Letters & Opinion

Dr. Joseph’s Fairy Tale


By David Prescod

IF we can return briefly to physics for a moment, in addition to the confirmation of gravity waves and the possible existence of parallel worlds that we have previously discussed, physicists are also grappling with another problem, and that is with “the theory of everything”, a theory which would completely describe the physical structure of the universe.

The trouble for the physicists though is that every time they think that they have come up with the final statement of this “theory of everything”, some uncomfortable fact seems to show up which upturns, if not everything, then at least some significant aspect of that theory and sends them back to the drawing board. That’s how natural science works, and how our knowledge expands.

If we are to gauge, however from the recent public disagreement between pollster Peter Wickham and UWI academic Dr. Tennyson Joseph regarding the outcome of our recent general elections, that is not apparently how social science works. It would seem that, even if only in this particular instance, when uncomfortable facts are presented the academic approach of the social scientist is to re-interpret those facts in the context of prevailing theory rather than to consider the possible shortcomings of that theory.

And so we have been witness to the debate conducted in the media between pollster and academic, with Wickham flinging left hooks and right upper cuts in defense of his published poll, and Joseph ducking and leaning back on his academic ropes. A solid right to the mid-section seems to have winded Joseph, with Wickham accusing Joseph of being an embarrassment to the university at which he lectures, leaving Joseph, though remaining on his feet, unable to find a satisfactory response. Great entertainment, and we wish this media fistfight the best of health and longevity far beyond its scheduled fifteen minutes in the limelight, as it provides us with more than just comic relief.

Admittedly, I have a small stake in the outcome, as in an earlier discussion I had made reference to Dr. Joseph’s contributions in his newspaper column, indicating that although I rarely found agreement with him, his column should however be read. The full reason for this suggestion was not particularly important to the discussion at the time, but it was made partly to emphasize the point that we should be tolerant of opposing views.

What Dr. Joseph’s views however, also do is to provide us with a window into the basis of his support for the SLP, support which he admits to in a disclaimer in one of his recent articles. Dr. Joseph reports that he is a former electoral candidate for the SLP, a former SLP Senator, and a past administrative attaché to former Prime Minister Dr. Anthony. Given Dr. Joseph’s past close relationship with Dr. Anthony and his continued support for the SLP, it would not be a far stretch of the imagination to conclude that, at the very least, Dr. Joseph and Dr. Anthony share a common philosophy, and that this philosophy also guides the SLP. Reading Dr. Joseph’s columns may therefore help in the understanding of that philosophy.
Dr. Joseph has however made some interesting claims in his recent prouncements on the politics of St. Lucia, the latest of which appear in his column in Barbados’ Nationnews of June 14. Some of these bear a little examination.

Of least interest in that article is his claim that his previous writings on Caribbean elections have “presented the one-term general anti-incumbency as a significant post-2000 feature”. Whether that is historical fact or not, Dr. Joseph does not indicate how this serves as a predictor of future election outcomes, although he evidently hoped that his own writings would have been proven wrong and that his party of choice would have “bucked the trend”.

What caught attention though was his earlier suggestion that money had played a role in the outcome of the recent election, and his defense of that suggestion in the referenced article. While there are allegations of vote buying on both sides, with both parties of course denying the accusations, just what did Dr. Joseph think had fuelled the prolonged media campaign by the SLP?

More than that, when questions were raised regarding the financing of the salary of the SLP’s then newly appointed communications manager, the then Prime Minister was only too happy to point out that it was money from the business sector which was paying for this. It would seem that Dr. Joseph was only jolted to his senses and came to recognize the involvement of money in the election campaign when faced with the reality that his party of choice had lost the election, and that he had been wrong in his prediction of an SLP victory. We cry foul.

Dr. Joseph is a Caribbean academic and he does not have the luxury of making a public statement and then seeking to explain it with “Given the shock of the victory therefore, I surmised (as a first and passing viewpoint just the morning after) that money might have played a role in shaping the outcome.” No “off” days due to “shock” are allowed in the real world, and a simple acknowledgement of error would have been much more appropriate. Or, perhaps, silence.

