I don’t type these words lightly, but it’s time.
In 2 short years (June 2018-June 2020) the political landscape of Barbados has changed.
Wholly and completely.
Yet even the so-called intelligentsia of the country barely seems to notice.
In 2 short years Barbados went from being a 2 party state – which was limiting enough as it was – to a country with one Supreme Leader™ and zero parliamentary Opposition (no, Joseph Atherley and his lower case opposition don’t count).
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley – CBC news loves to remind you her full name, yknow just in case you forgot between daily news stories;
In this piece I take issue not with her leadership, policies nor right/wrong decisions, but instead with the precipice of disaster Barbados teeters upon with its current political setup.
I give you: Barbados’ broken relationship with its Prime Minister
HOW WE GOT HERE
By time Freundel, Chris & the resta 2008-2018 Dems were done breaking your heart and insulting your mind, you were so bruised and battered that you were only too glad to hand your affairs – the country’s affairs – to anybody who showed up and looked halfway interested in handling the business.
In marched Mia Mottley
with open arms.
But this wasn’t just any Mia – this was Aunty Mia.
Stance softened by all the years Owen kept her to one side (when really it shoulda be He sidelined, home stretch out cross he bed); no longer the ultra aggressive bulldoggish figure we knew Mia Mottley to be in her political youth.
Here was someone who knew how to strum your pain with her fingers and sing your life with her words. She didn’t just know how to talk to you; she knew how to serenade you from outside your window and court your support, when the campaign night come.
She had become that figure that could sell you the idea of Aunty Mia, and the idea that Mia Cares – two campaign slogans I didn’t think were gonna fly anywhere in 2018, but fly they did – to the point where, by the time the tides of the redwash toss her into office, everybody and dum cousin scramble to find whatever pics they could dig up of Mia, or posing longside Mia, to share or post as their profile pic on social media.
The crossover and courting were complete.
All Mia had to do was make good on some campaign promises and keep serenading you the way you like, and there you’d be when she needs you, eating crumbs out her hand.
I have to stress that this broken relationship isn’t one Mia began building on her own – the Dems sealed their own electoral fate, and you…well, you needed someone to love you. And Aunty Mia, having suffered long and hard alongside you to get where she is today, knew how to make you feel loved. Barbados clearly wanted an Aunty.
WHERE ARE WE NOW, EXACTLY?
Do you follow any of Aunty’s social media pages ? The woman is Poonka incarnate.
Mia is everywhere.
Mia does everything.
And she lets you know about all’er it.
Give her MPs half a chance, when they feel as though they have the nation’s ear, and they ALSO let you know about all’er it.
So, you went from
-One emotionally-unavailable Prime Minister who seldom spoke and when he did speak, would act as though his speaking to you was a privilege
-A Prime Minister who cares and is ‘good to you’, but never misses a chance to let you know about every single good thing she ever does for you. Look sharp, her chorus-line of ‘friends’ (MPs) also let you know about every single good thing she ever does for you.
From a Prime Minister who was inactive to one who is hyperactive.
From one who never spoke to one who always speaks.
The years waiting behind Owen appear to have brought forth a person who will not rest until you believe she is your Best Yet. The Greatest Of All Time (the GOAT). One whose imprint you will see all over the physical landscape of the country, as you drive the highways and byways of Barbados.
I sometimes wonder what it’s like to be one of Mia’s ministers; do they grumble behind closed doors, wondering why or when Aunty will give them more of a chance to shine? Name one BLP Minister with a profile of his or her own – I’ll wait.
Whose politics do you know, beside Mia’s ?
Whose opinion matters, beside Mia’s ?
So, this – this is what Bajans have in mind – Aunty’s profile, Aunty’s opinions and, when something is important, you should expect to hear Aunty on it.
WHAT’S BROKEN/BAD/DANGEROUS ABOUT IT
March-April 2020: Aunty needs a medical procedure.
The deputy Prime Minister steps in, in time of crisis (anti-Covid quarantine) to make the types of national addresses Aunty normally would, when the chips are down.
And what are the results minus Aunty Mia?
Very ‘Anti Santia’; so Aunty finds herself on TV (in her nightie, some on social media said) just to reassure you that all is well in her absence; ‘I know you just needed to hear it coming from me’. Looking somewhat fatigued at times, and doing her Deputy PM a great disservice in the process.
So what do you have ? A Prime Minister who inspires Barbados’ national confidence, but also embodies it. A hyperactive Prime Minister in her 50s who carries all of the nation’s weight, but also seems never to rest. God forbid any misfortune befall her, because we’ve got an awful lot riding on this PM in particular.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
In a one-party, Supreme Leader™ State, Mia wields all kindsa power and is carrying all kindsa weight – but that works both ways. This also means the country’s self-esteem and self-image are riding on one person and her ability to sustain both how you feel and how you see yourself,
in a way that has never been the case for Bajans nor Barbados before.
Every time their turn to govern rolls around, the Bees’ PR plan does such a great job reminding you, first, that they are the
One True God you serve only party that has your best interests at heart and, second, of their good deeds and how they fixed the problems left by the other party.
Chance They Get.
This has subtle but important effects on your psyche; if Mia’s suddenly not around, what then ? Would her party or the country know where to go, or what to think ? Don’t even talk about investor confidence in the economy.
So, what are our options in this weirdo 29-1, zero opposition political environment ?
Here are some suggestions for ‘where to start’:
–Begin to see the government for what it is; the 30-0 win had just more to do with the Dems’ wutlessness than it had to do with the Bees’ wonderfulness, and made the Bees appear to be better than they actually are. It wasn’t so long ago – pre election 2018 – that some of the voting public wondered with doubt about what kind of government the BLP might form.
–Begin to see your relationship with Aunty Mia for what it is; when time came to vote in 2018, the other thing that made the Bees appear better than they actually are…was Mia Mottley.
Is it really the government you believe in, or do you believe in Mia ? And, if it’s Mia – what does that say for national confidence and morale ?
Bajan voters want so badly to believe in a government that they vote in and simply gets on with the business – do what needs doing and take care of what needs taking care of, and check me back in 5 years to see if I would vote fa ya again. But it never works that way.
Which leads to the third & final point…
3) It’s time for political education in Barbados; Political education may sound cute n fer kids, but it’s actually quite needed for adults who quite happily live dumb when it comes to politics
“I’m not into politics” you say…even though you pay taxes and are governed by laws, daily
So-called Milennials, Generation Z and other uninitiateds often first need to be made aware of the need to be aware of politics around them.
In an ideal world, local social (media) influencers would be key in advancing interest in politics amongst these groups.
A singular opportunity for driving change is presented by the current administration since, unlike the 2008-2018 Dem Government, this party and its leader very much do care what you think about them. All the more so because the suggestion that they abuse their power/29-1 dominance always stings.
Here are 7 burning questions for you to consider as you begin your long climb from Aunty Mia-reliance:
Seeing Govt for what it is: What is it like to experience Mia’s leadership from the inside ? Are her MPs fine with her leadership style, or does she micromanage and cramp their style ?
Seeing your relationship with Aunty Mia for what it is: Who might lead the country beyond Mia Mottley ? Would you expect to hear more from this person, and hear about his/her personal politics during this time ? How might Mia’s absence affect you personally ?
It’s time for political education in Barbados: Apart from COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, everything’s supposed to be peachy right now – unless you’re a hardcore Dem. Forget the political figures themselves for a moment. What’s something you don’t know but should, about the way the political system works in your own country? How can you begin going about finding out answers?
The more you know, the more you know where inefficiencies lie. And the more you should be equipped to act on inefficiencies when you find them.