Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, May 31, 2003  

Still no respect

On the 21st of this month, I wrote a post under the headline "No respect". It concerned a photograph on the front page of that day's Express, which showed Opposition senator Robin Montano sitting in Parliament with his broken left ankle resting on the table before him.

Today I received the following (unedited) email, from one Maira (no surname):

"You are a fine one to criticize whom you call a trouble maker ! Perhaps you would have preferred that Robin Montano stayed at home with his broken ankle ! Whether or not you like the man, that is your business, but the way you say "he cock up he foot" in parliament leads us to believe that he is slack in his manners...the man has a broken foot, and that is a very painful if you want to experience this, try breaking yours and then tell me how you would do to alleviate the pain. If you have nothing else to write in your columns but utter rot, you would spare those who come surfing on your site to see such biased info. If you have to criticize him for his opinions that is one thing, but I can't help thinking that maybe YOU have something wrong with YOUR BRAIN for not understanding that !"

Dear Maira

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I did wish to communicate my opinion that Robin Montano was "slack in his manners". Parliament is not one's living room. Having a broken ankle, painful as it might be, gives one no right to so crassly disrespect and dishonour the nation and its institutions. Could Montano not have brought a footstool to the Senate?

But more than the impropriety of the behaviour, as I noted, is the inappropriate message it sends to the nation, particularly our highly impressionable youth. I'm sure you've heard the saying: "If the priest could play, who is we?" When a politician acts in the way that Montano did, what is to stop some rudderless young man from breaking the law, with the justification that if our nation's leaders act in such a manner, why can't I? Although every sane human being is ultimately responsible for their actions, I am convinced that irresponsible behaviour by a country's leaders has a palpable influence on the actions of its citizens. Our politicans must set the standard; their public actions must at all times be above reproach. Which is not to say they must always be responsible in the classic sense - in fact, sometimes being irresponsible (like breaking with the party line when you personally feel opposed to that line) is the best way to be responsible.

But the majority of our politicians - both in Government and Opposition - act like immature brats in Parliament, going beyond good-humoured, witty ribbing (in fact, bypassing it almost entirely); instead using the cover of parliamentary privilege to engage in personal attacks, muckraking and childish name-calling. Which is why I labelled Mr. Montano a mischief maker: for he is guilty of such behaviour, and does nothing to help his cause when he cocks up his foot in the Senate while supposedly about the people's business.

Finally, if you read this and would like me to furnish you with further evidence of Mr. Montano's slackness, then I am prepared to search the archives of the Senate for such evidence, and present it to you. However, given that you see nothing wrong with the behaviour that raised my ire in the first place, I doubt very much anything I come up with will make the slightest bit of difference to your mind.

posted by Jonathan | 5:40 PM 0 comments


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