Recently, we lamented the phenomenon that is taking place in politics all over the world where politicians have moved away from the language of compromise and towards a more divisive tone of absolutes. As an example, we used Donald Trump in the United States as a person who uses very little diplomacy in anything that he does. We referred to it as talking in absolutes.
A prominent trait of Mr Trump, which does not sit well with many of his countrymen, is his ego and his boasting whether it be of his wealth or other endowments. The fact is, many people are turned off by this type of boasting because it represents a disconnect; a disconnect between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.
One of Trump’s most famous lines, for which he is disliked, was uttered at his campaign launch and essentially went like this, “I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice … I’m really rich.” It was obvious that Trump was not ashamed of being wealthy, in fact, he was boastful of it, punctuating his comments with a wave of the wrist as if it was no big deal. His opinion was clear, wealth is not something Americans should be ashamed of, it is something that they should strive for. He said, “I’m proud of my net worth … I’ve done an amazing job.” As he held up his financial statement (apparently showing a staggering $8.7 billion worth), he said, “I’m not doing that to brag.”
There is no doubt that Mr Trump should be proud of his successes and his rhetoric has won him a legion of fans that have propelled him to become the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party in the race for the US presidency. And although Mr Trump has said that he is not bragging about his success, it was perceived by many as just that. And bragging is not a welcomed personality trait by those who are on the list of “have nots”.
With that in mind and with the advantage of hindsight, we were a bit perplexed as to why the prime minister decided to take a page out of Mr Trump’s playbook. At a time when the economy is in the doldrums, and many people are suffering hardship, it seemed strange that the PM would decide to let the country know that he was indeed wealthy.
But let’s let the PM tell you all about his wealth accumulation in his own words as he addressed parliament a few days ago. “The assertion has been made, Mr Speaker, that since I became prime minister, I became suddenly wealthy. Now, I just want to share some information in passing, without getting into too much detail, to confirm that in 2014, in my declaration to the Integrity Commission, that I declared in excess of $30 million in assets.”
$30 million?!? That is impressive and certainly something to be proud about. But having said that, we really did not need the details – details which many consider a bit of boasting.
The PM continued, “Assets that were acquired, without the assistance of the government, without doing any deal with the government. A significant portion of it would have been real estate assets owned throughout the country. Properties in Paynters, in Picadilly, in Jennings, in Villa, in Gray’s Farm, in Fitches Creek, in Cedar Valley. Again, as I said, in excess of $30 million in assets. The assets also included heavy equipment, to include trucks, a backhoe and other equipment. Cars – in fact, I have been involved in the rental car business for many years as well. And, Mr Speaker, these assets were acquired as a result of 30 years of toil.”
At this point, many were saying “too much information!” but the PM was not finished. The Trump influence seemed to have taken over. He decided to put it all in perspective for everyone to understand.
“And I want to make a point, Mr Speaker, that barring, Aziz Hadeed, who served in government under the UPP, there is no other parliamentarian, no other minister, who would have come into government with a wealth that I brought in 2014. And I am not saying this to brag.”
And to somehow show that he was not bragging, he threw in a small bit of his autobiography. He said, “If anything, I am saying this to inspire others, as to how a poor little boy from Point, who had to walk barefoot without shoes, the product of a single-parent home, in which my mother, the sole breadwinner, became mentally ill and myself and my sister, Blondelle, had to fend for ourselves. I had to run errands. Climb coconut trees. I had to carry, at age nine, those 20-pound cylinder gas tanks from Heritage Quay to Point to earn 25 cents, to buy half bread and butter to survive. I had to go to school hungry. I had to eat green mangoes from the mango tree at the back of Princess Margaret and drink a little water to survive as a youngster. If anything, I want my experience to serve as an inspiration to other youngsters.”
Thank you for that inspiring speech Mr Prime Minister. You should indeed be proud of your financial achievement, but if we may be so bold as to offer a small bit of advice. In future speeches, please invoke a more unifying persona than Mr Trump. We are all witnessing the divisive nature of his rhetoric and we really do not need that in our bit of paradise. Let others talk of your struggles and successes and remain humble in the face of the public.
That is our two cents. Politics may have changed in recent times, but sometimes it pays to remain a bit old school.