By NICOLE BURROWS
It’s interesting to analyse the words and language (body included) of political leaders.
Regarding Prime Minister Perry Christie’s recent mini tirade, I didn’t want to interpret paraphrased comments or another writer’s interpretations, so I listened directly to and transcribed some of the audio of comments the PM made in his recent address to College of The Bahamas (COB) journalism students.
I should think that the purpose of addressing an audience of young students would be to motivate them in their studies. Instead, Mr Christie’s address came across as a warning of what not to do or say when you become a journalist, a censorship of sorts.
First off, why was Mr Christie trying to justify himself to journalists, or anyone for that matter? His tone was too defensive for a composed and experienced prime minister; it was way off base for a man speaking with passion to impressionable young people about an important subject. As a prime minister or leader, one ought not to sound off as Mr Christie did; it earns no sympathy for whatever plight you appear to deliver and certainly no respect for the same.
“Politics has somehow warped people, and journalists who are political scribes arrogate unto themselves a level of arrogance that stupefies me because they presume to make decisions for people. They presume that the position they’re in gives them the right to say what exists and what doesn’t. But the devil is a liar.”
Truer words were never spoken than by the harbinger himself. Mr Christie, you are one to talk about the ability of politics to warp people. The public sentiment about you in that regard is not a far cry from your own sentiment about journalists. And even if you happened not to be one of those politically warped people, many of the people who surround you are … and they are falling one by one, a reflection of you who leads them.
With reference to the phrase “presume to make decisions for people” ... don’t you do this every day, Mr PM? I’m not suggesting that any of “their” decision-making ability is above average, but how are you any better than ‘they’? Do you believe that by nature of your portfolio somehow you are exempt from making poor decisions? Who presumes “that the position they’re in gives them the right to say what exists and what doesn’t” more than you?
And, oh the redundant, incorrect use of big words… to arrogate arrogance… to have stopped at the first one would have been more impressive. In fact, to choose two different words – words that weren’t so phonetically similar yet definitively different, to begin with – would have been better if the goal was to impress, which, so often, it appears as though it is. But, in this instance, this word choice is not intelligent, nor is it sound; it makes the speaker seem severely limited on vocabulary. One does not claim arrogance for oneself. Then again, our prime minister is quite special… unto himself.
“The Devil is a liar.”
Trite, ghetto church slang. A worn out phrase that needed to be buried 10 years ago. This, of course, is a lame appeal to Bahamian religiosity. It’s the equivalent of “in the name of Jesus!” … whose utterer usually intends for the entire congregation to be overcome with emotion. The public is supposed to jump on your bandwagon, whichever direction it moves, and/or give you a free pass to drive us all wherever you choose to go, after this exclamation. The people are supposed to have sympathy because you throw some colloquial church talk up in the mix. And what is this obsession with “the Devil” and “Hell” anyway? If you didn’t notice, Mr Prime Minister, we are having “hell” on earth in The Bahamas right now, and you are partly to blame for it.
“Their judgment as to whether I’m doing my best, the hell with them” (and their judgment, presumably), is synonymous with “to hell with them”. It’s not exactly the same wording as “go to hell” as one media house reported, but the connotation is the same whenever you say it and that is what matters here. That technicality aside, as PM, why care about journalists’ judgment? You could, instead, use said journalists to your advantage. However, this was not that – there was no conscionable political strategy here.
“Would it be truth to characterise me as somebody who’s weak and can’t make decisions and can’t this and can’t that?” I would agree that it is a matter of opinion whether someone regards you as weak or indecisive. Because someone says you are weak or indecisive doesn’t amount to fact, and does not mean you have to be that way at all. But, when there’s a long-standing pattern, when large numbers bordering on a majority feel that way, then it’s time to have an out of body experience and deeply self-examine. In political life, your own opinion of yourself, sadly, does not matter. When you think you’re doing your best, but few else do, you know it is time to go.
And now the boasting.
“When I was going around Centreville, eight consecutive elections, none of them was there.” And, “I’m in my 40th consecutive year in public life. Only Lynden Pindling and Roland Symonette in the history of this country have served longer than me.”
First of all, what the hell (see I can do it, too) is Centreville to be proud of? It looked wasteland-ish 20 years ago and it looks much worse than that now. So, sir, don’t even go there. It’s like a child showing a parent they washed their hands, but when you see and smell them they’re covered in crap.
And, time-out, I have to ask here, who invited Christie to speak to these young people anyhow, some of them very impressionable children under 18? Be ye warned; be very careful who you invite to your “party”. Christie’s speech in this forum was opportunistic self-aggrandisement. Mr Prime Minister, 40 years in public life does not automatically mean you are or have been effective. At best, it means that you’ve been loyal, after running for the same party over and again. At worst, it means you’ve been in one, stagnant place really for far too long. But I’ve got to give it to you, choosing a place where people are dirt poor and under educated and more easily brainwashed is a great ploy for winning their votes in elections over a 40-year period. Your real worth, I think, would be evidenced by your courage to run in another constituency you couldn’t so easily win or manipulate.
And anyway, if your track record is not illustrious, who cares that you out-served all others but two? (PS – there’s only one other leader). How does it matter how long you’ve endured, if you don’t know when to stop, to leave, not to linger as long as you can, especially when your leadership is weak and unhinged in the eyes of the masses?
“Bring Minnis here, bring Bran here, Christie here, and say: ‘Tell us what you believe in’.”
Actually, I want to know more about what you’ve been successful in, not what you believe in, and more about what you plan to do to make my life as a citizen of the country you lead better than it is right now.
But Minnis, Bran, and Christie? Clearly, one of two things is happening here. You do not think “Bran” is on your level. You call Minnis and yourself by your last names but Bran by his first name. And not even his whole first name, but his nickname? Is he too much of a junior to you? Whether you recognise him as legitimate competition or not, at least do him the courtesy of addressing him in the same grown up fashion where you call him by his surname if doing so is a sign of respect.
Alternatively, calling him “Bran” and not “McCartney” could, perhaps, mean that you thought the young people would like that, seeing as they can identify with young Bran. If you call Bran by his first name that sounds cool? It endears the young people to you? Well, in making Bran stand out so prominently, you just reminded the young people you are addressing in your speech why they should vote for Bran and not you. And what a shame, when all you really wanted from this moment I’m sure is the chance to demonstrate how well you speak in a debate. But you need to be coherent and respectable, not dithering and unintelligent and tongue-twisted (like some others). Effective governance does take into account your ability to connect with the people by the things you say, but effective governance is not entirely an elocution competition. And with you at the wheel, that is precisely why we find ourselves in this particular position we are in today. Too much hot air.
Another tip about the young people: Sounding off words like a preacher won’t help you to pick up the youth vote in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, young people have respect for traditional preachers, and for their elders; not all the young people are wayward. But they do not identify with them, so utilising their customary tools will not gain you the youth support.
Heaving and wheezing and dragging out the syllables of “country” so it sounds like ‘countraaaaaay’ won’t do anything to endear the young people to you.
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