Unlike Bruce Golding who strayed from the fold of the JLP looking for greener pastures, Andrew Holness has been a faithful sheep. Groomed by the shepherd of all shepherds, Eddie Seaga, Andrew unquestioningly stayed in line in the flock. Perhaps he was always too young to pluck up the courage to challenge the authority of the shepherd. As Holness pointedly observed in his inaugural address, he was a mere babe in arms when Golding became a member of parliament in 1972.
Incidentally, Golding remains the youngest person ever elected to Parliament - at the age of 24. But, as the final years of his political career have proven, an early start is no guarantee of a glorious end. Andrew Holness had better learn that lesson. Prematurely elevated to the rank of chief shepherd, Holness has become Jamaica's youngest prime minister.
I'm sure that some of the older heads in the JLP are quite vexed that 'di bwoy bruck di line, fly pass im nest an dust dem out. But dem ha fi bow. A young people time now, an hair dye naa no swag. If dem waan try win election, dem better simmer down an follow backa im'.
For a relatively young man, our new prime minister has some rather antiquated ideas about sex, gender and politics. In his inaugural speech, he made a particularly pompous statement that struck me forcefully: "The ancients saw politics as the highest calling of man. It is what men do in the interest of the public good without thought for their personal benefit or threat of sanction; it is what we do because it is right, not because it is expedient. In this regard, our leaders must lead."
Who are these ancients that Prime Minister Holness cites so authoritatively? I suppose he means the Greeks. Not the modern ones who haven't been able to balance their national Budget and whose bailout is threatening the stability of the Eurozone. Mr Holness' 'ancients' are long dead and their grand rhetoric has little value these days. You can't take ancient Greek political philosophy to the bank. Certainly not to the European Central Bank.
Modern Greek politicians like George Papandreou are no different from our own leaders who like to spout platitudes. 'Personal benefit' often appears to take precedence over 'public good'. Papandreou threatened to call a referendum over the rescue package cobbled together for the Greek economy. It was a gamble to gain support for the austerity measures and so protect his own political interests. Then he flip-flopped and backed down. After all the fancy footwork, Papandreou was forced to resign. The ancients must be turning in their collective grave.
Politics - a man's game?
Quite apart from the emptiness of Mr Holness' holier-than-thou political moralising is the troubling issue of gender. If politics really is 'the highest calling of man', where does that leave women? Out in the cold? Or do women have a higher calling than mere politics? Who is the 'we' to whom the prime minister appeals in his inaugural address? Men? And what is the gender of the leaders who must lead? Masculine?
The Jamaica Women's Political Caucus must be quite alarmed by the prime minister's gendered politics. Established in 1992, the caucus vigorously challenges the stereotype that politics is 'what men do'. Its mission is to increase the number of women in politics at the highest levels. Putting its money where its mouth is, the caucus pays the nomination fees for all female candidates.
UNESCO's Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks Jamaica at No. 86 of 188 countries in the world, based on the percentage of women in Parliament. Only eight of the 60 members of our Parliament are female. This is not a good ratio. We are way below Cuba (No. 6), Guyana (No. 25), Trinidad and Tobago (No. 28) and the Dominican Republic (No. 53). But we're doing much better than Barbados (No. 103), Brazil (No. 110), Haiti (No. 125) and Belize (No. 136).
Why is it that more women don't enter representational politics in Jamaica? Is it because we ourselves believe that it's a man's game? Or have we been deliberately excluded from the men's club? If our youthful prime minister can speak as if representational politics is still a male preserve, what hope is there to transform the patriarchal culture and create opportunities for a fresh crop of women leaders?
Taking the bull by the horns
On matters of sexual politics, new Andrew Holness sounds a lot like old Bruce Golding. Holness hasn't come out and said, "Not in my Cabinet." But it's clear that he's not prepared to take the bull by the horns and initiate the repeal of Jamaica's outdated buggery law. It was the 'ancients' who conceived the Buggery Act of 1533. Not the Greeks, this time, for whom homosexuality was an accepted practice.
Almost 500 years ago, the English parliament passed a law that criminalised 'unnatural' sex acts. These included anal penetration and bestiality. The punishment for buggery was death by hanging. This act takes us right back to the primitive Old Testament theology of the Book of Leviticus.
The buggery law was repealed in the UK in 1967 but remains on the books in many of Britain's former colonies, including Jamaica. A recentSunday Gleaner article, 'Not ready for gays', reports the following: 'Despite renewed pressure from Britain for Jamaica to repeal its anti-buggery law, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says it will be up to Jamaicans to signal such desire.'
So why not call a referendum on the repeal of the buggery law? Perhaps Jamaicans are ready for change. Politics is not about expediency. It's what we do because it is right. Our prime minister needs to practise what he preaches. Otherwise, all of this talk about youth and change is nothing but the same old Sankey.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.