THE EDITOR: As a student who was interested in French literature, a number of French intellectuals shaped my life – Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Auguste Comte, to name a few. However, the intellectual who has motivated my political thoughts continues to be Joseph de Maistre, the 18th-19th century French speaking Savoyard lawyer, diplomat, writer, and philosopher.
De Maistre never ceased to amaze me with the following declarations:
1. False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.
2. In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.
These thoughts, I am convinced, have been extremely relevant and fundamental in the course of 20th and 21st century political trends. We have only to see the outcome of elections in Germany before World War 1 and 2 which led to the fall and rise of Adolf Hitler. More recently, we witnessed the victories of Donald Trump (US) and Boris Johnson (UK).
If I may use a metaphorical analogy relevant to TT, de Maistre’s view on false opinions was skilfully used by the UNC in the last local government elections and if the PNM does not rise to the occasion, the same may be repeated in the looming general election.
With respect to de Maistre’s thinking on leadership in democracy, he prophetically suggested that democracy can be flawed by the perceptions and harboured illusions of a people.
Coming to my main purpose for this letter, I emphatically advise Tobago PNM supporters to avoid partisanship and curry-favour politics in their internal election tomorrow. I say this because I have no doubts that:
1. Splinter groups lead to the weakening and possible collapse of an organisation.
2. Misconceptions and convictions based on illusions can be the parents of political disaster.
3. People who are given to rumour, gossip, and a deficiency in analysis often regret their choice of leaders.
By way of conclusion, I wish all the political aspirants the best, but at the same time advise those who have the serious responsibility of voting in leaders to be careful and remember that the future of Tobago is at stake. Politics is no longer a vehicle for business as usual.
RAYMOND S HACKETT