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Raffique Shah


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Voice of reason way superior

By Raffique Shah
June 30, 2013

As I watched the political circuses perform in their big tents over the past few weeks, their patrons seemingly satisfied with the acts and acrobatics on offer, my mind turned to the adage, Vox populi, Vox Dei (The voice of the people (is) the voice of God). I sat in my chair and wondered about the wisdom—or folly—of this proverb that scoundrels through the ages have used to invoke divine blessings for their dastardly acts, based solely on the fact that the people supported them.

Simply put, it means that overwhelming public support for a party or an individual or a position cannot be wrong. I beg to differ.

Last Monday night, tassa drums rolled outside of Rienzi Complex as supporters of nominees for the UNC candidacy for the Chaguanas West by-election engaged in Carnival-like abandon.

Inside the building, a group of Muslim imams met with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Now, imams are notorious for their condemnation of just about every cultural expression in the country, but more so drumming and wining and drunkenness—all of which was taking place on the compound.

And with some "hijabis" and "mullahs" wining and waving placards on the outside, there was the voice of the people.

That was but one classic instance of the voice of the people blending with the voice of God.

A pundit as a nominee added holy value to the mix, and with Jack Warner being both Hindu and Muslim, the invocation of God's name was hardly far from the madding crowd.

If He was not there in person, He was certainly present in spirit, more than likely by the litres, carefully concealed in people's car trunks.

Will the voice of the people truly reflect the voice of God on by-election day? We who do not know where to look for the Father, far less the Holy Ghost, may never know.

Satan might just slip through the cracks.

The young and vibrant Khadijah is the party's choice, to which I mutter, "Ameen!" (The imams will forgive my sins for that simple utterance).

While she may enter the fray with Allah's blessings, and Kamla's, not necessarily in that order, question is will Khadijah enjoy the support of the people? In a few weeks, we shall find out.

I find it difficult to link the voice a supposedly good God with the often-discordant voices of the people.

Jack has so enjoyed the musical voice of the people, he will put God out of his thoughts and plunge into battle in anyone's territory—UNC's, PNM's, DLP's, even the ghost-land of Bhadase.

In Jack's world, and that of his diehard supporters, the voice of God thunders, "There is no sin for Ye who enter my Felicity-dom! T'iefing is a blessing…the more you t'ief the merrier I shall be…my collection cup runneth over!"

The PNM, listening to unidentified voices, chose a sacrificial lamb that magically turned into a little ol' ram that hopes to punch a hole in the UNC dam.

He's got high hopes, grant him that. Who knows what voices the lad is listening to.

For those who really believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God, ponder these historical truths. Hitler and Mussolini enjoyed overwhelming support among Germans and Italians, respectively, and among many million Whites of other nationalities, including French (the Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis), British (King George V was among Hitler's admirers) and Americans (who opposed war until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour).

If the adage is accurate, then Hitler and Mussolini reflected the voice of God. Right?

In Trinidad, Eric Williams won every election he led the PNM into.

For those who argue that he stole elections by rigging the voting machines, how do you explain the licks he shared with the ballot box in 1976?

Or George Chambers' 26-10 victory in 1981?

Were those statements by the majority of voters the voice of God?

While the lifeblood of democracy comes from the voice of the people, there is an abundance of evidence that the masses often spout untreated sewage.

Maybe I should revert to ancient history, to the latter 8th century, when English scholar Alcuin of York, as adviser to the great Charlemagne, told the monarch, "…Those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness…"

Talk, mih boy!

Alcuin also advised Charles (on his policy of forcing pagans to be baptised on pain of death): "Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act…You can force people to be baptised, but you cannot force them to believe." The King abolished the death penalty for paganism.

There was a voice of reason, which, in my humble opinion, was way superior to the voice of the people, and maybe even the voice of God.

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