Dr. Raymond S Edwards
Sunday, 25 March 2012 02:30
By Raymond S. Edwards, Ph.D.
Antigua St John's - Even at 60, his footwork is undiminished; his gallantry and salvo un-eclipsed. So out he stepped and unleashed an audacious patented on-drive from outside off; with ball on the up if you please!
Predictably, not a man moved. The opposition was seething no doubt; but too cowed to make DRS referral, let alone publicly complain. The stature of the great man looms large as national hero. Match over? Not so fast!
As a regional umpire who knows the "sport," Sir Viv’s cameo on the power generators’ issue amidst his 60th birthday celebrations must be called for what it is - an ugly shot lacking timing and placement!
The immediate context of Sir Viv’s unfortunate indiscretion provides an appropriate backdrop for honest conversation about desirable attitudes/expectations across our Caribbean SIDS (Small Island Developing States). Particularly, I’m referring to attitudes and expectations relating to democracy and hero worship.
Sir Viv is not just national hero in A&B; he is a regional idol and international icon. I stayed up at nights just to see him disdainfully deposit Australia’s fastest back overhead, or savagely cut India’s wizards off middle stump. Almost singlehandedly, he helped rivet the WI brand on the world stage.
Deservedly, newspapers across the region lauded his landmark birthday and reminisced in glee. Regional and international legends either flew in for the auspicious toast or documented their felicitations.
Why did Sir Viv have to spoil this moment of personal, national, regional celebration and nostalgic glory by engaging in manifest political effrontery?!
I cringed all the way in NY! I’m sure visiting legends, who prize their above-the-fray hero status, felt uncomfortable, if not embarrassed, by his ill-advised unsavoury political dappling in their presence.
The sharply contentious nature of the power generators matter clearly falls outside the remit of Sir Viv’s designation and stature as a national hero. To delve in the way he did only allowed his image to be used un-ceremoniously.
Was it ‘motherland’ loyalty or ‘brother-man’ help out? Was it special request by, or unsolicited favour to, government friends caught on a sticky wicket - in dire need of ‘master blaster’ influence/delivery?!
In the end, it was unfortunate to see Sir Viv all twirled in blue while desperately trying to wrap himself in the national flag. Only tears can be shed over this image.
Don’t be fooled, this is no rearguard innings for the Opposition. In fact, my suspicion is if the shoe was on the other foot, the ALP would probably have had one of their hero sympathizers do exactly the same.
Further, demystifying the psychological phenomenon of hero worship and its halo effect on our lives is not the immediate burden of this essay, except to acknowledge its reality; and poignantly ask: But why must it be abused?!
As hinted, this matter goes beyond Sir Viv and the immediate context in A&B. The problem is the nature of politics in our islands. A key challenge is the way we exploit the ‘acclaim’ capital of our heroes - often against our greatest developmental good.
In this regard, the bigger issues are:
- Why do islands’ leaders think it’s politically ingenious and savvy to link public policy matters to emotional loaded admiration for our national heroes?
- Why do governments across the region think it no big thing to diminish the stature, tarnish the stardom, or prostitute the knighthood of our national, regional, and international heroes to derive some immediate and convenient political relief?
Almost invariably, injecting hero worship influence signals that the merits and circumstances of a government’s position are weak and tenuous. In such conditions, persuasion due to hero’s halo effect is often artificial and Pyrrhic. At best, cognitions get suspended and emotions get confused. At worst, people get further divided; and heroes get diminished.
When star power/hero worship is deployed to short change or intercept forces of democracy, transparency, accountability, and critical public debate, the people's business suffers.
Governments have fiduciary responsibility to transact state business with propriety and transparency. Oppositions have equal sacred endowment to watchdog governmental behaviour and protect the people's patrimony. National heroes should avoid pedaling their influence to shield governments from results based accountability; or to shut down crucial ‘snooper-vising’ by oppositions.
After years of independence and educational expenditure, is it really beyond us as Caribbean SIDS to achieve international best practice standards concerning ways in which we utilize and maximize the acclaim capital of our heroes?
So much can be gained by properly appropriating this precious human resource to harness and advance national and regional development; instead of yielding to easy temptations of deploying their services for narrow political expedience!
The danger of misusing our heroes is that those shabbily used in retail political soap operas eventually lose the luster and influence to be of greater benefit in more noteworthy societal causes.
While we wait for politicians to grow in this regard, my suggestion to hero figures (especially those designated national heroes) is: seek guidance and training (from those in the diplomatic corps perhaps) regarding when, and how to engage matters of public interest; particularly in sharply divided political environments.
Raymond S. Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion, is an International Development Consultant and Executive Leadership Specialist. © 03/20/12. Email