Education in Politics
Soon the Commonwealth of Dominica will be going to the polls. Since this country is a democracy and has a democratic Government, it is clear that everyone has a role to play in good governance. Not only does everyone have the right to elect freely and without any coercion the Government, but there is also the duty to demand of the elected members respect for the Constitution and Laws of the Land. Additionally, citizens have the right to demand that their parliamentary representatives conduct themselves with decorum, respect the rights of all citizens and be role-models for the people.
Politics is described as "the science and art of government." This is of tremendous importance. It means that the politician must have knowledge of the demands of good governance. Concomitantly, he must develop a certain measure of skill in dealing with political issues. A politician must therefore endeavour to obtain education in political matters. If he does not do this, he is not prepared for the job, no matter how many votes he may justly or unjustly obtain.
"Knowledge of human nature is the beginning and end of political education." What this statement conveys to us is that a person must have a depth of self-knowledge and understand the world in which he lives. He must recognize his weakness and his strength. He must be a person who is not insecure, but mature and possessed with inner strength. He must be endowed with courage. He must be able to read the signs of the times.
A very learned man may not necessarily prove to be a very good politician. He may not be a very articulate and powerful speaker. Lacking empathy, he may lack that charm which endears people to him. He may not be a very practical man. However, a person who represents people at the national level should have some academic achievement. He should have some knowledge of the history of his country and of the world in which he lives. He should have a basic understanding of economics and the financial world. To be a leader of the people he should keep abreast of the various currents of thought. He should understand the importance of the rule of law and the promotion of justice for all in a society which claims to be "all for each and each for all."
Often people are drawn to politics by the desire to exercise control over people's lives and the destiny of a country. The glamour of power dazzles them. Many will jump on their bandwagon to share in the spoils rightly or unjustly derived from their newfound exaltation. Integrity is a matter of little concern. Hero worship is the end of it all!
Political education should consist of a radical training in the dignity of service. The politician is above all a servant. He has dedicated himself to improve the quality of life of the people and not to feather his own nest and that of his supporters and friends. To be true to his calling he must endeavour to make sacrifices and sometimes heroic sacrifices. He must build up the people rather than himself.
Politics has often been described as a dirty game. And, indeed, many politicians have been corrupt. It has often been said that politics makes strange bedfellows. You may find presumed honest men and blatantly dishonest men alike working side by side. Moral standards are often of no consequence. Political adherence often depends on personal advantage. Sir Bernard Shaw, the famous English playwright, crowns it all by describing politics as "the last refuge of scoundrels".
However, politics is a noble profession. It has been described as "a great adventure". And so it is. It is an adventure in devising ways and means of coping with various challenges in society and giving hope to a people who are convinced that integral human development is possible.
We often find fault with our politicians. We accuse them of gross irresponsibility in the conduct of public affairs and irregularities in their personal lives. However, we must bear in mind that our politicians do not drop down from the skies. They are very much the kind of persons that we are. If we want better parliamentary representatives what we have to do is change the moral level of our society.
In the Caribbean, we lack role-models for our politicians. There is too much aggressiveness in our politics, too much vindictiveness. This hinders real reflection on national issues. It also affects the health of our people and is conducive to a spirit of violence in our country.
We need men and women of character in political life. Where shall we find men who have developed firm principles and are willing to live and die by them? We need persons imbued with moral courage, men and women who can stand tall. Such were statesmen, like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, who has been credited with an extraordinary capacity for tolerance, patience and forgiveness. Yes, we need politicians. May they be people who can stem the tide of disrespect, greed and personal ambition and promote a new political culture of courtesy, dedicated service and caring for all our people.