Editorial: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

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The first set of election giveaways have arrived and people are lining up for their handouts which have become an election tradition like ham and turkey at Christmas.  It has become so bad that people expect to get something when election time rolls around.  Why are we like that?  That is a genuine question.  And it is not directed at any political party but to the public at large.  
We realise that we are generalising and that is not fair to those that exercise their franchise without a hand outstretched for an envelope, a t-shirt, or any of the other election goodies, but it is hard to ignore the stampede for election paraphernalia.   When did Antiguans and Barbudans develop this ‘gimme’ culture when it comes to politics?
 Many say that it has always been like that and it just has gotten worse.  That may be true, but there is worse and then there is whatever we have nowadays.
The election campaigns have moved away from discussing the issues facing the people and evolved into a mudslinging jamboree of egotistical politicians that respond with a similar ‘gimme’ mentality.  In their case, of course, it is ‘gimme’ your vote.  This could probably be called ‘political physics.’ If you stayed awake in physics class, you would have learned Newton’s third law which states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That means that there are two forces acting on the interacting objects and the size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.  
In the world of ‘political physics’ the law is similar.  The size of the force exerted by the giver equals the size of the force on the voter to comply with the giver’s demands.  What this equates to is vote bribery.  Now, there is a safeguard to this type of election chicanery in the form of anonymity and secrecy.  When a voter is in the voting booth, there is no one there to record which name received the voter’s “X.”  So, if you are inclined to support this handout mentality, at least do us all one big favour, vote for who you really think deserves your mark when you are in the privacy of that voting booth.  If you feel that you must take the politicians’ handouts, do so with a smile and then vote without a care for whatever quid pro quo may have been agreed.  It may be the only time we will tell you to forget your conscience.
Recently, we overheard an argument between two construction workers.  One said that the other had received $300 to vote a certain way in the last election.  The response was one of frustrated anger.  The accused stated that he did not receive $300 for voting.  He received $1,000!  He was frustrated because his colleague was telling people that he only got a measly $300 for his vote when he actually got more.  The accuser recanted his words and stated that he probably didn’t get $300.  The reason?  He can’t believe anyone would pay him more than $200!  That just amped up the conversation with the accused proclaiming that his colleague was “Stupid!” and “nobody gets less than $500 for their vote!”
We hear about vote-buying all the time but it was shocking to hear two people openly discuss the issue in this way.  And what made it worse was the fact that the vote-seller was predicting that he would get more for his vote this time around because he deduced that the race was tighter.  We should mention that there was no attempt to conceal the conversation in any way.  No hushed tones or humour.  This was a serious, matter of fact discussion between two guys about the upcoming election.  
When approached and invited to discuss the issue on OBSERVER Radio, the self-admitted vote-seller laughed and said, “Not me!  I doh get paid for dis election yet!” before he added, “Allyuh cyan go ahead … pickney waiting at home fuh food!”   The conclusion was obvious.  A poor man, who typically gains little to nothing from voting in the election, feels that he might as well get something for his vote rather than 4 or 5 years of nothing but broken promises.
It is an understandable position but also very sad.  It is a clear indication that faith in the process and the politicians has eroded a long way.  People view the election giveaways as the only positive thing that they will get from the politicians, so they figure it is better than nothing.  That sad reality leads our people towards the ‘gimme’ mentality that raises its ugly head during elections.  All is not lost, however.  There is a simply solution.  So simple that it is hard.  All that needs to happen is an awakening. People need to understand that they control the power. Politicians should sell themselves and their plans and then beg on bended knee for votes.  Then once they are in control of the government, we should all demand that they deliver on what they promised.  If that happens, people will get more out of an election than a few giveaways and/or an envelope.  They will get good governance that will ultimately lead to more than enough food to feed those hungry ‘pickney’ at home.

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