I can't but help laugh when I see how seriously the so-called Mayan prophecy is being taken. To even the uninitiated like me it is becoming increasingly evident that the ancient Mesoamerican civilization had no more inkling of how it would all end than we moderns do.
The emerging consensus is that the '2012 phenomenon' is not to be a time of physical, psychological, or spiritual transformations - as envisaged by cultists, pseudo-scientists, or the new age movement. That a doomsday scenario will ensue by dint of the earth passing through a black hole, becoming aligned to the galactic centre, encountering a wandering planetoid of destruction, or some other instrument of the end of the age, is being dismissed by the rational community as well as religious congregations. There is nothing in the classic Mayan accounts to suggest a catastrophic eschatology on or around December 21st, 2012, when a 5,125-year cyclical period is supposed to end and yield to either a cataclysmic apocalypse or transformative epoch heralding a golden age to come…
On the other hand, closer to home, we would be blind not to see how the shape of things to come is becoming alarmingly clearer. The powers that be which pass for the elemental forces that represent the agencies of decay and chaos in our part of the planet have made their intentions plain enough as regards governance and their preferred mode.
That writing is on the wall. There it has been for some time now, and those who have eyes to see have seen that not only is it characteristic of the powers themselves, but that it has also come to characterize the polity that it is supposed to represent. Government's soul has become the spirit of the people, and politics is the divinity that shapes our ends…
The rot is most apparent in three spheres of island life…
The traditional figure of paternalism is most recognizable in the father who knows best for his children. This familialism extended to government is paternalism, where the fatherland and its agents act in the best interests of their citizen-offspring. State as the model of family is the platform from which the new paternalism springs. In the old dispensation, government would act with vim, vigour, and vitality to curb and retard its brood's civil liberties - but always with the children's best interests at heart. We are no longer able to see the beneficent aspect of the new paternalism, because the father knows what is best for itself and its favourite progeny - and now acts with only those children's interests at heart.
This paternalisticism is reflected in the hegemony of an elect ethnicity, the marginalization of minorities whose aspirations to self-determination is regarded as inimical to nationhood or national security, and the near-militarization of many instruments and agencies of the state. In the marketplace, this jackboot mentality is stamped on the farmer, the fisherman, and the free trader by a commercial mafia with influential political patronage - or so one must surmise, given the curious absence of the market's free will in appropriating otherwise obvious advantages. More prosaically, the postman who rips open your mail to protect you from scurrilous correspondence and the policeman who blithely violates the law he expects you to observe are both practising a plebeian form of paternalisticism.
The first principle in patrimonialism is that all power, authority, and dignity are vested in the leader - and only in the leader. The second principle of patrimonialism is that all power, authority, and dignity are vested in the leader - and only the leader. The third principle of patrimonialism is that… but you get the point. In principle this works well where paternalism (see point above this) is entirely benevolent. When the father figure who is the leader loses his goodwill towards his kids, patrimonialism begins to turn sour. In practice, it is when the boundaries between the leader and those led, the private sector and the public sector, the will of the state and the wellbeing of its citizens begin to be blurred.
This patrimonialism is perhaps most evident in the distortion of definitions as regards players and regulators in business. Recently the hats of monetary and fiscal policymaking seem to be worn by one and the same head, and entrepreneurs seek election to ministerial portfolios that they may govern policy for the sector in which they earn both fickle reputation and financial reward. And in society this trend is apparent when leadership - be it on campus, in cricket, or at commerce - is always singular, to the detriment of democracy, generally neglecting the panoply of talents and skills available to sharpen the edge of decision-making.
The origins of the word are in the mid-18th century when one Samuel Foote coined the phrase "the grand panjandrum" to describe a person who has, or claims to have, a great deal of authority, power, or dignity. From a 'nonce word' (for the nonce + word) to the numinous approach that father figures or senior leaders take… and you have the ethos that captures the personality of our paternalistic patrimonial state. If only it were true that our father figure's gravitas extended beyond our own ken and into the halls of disapprobation where our fatherland's name is being bandied about at present, it would be a consummation greatly to be desired. It appears, for the nonce, that our claims to grand panjandrumism run only as far as the average voter walks - from the ballot box, home, via the bread and circuses store.
We have painted ourselves into a corner and will struggle mightily to turpentine our way out of it.
This panjandrumism captures the spirit of the nominal political opposition no less than government. In parliament as well as in the gutter press that traduces it, the "we-know-it all" attitude dominates to the detriment of common sense and practical wisdom. And we may have to pay the price for our ignorance with the ignominy of sanctions. No good can come of continued posturing.