jobs…”, before he abruptly breaks off to acknowledge a man in a “beautiful red hat”. “Stand up! Stand up!” he urges, “What a hat!”
The surprising success of this absence of specifics and the appeal to trivia causes one to wonder at the relevance of traditional poll questions about the issues that ought to be considered. Do people really give serious consideration to the party’s or an individual candidate’s position on them, should these ever be articulated? Or is it that these do matter, but not so much as the populist perception of where a party stands on a particular question of policy? Might it not be that elections are not won [or lost] so much on the basis of what you do or do not say but rather on what it is people believe you to be saying (or not saying) and whether this resonates with the volksgeist – the spirit of the people – at that critical moment? If so, our local inquiry would be more usefully directed to determining this factor rather than in spending time analyzing, in a context where all are supported by a minority of those polled only, who is likely to prove most (or more) popular. As a wise commentator once observed, in politics the truth matters less than perceptions.
Nevertheless, the expression that forms the basis of today’s caption is usually employed, not so much in the realm of electoral politics but in one that equally serves as fodder for popular discourse in the region –that of cricket. And in recent times, that conversation has focused mainly on the alleged maladministration of the game, although our playing fortunes should have received an infrequent boost with the victory of the regional squad at the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this month. Indeed, those in opposition to the regime of the current [West Indian Cricket] Board [WICB] were quick to forestall any claim to a contribution to this achievement by the Board.
Writing in a column in Wisden India, former WI cricketer and now cricket commentator, Mr Michael Holding, asserts; “For all the well-deserved praise of the young side…it is ridiculous that the victory is being used by some at the [WICB] to portray the image that everything is fine in the Caribbean (sic). The same claim was being made when the senior team won the Twenty20 World Cup in 2012, but where has our cricket gone since then?”
Mr Holding echoes a seeming general disgruntlement with the current Board that has been voiced by many regarded as influential within the region. In an earlier column in the same publication, Dr Rudi Webster intoned, “It would be a tragedy if administrators who have contributed little or nothing to the administration of West Indies cricket could knowingly and intentionally destroy everything that our great stars achieved on and off the cricket field. And indeed, everything that past administrators fought for since 1928…”
Further, the immediate dissolution of the Board has been recommended by a CARICOM Cricket Review Panel that, bizarrely, included a member nominated by the Board itself and, more recently, the heads of regional governments in caucus accused the WICB of “undermining the integrity of West Indies Cricket”, whatever that phrase might mean, and described the Board’s corporate governance standards as “undesirable”. Other similar instances abound.
In the face of this apparently universal assault on its governance from leaders, players, commentators and, as my late mother would have said, “Nesha, Kaya and Bobby Fray” [?], the Board has managed to subsist with an equal measure of obstinate claims to constitutional legitimacy and dogged confrontation. It bears reminder somehow of the poem, “Casabianca”, by Felicia Hemans –
“The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead…
The flames roll’d on… he would not go…
For my part, I am inclined to be wary of criticism that seems a tad too popular and eerily reminiscent of the mass hysteria of the late 17th century Salem witch hunts. Not that I am overly partial to defending the Board itself, but that I am also of the opinion that much of the current carping criticism is owed to an admixture of frustration with the woeful performances of our senior team, the impatience of the critics with a seeming inability to get their own way and a general regional sentiment that our players are among the, if not the, world’s most talented exponents of the game and if we are nowhere near the top of the ICC rankings, then it must be owed to some other factor -Others abide our question, you players are free.
Might it be the selectors? Nah! The coaches? At all! The management? Scarcely! Then it must be the Board! Are we not all on the same page?