Saturday, September 29, 2012

Commentary: Go ahead, Kamla. The people are with you

Kamla acknowledges supporters at the PP rally in Aranguez on May 22, 2010
Kamla Persad-Bissessar pledged in 2010 to stay in touch with the people and to report to them on government activities from time to time. In keeping with that style and tradition, she has scheduled what has been described as a "Pre-Budget Rally" at Mid-Centre Mall on Saturday. 

As would be expected, the People's National Movement (PNM) disapproves. Its social media contributors have been busy at work denouncing the move suggesting that it is nothing but a "rum drinking, flag waving" event. 

To make such a suggestion is to show a misunderstanding of political communication and participatory democracy. However is not surprising coming from the PNM. For them, reporting to citizens and treating the average person with respect is an alien concept. 

The PNM style is to ignore the people, have no accountability and rule in a dictatorial fashion. "The Prime Minister has spoken", are famous words from Hazel Manning when she and her husband, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, wanted everyone, including members of the PNM, to shut up and obey instead of asking questions. 

It's the "not a damn dog bark" syndrome that PNM founder Dr Eric Williams started and used throughout his career to stifle dissenting voices and insulate himself and his people from the citizens. Patrick Manning paid a heavy price for using it and for ignoring the people.

Kamla has chosen a different route. "The voice of the people is the voice of God" is one of her well-known mantras. Another is, "Serve the People!". 

She was always close to the people and when she became Prime Minister she retained that common touch. Her periodic reports to the people through mass meetings are not fetes or limes as her critics suggest; they are part of the democratic process of consultation and consensus. And there's nothing wrong with song and music.

Effective political communication uses popular culture to reach large audiences. For instance, during the election of 2010 Kamla's campaign team used national cultural icons to deliver strong and effective messages on behalf of the People's Partnership and against the PNM administration, led by Patrick Manning. 

Who doesn't remember, "Go nah, Patrick leave and go nah..." and the dramatic "We didn't vote for dat!". More recently they used Sugar Aloes to deliver the message.
Sugar Aloes serenades Kamla at the PP celebratory rally in Chaguanas in May 
All human communication is based on the choices people make - selective attention, selection perception and selective retention. 

Music attracts people, so  smart communicators use it to bring audiences to the place where the message is to be delivered. Having got the people's attention the politician can deliver the message, which people will perceive and retain according to their biases and personal circumstances.

Even Jesus Christ used the principle of mass gatherings to deliver His Sermon on the Mount, which remains a classic example of effective political communication. 

Mahatma Gandhi and leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, who followed Gandhi's style, also understood how to deliver the message using mass media and mass culture.

So when the PNM and critics of the PP write off a rally such as the one planned for Saturday they are showing that they don't understand communication and that they are also ignorant of political organisation. 

Keith Rowley and the PNM are entitled to have an opinion and express it in whichever forum they deem appropriate. However they must respect the right of others and not resort to threats and bullying to try to silence the majority.

Saturday's rally is an exercise in democracy and effective communication. Who vex, vex. But if you really want to know what your government is doing, has done and intends to do, follow the crowd to Mid Centre Mall on Saturday afternoon. 
Jai Parasram | 25 September, 2012 (original publish date)

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai