Maximum Leaders, Absolute Power and Democracy
Submitted by Observing
Barbados has always had a trend for celebrating a “maximum leader.”
We loved Errol Barrow and his accolades. We revered Grantley Adams and then his son Tom. Now we adore Mia Amor. Over and away we have other examples such as Dominica, Grenada and St. Vincent. But, is this trend healthy for a small island democracy?
A look at how events play out under such leaders show that support is consolidated, popularity is increased and machinations are employed to retain power. Decision making goes unopposed or unfettered. Allegations of infelicities disappear into the night. Opposition voices are stifled, or stifle themselves for lack of a persona equal in stature to he/she who leads from on high.
In Barbados, we have seen this leadership reap benefits in some instances. But we have also seen it bring a sense of arrogance, entitlement and a “I can do what I want” mentality. Tinkering with the constitution is now a norm. Double standards are now more open and blatant. Ignoring the “silent majority” is now also a trend, especially when tourist dollars or the macro economic picture is at play.
Similarly and negatively, the Freundel administration also practiced this, albeit, with foolish and arrogant abandon, disregarding the public it served. They ignored advice, plodded along with errant decisions and took the approach that “I am in charge.” 2018 speaks for itself.
But what really does this “maximum leader” bring?
After Tom died Bree took over and the rest is history.
After Barrow died Sandiford took over and the rest is history
After Thompson died Freundel took over and the rest is still an ongoing history
The maximum leader philosophy, rooted in a personality rather than collective progress can be dangerous. Without organs for continuity it gives a temporary illusion of success followed by a period of decline. Without sufficient controls and dissenting voices it gives rise to the Animal Farm mindset. Without an efficient fourth estate, it leads to a false perception of democracy and inclusion, which is really driven by public relations, marketing, psychological manipulation and popularity mining.
Think about it…
Is it truly a functional democracy when a leader can call an election whenever he or she feels like no matter the circumstances?
Is it truly a functional democracy when information is not free, integrity is not legislated and our elected leaders cannot be held to account other than at the ballot box?
Is it truly a democracy when those who control government, also fully control every aspect that regulates oversight and control of that government?
Is it truly a democracy when two-thirds of an electorate stay home leading to a 30-0?
A good democracy demands that government, civil society, labour and capital work together for the good of the people. Recent events have shown that at least three of these organs work together for the good of politics. The partisan divide, the whispers on the street and the frustration and despondency of many are the inevitable result.
We have always asked in this space, will the real leaders please stand up?
If ever there was a time for them, it is now.