Detractors aside, there is a large number of APNU+AFC supporters who are genuinely alarmed by its behaviour. So much so that some of its members are calling upon them to end the practice of referring to it as a ‘one term government’. (We should end this talk of a one-term government. SN 23/12/2016). However, in my opinion, when most of these supporters refer to the present regime as a ‘one term government’, they are not hoping for its demise but making a realistic assessment that if the coalition continues along its current path it will only last for a single term.
I think that within this group there are both the optimists who believe that there is still sufficient time and that as the political leadership learns and gets its act together, things will change for the better, and a minority of pessimists, such as myself, who believe that what we are dealing with in this administration is a dominant mindset that believes that it is on the correct course and that as such, no significant effort will be made to analyze its path and make any necessary changes.
Particularly for non-core supporters, an egregious expression of this state of mind is the tendency of the government and some of its more hard-core supporters to lay claim to higher moral standing by comparing itself to the previous PPP/C regime. This is foolish, since the Jagdeo/Ramotar era was not only bad but was projected as the epitome of corruption, mismanagement and discrimination which this government was elected to eradicate.
This attempt to mitigate the outrageous actions of the present regime by juxtaposing it with that of the previous PPP/C only further offends the sensibilities of many reasonable people and comes across as hypocrisy, which is arguably the final stage of disillusionment with politicians.
Jillian Jordan et al, researchers from the Human Cooperation Laboratory at Yale University, in a New York Times article, What’s the Point of Moral Outrage? last February, may help us to better understand the situation that now faces the regime.
If my interpretation is correct, they claimed that moral outrage is a part of human nature; an essential aspect of both our personal and public life intended to build our social reputation. As a society we ‘value fairness and justice, because we want the world to be a better place’ and we wish to project ourselves in this positive manner. At a conscious level, our indignation may appear selfless but it could also be partly self-serving.
Reputation is important to the individual and condemning outrageous moral behaviour can serve to indicate that we are good citizens. Indeed, ‘… people who invest time and effort in condemning those who behave badly are more trusted and this can be beneficial if others reciprocate their good deeds by rewarding them for the promotion of high moral behavior by way of punishment.’
Therefore, unless you are some crank who should not have been believed in the first place, people feel terribly let down when you deceive them. You then become not simply a liar but a conniving hypocrite intending to deceive for your personal benefit!
It might be useful to note that for those who transgress, the punishment moral outrage triggers ‘is sometimes best explained not as a fair and proportionate reaction, but as a result of a system that has evolved to boost our individual reputations without much care for what it means for others.’
Take for example the moral outrage that recently fell upon the reverend ‘Pope’ Philbert London when he was caught in flagrante delicto. No one cared if his privacy was breached, how the recording reached the public domain, etc. This man, who on a daily basis called upon God to punish those who engaged in this type of ‘amoral’ behaviour, was himself a hypocritical practitioner!
Lying or being corrupt is not in itself as bad as being hypocritical, i.e., condemning and punishing others for lying and corruption when this is precisely who one is and even worse, intended to be!
Both in terms of its actions and inaction, the APNU+AFC government is now viewed by many as hypocritical, and particularly among non-core supporters, this has given rise to an unusual level of moral outrage.
The government claimed that the PPP/C were fat cats living off the sweat of the people. Upon coming to office, the regime immediately paid itself a 50% salary increase, absurdly claiming that this was necessary if they were not to become corrupt! And since then, we have had a plethora of highly questionable transactions being laid at its door!
The coalition promised some of its closest supporters in the trade union movement to reinstitute collective bargaining once in government, only to then proceed as the PPP/C did and impose pay increases on public servants. The hypocrisy became even deeper as it sought to sell a few meetings with the Public Service Union as collective bargaining!
As for inaction: one of the most important promises APNU+AFC made to the Guyanese people both in terms of what it may contribute to future good governance and the fact that it was given the prime place in the 2015 manifesto of the party, is that ‘Within the first 100 days of the formation of a government of National Unity, the following will be done. Establishment of a Constitutional Reform Committee with a mandate to complete consultations, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly for approval within nine months.’
In spite of the fact that the PPP/C did make important constitutional changes in about 2000; how often has APNU+AFC in opposition not pilloried the PPP/C for not wanting to make more meaningful constitutional changes? Yet nearly two years after its promise, the constitutional reform process, which will not be particularly expensive in either human resources or financial terms, has hardly got off the ground and the hapless populace are being been laced with numerous questionable excuses and humbug.
What is this if not hypocrisy deserving of public outrage?