The George Brathwaite Column – Ideas, Politics, and Media

George C. Brathwaite (PhD)

Ideas shape how we understand political problems, give definition to our goals and strategies, and are the currency we use to communicate about politics. By giving definition to our values and preferences, ideas provide us with interpretive frameworks that make us see some facts as important and others as less so. In turn, this has serious consequences for how we understand the role of interests in politics – Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox, 2010.

The relative lull before the storm in local politics provides a place to reflect on the nature of politics and its relation to governance in Barbados’ political system. From the outset, politics can be broadly defined as an activity in which conflicting interests struggle for advantage or dominance in the making and execution of public policies within a political system. The world over, there are some academics suggesting a simpler characterisation which indicates that politics is about who gets what, when, and how – the distributive phenomenon of politics. Hence, ideas matter as people and their constituents both participate in and think about everyday social and political life. It is suggested that ideas, open central questions about agenda setting, policy choice, and the conceptual categories that underlie politics given the contexts of national politics, party politics, interest-group formation, and institutional change among many other attributes.

Consideration in this article is focussed on both the broad and simplified descriptions of politics presented above and some key ideas that define many actions in Barbados. This approach is to provide sufficient analytical purchase on the occurrences that are emerging and shaping the context of Barbados’ socio-political sphere. The fact is, the term government describes how a society organises itself and allocates authority to accomplish collective goals, and to provide benefits that the society needs. Indeed, it is given the public’s demands both for effective government and good governance that such things as social, economic, and distributive justice are expected to be met through the agency of politicians.

It is said that there is politics because the common is divided. Politicians will often seek out and exploit legitimate ways to build their political capital while at the same time expanding their capacities or assets to gain consensus and support. The contemporary Barbadian politician sees it as beneficial to organise activities thereby providing him or her with forums to influence and tactfully engage targeted populations for the maximisation of their interests and goals. Politicians are aware that attaining and enhancing power is essential due to the contention that politics is an action field in which a game of ‘give and take’ is yoked to political success.

In addition, the media is relied upon by politicians, and are susceptible to the whims and fancy of political elites. It is widely accepted that the mass media permeate almost every corner of society, and have a strong impact on their audiences. The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about and even helping to determine what passes as popular discourse or even good politics.

In Barbados as is around the globe, politicians adapt their behaviour to the requirements of the news media, to achieve increased coverage. Barbadians need to reflect on the nightly news casts, and the ways that Ministers of Government allow themselves to be paraded rather than the key importance of news items. Nonetheless, all forms of media, inclusive of ‘new’ media bring issues into public discourse while omitting others for reasons left hidden from public scrutiny. In recent years, Barbadians have become wearier of traditional media and their incestuous attachments to politicians.

Alternative sources of information, in the hope of finding truth and not alternative facts, attract ordinary people to almost every available form of social media. However, the constant flow of new and often unverified news, combined with increasingly brief and superficial treatment of unconnected and unexplained events for which politicians refuse to answer to their publics, compounded by the media dodging under the cape of self-preservation rather than the right to inform, all contribute to the sense that public ignorance is manifold and an incomprehension of politics in Barbados persists.

Take for example, the decision to sell government-owned firms like the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) has stimulated much discussion in the public domain. However, apart from concern of a monopoly in fossil fuels being created and that such a situation will cause an increase in the cost of fossil fuel products like petrol and diesel for Barbadians, little else have been given to Barbadians as ‘hard’ information. The sale, once completed, is likely to depend not only on financial factors, but also on political costs and benefits. While the benefits of privatization, such as revenues from sale which are expected to boost the severe drop in Barbados’ foreign exchange reserves, not much else has been stated on factors of distributive or social justice.

Perhaps, the politicians aided and abetted by the media prefer that there are no real discussions on the local financial market development, and debates on what if any efficiency gains will redound to government. In wider discussions of privatization, will Barbados ever get to hear the costs of privatization and how the changes will affect taxpayers that are tired of reading damning Auditor General’s reports? What about things such as layoffs of surplus workers and to what extent are the trade unions kept abreast and part of the decision-making processes? Moreover, if the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, with its high indebtedness of over 100 million dollars, is to be worked into private hands will the loss of private benefits of control for politicians be an asset for the society wanting fair and balanced news during prime-time television?

