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The incredible shrinking leader


In 2014, he strode across the Antigua/Barbuda stage like the Colossus of Rhodes. He was the umpteenth wonder of the Caribbean world. He was going to transform Antigua and Barbuda into an “economic powerhouse.” He was going to make our fair State the envy of the world. He was going to do most things. Alas! It was all a delusion of grandeur. Indeed, far from becoming an economic powerhouse, this pretentious financial whiz, has reduced Antigua and Barbuda to the economic poorhouse. Rather than being the envy of the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda is become the butt of jokes and snide remarks. Rather than becoming the best leader we ever had, he could very easily go down in history as the very worst, what with his astonishing record of failure after failure. Pass the political viagra, He of a High Place needs some . . . uh . . . . help.

Of course, it is doubtful that he will accept any genuine offers of help. After all, he is notoriously stubborn, much like a mule. In all matters, it will be his way or no way. Virtues like ‘consensus,’ ‘humility,’ ‘contrition,’ and ‘magnanimity,’ are anathema to him, so too is that “milk of human kindness,” and that generosity of spirit that all great leaders possess.

Consider, if you will, Dr Martin Luther King’s appeal to our better selves, when, in a speech to Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest black fraternity in America, in 1956, he declared: “May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, and dedicated leadership. Leaders of sound integrity. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice; not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity; Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the pressing urgencies of the great cause of freedom . . . .” Sigh! Our hearts yearn for just such a leader. Folks, it is clear to political pundits and the rest of the citizenry, that the so-called leader with whom we are now saddled, is NOT the type of leader of whom Dr King spake. Au contraire, He of a High Place will not subject his o’er-weaning ego to anything except his own aggrandizement and benefit. Indeed, expressions such as ‘creative self-enrichment’ and ‘too damn creative, man,’ have gained wide currency here in the body politic since He of a High Place waxed lyrical about those vices, which he perversely calls virtues.

So, as the self-described ’Top Dawg’ dwindles before our very eyes, from a Bullmastiff to a squealing, sniping Chihuahua (among the smallest of all dogs), he reminds us of a Shakespearean tragic character, usually the protagonist. The Shakespearean tragic character is someone who has an important position is society, but also a fatal flaw that ultimately leads to his downfall. It is a quality that may seem to be good (eg: He of a High Place’s nasty and over-the-top aggression.)(“Meh-no ‘fraid aryou!” and “I’ll tump you in yuh face!”), but the truth is that it reveals a weakness or a fragility in his character. The tragic character may be aware of that shortcoming – that insecurity, that flaw – so he always overcompensates to distract and conceal it. Hmmmm! Romeo’s fatal flaw in ROMEO AND JULIET, was his rashness. Othello’s was his jealousy. Macbeth’s was his ‘o’er-weaning ambition.’ Julius Caesar’s was his over-confidence. Our shrinking leader’s fatal flaws are his hubris, his pridefulness, his self-absorption and self-regard, his pettiness, and his downright badmindedness. Help him, Lawd!

The Mighty Sparrow sang a terrific satirical piece entitled GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE, and we offer excerpts of that piece for your reflection: “ . . . None of you going to tell me how to run my country / I defy anyone of you to dictate for me / I am no dictator, but when I pass an order / Mr Speaker, this matter must go no further / I have nothing more to say, and it must be done my way / Come on, come on, come on, we be done for  the day / This land is mine, I am the boss / What I say goes and who vex lorse / If you ain’t like it, get the hell outta here / I am going to do what I feel to do / And I couldn’t care less who vex or who get blue / I control all the money that pass through this country /  . . . Who’s not with me is my enemy / And thus will be their destiny /  . . . Who de hell is you to jump and quarrel / Look, this country is mine, lock, stock, and barrel / Who give you de privilege to objeck / Pay yuh taxes, shut-up and have respeck / I am a tower of strength, yes, I am powerful but modest / Unless I am forced to be blunt and rule-less / So, shut-up and don’t squawk, this ain’t no skylark / When I talk, no damn dog bark / My word is law, so what’s your case / If yuh slip, yuh slide, this is my place. . . “ Sounds familiar, eh?

Sparrow was singing sardonically of Dr Eric Williams’ authoritarian style of leadership, but we find it so very fitting for what we have here in Antigua and Barbuda today – a rude and autocratic leader. But his bullyragging will be his undoing. During this past election campaign, he could not fill a small basketball court for a rally. He could not get most of his colleagues to journey with him to St Peter to harass and bullyrag the incumbent MP. He had to cancel many of the events planned for the closing days of the campaign, for fear of embarrassment. For example, a big meeting planned for Thwaites’ Corner had to be scrapped. Of course, He of a High Place cussed his colleagues for showing up at the election campaign events with two, three people, and their long, empty hands. He cussed some of them for their apparent lack of enthusiasm and interest, and others for their over-confidence. It was quite sad, the public browbeating of his colleagues, never mind that they knew that they had nothing to offer the people by way of a better and brighter future for themselves and their generations to come. They knew that their stewardship, these past several years, left much to be desired.

Meanwhile, his Party had to pay people to ride along in its unimpressive rent-a-cade, and of course, there were inducements provided to people for Election Day. So pathetic! The once-mighty Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) juggernaut is sputtering, a ghost of its former self. It has to pay through its teeth, for love. Talk about, “No money, no honey!” Its support is soft, it is conditional. And, oh so  transactional.

And the disenchantment has a great deal to do with He of a High Place. People are simply fed-up with his abrasive (and corrosive) style of leadership. So, in the inner sanctum of the Party, there are whisperings and grumblings. They are no longer going along with his bs, and they are no longer afraid to tell him to his face exactly what they think, and exactly what they intend to do, if he dares offend them. And he can no longer threaten them, because they have an ace up their sleeves, what with the razor-thin majority that he now holds in the Lower House. The thought of it must keep him awake at nights. Top dawg as little puppy.

How are the mighty fallen, indeed!

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