Dr. Raymond S Edwards
Sunday, 20 May 2012 02:30
By Raymond S Edwards, PhD
With elections in play many are anxious, even panicking over ALP’s present state; and are wondering why the party can’t get its act together.
An allegory may help.
Two loosened wheels bring a car to jagged halt! Frantic driver retrieves runaway wheels and begins search for missing wheel nuts. Hours of fruitless looking make him realize he’s in front the mental asylum; and that the ongoing argument is actually an inmate in serious dispute with himself.
Sometime thereafter, the erstwhile voice breaks off back and forth tiff with self and says: “hey you; stop wasting time. Take two nuts each from remaining wheels and use them to put back on other wheels. You’ll have two nuts on each wheel; when you get into town buy more”.
Clearly, things are awry in the House of Red. Can ALP convince voters that smarts compensate for insanity; and they can be put back into gov’t- albeit with ‘two nuts on each wheel’?
No need for this column to rehash ALP’s bizarre discordant self destructive theatrics; except to bemoan the morass each ensuing episode brings.
How is it a party with rich legacy and heritage- tied inextricably to A&B’s birth as a nation, can find itself in such shambles of dispute, disrepute and disrepair?!
Perhaps in some perverse, even deliberate way party principals plot, thrive and depend upon the turmoil. How else does one explain high levels of institutional energy being sapped by recurring schizophrenic meltdowns while little attention is paid to underlying cause of their organizational psychosis?!
The prevailing surreptitious mindset might very well be to later use responsibilities, power, and plums of gov’t to correct and/or corral dysfunctions. Little do they realize gov’t was the very source of the party’s institutional decadence!
The party is obviously immensely smart; yet is collectively un-insightful; perhaps even delusional. Members live under the false truth of practicing party politics when in fact they’re not- And seem set to continue the illusion with little hope of reality breakthrough!
And no, the leadership issue, as defined by many, is not the genesis or sum of the problem. The malfunction goes much deeper! Still, the good news of ALP’s sad state is that every problem has a history- which rightly analyzed can help rectify things!
ALP’s primary problem is lack of cosmology. They have long strayed from disciplines of party politics and have ceased being a political party.
There is no structure to their order; no order to their structure. The present amorphous reality called ALP is a club at best- even a gang; but definitely not a political party. That is the sum um bonum of their malady! They’re broken at the very foundation; fissured at the core.
What the ALP has become can only be explained by 28 unbroken years in gov’t. Those years took a heavy toll on the party as a political entity. Over that period the gov’t incrementally and imperceptibly devoured the party’s political identity- ate it all up!
The unceremonious kick from office in 2004 did not destroy the ALP. By then there was nothing left; the party was already just a shell. It had been slowly cannibalized and sacrificed through the wheeling and dealings of governmental transactionalism!
A political party is by very nature a transformational entity driven by ideals, values, visions and philosophies; and held together by an enduring transcendental ethos of collective passion, discipline, commitment, and sacrifice- All for the greatest good of people and country.
A government, on the other hand, is an out and out unrepentant transactional beast; operated within the candor of backroom wheeling and dealing, give and take; even callous midnight massacres of take down and take out- usually driven by selfish profligacy of power and greed!
Against this backdrop, and within SIDS contexts, two crucial observations are important:
1. A party is essential for constraining and influencing a gov’t. The more this happens, the more gov’t conduct will demonstrate values driven behavior; and the more likely that party will remain intact after gov’t. However, for obvious reasons, the longer a gov’t retains power, the more likely it will consume its party.
2. While it might not always be practical to run a gov’t in keeping with party ideals; it is definitely inadvisable to run a political party with machinations and strategies of gov’t behavior.
In various contexts, some manage gov’t Vs party dynamics better than others. My assessment is that the ALP was and continues to be on the wrong side of both crucial observations above.
First, their big sin of omission while in gov’t was not allowing the party to maintain its homeostasis and identity. The gov’t consumed the party until eventually there was no moral fiber left in the equation. This was pretty easy because party officers were either gov’t principals themselves; or if not, were too heavily dependent upon gov’t favors (for survival) to have been honest barometers.
Second, prime movers within the ALP have refused to unlearn survival tactics they practiced within a fiercely competitive cabinet- with little awareness such tactics are ill suited for rebuilding and restoring the party while in opposition. Their big sin of commission is continuing to practice individual survival smarts instead of the collective insight needed to resuscitate the party for reentry into gov’t.
To-date ALP has not rediscovered its soul and pedigree. And it won’t be able to return to party politics until it does. Small wonder ALP hasn’t been able to replenish its stock of trust with the people; and can’t romance and seduce the population anymore! To do these a party must have passion and ‘soul’. The ALP lost both a long time ago and is doing absolutely nothing to regain them.
To rise from the ashes and save itself from itself, the ALP must urgently revisit its roots; and reestablish authenticity by rediscovering its reason for being- why it exists! In short, the critical task is to ensure each person, from captain to cook, i.e. Comrade Leader to Branch Activist finds party ‘religion’ again- and comes away not only singing; but living: “it’s a great change since I’ve been born”!
I am sure there are people ‘within the bowels of Labor’ so to speak, who remember the glory days and the emotional commitment called forth.
When men, women and youth across all party organs kept the faith, the belief; the trust! And I am sure many young people remember their parents giving their all for something they believed in. Don’t hearts burn and yearn to rediscover that passion?!
The good news is: cords that are broken can vibrate once more! It is not too hard to kick start a revival towards true party politics within ALP once the will to do so exists!
Short of that nothing can help the party. There is nothing ‘sexy’ or compelling about its present hollowness. Members will continue to be individually smart; but collectively insane- fighting themselves while muttering the empty word “comrade”; and hoping rapprochement will get them into government.
Interestingly, ALP’s distasteful public skirmishes are rationalized as signs of true party democracy- just another indication of deliberate collective delusion. Group dynamics suggests three stages of healthy in-group vibrancy: 1. Debate, 2. Dissent; and 3. Re-group. Repeatedly ALP only gets to stage two; all because they’ve not gotten back to being a genuine political party.
Unless and until prime ALP operatives let go of transactional gov’t mentalities and embrace transformative party modalities nothing they try will work. New candidates will only receive the worst kind of mentoring political neophytes can hope for. They will just be contaminated and/or marginalized; not groomed.
Getting back to the rudimentaries of party politics must be priority #1 for the ALP; or it will forever lack the glue of a genuine sensible cosmology! Nor will it ever possess the collective insight to unshackle itself from the curse of self destruction – And of course will forever remain an easy target for strategic UPP exploitation.
Raymond S. Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion- is an International Development Consultant and Executive Leadership Specialist.
Author’s Note: This is 2nd of a three part essay series- Part I: Things Fall Apart: Can the Gov’t Survive?
Part II: Things Go Awry in the House of Red. Part III: On Crisis & Cure: It’s Your Time A&B!)