Of course, there are many other questions around many other topics. The key here is to demonstrate that ideas, politics, and power all matter in bringing back good governance to Barbados. Our national development requires an informed society and a thinking constituent not duped by the media or made gullible by the politician. As part of the demands before the next general election in Barbados passes, Barbadians must strongly advocate for the media to have easy access to information so that those entities could pass on to the people without their injections of biases and hidden agendas. While agreeing that the media establishments possess the capacity to empower citizens, the people must continue to demand quality and accountability from their governments.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)
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11 Comments on “The George Brathwaite Column – Ideas, Politics, and Media”

  1. Pachamama May 9, 2017 at 9:30 AM #

    It is encouraging to see this Georgie Porgie Brathwaite is now willing to unteether himself, at least as a thought experiment, from his wrong notions that democracy is essentially about the political, the party political, voting once every five years, etc.

    We have been trying to tell him for a long time that ‘democracy’ was, is, and will ever be essentially about the personal economic ………… stupid.

    Now, Brathwaite feels confident enough to talk about distributive rights. Equity in the distribution of wealth, etc

    Then the question becomes, how can a political party architecture so steeped in the backwardness of creating millionaires and billionaires out of political hacks could now pretend to have any role in the economic justice always demanded by democracy but consistently denied by the political parties acting as agents for the vested interests.

    We ourselves have not noticed any Damascus Road moment in the local political culture.

    So for Brathwaite to pretend that there has been some seismic evolution amongst the local political boys is otherwise unsupported.

    The truth can therefore only be that Brathwaite is using his ‘newly found knowledge’ to mislead the people of Barbados as he acts for his ‘mistress’.

    Brathwaite’s ‘unfinished product’ still fails to tie the loop.

    For he cannot, on the one hand, agree with us about the essential role of personal economy in driving democratic justice, and on the other, continues to see the political elitism of the BLP and DLP as intermediators in real democracy.

    These forces have always been diametrically opposed.

    Real democracy needs no gate-keepers, political pimps like MAM. It must be the disintermediation of the political elites and the direct involvement of the people with national resources that can most efficiently deliver economic justice, equity.

    In simpler terms, ordinary people must have a chance to vote everyday like COW and Bizzy as apposed to once every five years.

    In these circumstances, duopoly politics will have no role.

    Like

  2. Bernard Codrington. May 9, 2017 at 11:11 AM #

    George Brathwaite,

    This is one of your better pieces. I hope your future submissions will continue at this level.

    @ Pachamama @ 9 :30 AM

    We seldom disagree philosophically on most matters . However ” even though real Democracy needs no gatekeepers” , it needs leaders and those who can articulate and interpret what democracy means in each epoch. Hence the need for the Mia Amor Mottleys and The Freundel Stuarts: persons who have to put skin in the game.
    The masses are incapable of doing this by themselves. Unless we want utter chaos.

    Yes, I too am happy that George has moved away from the popular notion that politics is about personalities and party contests. It should be about people and how best to bring to actuality their aspirations.

    Like

  3. Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger May 9, 2017 at 1:59 PM #

    https://www.barbadostoday.bb/2017/05/09/stuart-fights-back-against-comissiong/

    Whatever…Commisong got them in check. They are crooks doing everything in secret, colluding with Maloney to sell out the people for a few low paying mediocre jobs.

    “The minister responsible for Town & Country Planning, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is fighting back against social activist David Comissiong who wants a judicial review of the permission granted to businessman Mark Maloney to build the US$100 million Hyatt Centric Resort on Bay Street, The City.

    The Prime Minister is challenging Comissiong’s application for the review, contending that he does not have either a financial or a legal leg to stand on in the matter.

    “Your Prime Minister, our Prime Minister, my Prime Minister is challenging the right of David Comissiong as a citizen of Barbados to bring a claim for judicial review in this matter,” Comissiong told reporters on the steps of the Supreme Court this morning after Stuart reportedly filed his court challenge two weeks ago.

    Maloney’s company, which has been contracted to build the 15-storey resort, has also filed a legal application requesting that it be made a party to the case.

