I'd intended to look on silently at the spectacle of the erstwhile National Security Minister's dark night of the soul, but a person with a foreign accent I met last week changed that. The person was incensed at the docility of Trinis in the face of scoundrels, and demanded to know why we took this. "We would never stand for this in Europe," they said.
The words "Silvio Berlusconi" and "Dominique Strauss-Kahn" and "Jean-Marie Le Pen" were on the tip my tongue, but to speak them would have meant a conversation with the moralist, and it was just too big a sacrifice. But it did crystallise the truly distasteful, even for Trini politics, part of the ongoing death of a thousand cuts inflicted on the former minister.
The issue, in this column anyway, is not whether the accusations have substance. We'll know that soon enough. The issue that jumps out is the posture of the various moralising agents–the media, the NGO/civil society faux do-gooders, and the not in the least, the illustrious Opposition–and the effect the hysteria is creating, commonly known (among informed people) as a "moral panic."
Looking at the circus, Mr Warner's guilt or innocence is incidental to the way these accusations, and the veritable volcano of information, are being deployed. The ubiquity and zeal of dissemination has convinced only those who were already convinced, waiting to be convinced, or waiting for some trigger to loose their animus.
The rest, who had no reason to despise Mr Warner, and who supported him, are not nearly so sanguine as the moralising minority for whom there's no distinction between the definitively illegal, the sleazy, the dubious, and the very broad grey areas in politics and business defended by battalions of high-priced lawyers, commonly known as "business as usual outside Pollyanna land."The moralistic minority only understand ambiguity when their own business is involved.
Who throwing stones in PoS could withstand even the most perfunctory critical inquiry into their own affairs? Who from where these accusations originate? In the world of Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin, Guantanamo Bay, Libor rigging, Wall Street, multinational corporations' plunging entire nations into war for their natural resources–guilt is an elastic concept.
It's not like Trinis are backward in this regard. You might wonder at the rush to pelt stones when you're in a country where the last Prime Minister handed over state resources to his spiritual advisor, named his wife to Cabinet, squandered a third-of-a-trillion dollars, financed the same gangs who are now eating the country alive, enabled Clico, and remains a hero, not charged, barely accused of anything.
Neither is his successor much different. The illustrious Leader of the Opposition was fired, not resigned, from that criminally corrupt government against whom no charges have yet been laid, or will be laid.He ran against his own party during a general election, instead of resigning and running as an independent, as would have been both ethical and honourable.I could continue on this tack but, to repeat, there remains the real issue hiding in here: the orchestration of a moral panic.
If you read the papers, listen to the talk shows, and listen to the "artsy set" (you last saw them hunkered around Wayne Kublalsingh watching him play a hunger mas') you get the impression of a moral eschatological event. The world is ending, and the commentariat is beside itself.The newspapers gleefully pile story after story. But is that what the rest of the country is thinking?
Mr Warner's constituents are crying for him to stay. A Hindu pundit likened him to Hanuman. He is defended by Indian grannies and the black and brown man in the street. Their point? Whatever else he's done, Mr Warner has done the one thing all his detractors have failed to do: his job. Accusations of international malfeasance are meaningless.
If and when they materialise in charges and an arrest, a nex' mark could play. But until then, who cares? What real country conducts its affairs with a view to "how it go look" to non-citizens? The US? UK? EU nations? Jamaica? Barbados?
Here lies the crux of the moral panic: the contrast between Mr Warner's supporters and his critics: the Creole world vs the South of the Caroni world. The rage to condemn Mr Warner is cognisant of this. The criticism of him is also a criticism of his supporters, "those people" who don't understand the sophisticated concepts of morality that the people in PoS do. Hence, we can't trust any of them. But we already knew that.
The second remarkable thing is the tableau of Mr Warner's seemingly demigod status in his Indian constituency, which does serious violence to the Creole mythology of ethnic inevitability, peddled by the PNM and its allies in the Creole media as destiny.
Naturally, this tableau must be painted as unnatural and perverse. Mr Warner has been here before. When it was becoming clear to even the most hardened denier that the media were congenitally biased, the Express's front page of July 26, 2000, featured a cartoon caricature of Mr Warner, with spectacles whose lenses were inscribed with the words "Black Caucus of Journalists". Its editorial began: "The Black Caucus of Journalists, Mr Warner? From what cesspool of make believe did that one spring from?" Hysteria much?
I should say here that Mr Warner lost my support and sympathy when he "managed" the departure of Dwayne Gibbs. However, for their zealous irruption of myopia and hypocrisy, the media and Creole intelligentsia needed to be reminded of who the real criminals are.