When I grow up, I want to write like Michael Harris.
I discovered him quite by accident – trawling the (badly implemented but kudos for even having one) RSS feed of the Trinidad Express, lured by the headline “Party politics and the voice of the people.”
The man is a true-true political commentator, and an aphorist after mine own Oscar Wilde-loving heart:
In short, neither good governance nor good government is possible in the absence of politics and there is no politics without the voice of the people. (From Party politics and the voice of the people)
In all the essential areas of life each year seems to be a replicate of the previous year. It is as though we are locked in a time warp of helplessness in which all our yesterdays become our tomorrows. (From Solving the political paradox)
Since it is not necessary to engage in real politics outside the party there is no politics within the parties. People do not join those parties because they are inspired by a vision which they are committed to work towards. People join those parties in the hope of securing placement by means fair or corrupt. (From New politics and old paradigms)
(Here’s a Google search which indexes all his articles at the Trinidad Express)
These are the works of a political animal, in the true and Aristotelian sense of the term.The first episode – Solving the political paradox, cited above – of Mr Harris’s 2008 commentary for the newspaper ended thus:
In the midst of all of this neither government nor people have much time to devote to the fundamental questions of what kind of society we wish to live in and what system of governance shall we build?
Those questions are fundamental to political discourse, and to politics itself, but I have never heard them answered – or even addressed – by a modern Trinbagonian politician. (I welcome examples to the contrary.)
It was only because I’ve been reading these columns that I was not wholly disheartened by the subject of the latest post over at The Manicou Report – a Facebook group with the subtle title of Fuck the PNM.
Mani’s take on this 365-strong anti-PNM army – and there are similar Facebook groups dedicated to every major political party in Trinidad – is that it reinforces political tribalism.
If the makers of the group are trying to propagate the same type of tribalism by setting people even firmer in their ways than they are now, then they are on the right track. But if they want to get people to think for themselves and change voting patterns, then an “F*** the PNM” group on Facebook couldn’t possible be the way to do it. You can’t woo people over to your side by insulting them – a point lost on some politicians.
I would take his analysis a step further. The “party politics” in T&T is what gives rise to such self-defeating factionalism. This group is just a Web2.0 representation of the discussions taking place in rum shops, on street corners and in expensive coffee shops on university campuses.It is time for some new conversations, for discourse that dares to be more than a rehash of the same old same old.
Michael Harris has kicked things off in fine fashion. Who’s next?