Leaving out the specialized language of his training though, (which, just like you, I don’t pretend to understand), Dr. Joseph also suggested that Allen Chastenet had dared to become a businessman-politician, and that this could be explained by the same global forces which have legitimized Donald Trump. Legitimized Trump? Not according to the press, which reports that even establishment Republican figures in the US refuse to support Trump’s nomination, and global leaders recoil at the thought of his possible presidency. How so legitimized when 70% of US citizens view Trump negatively? What really was driving Dr. Joseph’s analogy with Trump?

img/:JOSEPH Photo: Barbados Today
JOSEPH Photo: Barbados Today

And what exactly did Dr. Joseph mean when he suggested in that article that there is an “assumption that business success is synonymous with political wisdom”, and that this assumption was “evident in Chastenet’s emergence”. Just what does this “political wisdom” entail, who determines it, and does it mean that the rest of us who are deemed not to be in possession of it are to be excluded from participation in the political process?

Do lawyers or economists possess this “political wisdom”, or, for that matter, do medical doctors? How about geologists? All of these professions have produced leaders in the Caribbean. And is the membership of the UWP not to be credited with any role in Chastenet’s emergence having elected him to their leadership on three successive occassions?

The last statement in that article of June 14 which Dr. Joseph can help us with is his assertion that “already, the false promise of the abolition of VAT has been put on hold …”. Just where did Dr. Joseph get his information from? The published UWP campaign promise has been an initial reduction in VAT followed by its eventual elimination, and the St. Lucian public has yet to hear anything different. In fact, the issue of this newspaper of the same date as Dr. Joseph’s article quotes the Prime Minister as confirming at a public rally the previous Sunday that the process of reducing VAT, in the first instance, had already started. What voices are Dr. Joseph hearing?

While Dr. Joseph may still be struggling to come to terms with the SLP loss, the reasons for it are quite simple. You see, we are an intelligent people, and we control the “off” switch. If you don’t keep your campaign promises, if you don’t generate economic growth and create meaningful employment, no amount of mumbo-jumbo ole talk is going to keep us from kicking you out of office. No express political wisdom required here, although a good dose of common sense might help.

And so if I have to be uncharitable, my advice to Wickham would be that he rethink his future boxing strategy and that, rather than punches to the mid-section, he concentrate on straight punches to the head of Joseph in the hope that these may shake up his thinking. An unlikely outcome, but in this sport of boxing one of those head shots is sure to turn off the lights for Joseph and temporarily end his predicament with the unwelcome, for him, outcome of this last general election in St. Lucia. Hopefully, he will regain consciousness a much more rigorously analytical academic when the issue next time involves his party of choice.


    1. Some, just some UWI academics especially in the legal and social sciences faculties are literally total embarrassments to that institution. Sir Arthur Lewis must be turning in his grave to see his vision of an institution designed to propel the entire region fall into the hands of such disingenuous incorrigible liars and social misfits.

  1. Thanks for that entertaining and thoughtful piece. I do think you’ve treated the academic with kids gloves. No disclaimer could protect Him from being found guilty of betraying the principles of academia. With his wholly subjective, and biased opinion pieces before and after the elections, Dr. Joseph has raised serious doubts about his claims to being an academic. No academic worth his salt throws around unsubstantiated, baseless allegations as Dr. Joseph did and continues to do. Truth be told he has given academics a bad name and thrown the reputation of the UWI to the dogs. And who can forget his open letter to his cousin, which in the opinion of many, breached every tenet of decency, and respect for the Constitutional rights of others to associate as they please and to choose the path they see fit in their quest to represent their people? As for the charge of money being used to buy the election, at the very least Dr. Joseph should accept that Dr. Anthony’s decision to keep out election monitors deprived him of any factual basis for sustaining that claim.

    After these illogical outbursts by Dr. Joseph, it is reasonable to worry about the kind of tutoring he is dispensing to his students.

  2. Guilty by association. Here is a friend of a friend associated with a similar institution, who for one reason or another did not have the heft necessary to do the due diligence regarding three consecutive legal contracts at the international level. The country’s national debt rose as a result of the squandering of the millions that evaporated into thin air. Nothing for something. There were no recognisable returns on investment for any one of those excursions into the Financial Black Hole. As further testimony to the litany of financial ineptitude, a party or signatory to one of those contracts could not exercise proper judgement and not violate the constitution in the process.

  3. UWI, its in entire existence haven’t produce one single model for success. True to form, the institute has only produce swell headed dictators by believe only them can lead.
    what a sorry state of affairs.

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