Portrait of the ‘Lotioner’
East Street Blues
BY IAN STRACHAN
There are three kinds of Bahamian politicians. The question for the Bahamian electorate is, which kind is the best kind for these times and which should they give the powers of the Prime Minister to?
The first kind I’d call “The Lotioner.” Our people seem to like this kind a lot. They smile a lot. Love to shake hands and hug people. They make sure the black dye in their hair is always done perfectly. They seem to genuinely enjoy high office. I’m not sure they enjoy hard work and making unpopular decisions but they do enjoy attention.
This type of man is popular and has been his whole life. More than anything, he wants to be liked, likes to be liked, and usually that’s not very hard for him because he’s a natural charmer. He never wants to get on the people’s bad side. In fact, he tends to choose his sides depending on where the people stand. As soon as he’s pretty sure where most people stand, he’ll get up and say “You don’t have to vote for me if you want, but such and such is my position!”
Now, as a politician this makes very good sense, since the people elected you and can easily remove you. Popular opinion and popularity are the oxygen and bread the politician needs to survive. But there’s a flip side. The flip side is that the majority are often wrong, often misinformed, often emotional, often short sighted, often bigoted, so the politician who focuses on what the people want to the neglect of all else can turn out to be a leader history has little good to say about.
Pandering to the people at all times is no way to lead. In fact, it makes you a fraud. There are times when the people must be made to do what they would rather not do; there are times when for their own sakes, their appetites must be curbed, their habits altered, their convenience sacrificed.
When power for its own sake is the only goal, not actual progress, the Lotioner becomes a liability. But there he is, constantly flattering us, telling us how great we are, how great our nation is, how blessed he is to have this opportunity, how humbled he is by the power we have bestowed upon him.
Oh, and let us not forget one other very important thing about the Lotioner: he prefers form over substance. Nuts and bolts are anathema to him. He doesn’t have the appetite for it. Or he just doesn’t care about it. He lives for the grand speech, not the backdoor planning meeting. He goes in for grand gestures, for emoting, his goal is to be the One. He rarely ever really has anything he really wants to accomplish once he is the One, so long as he remains the One. The Lotioner strikes as someone who should have been a Hollywood actor but found that the crowds enjoyed political rallies and therefore gave up on the Hollywood dream and pursued Parliament instead. It’s easier.
Lotioners are very astute politicians when it comes to reading the current of popular opinion; they are very adept at expressing things with certitude and conviction even if their actual commitment to what they are saying is paper thin. They love the performance of politics but produce little change. The Lotioner is far better at keeping this going the way they are than he is at making dramatic changes or reform that could get people worked up and angry at him. This leader works better in government than in opposition and works better when times are good than when times are hard. He needs a well oiled machine to sit on top of. Don’t ask him to build the machine.
Now, I must give credit where credit is due. The Lotioner, in his eloquence and shininess is able to bring the masses to a level of euphoria, hopefulness and optimism that the other two kinds of politicians can rarely match. To put it plainly, the man can make you feel good about your life and your world. They can make you believe the world can be a better place. They can make you believe they will deliver that world to you. When they are their best, the Lotioners can make the masses stronger and more united than anyone thought possible.
It helps is the Lotioner is a man of high intelligence. His intelligence doesn’t make him less of a B.S.-er, it makes him more likely to surround himself with people who actually know what they’re doing. A super smart Lotioner, like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, has good judgement and knows to listen to the experts. Lotioners almost always marry wives that are smarter and more competent than they are. That’s no mistake. You will find that such men lean on their wives heavily for their actual career success.
IAN STRACHAN is Associate Professor of English at The College of The Bahamas. You can write him at strachantalk@gmail or visit www.ianstrachan.wordpress.com.
Jun 30, 2011