From Political Tribalism to National Unity: How do we get from here to there?
It is said that we are defined as individuals and as a collective by the stories we tell and the games we play. As a nation of laws, the stories we tell revolve around our political party affiliations, and the games we play focus on finding the loopholes and the backdoors in our legal system to keep the incumbent party in power. If, it is true, as one social commentator said today, that our tribalistic tendencies is what gives us our identity, then one will want to conclude that this tribalism is something that should be celebrated and not discouraged. If that is the case, then there is no hope and any attempt to bring our people together under the leadership of a government of national unity is doomed to fail. Hence it makes no sense to question many of my learned colleagues who cast aspersions on the agendas and motives of those not associated with the present administration, especially when the concept of a government of national unity is touted as a panacea for our political woes.
As one of our legal luminaries, Charles Wilkins QC, has astutely articulated in a recent commentary, there is no mention of political party in our constitution and a political party is not a legal entity. So if we are a nation of laws, then why on God’s earth do we have to define who we are as individuals by our political affiliations? Where did this self-serving phrase come from, “Once a member of a party, always a member of the same party?” Isn’t this the same type of mentality that is espoused by our youth in gangs when they proclaim they are in a gang for life? What is more troubling about this realisation is the duplicity in our systems when we dissuade our youth from joining gangs, but encourage our adults to pick sides and “toe the line?” I already see a connection between our escalating tribalistic politics and our escalating criminal gang activities that have been infesting our islands over the past decade or so. If our leaders are supposed to lead by example, then why do we blame our youth? There are many parallels between our political system and gangs that I would leave it for the reader to decide if the observations proffered above are for real or just a figment of my imagination.
What is so crystal clear in this analysis is that this division that has reared its ugly head in the life of our polity is an artificial and arbitrary one, and with this line of reasoning comes the epiphany of where the solution lies. If we look at any country, we will at once realise that the basic and fundamental building blocks of any nation are the family and the community, each with diverse gifts and talents and resources, working together for the betterment of one and all. It is here where lies our strengths in diversity of ideas and skills and ambitions and their dissemination. So it is here, with our families and our communitites, where the stories we tell and the games we play, should start and end. It is with these basic units of society where we should invest in the production and distribution of our human capital as we earn each other’s trust, as we become more united in facilitating the healthy growth and development of the bodies, hearts, minds, souls and spirits of each and every member. As individuals and as members of the community, we need to live our lives everyday with integrity of character, accountability of action, and transparency of motives, as we aspire to be the best we can be, be it parent, child, teacher, student, professional and nonprofessional worker, as we help each other actualize our God-given potentials. So when we put our identities in political parties, we are severely misguided, and we will end up hurting others and ourselves, by not only what we do and say, but also by what we fail to do and say.
We need to identify as forcefully as we can, foremost, with our families and our communities, and try as best as we can to tend that garden of fellowship with as much love, kindness and attention as is deserved. Then, and only then, will we be able to cultivate a sense of gratitude, a sense of responsibility, and moreover, a sense of service for our interconnected and interdependent families and communities. Then, and only then, will we blossom and bear fruits as our faith in the goodness and divine nature in each of one of us becomes solidified, as hope for a better life for the future of our families and our communities shines through, as we shower our children and each other with the gifts of love.
We are most definitely at a watershed moment in the history of our nation, and we have a choice. We can chose to continue to maintain the status quo and choose the certainty of political tribalism and its untoward complications, or we can choose the aspiration of national unity with its attendant challenges and uncertainties to build a brave new world as we simply work together to build better families and commmunities. Some may claim that we need a miracle for a nationally united people to emerge. I agree, but not one of divine intervention, as divinity already exists in each one of us as He is so everpresent and already working in our lives. The miracle I believe in is one, proffered by Charles Eisenstein, which claims that what appears to be impossible from our old tribalistic mentality, is very much possible from the new vantage point that is centered on the family and the community.
As consistuencies are legally defined in our constitution, then it is only natural that we should have the best in our families and our communities aspiring to represent us in our highest law-making institution, our parliament. The process of choosing our representatives should be one that allows sharing and debating of ideas, freely and without fear of intimidation, based on the specific needs and aspirations and resources of the consistuencies. Moreover, the representative should be elected by a process that is free and fair, and free from fear, so that the majority view of the group would be registered. I cannot see any major differences in the philosophies of our poliltical parties in their present incarnations; hence there should be no impediments as each representative of each consistuency work with each other, guided by a common purpose of one people, one heart and one spirit. In the same breath I have to profess, I see no need for political parties! When major difference of opinion arise, and laws need to be enacted, then the diversity of ideas and opinions should be openly vented and debated inside and outside of parliament, with appropriate and timely feedback, so that when the final vote is tallied, no matter the results, we would all be confident that the outcome was the best one given the circumstances and opportunities of the time. And among these honourable members, a leader should be chosen who would command the respect and confidence of the majority, with the explicit proviso that his/her tenure is limited in duration and succession planning becomes a matter of necessity.
As we strive to create stronger families and communities, we should also strive to create stronger laws that would serve to limit the power of those who are elected to serve us, so as to continuously remind them that we put them there to serve us on our behalf, and not that we are there to be used and disposed of at their own discretion. To have more efficient and less wasteful governments, and healthy competition and cooperation among civil society, measures must be taken to empower the business community, which truth be told, is and should be the defacto engine of sustainable growth and development in our nation. Our government should realise that the business community is not their adversary, but a partner in the upliftment of the people. We should focus on the self-sufficiency of our people first, and if not possible, ask for help, as we partner with the other international communities, as we strive to build a more just and mature inter-dependent world.
These are the broad outlines of how we can get from here to there, from political tribalism to national unity. Although the political party system is our greatest stumbling block at this time, dismantling it would be the greatest stepping stone in moving forward. Is this only a dream, or can we make this dispensation our new reality, one based on a new wholesome story and with new healthy games to foster new identities of which we can all be proud?