EDITORIAL: For the right price?

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No back pay! No CCJ! It is a slogan making the rounds ever since the prime minister revealed that public servants might not get their long-awaited back pay in October of this year. Apart from the catchy rhyme, the slogan ostensibly speaks to citizens holding their leaders to account. Another popular slogan says, No CCJ unless roads fixed! And yet another declares, Fix the lower courts first! Or no CCJ! And so it goes – citizens “Petitioning their government for a redress of grievances . . .” It’s a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – meet our most basic and fundamental of needs first – bread and butter, clothing, shelter and half-decent roads, before even asking us to support weightier matters like the Caribbean apex court. All well and good!
But here’s the rub – this sort of bartering of one’s vote smacks of a sort of transactional approach to our politics. It gives the rather disturbing impression that everything is up for sale, and that our vote, yea or nay, even on something as seminal as our choice of our apex court, can be purchased for the right price. Help us Lord!
Aren’t there some things that are priceless and that cannot be purchased with silver and gold? Aren’t there some core principles and values that are beyond the realm of cheap horse-trading in the political market place? Aren’t there some moral and spiritual values, certain deeply held convictions that cannot be bought or sold? We suggest, yes! And we further suggest that our vote on Referendum Day ought not be influenced by filthy lucre, or cheap political gimmickry or a vain promise by a politician or a pre-Referendum Day shoddy fixing of roads  (that will ‘unfix’ themselves shortly after the referendum), or the pre-Referendum Day doling out of long-overdue and woefully inadequate back pay and so on and so forth. Our vote on Referendum Day ought to be cast, yea or nay, after much prayer and soul-searching and a sober pondering of all the facts . . . not to mention, the long-term implications.
Sadly, here in our fair land, our politicians have nurtured, nay blatantly engaged in a culture of quid pro quo – we will give you your streetlight and your repaired sidewalk in exchange for your X.  The problem with that milieu is that the bargain is always in the politician’s favour. The politician always wins, and the common man, who was so easily seduced to give away his support for a cheap instant gratification, quickly realises his mistake and rues the day. It is a Faustian bargain, yet we seem not to care. We are blithely willing to sell our souls for a “mess of pottage.” For shame!
Not surprisingly, our politicians love this perverse dynamic. They thrive on it; it is their stock in trade. After all, this is how they extend their lives in office and get voters to vote their way. The calculus is simple: keep the masses of the people poor and ignorant. Cultivate a beggarly and handout underclass. Deny the people their most basic services. Foster an economy of joblessness, low wages and dependency. Then just before Referendum or Election Day, make like Santa Claus and throw the wretched masses a bone. It stinketh up to high heaven – this pernicious coin of the realm!
We end by offering Ayn Rand’s (Russian-American novelist, playwright and philosopher) famous quote, “There can be no compromise on basic principles! There can be no compromise on moral issues!” When we vote on Referendum Day, let us vote our consciences! Let us vote what we believe, deep in our being, to be the right thing! No fleeting inducement (fixing roads, back pay and the like) will persuade us to purge our consciences!
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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