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The Force of Circumstance

Sunday, July 12, 2015
Helen Drayton

In physics, a force is any intervention that causes a change in the motion of an object with mass. A political party with critical mass heading for loss or one heading for victory could be such an object. The force may disrupt the momentum of an object, or inertia or events like corruption in governance. It has both magnitude as well as direction, so its trajectory is towards something. If we apply the principle of Newton’s First Law of Motion to local politics, then it is possible for a third force to change not just the constancy of megalithic party dominance but poor governance.

Not so fast. Physics is a pure science. Politics is a polluted one. In politics, it depends on both the trajectory and integrity of the force. If deceit compromises the force from the start of its run, then it may not be sufficient to stop the momentum of the object. If even it affected its particular object positively, then more than likely its deceitfulness will manifest in continued dishonest governance.

The forthrightness and integrity of the leadership of a third political force are what will drive public confidence in its ability to achieve quality governance.

Let’s switch from science to the pure beauty of literature in William Somerset Maugham’s 1928 classic, The Force of Circumstance. It is about a coloniser in Malay named Guy who the British gives an outstation to run. Loneliness drives him to live with a Malay woman, and they had three children. He decides he must have a wife, but she must be white. He falls in love with Doris, marries her and takes her to Malay. After four months of marital bliss, he tells her about his local woman and their children. Doris needs time to come to terms with the situation. She understands the circumstance of loneliness that had caused him to do what most colonial men did, but she can’t deal with her feelings. Guy’s deceit is bad enough, but she tells him the Malay woman repulsed her. She decides to leave. The woman returns to Guy.

The story from a human and cultural perspective is about trust, respect, racism and disaffection when people feel betrayed.

Physics is not about human relationships, but forces of change must have the integrity to achieve desired objectives. Only a couple of weeks ago, two leaders of the Third Force Movement (TFM) publicly showed their support for the People’s Partnership Government (PP). Reportedly, Mr Gerald Yetming said his presence at a UNC political forum was to show support for the Prime Minister, who was under terrible attack. He said he would support the PM, and “he supports the People’s Partnership returning to government…”

There is nothing wrong with such loyalty. His expressions were affirmations of his conviction and it’s admirable. According to the same report, Mr Hamel-Smith said his appearance at the political meeting was accidental as he was in the area and invited to the meeting by the Prime Minister.

According to a later article appearing in the Express on July 7, he said he had spoken to the PM about the principles of the TFM on the same day he attended the UNC’s political meeting in Debe. He also said at the launch of the TFM, “One had to stand up and be counted.”

Given the rabid politics, when citizens are prepared to risk their reputations in the interest of defending the future well-being of their country, what is more honourable?

So, what’s the problem? Given the circumstance of about 30 per cent of the electorate who apparently do not want to support any of the two megalithic parties, presumably because they have no confidence in them, what are they to make of the TFM members’ statements in support of re-electing the PP? Is the Third Force on an independent trajectory to change the course of politics by winning parliamentary seats and influencing policy decisions and the quality of governance regardless of whichever party wins? In the circumstance of politics, is the electorate to believe the leaders expressed desire for a return of the PP Government has no bearing on the strategies of the TFM? Is it a reset of the 2010 partnership and its real object is to help re-elect the PP Government with whom they already have a relationship and who should be a willing collaborator? There is nothing wrong with that. It is their prerogative, but why not say so and allow the electorate to make an informed decision. There is a high perception of camouflage and deceit.

In the story of the Force of Circumstance, Doris asked Guy why he did not tell her about the Malay woman before they were married and left it to her judgment.

Getting back to Newton’s Law of Motion, the letter “F” represents force. Though his theory doesn’t extend to spent forces, one can take creative licence and describe a compromised force as an F. It will more than likely become a victim of its circumstance.


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