Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Voice of the People (Part 2)

The Voice of the People (Part 2)
By Marcus Mottley, Ph.D.

With the coming of popular talk radio to the Antiguan and Barbudan airwaves, everyone could now have a say and expound philosophically on the practical matters that affected their nation, their community, their jobs, their household and their family.

And, no one can doubt that talk radio, specifically Winston Derricks’ “The Voice of the People”, was a ‘monumental’ player in the political developments of March 2004. While people had read Tim Hector’s “Fan the Flame”, they could not respond, interact or ‘have their say’. But with Observer Radio, they called in, they came in, and they emailed in. And when they didn’t do any of those things, the station carried the microphone out into the streets so that all and sundry could have their say on “The Voice of the People”.

So, Antigua and Barbuda has changed. Dramatically so. And it is a good thing.

People are not only reading and listening. Now they are verbally responding. And they now have alternative means (beyond Observer Radio) to let their voices be heard. They are hearing each other and dialoguing together – on all the sides of any issue.

And yes, it is a great thing that has happened. It might even be considered revolutionary. This is an occurrence that politicians in Antigua and Barbuda have taken note of and have started to utilize to serve their various agendas. And that is also a good thing.

This change has brought a measure of sunlight to our shores. Now, very little can be hidden from the people. Underhanded deals will be brought out to light. Corruption will be uncovered in days and weeks, rather the years that it took prior to Observer Radio. Not only will it be uncovered early, it will be discussed by all and sundry before the week is out.

Old and new political leaders, and highly placed government officials no longer have the luxury of the anonymity of their actions. The sad thing is that while the old guard may have gotten the message (many of them are gone)… many of the new guard may have not. Some appear to want to roll back the clock to the days prior to “The Voice of the People” and probably prior to Tim Hector’s “Fan the Flame”.

Some of the new guard, the new elite leaders (elected, appointed & promoted) having benefited from the passionate contributions of the people’s voices, are now wishing for these voices to be silent. Having benefited from the spotlight that was placed on the old guard, some of the new guard now wish to hide in the shadows and even draw the curtains to hide the sunshine.

But that will never happen again. Not in Antigua and Barbuda. The Flames have been Fanned into a Bonfire! They have spread the light across the land. And these flames cannot be dowsed.

Leaders across Antigua and Barbuda are now being held to a high standard – not by people like me with high degrees of education. They are particularly held to a high standard by the people of Antigua and Barbuda who have high degrees of common sense. By the people who now have the tools to articulate their high degrees of common sense.

The “Voices of the People” cannot ever be silenced in Antigua and Barbuda… whether those voices are heard on Observer Radio or any other medium.

As my 91 year old mother likes to say… “A word to the wise ought to be sufficient!”

Antigua and Barbuda has changed.

And, it is a good thing.

The Voice of the People (Part 1)

The Voice of the People (Part 1)
By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

A fundamental change has occurred in Antigua and Barbuda. That change began over twenty years ago with the incisive, elegant, powerful and thought provoking writings of Tim Hector. His “Fan the Flame” is arguably the best series of socio/political penmanship ever to grace the pages of a Caribbean newspaper.

It is clear that Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” stirred deep yearnings in the populace for higher levels of ethical behavior, responsiveness and accountability among our leaders. His clear portrayals of corruption, shady dealings, self-serving (and family-serving) decisions by government leaders gave ordinary Antiguans and Barbudans their first glimpse into how public officials used their public office for private and personal gain.

The "Outlet" opened a window and "let us in" to the dark workings of the government. And it continued to do so for decades.

In more recent times, however, for whatever reason, prior to his unfortunate passing, Mr. Hector seemed to have changed his outlook and his newspaper subsequently changed how it looked at the same government. While much of the reasoning for this flip flop is murky… one thing remains crystal clear: The Outlet and Mr. Hector in his “Fan the Flame” provided a monumental service to Antiguans and Barbudans… and provided the impetus for the rise of another monumental contributor to the ‘stirring of the deep yearnings’ of the people of our nation.

Where Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” started the yearnings, the Daily Observer and particularly the Observer Radio “Fanned the Bonfire”.

While the Daily Observer continued the Outlet’s tradition of revealing the hidden dealings of corruption in high places, it was the Observer Radio that allowed ordinary folk to respond and comment on the revelations.

That was new in Antigua and Barbuda.

Before, we had benefited from the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts and ideas of the university educated Tim Hector in his “Fan the Flame”. But now we were hearing en masse, for the first time - the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts, ideas and feelings of the common folk, many of whom had not even gone as far as the seventh standard classes in the old colonial educational system. Many of the callers had waited that long to have a voice and a say in the affairs of their country.

With the advent of talk radio initiated by the Observer Radio, Antigua has changed. Undeniably so.

Now, I am not a historian, and some persons might lay claim that there was this or that talk show radio in Antigua prior to the Observer Radio. And they may be right. But no prior talk show program or its host can lay claim to having been the “Voice of the People.”

The Voice of the People. And it was… and may still be. And yes… there are now other voices… of and from the people. And that is as it should be. And there should be many more programs and hosts… because we need to hear from all of the people – all of the time - no matter their perspectives, persuasions or positions.

So Antigua and Barbuda has changed. The Voice of the People can now be heard in its many forms throughout the land, across the sea, on the internet and from far, far away.

Yes, Antigua and Barbuda has changed. And it is a change for the good.