As Barbados is gearing up for yet another protest against some stringent tax measures that the government has implemented which directly impacts purchasing power; in essence reducing it by 50%, the head of government has made a statement which saddens me. As I watched the extract of the head of government’s response to the scheduled protests on the local evening news (July 23rd, 2017), I heard someone who was in no way concerned about the pending action. In fact the action was seen as a political tactic being used by the private sector to strong arm the government. I wondered why the upcoming protest ( scheduled for July 24th, 2017) by the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) was viewed as a tactic especially considering that just four days prior (July 20th, 2017), the public sector also engaged in a measure of protest (sickout). I wondered why a leader would think that it was more than just wanting their views heard and considered. Why must this be politicized?
I well understand that politics is involved in virtually every aspect of life so I got the answer to my latter question. Additionally, the reality is the protest is political because it seeks to influence government’s taxation policy. However, the news report made me increasingly perturbed as the leader stated that he wants the protest (march) to happen so that the real intent could be revealed; my heart further sank. I questioned whether I really understood the concept- democracy and it was clear to me that there is a real gap between theory and practice.
The concept democracy typically conjures thoughts of participation and the right to exercise and enjoy all civil liberties. So that the same people who elect a government has a right to voice their disapproval. But does democracy stop at voicing alone? Participatory Democracy is perhaps the benchmark when speaking of democracy as an ideal. In practice I see that 1 vote and ability to voice is the extent of democracy currently existing.
The public therefore needs to be aware that democracy is nothing more than an occasion to vent. It is not a means of influencing policy even when the majority has already begun to feel the adverse effects of a tax regime that is quickly eroding the masses’ ability to meet basic needs. The irony is that it was through social movements and economic protests that change occurred in the past. We are where we are today because of a democracy which heard and considered the views of our forefathers. Yet now, the idea is to approach protests with much political skepticism, and indifference. If each group which seeks to be heard is being painted with the same brush of skepticism and is being dismissed, then democracy is being suppressed. How do you strangle the very thing that gives you life? How do you suffocate yourself and expect to breathe?