The Political Narrative and the problem with the DLP and the BLP

The Political Narrative and the Problem with the DLP and the BLP 

With mounting anxieties and fears  in response to the 'no possible end in sight' avalanche of austerity measures imposed by the present day government, politicking has, sadly, become the fashion of the day. 

"Man, de D's ain't know what dem doing and de Bees ain't no better either." You hear it everyday. 

Elections were called but one short year ago and you wonder how in such a short span of time, besides the obvious, why there is so much disapproval from the electorate for the party in power?

Indeed, the sitting government should still  be, by all expectations, riding high on their victory. 

I suppose then, that you should ask the question that needs to be really asked. With all this disapproval being suffered in all but one short year, how on earth did they even win?

And if you are going to ask that, then you must ask this- How did the BLP lose?

And if you are going to be really fair, then you should ask how on earth did Barbados get into this position in the first place? The position? Not being able to sustain itself with the ultimate threat of devaluation steering us down the face like a 12 gauge shotgun. 

While I am no political strategist or economist, I will still lend my voice to this debate and prove that as a corporate communications practitioner that I am well suited (perhaps even more so than these professionals) to shed some light on Barbados' predicament and offer some solutions albeit, long term. 

For it should be noted that regardless of which political party won, economic and political measures and maneuverings would have had to been taken to keep Barbados' economy afloat. Whether you subscribed to the D's approach of layoffs or the B's approach of privatisation.

But that is after the fact, let's focus on the lead up to elections and what I attribute to the fundamental problem with  both parties and why one lost and the other 'won'. The problem simply put is each party's political narrative and its power to influence perceptions and behaviours. 

In corporate communications we hear just as much about key messages and narratives as we hear about target audiences and publics. These key messages and narratives (stories) help to mold the targeted audience's point of view in line with the intended objective of the messenger and inspire the audience to act in accordance with the essence of the message of the story. 

In other words some craftily worded piece of rhetoric, written or said, to rally your troops, your people to action in an effort to secure some strategic objective. We have all heard it before. Take for example Obama and his 2008 campaign when a barely audible utterance of the word "Hope" or "Yes, we can" in a queue at the bus stop or coffee shop was enough to immediately conjure up the image of Obama in your mind and more importantly inspire you to want to be a part of that ethereal altruistic dream of electing the first black man to the highest office in America- President of the United States. 

And that's what I am talking about! A timeless, inspirational and the least perceived  as 'political' of rhetorics designed to function as much as a brand promise as it is as a brand statement for political parties and their representatives.

And to be perfectly honest, we have had that from both the BLP and the DLP; however, and this is a big mitigating factor, each has contributed to the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves today. The Democratic Labour Party, branded as the true champion of the working poor. Not my words...theirs. Indeed the DLP has long seen themselves as the saving grace for many poor people, providing education and a myriad of social services free of cost in an effort to give their target audience a firm foundation on which to stand in what can often feel like an unleveled playing field in today's world. 

But if you think carefully, that is a narrative that has been espoused since the modern age of the party and is still being espoused- well was still being espoused up until the day of the 2013 elections. 

Now, forgive me, but if in the time of Barrow that was your narrative, which was as relevant and as poignant as a key message or narrative could be in the new era of Caribbean nationalism, why are the great and great great grand children of that audience subjected to the same narrative today?

Is that all we can be... poor and destitute with the only hope of survival complete reliance on Papa Jesus Government? No need to answer the question, because the electorate answered resoundingly. 

So a narrative that was archaic if not offensive worked. The Democratic Labour Party retained the government and the epitome of this key message encapsulated in the now infamous bus ad, offered a familiar, cozy feeling for the electorate that does the old adage, "There is no place like home" sufficient justice. 

But even if Barbadians on that fateful election day had a crystal ball in which to see today in all of its catastrophe, it could still be argued that the election result would still have been the same. For as we now examine the narrative of the BLP these reasons are made clear. 

Seemingly, the more enterprising of the two, the Barbados Labour Party has never bowed to the pity party refrain of "We is Poor People." Instead their rally call has been "If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention." Paying attention meant taking stock of what you had, because they fundamentally believed that everyone has something of worth whether material, intellectual or talent and that developing and honing it to an international standard it could be offered  for sale thereby guaranteeing chance at success. 

The BLP indeed backed this ethos with a plethora of programs and policies to generate the development of a much needed small business environment and culture. And, despite missing the activating ingredient of confidence from the Barbadian mentality, this process of development took flight... and with some success. I say confidence, because that is a necessary component to any kind of enterprising and innovative exercise; innovative because, Barbadians had never really had a spirit of true enterprise and entrepreneurship. We were content to be a consumer economy and if by chance we dabbled in any kind of business, it was only for a certain cross section of people- if you know what I am talking about. 

So the BLP preached autonomy while the DLP preached dependency. But unlike the DLP whose narrative I challenge has not evolved that much, the BLP did, and to suit the opportunities that were awaiting  Barbados just off our shores. On second thought, maybe it did not evolve that much but the approach did, which by default meant that the narrative did. And here it goes: "If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and sell your soul to the highest bidder. Because that bidder WILL guarantee security." Autonomy to perpetuate growth for generations to come all but shot to hell.

And as for the DLP, they lead with the narrative Papa Jesus is the government and quite apt as listening to the call-in programmes you often hear callers refer to themselves as "poor" and one such caller even argued strongly that "the Bible say that you [governments] are supposed to take care of poor people." In stark contrast to the BLP's caricature of Papa Jesus as investor. 

So of these two evils which do I prefer? I will tell you because in answering that question you will see why the DLP 'won' and why the BLP lost. I prefer, on the basis of the narrative's assumption that every one has something of worth and value to offer the world, and as a result can act on his or her own behalf to better themselves, the BLP. 

Barbadians are renowned the world over for being passive but this passivity goes far beyond temperament.
The lackluster willingness to exercise autonomy is and will be forever the downfall of Barbadians. And ironically a political narrative that supports this undermining  mentality will always find a soft place in the hearts of people who choose to at best characterise themselves as poor and at worse as poor. 

But I am being too presumptuous in my critique of the DLP's narrative if you think that that is the reason why they won and the BLP lost. 

The BLP lost because even if Barbadians could and I do believe that they do on some visceral level see the weakness in the DLP's swan song, Barbadians were and are not prepared to lose what they own and by extension their identity. 

And so, from that you can surmise the narrative of the Barbadian people: "Just because I am poor, does not mean that I give up the right to be!" If you doubt the potency of this message then see the video below. 
I wish that I could say that the solution would be so simple as to just simply craft new ones. These narratives have in more ways than one established Barbadian culture and for a culture to change, that would take a revolutionary, one that I have not yet seen. And hence the staying power of these narratives. They were in their most altruistic forms, created by revolutionaries of Barbados: Errol Barrow and Tom Adams; the fulfillment of their revolution(s) carried out and revered by their respective successors and supporters. 

Tom Adams
Errol Barrow

For there to be a new culture in Barbados that privileges autonomy, confidence and trade of the kind that finds us having something of value to sell to the world and to our advantage, that would mean that a politician or genuinely concerned citizen would have to step beyond the shadow of Errol Barrow and Tom Adams and find the confidence and charisma to be a revolutionary themselves and espouse a narrative so inspiring and 'transfornational' that Barbados could develop a culture whereby we could survive in any international environment. 

Stay tuned!
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