Attack of the dying and discredited

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There is a vast difference between xenophobia (the fear or hatred of foreigners) and demagoguery – defined in one online dictionary as political activity or practices that seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.

Inciting xenophobia is one of the demagogue’s favorite devices, especially when he has no answers, no good account to render for the performance of his vaunted self or the accomplishment of his over-hyped cause. Perhaps the Antigua Pier Group will go down in history as one such case study, especially the period since it was shorn of the genuine (though at times controversial) brain power of Asot Michael.

When people of little proven capacity or documented accomplishment manage to parlay their way into undeserved esteem and recognition, they will desperately thrash and lash out on days and occasions when they can no longer duck and dodge the unavoidable demand for them to finally show slate.

Unable to come up with any workable answers to simple questions or practical and targeted solutions to routine challenges, they resort to the territory most familiar to them: flowery platitudes and grandiloquent posturing about matters way beyond their ken; hoping, banking that the veneer of a fast-talking foreign accent will somehow mask the flatulence and vapidity of their abundant sweet nothing.

It is said that one good measure of a man’s intelligence is how much he repeats himself – and what a baritone bundle of it we had this past week . . . making multiple media rounds to spout the same disjointed blowhard bluster, whose only service was to an insecure and immature ego’s eagerness to parade its devolved self-importance.

But even when the coveted center stage and limelight is handed on a platter to the megalomaniac, his obsession with impressing becomes a terminal obstruction to any lucid comprehension or sharp focus on what is the real issue, the meat of the matter. The lowest hanging fruit for him becomes the same old tired demagoguery of a fully “Antiguan-ized” person’s previous or original nationality.

The curious choice of government spokesman on such an important national matter could only BS  his way through nauseatingly repetitive interviews, not once leaving us any wiser as to what is the real issue about Nathan Dundas to which he was taking umbrage? That he’s Guyanese born? (You just got to know that?) He’s overstayed his welcome? (After more than 31 years residing here; 28 of them as a citizen?) How does a citizen who is wedded to a native overstay his welcome in the country of his citizenship, his adopted nationality?

That he was allegedly gloating about the cruise ship cancellations? (Since when did gloating or jeering become the equivalent of treason?) If that were the case, we could think of many, many people who would be rotting in jail or long turned into gratifying targets for State firing squads.

He’s gone rogue? What intelligence or law enforcement or military outfit was he enlisted in that he’s now using for causes opposed or at variance to his sworn duty or mission? Has Nathan Dundas become akin to an undercover ONDCP agent who’s since taken to working with or for the bad guys? Prosecute him, then, but don’t persecute him. Is he betraying or divulging official or state secrets that were entrusted to him in breach of some contract or law? Deal with him in that context – at least without first trying and lynching him in the public space with threats and crass denunciations using culturally insensitive canine analogies.

If Mr. Dundas was engaging in any behavior or activities that the present administration considers to be deliberate economic sabotage then say so and tell us what it is. If no law exists to deal with it, then surely Mr. Dundas would not escape the outpouring of public outrage and disapprobation from people whose bread his words or actions jeopardize.

Truth be told, we find it more than a tad strange that Mr. Dundas would hold so much sway over so many vast, wealthy and weighty cruise ship companies to convince all of them in such short order to drop Antigua from their itineraries of Caribbean calls. We further find it even more strange that Mr. Dundas would instigate the cancellation of cruise ship visits on which his own bread and butter depends.

Instead of clarity to these questions as might have bestirred our righteous indignation, all we got were grandiose declarations about how ‘we did not start this fight, but we are going to finish it’; about the dog on a leash and the dire consequences that its named owner would face if he failed to control it . . . (By the way, who controls this clumsy government attack dog?).

Such was the illogicality and distastefulness of the past week’s “hammer and crowbar/in my father’s house” evangelism that evidently found a softer landing in reducing a weighty economic issue to an ad hominem snapshot of one man who merely expressed unhappiness that an agreement of such major import and implications was entered into without consultation with key stakeholders like his association.

With names like Ronald Sanders, Clarence Henry, Anthony Liverpool so highly valued for the contributions they have made to diplomacy and to public policy and administration in Antigua and Barbuda, we cannot believe that last week’s vituperative excursion by the Pier Group would be reflective of the present government’s policy. Way past time for someone with the empowerment and credibility where this is concerned to stand up and disavow it. Some of us might even be prepared to accept the lie that a 60-something-year-old, experienced, veteran, seasoned greenhorn wandered off message – deviated from the script he was handed; the Pentecostal urge to appear and sound prophetic perhaps proving just a wee bit too tempting to resist.

Just like the cruise companies were listening when certain allegedly hostile words were spoken, we can be sure that our Caricom fellows are watching at certain actions being taken or threatened. When mega cruise ship companies have taken to complaining that you make them feel unwelcome to your shores, just think how it will help feed the narrative about you being xenophobic when the story gets out that you openly mooted the idea of stripping another Caricom national of his citizenship so you could deport (exile) him merely for criticizing or disagreeing with you.

What if some of the big honchos in those cruise ship companies are also Scotia Bank stockholders? Cognizance of this reality about the power of big-shot networking is probably worth a lot more than time-wasting indulgence in verbose theatrics and spurious finger-wagging dramatics.

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