    However, the matter, which was due for hearing today before Madame Justice Sonia Richards, was adjourned until July 7 since the assigned judge is currently on vacation.”

    Like

  4. George C. Brathwaite May 9, 2017 at 2:53 PM #

    @ Bernard

    It does not matter. I do not write to be graded or to be agreed with. Hopefully I present logical and factual arguments that can stimulate discussion. But being graded as better or worse, I care not and it certainly matters not. That is by far too simplistic to do. But thanks.

    @ Pachamama
    Your opinions are yours and mine are mine. Do something positive for your brothers and sisters and worry not about me.

    @ David
    I hope you can get more persons to provide meaningful articles. The jiving is good, but more information and education are vital. Keep well.

    Like

  5. George C. Brathwaite May 9, 2017 at 2:59 PM #

    @ Bernard C,

    You wrote: “Yes, I too am happy that George has moved away from the popular notion that politics is about personalities and party contests. It should be about people and how best to bring to actuality their aspirations.”

    I would surely like you to provide the evidence that substantiates your claim that I argued, held, or otherwise advanced the argument. Indeed, I am not drawing away from it, because populism, personalities, participation, competition, PEOPLE, and ambitions are all wraoped up in politics. Perhaps. if the mirrors are cleaned, we would have a grand look at selves before casting aspersions on others. But who am I? Quite frankly, time to move on.

    I am a student of Political Science and International Affairs, but I am also associated with a (or the) leading political party in Barbados. If you cannot see further than labels then I am truly sorry for you. Bye for now.

    Like

  6. Vincent Haynes May 9, 2017 at 4:35 PM #

    David

    Any critiques on the the acting GoCB report as yet?

    Like

  7. Vincent Haynes May 9, 2017 at 4:41 PM #

    George

    Our national development requires an informed society and a thinking constituent not duped by the media or made gullible by the politician.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Not bad……any ideas how we are going to achieve this.

    Note it is not in the interest of the political class to have an informed public,FOI nor transparency…..as it would hog tie them and fewer would step up too the plate.

    Like

  8. Pachamama May 9, 2017 at 5:19 PM #

    George Brathwaite

    We hold no personal animus towards you as we fight this sacred battle of ideas.

    And while we have already helped ourselves, it is the duopoly supported by you that has done more damage to humanity than Tom Adams’ proverbial hurricane.

    Indeed, our brothers and sisters would need no help if there was economic justice within the system. That they had a direct connection, ownership, to national resources, unimpeded by BLP/DLP political pimps.

    Forests have been written to demonstrate such systemic failures of ‘democracy’. But even in those circumstances you are unremitting in the believe that the duopoly, and the duopoly alone, can somehow be helpful to our ‘brothers and sisters’.

    Can’t you see the world is moving in a different direction? And that your dead political orientation leads only to underdevelopment, fascism, oligarchy.

    We may hate your ideas. This personality thing cannot claim ownership by us. There is nothing that you have of which we envy you. We are not part thereof. Even as we at times enjoy the tussle, for its own sake.

    Should the orders of magnitude not been so large, we might even find that you are not guided by ill-will, malice.

    Like

  9. David May 9, 2017 at 6:21 PM #

    @George

    We prefer quality. In public fora you have to take what comes.

    Like

  10. Bernard Codrington. May 9, 2017 at 9:25 PM #

    @ George C Brathwaite @ 2:53 PM

    The intention was not to grade . I am not your thesis supervisor nor peer reviewer. I believe you wrote to get some reaction from the readers. I should rewrite my comment to state that I like this particular submission and I would like to read more like it.

    Like

  11. Lorenzo May 11, 2017 at 1:32 PM #

    On the topic of the Media was listening to Brasstacks today to Sanka Price who while I support a lot of his positions spends too much time on a shortened program reading whatsup messages whereby frustrating callers for too long.today after the news he started off with messages although only 15 minutes remained.Corey Lane is very guilty of this as well as he also include Facebook and Instagram as well.Gentlemen Brasstacks is still a call in program therefore priortorize the callers.Hope to hear Mr Ellis and Mr Wickham back soon as the show is a little dull without them.Happy to see that Tricia Watson is no longer there as she was biased and a little boring.

    Like

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