For those familiar with the scriptures, especially the beautiful-written and sublime King James version, the title of today’s editorial is an adulterated rendering of Romans 5:20, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Our twisted version is that where politicians exist, it will not bedifficult to find an abundance of ‘malarkey’ (English) and ‘jive-talk’ (1970’s African-American slang). It is their stock in trade – the default usage of ‘flights of fancy’ and deceptive hyperbole. In order for one to be comfortable with much of what emanates from their snake-oil charm, there has to be a “Wilful suspension of disbelief.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, last used that expression when, in questioning General David Petraeus during a 2007 congressional inquiry about the progress, or lack thereof, being made in the Iraq war, all but called the good General a barefaced liar.
Clinton’s use of that term, a literary device first suggested by the great Samuel Taylor Coleridge, elicited much levity and guffaws during Petraeus’ testimony, and even gave rise to a pejorative play on his name – “General Betray Us.” Coleridge(Seehis BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA,1817) suggests that a ‘suspension of disbelief’ is “The creation of a fantasy world,’ and he posits that “If a writer could infuse a ‘human interest and a semblance of truth’ into a fantastic tale, the reader [or listener] would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” Hmmm!Coleridge could be on to something here. And our politicos in the Caribbean and our fair state seem to be disciples who have all sat at his feet, perfecting this thing called, ‘infusing a semblance of truth in a fantastic tale.”
But wait! Not so fast! The naïve willingness to give our politicos the benefit of the doubt and ‘suspend disbelief’ will no longer hold sway; not with the harsh reality that most of the people are living.The flowery speeches that were once ‘the coin of the realm,’ designed to placate and ‘soft-soap’ the people are being dismissed out of hand. In the United States and other parts of the world, “Yeah, right!” is the usual response to ‘too-good-to-be-true’ political promises. In Trinidad, untrustworthy political rhetoric is dismissed as ‘mamagism.’ In many places, it is dismissed as ‘bovine scatology’ or ‘BS.’ In Trinidad also, there is ‘ol talk.’ ‘Ol’ talk,’ the mother of ‘mamagism,’ is “Idle chatter, chitchat or clever social banter,” as well as, “A smooth argument used to wiggle out of a sticky situation, or charm one’s way into someone’s good graces.”
Here in Antigua and Barbuda, ‘ol talk’ was described in the 1970’s as ‘Sweet-sounding nothings.’ But that was a ‘gentler time.’ It certainly was not the type of brass-facedness that we are now seeing from the political directorate, where they blithely make grand announcements when they know “dat nutten go happen.” Our recent history is replete with ‘infinite deals of nothing’ from our politicos,and anexample of suchcaught our interest while we were perusing some of our past publications. It was December, 2017, two years ago mind you, that we reported, in a piece entitled NATIONAL OVERSIGHT FOR BURIAL SITES the ‘ol talk’ concerning our desperate need for a new public cemetery. This administration, with its bent for ‘mamagism,’’ said the following: “What we are hoping with the [new] national cemetery, it will last us for even longer than the 130 years that we have had the [St. John’s Public] national cemetery. . . the use of grave liners from what the experts tell us is to create stabilisation at the burial site, so that you do not have too much movement of the casket . . . also it helps to contain odour . . . what we are talking about is the use of the [new] national cemetery for about 350 burials a year, and with 350 burials, I think that it is a cost that the government would be more than willing to absorb to give a resident of the country a dignified burial. . .” And so it went. Hyperbolic talk about gazebos, public restrooms, a reception hall, a chapel, and access for people with disabilities . . . all on twenty acres of land adjacent to the Heroes Park in Tomlinson’s. Sigh! Many of us will be long dead before this political flight of fancy becomes a reality. Sigh! Another day in the world of Antiguan realpolitick.
From the inertia on the new public cemetery, to the stall on the new car park, to the recently-announced Cabinet directive to APUA to fix our eternal water woes, the people are no longer buying it. But take a peek at how we reported the administration’s ‘ol talk’ on our epic water problem in this past Friday’s DAILY OBSERVER: “It’s a totally unacceptable position,” said Cabinet spokesman, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, “so the mandate the APUA department had yesterday is to procure what funding is necessary to be able to get to a position where the grid that delivers the water to consumers is repaired and restored . . .” Of course, with a straight face the administration announced that this grand project is to begin in the first quarter of 2020.Sigh!
If you believe that, then we have a mountain called Boggy Peak to sell you! But then, we do not think that anyone in full possession of his or her faculties, believes any of the politspeak from the administration any more. Except for the dwindling few who reside in the fanciful world as previously described by Coleridge.