Take Heed


RECENTLY I had cause to revisit a movie which had a profound impact on my thinking as an adult.
The movie entitled “The Ides of March” starred Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling, and centred around the fight within the political system of the United States.   
The synopsis of the movie is fairly straightforward: Stephen Meyers, played by Gosling, is portrayed as a young idealist who is fantastic at communications, and was second in command of Governor Mike Morris’ (played by Clooney’s) presidential campaign, and is a true believer. In the middle of the Ohio primary, the campaign manager of Morris’ opponent asks Meyers to meet; he offers him a job. At the same time, Morris’ negotiations for the endorsement of the man in third place, a North Carolina Senator, hits a snag.  
Spoiler alert – the snag was an affair by Morris with an intern, but also the attempt by Republicans to have their supporters vote in the open primary in an attempt to have a weaker Democrat prevail and ultimately claim the nomination to face them in the fall.   
If you are not a political junkie like myself, then at least the fantastic acting from all the main characters in the film will present a snapshot into the potential pitfalls which potential campaigns may face, and the back-room deals which emerge when desperation takes over.
So it boils down to political expediency versus the adherence to basic core beliefs.  In this film, Gosling’s character was a true believer until gradually his faith was shattered by discovering the true nature of the idol which he created.  The image of the perfect leader, aptly represented by Clooney,  led to a situation where it was believed that nothing could derail him. 
Ultimately, the lead character had a decision to make. He chose to use the information to ensure that he took the top spot on the campaign team and ride that into a more prominent position. The sad reality was that Morris fit the bill – he spoke eloquently, he had all the 
answers and he could do no wrong – but that was part of the illusion.
It should then be no real surprise that this column comes a day after what is aptly known as ‘The Ides of March’. What those schooled in the classics will remember would be the reference to ‘Julius Ceasar’, where the title character was demonised and destroyed by those whom he thought were his friends. However, the Ides of March also referred to having the ability to discern when you are being taking down the wrong path and not being able to look at situations critically and objectively.
In this position, I am often bombarded by people who seek to suggest that their opinions should trump others. What is critical for me is that given my training in and love for history, critical thinking is something which is important to me. It calls for the avoidance of rushing to judgement and making decisions primarily based on emotional reactions.
So the most recent issues involved the Jamaican elections and the unfortunate utterances by the Mayor of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  
First was the statement from some on Facebook  that this was a sign that Barbados was next in line for a change in administration. I smiled and told people that Jamaica has now had three changes in Government in the last decade and was in the midst of potentially more austere measures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). To seek to superimpose the happenings there to the realities here are premature. It is a wake-up call, however, to the Government to communicate more with the people on key issues because in the absence of such, nonsense talk takes over.
On the later issue, someone actually stated that in Barbados, no one is punished for verbal assaults on public figures. In the interest of fairness, I suggested that it should go both ways and regardless of gender, offenders should be held accountable. That did not go over well, since a pattern has developed which morphs into every issue being overblown to fit a narrative of despair, and that salvation comes in changing to something else.  
My concern is that in this ‘cult of personality’ where individuals offer themselves as the one to change things for the better, what happens if this does not materialise?   
My hope is that this country remains committed to the will of the people, whatever the decision, and that the emotions which are fanned for political purposes are controlled and do not get out of hand.  We have been successful in respecting choice.
Basically, we should demand more from our leaders than just pretty speeches. We should look at their performances and what they can and would do to make this country better. There is only one ‘Messiah’.    

Barbados Advocate

Mailing Address:
Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados

Phone: (246) 467-2000
Fax: (246) 434-2020 / (246) 434-1000