Well folks, it looks like the shock jock of academia is at it again. True to his no-holds barred form Dr. Tennyson Joseph launched a thinly veiled, Plato-cloaked attack on Saint Lucia’s prime minister, Allen Chastanet.
Under the guise of academic latitude and freedom the Saint Lucian born professor, tenured at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, sought to warn Caribbean peoples against what he describes as the rise of businessmen-politicians in the region.
At a public lecture titled “Any Cook Can Govern? : Plato, Donald Trump, and the rise of the Caribbean Businessman Politicians” Dr. Tennyson Joseph sought to leverage Plato’s, Ethics and Politics in The Republic, by making reference to “The Best Political Order.” However, what Dr. Joseph failed to point out was that Plato, in all essence, was referring to an ideal society – a utopia of sorts, where everyone and everything lived in harmony observing the rules of God and man.
He also failed to also realize that all forms of isms have this very same idealism at their core, however all have proven to be corrupted by greed and class! Even those touting the holy books, whether they be the Koran or Bible, have fallen short of the glory of God.
What has obviously sailed over the head of Dr. Tennyson Joseph is the fact that we must have laws and codes of conduct and ethics, whether in civilian or political life, because man, whether businessman, lawyer, or doctor, socialist, communist, or capitalist, are all susceptible to the frailties of self interest and corruption.
Lamentably, what Dr. Tennyson Joseph failed to acknowledge, is the fact that such thinking has never proven to be practical or witnessed as the frailty and sinful nature of man has always had its influences and vices. In his desire to single out businessmen politicians as an upcoming disaster for our politics in the region, he failed to point out what has been at the heart of our previous and current failures in the region.
Since the learned doctor considers businessmen the veritable root of evil, because of inherent conflicts of interest, shouldn’t he also consider his former colleagues in politics equally suspect and to be dismissed at all costs? The burning question is whether he does not also consider doctors, lawyers, and most other professionals as businessmen?
His looking ahead and predicting negative repercussions for our politics would suggest that some empirical evidence or data had been obtained to validate such a bold claim; unfortunately none was provided other than his failed attempt to link his reckless assertions with the idealism of Plato.
Somehow Dr. Tennyson Joseph, in all his purported concern, failed to look at what has been failing us for decades in the region. He never ventured to blame lawyer-politicians for our dismal economic and social performance. His inability to observe, deduce, and articulate some connection between lawyers and poor post-independence performance in the same manner in which he chose to indict businessmen turned politician, reeks of some peculiar motive.
At the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, at a conference held 18 – 25 March, 2012 and themed “The Search for a New Politics and a More Meaningful Democracy” Dr. Tennyson Joseph delivered an address. Here are his opening remarks then,
“It is now 50 years since the first English speaking Caribbean state attained independence. To many of us these have been of marking-time, trial and error, false starts, and dashed expectations, with some successes but many more disappointments. It has been 50 years of living with the reality that we could have been doing better, and that we are operating below our capacity… In fact, many a political party has launched a political campaign on precisely these terms. But no positive spin can escape the reality that we are much further behind than where we ought to have been. So it is in this context that we convene to engage in deep reflection, to take stock, to take a fresh guard in order that we can move forward with clarity, purpose, and confidence.”
How startling and revealing this statement which contrasts deeply the concern expressed by Dr. Joseph. By his own admission Dr. Tennyson Joseph admits to being engaged in “deep reflection, to take stock…” Well, if you are so concerned why not advise us on the conclusions you derived from that deep reflection. Since you can project into the future and forewarn us of the dangers of businessmen in politics, and by extension Allen Chastanet, what have you to say of your colleagues who have been lawyer politicians and have also failed us, by your own admission!
The sad reality is that Dr. Tennyson Joseph comes across as nothing more than a failed wannabe politician who has displayed an erratic yet predictable reputation of spewing vitriolic admonitions on his target-du-jour.
His failure at the polls in his home constituency of Choiseul during the 2006 elections can be seen as nothing less than a rejection of his thinking by the people who know him best.
In an open letter to his cousin Bradly Felix (UWP), one month before the 2016 general elections, Dr. Tennyson Joseph describes himself as having “always been a front-line SLP activist.”
This is the same party which declared the 2016 general elections in Saint Lucia as a battle between the Chastanets and the Saint Lucia Labour Party.
As if that was not bold enough, elected SLP representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste, swore that, “Allen Chastanet will be prime minister of Saint Lcuia over my dead body.”
After being challenged amid much hue and cry about such a statement, Baptiste explained that it was not meant to be taken literally. Nevertheless, this can be seen as nothing less than reckless and grossly irresponsible in a world where ill advised political statements have incited political-party followers to commit reprehensible acts. However, a strange and sinister patter seems to have been developing with persons associated with the Saint Lcuia Labour Party.
Dr. Joseph has clearly exposed his disdain for the regular man when he states clearly that he only expects academics and intellectuals to understand his point of view and arguments!
Free speech and academic freedom come with responsibilities and consequences, just as they do for the common man. Being a UWI professor does not shield anyone from scrutiny or disapproval. The same liberties expected by Dr. Joseph, likewise, he should extend to others.
It is apparent that Dr. Tennyson Joseph’s opportunistic rant was nothing less than, and best described by his own Saint Lucian people as, chagweh pouvoir!